Specialty coffee can be more than great aroma, when it has "purpose" at its core.



I judge a restaurant by the bread and by the coffee.”- Burt Lancaster.

Isn’t that true? Although coffee is a rather simple drink, it requires fine skill to be made to perfection. Preparing a superb cup of coffee requires careful sourcing of the finest coffee beans and a skilful barista. In our hectic modern lifestyles we often rely on the caffeine spike that a morning brew offers in order to face the day ahead, but what a difference it makes when that cup of coffee is a great one: full of aroma and taste! It is not only caffeine that we need, our taste buds too need gratification to make us feel good and happy. A good coffee does indeed tick both boxes!

Coffee has become the most popular drink worldwide with around two billion cups consumed every day. Data by The British Coffee Association indicate that the UK’s coffee consumption has soared to 95 million cups a day in 2018, up from 70 million in 2008. It is estimated that around 125 million people worldwide depend on coffee for their livelihoods and that 80 per cent of all coffee is produced by around 25 million smallholders. The coffee market is characterised by high price volatility due to unpredictable weather conditions, climate change and plant disease. Volatile prices and the intrinsic uncertainty of its production combine to make it difficult for coffee farmers to stabilise their income and stay out of poverty. Farmer poverty is also the consequence of an uneven distribution of wealth through the coffee value chain. Due to the number of actors in the supply chain, farmers receive only a small share of the final market value of the coffee they produce. Fairtrade and other certification schemes were born to address the challenges that farmers face and make smallholder farmers resilient to price volatility. Notwithstanding the intrinsic value that these schemes hold, data about the impact of certification schemes are controversial with some reporting a positive impact on farmers’ livelihoods and others suggesting that the schemes have no influence on peoples' life standards. For this reason, some specialty coffee brands have decided to purchase fair traded, ethically sourced coffee following a different path. These brands favour a direct relationship with farmers and, while being able to source the finest coffee beans, they get to know the story behind the coffee beans they purchase and make sure farmers are paid fairly. They can therefore select specific origins harvested from single estates and create unique blends and help smallholder farmers to thrive.

One of the brands that have adopted this approach is Coaltown Coffee Roasters. Based in Ammanford, South Wales, Coaltown Coffee Roasters sells premium specialty coffee – single origin and single-origins blends – ethically and sustainably sourced and roasted locally to provide a superb coffee experience to its customers. Their signature blend Black Gold No3 espresso won two gold stars in the UK Great Taste Awards in 2014. This blend is hand-roasted “to just beyond first crack to give it a rich espresso zing whilst still retaining the natural flavours that are manifested at origin”. It goes without saying that I was won over by the “rich chocolate and biscuit” flavour…superlative! But what makes Coaltown Coffee Roasters special is that, on top of selling fairly traded speciality coffee, it is on a mission to bringing an industry back to Ammanford, therefore providing a source of employment within a community that, after the closure of the local collieries in 2003, suffers high unemployment and little prospect for young people. A little town of 5400 people where anthracite coal (Black Gold) fuelled the local economy for over 150 years has now a new form of black gold: coffee. In just two years Coaltown Coffee Roasters has grown to supply 160 cafés, restaurants and shops across South Wales, and beyond. The brand is also grabbing the attention of national retailers, and its toasted Arabica beans are now being sold at Selfridges. Its success means new employment opportunities for this small community and it also gave Coaltown Coffee Roasters the chance to provide barista training that will further increase youth employment opportunities in the area.

To know more about Coaltown Coffee Roasters: https://tradeandinvest.wales/inside-story/coaltown-coffee or visit their website https://www.coaltowncoffee.co.uk

To read about who is behind their Karindundu AB selection from Kenia:https://www.coaltowncoffee.co.uk/collections/online-store/products/karindundu-ab

To know more about the most popular coffee certifications schemes: https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/What-is-Fairtrade and https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/