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Coffee Buying 101: Terms to Know

Getting More Serious About Coffee? Improve Your Knowledge Here

Buying Coffee 101

Coffee buying used to be a fairly simple task, but today, many coffee drinkers want to know exactly where their coffee comes from, how it’s harvested, and what you’re getting when you buy it – understanding more deeply the various categories and labels out there on the shelves.

To get a full picture of the coffee you’re buying today, you need to know more terms than just Grande, Venti, and latte. These include things like, what is fair-trade coffee and should you be buying it? What makes a coffee certified organic? To help you sort it all out, here is a brief glossary of some of the important terms to know in today’s coffee buying world.

APS – Agricultural Production Standard, a fair-trade USA standard for farming activities

Certified Coffee – Coffee that has received International Coffee certification for taking one or more elements of sustainability into account.

Certified Organic – Coffee that has been certified as not using synthetic chemicals during production, processing and handling.

Composite Products – Products that are composed of more than one ingredient. Even if a product is made with fair-trade coffee, other components may not be fair-trade certified.

Conventional Product – Regular coffee, not certified organic or fair-trade.

Buying Coffee 101

Direct Trade – The process of buying coffee directly from farmers rather than coffee brokers.

Fair-Trade – Coffee that has been certified as a product coming from a system of paying fair prices to small coffee growers and distributors. Certified fair-trade coffee comes from various farmer’s cooperatives and associations that subscribe to this approach.

Fair-Trade Minimum Price – The minimum price that buyers must pay for a fair-trade product. The buyer must pay the Fair-Trade Minimum Price or the Relevant Market Price, whichever is higher.

4C – Short for the Common Code of the Coffee Community, which examines environmental, social, and economic standards in coffee production.

Micro-Lot – Coffee from one single farm, or from one part of that farm.

Non-GMO – Coffee that has not been genetically modified in any way.

Producer – Any person or entity who harvests, cultivates, or manufactures coffee, which is then traded.

PRPL – Prohibited and Restricted Pesticides List. The Red List consists of prohibited active ingredients for fair-trade crops while the Yellow List consists of restricted ingredients that can be used with specially outlined additional risk mitigation methods.

Rainforest Alliance – Rainforest Alliance coffee is grown on farms in areas of forest, wildlife, and environmental conservation, with fair, safe treatment of workers and coffee grown under the shade of trees.

Relevant Market Price – The price that relevant market organizations like LIFFE or ICE set for coffee.

Restricted Materials List – Substances that cannot be used when manufacturing fair-trade coffee.

Sustainable – Sustainable coffee is coffee that was grown in a healthy environment in a way that is economically viable for farmers and promotes fairness among workers and farmers.

Traceability – The ability to trace the way a product originated, to verify that it came from a certified source.

UTZ – UTZ coffee is produced by farmers who grow coffee with the local community and environment in mind, with health and safety training for employees, and an emphasis on reduced use of water, pesticides and energy.