28 Apr 2022

A coffee-reunion to remember: what happens when over 10,000 coffee experts meet after two years.

Three days and 10,000 coffee experts: the Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston was a unique opportunity - and cherished moment - for us to reconnect face-to-face with Fairtrade producers, learn about new coffee trends, and foster relationships with other organizations driving social justice in this arena.

From crucial discussions on climate change adaptation, to traceability in supply chains, and of course sampling coffee from across the world, here are a five of our highlights.

The Fairtrade booth at the 2022 Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston always had something brewing.

1. Living income is gaining traction – what about action?

We are glad to see so many actors increasingly incorporating living income into the conversation. Which goes beyond farmers receiving a decent price according to market values, but emphasizes farmers being able to earn a living which allows them to grow as individuals and farm sustainably in a systematic way. Something which might not always be the case in a market that fluctuates as much as ours.

At a panel session we had the opportunity to further discuss our new living income reference price we have been working on. For instance, we discovered that in Indonesia farmers should earn 26 percent more than they currently do. We were delighted to have a lively audience which keeps questioning how come living incomes are not a reality for farmers everywhere all the time, when coffee is a profitable industry.

2. Tough conversations need to be had. And they need to be inclusive.

On the first day of the Expo, we also hosted the panel Empty Cups where we pondered the bleak possibility of a future without coffee, due to the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change.

Worldwithoutcoffee_2022 SCA Expo
Fairtrade International's Senior Coffee Manager, Monika Firl, speaks at a Fairtrade panel on coffee and climate change

Naturally, it was critical to have Fairtrade producers who are driving action on the ground be part of this conversation. They are disproportionately affected by climate change, and all supply chain actors should be involved in supporting them transition to sustainable ways of production if this is to be done fairly. The panel invited different actors and audience to discuss this extreme scenario, concluding with a call to action to all coffee lovers to wake up and take action. The panelists were “optimistically hopeful” that we can safeguard coffee and coffee producers in the future. But we must take action now and we must work together across the entire supply chain to make it happen!

3. Sustainability is no compromise for quality.

If you have the misconception that coffee harvested in a way that is fair needs to compromise on quality and flavour, let Fairtrade producers prove you wrong.

At the expo we had three cupping sessions featuring past winners of our Golden Cup Competition across the world. The Golden Cup brings together Fairtrade producers from over 14 countries to compete when it comes to coffee quality and also connect with buyers. From Guatemala to Ethiopia, there certainly was a lot of variety for attendees to try and get inspired by.

Coffeecup_2022 SCA Expo
A cupping session (where coffees are tasted and graded by experts) at the 2022 Specialty Coffee Association Expo in Boston

4. It’s all about (fair) market access.

With Fairtrade producers spanning all corners of the world, we tend to see very specific regional challenges, and yet one common denominator emerges: market access. The expo presented an excellent opportunity for producers to connect with potential buyers, but we know this cannot be a yearly occasion. Gaining market access and building skills to do so at a coop level is an ongoing journey.

In the Expo we also caught up with the teachers of our Fairtrade Coffee School from Vuna, which tackles precisely this. During all of 2022 Fairtrade producers are all invited to gain expertise in this area via a modular online programme.

5. Coffee connects the world. And we can do so fairly.

Coffee connects the world. Whether at a personal level when you connect with a friend over a cup, to a smallholder farmer connecting with a large trader and local roasters across the ocean. The Specialty Coffee Expo brought together over 10,000 people who make coffee happen, and it is via these connections and spirit of collaboration that we can make coffee fairer for everyone. We see the Expo as a new starting point to keep building a world where social justice is embedded in every cup of coffee across the world.