Coffee 101: The CBTL Conundrum

Next in our Coffee 101 series I ask a question that I've been dreading. Are CBTL espresso pods ethical? Read my email to the company and the response.


Dear Coffee Bean,

I was one of the first happy owners of a CBTL machine. After trying several 'ready to go' pod type coffee makers I found the CBTL to make one of the best cups. The difficulty I'm having now is this; I am trying to purchase fair trade or equal exchange certified coffees so that I can make sure that the things I'm consuming are ethical and fair to the producers. While Keurig has fair trade options, I cannot seem to find a CBTL comparison. I am writing to ask that you release a fair trade certified espresso pod for myself and people like me who value ethical consumption over a good cup of coffee. I hate having my machine sitting on my counter not being used. Please let me know if this is something you are considering and when we can expect to purchase them! 

best, Dominique

Here is the response:

"Good Afternoon,

 Thank you for your email; I appreciate you taking the time to contact us!

 I can greatly appreciate your concerns, as a socially conscientious consumer, about the treatment of the men and women who have helped us to become who we are today. While I am not the resident expert, I will do my best to relay to you what The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf does to promote fairly traded product. We currently do not provide any Fair Trade coffee; rather, we choose to foster long-term relationships with coffee growers directly. In other words, there are no brokerage houses, auction houses, millers, etc. that come between us and the coffee farmer. Because we have eliminated this from our process, we are able to pay a higher price for our coffee, far exceeding the current coffee prices. Without providing exact numbers (because I don't have them available), we typically pay twice per pound as the average coffee company.

Aside from paying prices that are higher than the norm, we also enter into long term contracts and relationships to ensure that we are always purchasing the highest quality product and paying a fair price for the coffee we purchase. In addition to promoting this type of relationship, we also build relationships with those companies who support their community and help out in whatever way we can (i.e. by building schools and community centers, etc.). Most of our employees here at the Home Office have had the opportunity to visit one of the coffee plantations personally, and can attest to the condition in which the pickers and other estate workers live and work.

This is just a little bit of what we are doing, and we hope that we can continue to improve our web site to make sure that all of our customers know what we are doing and our commitment to the growers of our product. In addition please know we do have products from Ethiopia origin, however the products are not certified fair trade. If you are interested in any other information or having any specific questions, our Green Coffee Buyer,----, welcomes direct communications from our customers. He is more than happy to speak with you personally or answer any questions via telephone. He can be reached at -----Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or comments."


Soooo What do we think?! I find some of the parts are concerning but other parts appear to be vulnerable and transparent. I think I might actually contact the person whose name and number she gave me to ask a few more specific questions. Part of me wants to ask and put my mind at rest but part of me doesn't want to ask for fear that the response will be less than desirable because this machine is just so awesome. What are your initial thoughts?