Supply Chain
Counter Culture Coffee Gets FRANK! About Living Wages for Farmers

Counter Culture Coffee has released its annual Transparency Report, along with a limited-edition blend that highlights the true average price farmers are paid for their coffee; Counter Culture is the only roaster in the industry to provide this level of transparency into its sourcing model.

"Viewing our business through a lens of sustainability has been an important aspect to our success for more than two decades," explained Brett Smith, founder and president of Counter Culture. "By sharing this report, we create accountability for ourselves — leading to a greater level of trust with our partners."

Founded in 1995, Counter Culture Coffee is a specialty coffee roaster dedicated to pursuing coffee perfection by creating partnerships dedicated to environmental, social and fiscal sustainability. The transparency report, published for its ninth consecutive year, provides information about each of the 354 coffee contracts the company made over the last two harvests.

“Unlike many other roasters, we aim to buy all of our coffee through long-term partnerships with producers, which means we're invested in the continued success of our producer partners as much as our own,” explained Meredith Taylor, Counter Culture's sustainability manager.

In 2017, Counter Culture purchased coffee from 67 different farmers and farmer groups. About two-thirds of those producers are existing partners, and the company is currently exploring long-term partnerships with 20 of the remaining producers. For this harvest cycle, 73.7 percent of the coffee purchased (by volume) came from partnerships that provide lot separations specifically for Counter Culture. This practice allows the company to increase its purchasing volume from long-term partners, because these different lots give more flexibility for where these coffees can be used among the company's products.

This is the first year the company is digging deeper into prices, with the goal of knowing the farmgate price — the price the farmer gets paid — for each one of its coffees. Thus, released alongside the Transparency Report is FRANK! a limited-release blend of coffees from Mexico and Kenya that brings attention to the average amount a coffee farmer makes versus an actual living wage.

"I hope that other roasters see FRANK! and are inspired to start asking questions about the prices paid to farmers in their own supply chains," Taylor said. "I hope consumers become more aware of the fact that not all specialty coffee is created equal. The way in which coffees are purchased and the extent to which roasters work with their supply chain partners to address tough issues can have a big impact on farmer livelihoods."

Companies across industries are embracing blockchain technology to provide unprecedented levels of visibility into their supply chains. Denver-based startup Bext Holdings Inc. is harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and blockchain to make it easier for coffee farmers around the world to get paid a fair price for the coffee beans they grow and sell. Both farmers and buyers use Bext360’s mobile app to negotiate a fair price. Previously, buyers were required to sort and inspect coffee beans manually, a process that left farmers in limbo — and without pay — for months at a time.

Bext360 uses the Stellar network, a distributed decentralized platform for real-time transactions, to operate its app and cloud-based software. Stellar’s blockchain technology allows farmers and buyers to create a record of where beans were grown, who bought them and at what cost. The process creates a whole new level of transparency for the $100 billion coffee industry and has the potential to address a number of inequalities present in the coffee value chain, including low, unfair prices and delayed payments.


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