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Introducing the Slow Food Coffee Coalition

If you look back to the coffee industry ten years ago, it’s easy to see we’ve covered a lot of ground.

Coffee today is very different to coffee in 2013. At origin, innovative processing, fermentation and ‘infusion’ methods have transformed coffee’s flavour. Breeding and hybridisation continually change our understanding of genetics and quality potential. Technology, from digital farming tools to blockchain and Cropster, increase production, transparency and knowledge in all aspects of our industry.

Coffee is changing rapidly. And how we grow, transport, roast, brew and drink coffee is changing too. Whilst much of this innovation is positive, does it come at a sacrifice?

We are fans of innovation at DRWakefield. Much of coffee innovation is developed in reaction to the challenges of our industry. Be it the planetary crisis or a living income for coffee growers and workers.

So, while on one side of the coin we champion innovation, it is also worthwhile slowing down, and asking ourselves the question: are we moving so fast in coffee, that we’re losing touch with the product itself?

Adopting a slower approach can remind us of the things that are important in coffee, help us stay connected with the product we love and preserve traditions and cultures that led us to where we are today. Taking care of methods of production, as well as consumption, also allows us to preserve the environment, to ensure food security and, safeguard fundamental human and labour rights across the whole supply chain.

We are excited, therefore, to welcome a new, slow, addition to our suite of coffee certifications: The Slow Food Coffee Coalition. We’re thrilled to join the Slow movement, which first took shape over thirty years ago. Through this collaboration, we hope to help spread the message of Slow Food Coffee, whilst promoting the benefits of staying in touch with a product we all love and helping those who produce it.

Delegates parade at Terra Madre 2018 in Turin, Italy. © Alessandro Vargiu 2

Slow Food Coffee Coalition

Slow Food launched the Slow Food Coffee Coalition in April 2021 with the ambition to bring its broader values to the coffee industry. The network is based on a new model for relationships, inspired by the values of cooperation and on the evolution of paradigms of production and consumption.

By improving transparency in the coffee chain, the Slow Food Coffee Coalition aims to connect producers with consumers and empower farmers. The coalition is a blossoming international collaborative network of people working towards producing Good, Clean and Fair coffee through the implementation of a framework of ethical, sustainable, and social standards in coffee.

The Slow Food Coffee Coalition manifesto outlines how any person working in the coffee supply chain, from farmers, traders and roasters, to baristas, cooks and consumers, can contribute to the development of a brighter industry based on the following principles:

  • the preservation of the environment and of ecosystems as a key factor of resilience to the climate crisis.
  • biodiversity as a systemic approach to the environment, communities, and local products.
  • food security through the application of agroecological principles
  • safeguarding fundamental human and labor rights across the whole supply chain
  • inclusivity regardless of gender identity, race, ethnicity, age or religion
  • education and fostering dialog among all the participants within the coffee supply chain
  • transparency across the supply chain
  • traceability as proof of coffee quality and process optimisation, from field to cup
  • the coffee’s specific origin: where it is produced and by whom
  • the right to gastronomic pleasure: knowing how to appreciate the taste, aromas and scents of coffee

Good, Clean and Fair coffee

Community's member attending a PGS training in the Slow Food Communty of Mount Elgon Nyasaland Coffee, in Uganda. Picture from John Wanyu.

Unlike other certifications, the Slow Food Coffee Coalition operates a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) to identify Good, Clean and Fair coffee.

Participatory Guarantee Systems are different to alternative certification models in that they are assurance systems that involve the participation of local stakeholders rather than third parties. Instead of relying on third-party certification, PGS assurance models are built on a “foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange”. In addition, they rely upon a shared set of commonly defined norms and procedures to meet agreed standards and defined consequences for non-compliance.

The Slow Food Coffee Coalition uses the PGS as it’s based on trust and collaboration, mirroring the organisation’s values. Unlike other third-party models, it is also an assurance system that does not burden the producer financially, meaning the certification is open to all.

Slow Food trains local communities, following the principles developed over the association’s 30-year history. Together with the communities and based on each one’s individual characteristics, the criteria to be respected are established. Slow Food has identified several key elements in the Slow Food Coffee Coalition PGS. These include:

  • Shared vision
  • Trust, horizontality
  • Participation
  • Shared responsibility
  • Learning process
  • Community of producers with ownership of the process

These elements are based on a production process that results in a sensorily enjoyable product, respects the environment, follows agroecology principles and values the dignity of workers. The communities adopting the PGS then make the conscious choice to be responsible for respecting these rules. It is the community itself that guarantees the trustworthiness of the system, a collective group of people who in various roles are all part of the same production chain and are all working to obtain the best possible product.

This means the certification does not come from the Slow Food Coffee Coalition, but from the community itself, whose very existence is rooted in shared values and principles. The PGS model requires stakeholders’ input at a local level and through the supply chain, so each Slow Food Coffee Coalition pledge is unique.

Edie Mukiibi, Slow Food International President at Terra Madre 2022. © Marco Del Comune

Three main bodies are involved in the PGS. The Ethical Committee, the Guarantee Group and the Slow Food Coffee Coalition Group. The Ethical Committee and the Guarantee Group are governing bodies consisting of stakeholders such as coffee producers, community coordinators, roasters, baristas, and representatives from policy areas, civil society and public or private sectors. These two groups are responsible for managing, overseeing and measuring the community’s PSG through field visits and the adoption of corrective measures.

