The average cup of BICR Kona coffee costs between $1.25 - $2.00 when you make it at home (just check the cost per cup icon on any of our product pages). Without realizing it, some will pay more for bottled water. Yet we understandably still get the question: why is Kona coffee so expensive?
Part of the sticker shock is perception, because coffee has been undervalued for so long, and as a result, producers have earned unsustainable wages for too long.
Fortunately, trends have been changing and many coffee lovers want a higher quality experience they can feel good about.
How Much Do Coffee Farmers Earn?
Outside of Hawaii, commercial coffee farmers earn as low as 5% ($1.60/lb) of the price you pay for cheap coffee, and an average of 15% for fancier specialty coffee brands ($3.00/lb). In Hawaii, our coffee producers earn 40-60%.In many ways, this is the goal that Fair Trade certifications have been trying to achieve.
Unlike most coffee companies, the risk-bearing farmers we purchase from earn 40 - 60% the of the price you pay. Because we neighbor many of the farms we source from, and are also vertically integrated, thereʻs rarely a need for freight and there are no middlemen in between (mills, exporters, shippers, importers and brokers). Itʻs truly direct trade.
So what’s behind the price of many Hawaiian coffees? Living wages, U.S. infrastructure, environmental protections and premiums that are determined by quality and relationships, instead of commodity traders on the NYSE.
Now that you've got a snapshot, let's go deeper... “Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." - McGill University
One of the most frequent questions we receive is about the cost of 100% Kona coffee. Some are used to the low pricing of global commodity coffees, others compare it to what they’ve seen in Hawaii: souvenir 10% Kona blends.
The truth is the coffee prices you’re used to seeing are a race to the bottom that reward poor quality products and leave the majority of coffee producers living in extreme poverty.
Outside of Hawaii, the value of commercial coffee is determined by traders on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) through what’s known as the coffee commodity market (or “C-market”). That leaves coffee producers tied to global markets where global supply determines local value. So, if you’re a Nicaraguan coffee producer and Brazil just had a massive crop, the value of your coffee immediately declines. This unpredictability incentives producers to harvest moldy coffees and cut corners, environmentally and socially.
Today, the international C-market price of green arabica coffee is around $1.35 per pound—the same price it was in February 2005!Imagine doing the same labor for 15 years and receiving the same (or lower) pay. No wonder why coffee producers are pissed (see the video below).
We believe a commitment to sustainability is not just about taking care of our land. It’s a commitment to take care of our people, our community, and our world.
Premiums are determined by quality, innovation and relationships. This means farmers can invest back into their land and community.
Growing and sourcing in Hawaii also holds us to higher environmental and labor standards—standards that we’re proud to not just uphold, but to exceed. We source 100% of our electrical energy from renewables and pay our farmers and employees competitive wages for their work.
By upholding these values, we can encourage quality, innovation, sustainable land practices, and an inter-generational farming future. And by welcoming you into an equitable and economically sustainable supply chain, together we can create a healthier future.