Rao’s Coffee Roasting Company, Inc. is a company based in Hadley, Massachusetts that runs a café on Kellogg Avenue in Amherst, Massachusetts, as well as a small café in the Mount Holyoke College library. Rao’s is also a supplier of roasted coffee to a wide variety of upscale restaurants, café’s and hotels nationwide. Not only does Rao’s provide wholesale gourmet coffee, they distribute coffee brewing equipment and accessories, as well as provide in-house equipment setup, servicing, maintenance, and training to wholesale clients in both Boston and Western Massachusetts.
     The path to Rao’s in the Mount Holyoke library is well worn by students in desperate need of caffeine. While these students may know the exact relationship between how much coffee they imbibe and how late they will be able to stay awake working on their papers, they may not be aware of the global impact their coffee purchase is making.
     Rao’s specializes in supplying “coffees of origin” from 15 to 20 distinctive locations in the high altitude, tropical regions of South America, Africa, Arabia, India, and Indonesia. Upon learning that they do not sell any Fair Trade Certified coffee, I called and was able to talk to their Head Roaster, Mike.

Not Fair Trade, but does it matter?
     “Fair Trade is a wonderful idea in theory,” begins Mike, before going on to explain that as fair trade coffee travels through the chain of retail and middlemen the price is jacked up at every point in the chain to reach a profit margin. He points out that Fair Trade certification ensures that a small portion of sales goes back to the estate where the coffee comes from and is divided up for workers and community building projects. However, Rao’s does not offer Fair Trade coffee because, as he says, “There are other organizations that are very similar to Fair Trade, but go farther.”
     Rao’s prides themselves on the close ties they have to the various estates and wholesalers they work with. One organization they are affiliated with is the Rainforest Alliance, which, in the words of Mike, “meets fair trade regulations and environmental regulations as well.”
     Although Rao’s only offers three brews that are certified by the Rainforest Alliance, they monitor and work closely with all the estates they are involved with. Many of these estates go beyond Fair Trade regulations in the work they do for the community and environment (such as ensuring their coffee is shade grown). In effect, Rao’s doesn’t offer Fair Trade Certified coffee, but Fair Trade is just a logo. Drink up, Mount Holyoke students, your brew is just as socially conscious as any Fair Trade certified coffee.


Globally Conscious Beans and Brews
from Rao’s

Rainforest Alliance Certified:
El Salvador
Organic Colombia
Organic Ethiopian Sidamo

Other Brews from Conscious Estates:
Costa Rican La Minita
Costa Rican Rio Negro

I have measured out my life
with coffee spoons.

-T.S. Elliot

Fair Trade Logo