Opt for the roaster who travels a lot, someone who is familiar with source farms and trades “at origin,” meaning where the beans are grown. This will not rule out dirty play, but it helps, particularly if you believe the roaster has a beating heart in his chest.
Reward the roaster who participates in a farm assist program — one who offers grants and assistance to farmers to get through the certification process. This is simple to research because roasters are likely to share this sort of information prominently on their websites.
Be loyal to a roaster who is loyal to his farmers, year after year. Yes, this means the roasters who offer a smaller consistent selection. In short, avoid the cupping-crazed roaster with a revolving-door coffee selection. Chances are they are only buying a few bags of each from some importer — either that or they’re a larger roaster playing a cruel game of musical chairs with farmers.
Avoid drinking coffee from chain donut outlets, convenience stores, fast food places, and the like. Sure, it may be convenient. But it’s as sustainable as a frozen meat patty. A safer bet is your local independent cafe that uses a bona fide roaster. Just ask. Maybe they will bore the hell out of you with their barista rock star behavior. But at least you know the brutal wait in line is worth it.
The Coffee Roasters in America: