ROBERTSON QUAY: When it comes to coffee, there are many different terms and definitions for green, organic and fair-trade practices swirling around the coffee industry – so many that it’s easy to be confused.

A number of coffee companies use their own “fair trade” brands and to show they care about the growers. But just because a company doesn’t show “fair trade” on their coffee, doesn’t mean it’s produced by exploited workers, says Alvaro Sanchez, head roaster at Toby’s Estate, a café and roaster on Robertson Quay.

“If we sell any coffee as organic, it will mean organically grown and processed. The catch can be that depending on the country, they have different guidelines to classify something as organic. Getting a universally recognised certification can be prohibitively expensive for some of the smaller farms, even if they produce their coffee using organic methods.”

Founder Toby Smith and the roasters from Toby’s Estate travel to plantations to meet the farmers, and the millers who process the coffee. The idea of a starving farmer in rags is nowhere near the truth for such coffees – a great product is not produced by someone struggling to survive.



“Paying a higher price to the producer will benefit their overall living conditions, by trading directly or minimising middlemen, we also ensure more money goes to the producer, which in turn can be better off and maintain the high level of quality we require year in and year out.”

Because pesticides and fertiliser are expensive, farmers use minimal or no chemicals if they can help it. In Toby’s coffee, the only chemical sometimes used is a fungicide to prevent diseases like rust, which is currently blighting hundreds of farms in Latin America.

For many farms trying to be “fully organic”, a bout of rust will disease all their plants, affecting taste and production.

One way to ensure coffee is grown ethically is to grow it yourself.  “Toby has recently bought a coffee farm and is now growing great Panama coffee. We are actually one step ahead of direct trade – we grow our own! We have two tonnes arriving in a month’s time” says Sanchez with a smile.

Toby’s Estate
8 Rodyk Street, Robertson Quay
Tel 6636 7629

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