Nicoletti’s sells over 50 pots a day of regular coffee and about one pot of a specialty coffee that guarantees a fair price for the bean farmers.
The small sales are a start for a coalition of student groups that pressured the campus coffee store to sell coffee from “Fair Trade,” an international organization that gives a larger profit to coffee farmers than most other brands.
Nicoletti’s has offered the Fair Trade brand since the beginning of Winter Quarter. Companies who participate in the Fair Trade program guarantee farmers a minimum price of $1.26 per pound, which can be three times higher than farmers could receive for their crops from a company that does not participate in Fair Trade practices.
“I think a lot of people don’t buy it as much for the taste as that it’s economically and environmentally responsible,” Nicoletti’s worker Sarah Gahan said.
Independent monitoring organizations buy directly from coffee growers and sell the coffee to stores willing to participate at $3.00 more per pound than non-Fair Trade coffee. At Nicoletti’s, one small cup of Fair Trade coffee is sold for $1.60 as opposed to $1.25 for a cup of regular coffee.
El Congreso, Amnesty International and other campus organizations formed a Fair Trade coalition last September, which successfully pressured UCen Dining Services to sell the coffee.
“We were getting requests so we thought we’d give it a shot and see if that’s what the campus really wanted,” UCen Dining Services Director Sue Hawkins said. “Our mission in dining is to provide options. … I don’t look at the issues, but what customers want. If the issues become important to customers, then they become important to me.”
Organizations that sell Fair Trade coffee must meet several conditions such as paying a minimum price per pound for the coffee, offering access to credit at reasonable interest rates, following environmentally sustainable practices and providing acceptable working conditions.
“These organizations must meet a list of conditions if they want to label coffee with the special Fair Trade symbols,” UCSB Fair Trade coalition member Joseph Maher said.
UCen Dining Services will sell the coffee until the end of June and then evaluate the coffee by looking at cups of coffee sold compared to cups that were thrown away, Hawkins said. The amount of Fair Trade coffee sold is approximately equal to the amount of coffee thrown out every night.
“We realize it’s still brand new and it takes new things a while to get off the ground,” Hawkins said. “We’ll look at the whole program, but no decisions will be made this month or next month if we’re going to keep the blend available.”
Of the over 50 pots of non-Fair Trade coffee sold daily, about four to eight pots are discarded.
“Fair Trade is a really small percentage of our sales,” Gahan said. “I think it tastes better and I am a person that drinks a lot of coffee. They do a really good job roasting their coffee. The other stuff is more mass-produced.”
Fair Trade coffee is also sold at the Isla Vista Food Co-op, Trader Joes, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Starbucks Coffee, and Ralphs Grocery Company. Fair Trade has also recently started offering tea, but it is not yet available from many companies.
UCSB Fair Trade coalition member Gretchen Begley said she is confident in the program and its cause.
“So far we’ve been tabling, handing out fliers, letting people know what’s going on,” she said. “Fair Trade coalition just wants to get the word out so people will buy more [Fair Trade] coffee.”