The Slow Food Coffee Coalition Group is a supervising body composed of the Board of Experts, the focal point of the Slow Food Coffee Coalition. This group works directly with the governing groups in a third-party role, receiving field reports, delivering training and guaranteeing the assurance and validity of the certification process.

The Slow Food Coffee Coalition certification centres around the Good, Clean and Fair Coffee Guidelines and PGS Pledge, which the Ethical Committee signs at the start of the certification process. The PGS pledge outlines the various criteria that a producer group must meet for a coffee to be Good, Clean and Fair. These criteria are locally-defined and include aspects such as the variety of coffee plants, cultivation techniques, like shade growing and sustainable inputs, harvest techniques and processing guidelines, traceability and quality control, indigenous culture and social considerations, intermediation and pricing.

Field visits conducted by the Guarantee Committee measure the indicators outlined in the Good, Clean and Fair Coffee Guidelines using the Guarantee Sheet for Coffee Production. This checklist collates information from the producing community, identifies areas of improvement and feeds into the development of the PSG through the Board of Experts  and the Slow Food Coffee Coalition Group.

Overall, the Slow Food Coffee Coalition PSG model is an accessible system that considers socio-cultural factors, organoleptic quality and environmental sustainability directly involving local and global stakeholders. It is an adaptable and flexible model underpinned by expert assurance and strengthened through input from the whole supply chain.

In the specific case of the Slow Food Coffee Coalition, then, the Slow Food logo is granted to those roasters who are interested in buying the coffee from the communities that established a PGS initiave and use the logo on their packaging. This way, the certification itself has no cost for the producers, unlike all types of third-party certification.

Capucas Sustainable Coffee Village

Today there are 36 Slow Food Communities producing coffee in 12 countries: Cuba, Colombia, the Philippines, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Malawi, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, East Timor and Uganda.

At DRWakefield, we’re excited to learn that one of the first communities to join the Slow Food Coffee Coalition was a coffee-producing community that we’ve been working with for many years: Capucas in Honduras.

Pancho Villeda and Omar Rodriguez, showcasing the coffee from Rio Colorado at Terra Madre 2022. © Oliver Migliore

The Slow Food Community “Las Capucas Sustainable Coffee Village”, was created in 2021. The community’s aim is to “Improve access to new markets to ensure the commercialization of good quality coffee and generate economic income for the families of coffee producers committed to the environment and productive sustainability.”

In November 2021, the Las Capucas Sustainable Coffee Village initiated a PGS initiative and formed an Ethical Committee. After signing good, clean and fair guidelines and the PGS pledge, the Gurantee Group carried out field visits to members producers to measure the community’s Slow Food practices.

The Las Capucas Sustainable Coffee Village was promoted by Umami Area Honduras S.A. de C.V., alongside the local Cooperative Las Capucas (COCAFCAL), that reunites around 1000 smallholders producers from the surrounding area. Through the collaboration of 25 partners, Umami Area Honduras has proven that high-quality coffee production can be financially, socially, environmentally, and locally sustainable. Umami Area Honduras has purchased an existing coffee plantation nearby the Celaque Nation al Park, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a total of 45 hectares. Alongside the 25 partners, the project produces washed, natural and honey coffee under an agroforestry farming system where coffee is grown in the shade of platain and banana plants on a farm called Rio Colorado.

Pancho Villeda, showing the Guarantee Sheet for PGS of Rio Colorado Farm. Picture from Silvia Rota

One of the partners of the Las Capucas Sustainable Coffee Village Community is Francisco Villeda, know locally as Pancho. He is also member producer of the Capucas cooperative and owns two small farming plots in the local area. Pancho grows coffee in a diverse agroforestry ecosystem of fruit trees, woodland, edible plants and fauna, building an organic and natural environment for coffee production.

Rio Colorado’s coffee was among the first six coffees to be ever sold with the Slow Food logo (a red snail) and for the first time as a Slow Food product certified through a PGS initiative.

Find out more about the SFCC Communities 

To join us in shaping a better, cleaner and fairer coffee supply chain for all, sign the manifesto and stay in touch with the network.

We currently have Capucas Slow Food Coffee Coalition coffee available in our UK and Antwerp warehouses. For roasters to get involved with the Slow Food Coffee Coalition certification and use the SFCC logo, they must sign the Manifesto and an agreement with Slow Food and pay the €0.30/kg premium to the organisation.

Get in touch with a trader to learn more and get involved.

About Slow Food

Slow Food is a global network of local communities which was founded back in 1986, in Italy, by Carlo Petrini. From its very beginnings, the movement’s aim was to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions and counteract the rise of fast food culture, and has since gathered millions of supporters passionate about good, clean, and fair food for all.

The movement has spread to over 160 countries, involving thousands of projects and millions of people worldwide on a collective journey to promote agricultural production that is both good for the environment and benefits local traditions. Today, the network is made up of chefs, educators, youth, activists, farmers, fishers, members, consumers and academics, all woven together in many different ways. Over the years, its worldwide network has persistently sought to build better food systems through setting up a diversity of projects, political actions and knowledge exchanges. The mission is always one: to create a world where everyone can access good, clean, and fair food. This means food that is healthy, environmentally sustainable, and socially just. Join the movement.