What’s in your Coffee Cup this Morning?

Intelligentsia is a coffee and tea company that directly sources coffee from coffee bean farmers, such process can also be referred to as direct trade. Direct trade is completely different from what most companies do, which normally consists of buying coffee through brokers at the lowest market prices unaware of the coffee beans exact source. The direct trade label is also regarded as more effective than labels like fair trade, in which a 3rd party is involved to determine quality,  a process that has received a lot criticism. In an article about direct trade in the New York Times it was stated that, “Direct trade coffee companies…see ecologically sound agriculture and prices above even the Fair Trade premium both as sound business practices and as a route to better-tasting coffee.” On Intelligentsia’s website it explains their buying philosophy as believing in the quality of coffee and doing so by working closely with actual producers. Intelligentsia explains that in order to manage such exceptional quality they must follow the direct trade criteria. The direct trade criterion not only defines Intelligentsia’s quality but it also shows who is responsible for it, which demonstrates managing quality. The 6 points of criteria, as listed on their website, are as follows. 1. Coffee quality must be exceptional. 2. The grower must be committed to healthy environmental practices. 3. The verifiable price to the grower or the local coop not simply the exporter, must be at least 25% above Fair Trade price. 4. The grower must be committed to sustainable social practices. 5. All the trade participants must be open to transparent disclosure of financial deliveries back to the individual farmers. 6. Intelligentsia representatives must visit the farm or cooperative village at least once per harvest season, understanding that we will most often visit three times per year: pre-harvest to craft strategy, during harvest to monitor quality, and post-harvest to review and celebrate the successes. As we’ve learned in class it’s important to globalize companies for many reasons, a few include reducing costs and improving supply chain management which will naturally overlap with the critical decisions, like management quality and again supply chain management. Not all companies who globalize, manage the quality of their source and instead look for the cheapest prices, inter this can result in sourcing from places with unethical practices. In my personal opinion to reduce costs by sourcing from a source that under pays their employees or doesn’t ensure a safe a work environment, is not a justifiable or ethical trade-off. I believe examples of company’s operations like Intelligentsia can demonstrate ethical and responsible globalization, not only in quality but also within the supply chain. Of course the price of their coffee doesn’t come cheap, it is more of a luxury, but in perspective not more of a luxury than buying Starbucks daily.









8 thoughts on “What’s in your Coffee Cup this Morning?

  1. I really enjoyed this article, as I had no idea about Intelligentsia’s values and business practices. I think it is so great that large companies are finally making a huge move towards being socially responsible and ethical. Like you said, it is very important to globalize- but in a way that will not compromise someone’s working environment and ethics. The one problem that still stands in the way of many companies, and society jumping on this do-good bandwagon is price. When a person compares two products (especially in tough times) they will lean towards the cheaper product. Hopefully in time, all companies will be able to practice socially responsible business like Intelligentsia and the prices will be even across the board.

    1. The coolest part about Intelligentcia is they don’t consider them selves a do-gooder or any kind of charity. They merely base their mission of quality which in turn allows them to pay their coffee farmers more. I think it’s important for companies to start and see the benefits of actions like this, rather than just the “do-good” aspects. Of course the reason I love the coffee is exactly that but I hope more companies can see that there is more value you in it for them than just being socially ethical. Yes, they are not the cost leader in the market by any means only part of a niche market, as of now. Like you said with demand this could change.

  2. I have always seen Intelligentsia but I never really knew that much about the company other than the coffee is great. Good article overall I will have to go pick up a bag next time I am at the store.

  3. I really appreciate that Intelligentsia practices social and ethical responsibility. This is a great way to gain customer loyalty and give them a competitive advantage over those companies who only care for price. Even if it is a couple dollars more than the usual coffee, it is more than worth purchasing it.

  4. I had previously seen Intelligentsia coffee before but was not aware of their globalization practices. The way that the company does business with all the small and almost unknown coffee farms that many overlook is something to brag about. Intelligentsia is setting the proper example of how globalization should be practiced to remain ethically and socially correct for the well being of both parties, the company and the local coffee and tea farmers. If other world wide companies were to pick up on some of the examples set by Intelligentsia, the whole image of globalization could be changed and actually made it into something positive.
    With that I can honestly say having read this article, completely changes my imagine on the company and the goals it is trying to accomplish with doing that.

  5. I have never heard of Intelligentsia coffee as I am not a very big coffee drinker. I do however appreciate what they are trying to do with their Direct Trade strategy. I think that if more companies followed this example, it would greatly improve efficiency and reduce waste. By dealing directly with the source, you obviously save money upfront. This money can be used to help in other aspects of the companies management, production or really any area. The extra money can be used to pay the workers more. Now this may seem like it would be costing the company more because they have to pay the workers more but I think they are actually paying the same because of the money they save from not having to deal with a 3rd party. So really it just costs about the same as if they would use conventional practices.

  6. Being raised in a Catholic school fair trade played a large role in my upbringing, therefore I have experience with Intelligentsia. The company is a great company to look at in regards to ethics. The price is however a little more than than a typical brand, but I think that more the people are aware of the cause the more the demand will rise for it. More companies should follow in such foot steeps, the world is much smaller than we think, and actions by consumers here in the US directly reflect to what happens across the world, therefore consumers should hold companies more accountable.

    1. Intelligentsia pays 25% above fair trade prices, so the coffee is definitely more expensive and part of a niche market. Hopefully other companies can follow in the foot steps of seeing that operations like these can lead to actual increase in value, as well!

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