Voyage Reflection: Why we’re not labeling it?

Photo: Unsplash

In the upcoming launch of our updated packages, you’ll find a refreshing sense of simplicity. The front side of our bags have all the important information about the coffee (varietal, process, roast type) and the back side tells you the story of the producer from which your coffee is sourced. No certification, no labels, no misguided promises.

Traditionally, this doesn’t make any business sense, especially as we’re looking to scale our markets to include boutique shops. As one U.S Chamber alludes, “Certifications, specifically ones displayed on a product’s label, add a level of certainty and quality assurance during the consumer’s selection and purchasing process”.

The article goes on to explain that,

“When consumers see a third-party certification is displayed or visible on a product, customers believe that specific standards have been met because an outside organization has verified findings through an audit or a rigorous testing process. Consequently, with today’s focus on protecting the environment, proof of sustainability claims is an important contributor to building consumer trust.”

We believe certifications are just opportunities for corporations to purchase the trust of their customers. By verifying milestones that do not guarantee any benefits to the community that is supposed to be served with such certification, companies collaborate with certifying agencies to cover up greater structural problems in many communities.

Case in point: the coffee industry. Many companies, including renowned brands have established their own certifications that are supposed to guarantee a certain amount of environmental, economic and social progress in coffee farming communities. We went to one such farm in San Marcos de Tarrazú last year. Upon conversation, we discovered that although a certain brand had established a certification (and had a huge sign announcing it), the farmers barely saw any impact of a certification in the improvements of their farm conditions or functionality. Neither did they receive any subsidies to improve the environmental standards that they were promised to meet.

That is why we’ve moved away from certification and focused on creating a direct channel of communication between consumers and producers of coffee. We recently launched the Voyage Program, allowing opportunities for interested consumers to travel to one of our two farms and learn about the entire process of coffee production and directly observe the impact of our work in these communities. For the ones who cannot travel, we are putting out more audio-visual materials that communicate the stories of their producers directly to the consumers. In addition, we are so happy to be establishing our headquarters in Costa Rica, instead of the U.S, so that we can continue working closely with the farmers in the ground while monitoring quality and social progress.

It is easy to give up to labels even as socially-responsible consumers, however, the price that producers pay for our complacency tends to be generous. Take the extra step, and find out where your daily consumption comes from!

Bean Voyage is a non profit that provides training and market access to female coffee producers in Costa Rica so they can produce specialty coffee, earn better income and lead sustainable lives.