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Why good coffee is important

by Anastasia Hartleib
Warum guter Kaffee wichtig ist

We Germans love coffee. We drink around 3.2 cups of this liquid gold a day. However, very few people are interested in where their coffee actually comes from or under what conditions it was produced - the main thing is that it is cheap.

But there are really good reasons why you should pay attention to the way coffee is produced and its high quality. Here are some of them:

1. high quality = good coffee flavor

There are up to 800 aromas in the cherries of the coffee plant. But producing a coffee that does justice to this variety of aromas is not so easy. The roasting process is extremely complex. Temperature and time play a major role in the development of the aromas and, of course, the quality of the beans.

Growing coffee is no less complicated. It requires certain altitudes, which also offer quite warm average temperatures, for the cherries to thrive. And, of course, enough time for the cherries to grow and ripen. But because the global demand for coffee is so high, farms are under pressure to produce more and more coffee faster and faster. So the plants are trimmed for maximum yield and harvested faster and faster. And the taste suffers as a result, because - as with any agricultural product - a full aroma can only develop with sufficient time to ripen.

Wunschvorstellung: In den seltensten Fällen sieht die Kaffeeernte so aus wie auf diesem Bild.
Wishful thinking: The coffee harvest rarely looks like this picture.

2. if you buy high-quality coffee, you are doing something for the climate

This may sound a little far-fetched at first, as green coffee is usually shipped halfway around the world before it ends up in our cups. However, local mass production also has a huge impact on climate change. The constant monoculture cultivation results in an increasing lack of nutrients in the soil. This makes the plants sickly and less productive, which is why farmers increasingly have to resort to fertilizers and pesticides, which further wash out the soil and drive away insects. This is a cycle that we are also familiar with from our regions and one that we are increasingly concerned about, for example when we remember the "Save the bees" biodiversity referendum in Bavaria in 2019.

An intact climate requires stable ecosystems with strong, vital plants. And these can only be found both in domestic fields and on Brazilian coffee farms if the farmers can secure their livelihoods even with lower yields.

So wie diese kolumbianische Waldplantage stellen wir uns - Werbung sei Dank - Kaffeeplantangen weltweit vor. Die Realität allerdings ...
Thanks to advertising, we imagine coffee plantations around the world to be like this Colombian forest plantation. The reality, however ...

3. spending more money on good coffee makes the world a better place in the long term

Here comes the more or less harsh reality: good quality has its price. This is no different for coffee than it is for wine, furniture, gin, meat or house building. But here, too, the warning applies: not everything that is more expensive is equally good. Just because a coffee costs €58 per kilo (sounds like a lot? It's actually the price of a few Nespresso capsules, if you don't calculate per capsule), that doesn't mean it's high quality.

In very few cases does any of the profit margin actually reach the coffee farms. Those who produce green coffee conventionally and bring it to market generally receive between 0.56 and 0.81 US dollars per pound - i.e. for around 45 kilos (as of 2019). The rest is split between middlemen, transporters and roasters.
Even in countries with a low cost of living, this is only just enough to survive. And the trend is downwards: prices for producers have been falling for years, with devastating consequences in some cases: Because the yield is no longer enough to live on, farmers and their families are trying their luck in richer countries - and in some cases paying for their escape with their lives, as this SWR report shows.

So paying a reasonable price for coffee not only ensures good production conditions and therefore high quality in the long term, but also saves lives in cases of doubt.

...sieht eher so aus. Eine Plantage in Minas Gerais in Brasilien.
...looks more like this. A plantation in Minas Gerais in Brazil.

How can I recognize good coffee?

So there are really damn good reasons to buy high-quality coffee. But how can I actually recognize it? Because, as already mentioned, the price alone does not necessarily provide information about the quality of the coffee. Certifications can help in the search. The so-called Fairtrade seals guarantee better prices for producers and therefore better working conditions. However, not every seal is equally good - and unfortunately sometimes fails to achieve its purpose. This is because the guaranteed prices for farmers are often set far too low and therefore miss their target. The only thing to do is to find out which seal promises what. You can do this here, for example.

Guter Kaffee braucht seine Zeit - nicht nur vor der Ernte, sondern auch bei der Röstung.
Good coffee takes time - not only before the harvest, but also during the roasting process.

Or you can save yourself the research and buy coffee that is traded without middlemen. With so-called direct trade coffee, roasters source their green coffee directly from the farmers, ensuring that the farms are paid a fair wage for their work. Like the Indie Roasters from Bielefeld, for example, or CafCaf from Potsdam.

But directly traded coffee should not be the end of the line. More and more voices are being raised to criticize the fact that the actual value creation of coffee, i.e. roasting and distribution, takes place outside the actual coffee-growing countries - and thus hinders the growth and development of these countries. Let's take Ethiopia as an example: If all the green coffee harvested in Ethiopia were also roasted, packaged and distributed locally, the Ethiopian coffee industry would generate around 60% more sales and create around 280,000 jobs. Even if the majority of coffee farmers (so far) still lack the knowledge and resources to process their own coffee: There are already initiatives to support farmers on their way to independence from the world market. What is still missing? More people who really appreciate good quality. Are you one of them?

You can get good coffee here:



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