The weather has finally cooled down for good here in Birmingham, which means there’s never been a more perfect time to spend an afternoon hanging out in a warm, caffeine filled coffee shop. Seeds Coffee Company, located in the Homewood suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, is a popular pick for students and young professionals in Birmingham for a number of reasons – a vibrant atmosphere, well-priced coffee, and free Wi-Fi, to name a few.
Seeds opened in 2013 as the passion project of a group of friends who had a love of good coffee and people. According to their website, “What originally started out as a hobby quickly developed into a passion for coffee…Through trial and error, thorough online research and training sessions, they learned about detailed aspects of coffee, including sourcing, roasting, and tasting – always seeking out “a better cup.” Seeds is more than just a lively study spot with a good pour-over. At Seeds, all the beans used are above fair trade. It’ something to keep in mind in a world of mega-brands, such as McDonalds and Dunkin’ Donuts, who’s only commitment is to the profits they can turn from cheap beans.
Fair trade is often a term that is misunderstood and confuses consumers. Fair trade simply means that, “Fair Trade is a global trade model and certification allows shoppers to quickly identify products that were produced in an ethical manner. For farmers and workers in developing countries, Fair Trade offers better prices, improved terms of trade, and the business skills necessary to produce high-quality products that can compete in the global marketplace,” according to Fair Trade USA.
Leisl Seigler, a sophomore at Samford, goes to Seeds at least once a week to study. “I had no idea Seeds had fair trade coffee, to be honest,” Seigler said. “Now that I know, though, I’m glad I go there so often. It makes me feel better about my coffee addiction.”
A common misconception about fair trade coffee is that it will drive prices up for customers. The Fair Trade USA website states that, “Fair Trade Certified coffees and chocolates are generally priced competitively with other gourmet, specialty coffees and chocolates. They are, though, more expensive than mass-produced, low-quality coffees and chocolates.” Seeds has fair trade coffee and their prices are not dramatically higher than Starbucks, who doesn’t entirely use fair-trade coffee.
Every year Seeds takes a trip to different farms that they currently source from or are considering sourcing from. They also partner with importers who have good reputations for how they source. As they’re a small shop, Seeds often partners with other small coffee shops and roasters from around the country. “It gives you more leverage in negotiating with exporters,” says Johnathan Axworthy, who works for Seeds. “The farms themselves have to make ends meet, so they’re trying to make larger deals with larger companies, so they have the preference.” He says that the more Seeds can work with other shops and roasters the more they can guarantee the quality of their coffee.
Fair trade immensely benefits the farms and communities that sell fair trade beans. ASPROTIMANA was formed in the Huila district of Colombia in 2001 and has provided the community with advantages they didn’t previously have. For example, since becoming fair trade, the communities with ASPROTIMANA have gained “the construction of a micro factory including a coffee silo, a technical assistance program for the farmers – offering support on better farming practices, Revolving Credit – providing the farmers with access to finance to invest in their farms which is otherwise unavailable to them, and housing improvements.” according to the Fairtrade Foundation based in the UK.
It’s important that Seeds uses fair trade beans because it has lasting impacts beyond the coffee shop. The next time you’re looking for a place to spend a chilly afternoon, consider Seeds, and know feel good about what’s in your cup.