By Shanna Germain
Direct trade has long been a hot button in the specialty coffee industry. Ask 10 coffee people what the phrase means, and you’ll get 10 different answers. Listen in at a roasters’ roundtable on the topic, and you’ll likely come away more confused than when you went in. Troll the forums and you’ll find not only differing opinions from different people, but also that people’s opinions are constantly in flux.
As with so many important issues in the specialty coffee world, direct trade is neither intrinsically good nor bad. It is complicated, ever evolving and potentially life-changing for producers, roasters, retailers and consumers.
Here, we ask a panel of direct trade buyers to speak frankly about their experiences, and to give us a glimpse into the potential benefits, detriments, difficulties and opportunities that make up the complex topic we know as direct trade.
Geoff Watts, Director of Coffee, Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea
Molly Laverty, Producer Relations, Coffee Bean International
Mark McKee, Passionate Harvest Coffee
Spencer Turer, Director of Coffee Operations, Coffee Analysts