Sustainable Coffee Sourcing at Spiller & Tait
April 19, 2021

Sustainable Coffee Sourcing at Spiller & Tait

Since starting Spiller & Tait in 2014, we have been committed to ethically sourcing and roasting the highest quality speciality coffee in the belief that coffee beans which have been treated well throughout the farming and production process will taste best.


A question we regularly receive from our customers is why all of our coffee does not carry Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or Organic certifications, since these have become bywords for ethical and sustainable coffee production and are increasingly sought by coffee drinkers who want to ensure their coffee has been produced to high sustainable standards.


While some of our coffees do carry these certifications, our preference is to source green beans directly from the farms, or cooperatives.  Certifications are rarely available when we buy directly in this way.  To make this buying method feasible as a small independent roaster with a small team, we join up with other small UK roasters to share buyers who are able to represent us and engage directly with farmers who grow high quality coffee and build sustainable, long-term relationships.  


These buyers are able to review the cooperatives and farms to ensure the coffee production and workforce management practices are both ethical and environmentally sustainable, and produce consistently good quality beans.  These buyers also cut out several layers of intermediaries in the supply chain by going directly to the producers.  So, the prices can be personally agreed to cover the cost of production, and have an additional premium for high quality, with no additional cost to the farm for a certification.  As a consequence, the price a farmer receives can be as much as 25% above the Fairtrade equivalent price.


Some coffee roasters have given this practice a label, Direct Trade.  But, there is no official certification process that covers this type of buying.  We’ve not adopted the Direct Trade label because our buyers are not always able to source the beans that we want directly from farms and cooperatives.  When this direct route is not available for a bean from a particular country or region, we normally choose an alternative source that is able to offer some form of sustainable credential, which is generally Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and Organic.

To us, the main benefit of direct trade sourcing is that producers are incentivised to use sustainable farming practices which produce high quality, delicious, coffee beans.  However, we understand many customers prefer to rely on supply chains which have been audited by 3rd Party certifying bodies to verify sustainable practice.  If you fall into this camp, then we recommend you try one of these coffees:


All Day Espresso Blend

Rainforest Blend

Peruvian Organic 

South American Blend