We visited a 120+ year old coffee plantation in Minca. A British company built the plant in the late 1800’s and brought the hydraulic machinery that they use to this day. It was kind of like time travel — nothing has changed in all those years. We did a tour in English with the nicest Colombian lady who is a 5th generation coffee maker (!) and learned perfect English online. She walked us through the process, showed us the machines that work 4 months a year and then spend 8 months in maintenance, and told us about the people who make it happen.
She explained that they have very high quality coffee and that most (as in more than 90%) is sold to exporters who then mix this coffee with others they buy around the world and sell blends. I asked her if this wasn’t a shame and she just smiled. They can’t not mix it because they need volume. I asked why they didn’t just sell it themselves then, and here’s what she told me:
You need a license for every stage in coffee making, so they have a license to grow it and process it but not to sell it. Getting a license is next to impossible as it is a highly corrupted system. So they get to keep very little coffee which they are allowed to sell only to visitors like us.
So, that sucks, but then I remembered Fair Trade! Cutting out the middleman, connecting consumers to producers. But it turns out that Fair Trade, for them at least, is just another exporter that uses that label to up the price and make a higher profit from themselves. And that is really, really unfair.