farm/labor conditions: overlooked in judging quality?

dragon lee

New member
Dec 22, 2006
Visit site
hi all, this is my first post here. i know almost nothing about coffee and have no palette to speak of, but i've recently become fascinated with the overwhelming complexity of the production and hence taste of coffee. i have been raised on terribly cheap (though cool!) coffee from the likes of folgers and starbucks, and drinking some of it today something came to mind.

first, let me say that one thing i became interested in a year or so back was and maketradefair and their promotion of the fair trade cert. for coffee. what this did for me in terms of my knowledge of the industry is shed light on how across the board coffee is produced in poor countries close to the equator by generally terribly exploited brown-skinned people and families for rich countries and the rich people in those countries that are so rich that they tend to have the time to care about things like coffee. (i care about the justice of it all but i'm not complaining too much-- i am one of those rich people... the paradox of the lazy activist.)

anyway, i've always said that folgers' colombian roast tastes like stroganoff. in other words, musty, framented, etc.

reading some literature on how coffee is categorized by taste, i came across something that said that over-ripe cherries tend to produce such a taste. i also read somewhere that colombia is the only remaining mass-produced single-origin bean out there and that it makes up 12% of the world's product.

the conclusion that i came to, and i might be wrong (and really the reason i chose to post this is to hear some responses to this general claim in the subject heading), is that the taste of this coffee has more to do with how the farms and the farm labor are set up, from he economic standpoint. could it not be true that the distinctive taste of this outrageously over-produced bean really comes from the fact that farms in colombia are huge and the labor is cheap but much too quick and therefore the cause of workers processing a huge amount of over-ripe cherries? that is to say, at least when it comes to the really over-produced stuff sold by those "big coffee" companies?

on top of that, how does the fact that the majority of the coffee farms in the world are small and family-owned factor into the end-value? isn't a small farm ideal because of the workers' tendancy to hand-pick cherries?

forgive me if my logic is flawed or if i've made too many sweeping generalizations. any knowledge of these factors' effect on the taste of coffee would be much appreciated.