Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2014

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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F OAM: NEWS ROASTERS UNITED: A NEW APPROACH TO SOURCING AT ORIGIN ROASTERS COLLABORATING TO source green coffee at origin is nothing new. Small roasters often find it easier and more efficient to partner with one another in order to fill a container of green coffee for export. Usually these roasters are not direct competitors, since each company markets the coffee they bought in distinct regions and/or to different customers, so there's not a conflict of interest. (Though friendly competitions exist about who can roast it better.) Most roasters who source at origin prefer to work directly with growers, but it can be difficult with time constraints and farm size. Going to origin and buying coffee from an exporter has its limitations, as well, since the roaster is one step removed from the grower, and the exporter is usually trying to sell the same coffee to other roasters. In an effort to take coffee sourcing to a new level, the owners of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (that's me), Klatch Coffee (Mike Perry), and Portola Coffee Lab (Jeff Duggan)—all based in Southern California—decided to add a new dimension to One of the farms that the Roasters United team is working with to source new coffees and motivate farmers with good prices is Finca Agua Frias in Ciudad Bolivia, located near Saint Gegorio. At 1,900 collaborative sourcing at origin. We wanted to meters, the farm is one that Chuck Pa on (author) and his cohorts believe will yield 85-plus coffees. develop a transparent green-bean buying protocol that would help us to secure top microlots—coffees Since each of our companies buys a large amount of coffee from we score 90-plus—while also buying enough coffee to constitute Colombia, we decided to start there. For this first Roasters United a larger blend of 85-plus coffee, and doing so in a way that would get growers excited and motivated enough to spend extra time on effort, we partnered with green-coffee buyer Leonardo Henao in Colombia who is responsible for gathering initial samples from processing and harvesting. From our vision, Roasters United was born this year. Roasters farmers in Huila, Cauca, and Antioquia. The goal: 300 bags of United is a collaboration driven by the basic principle of sustain- coffee. Between 220 and 250 of these would be a blend of coffee ability. It's not the mission of one person or even one company. comprised of lots scoring 85-plus. The rest would be high-quality Rather it is a demonstration that the efforts of many are greater microlots. Roasters United is part green-sourcing trip and part competition than that of one. Simply put, roasters can have more impact if they for farmers, so we set up a three-tiered pricing structure. Our botwork together. Coffee quality drives price, and farm improvements tom tier blender starts above Cup of Excellence cupping scores at rely on both motivation and financial support. After fleshing out the buying model conceptually, we decided on 85–86 points paying farm-gate prices 50-percent above Fair Trade. the following core values that would guide our green-coffee buying The middle tier, scoring 87–88, is 100-percent over Fair Trade. Our top tier is hopefully 89+ microlots at two-and-a-half times the Fair decisions moving forward: t 8F XJMM TFFL SFMBUJPOTIJQT XJUI TQFDJBMUZDPGGFF GBSNFST XIP Trade price, all based on blind cupping and rewarding the best producers. All payments are farm-gate, which means that on top of are enthusiastic about improvement and experimentation. t 8F IBWF FTUBCMJTIFE BO JODFOUJWFCBTFE DBTI SFXBSE TZTUFN the price we are paying the grower, we are also covering the cost of that will improve a farm's profitability, thus providing more oppor- dry milling and export. In addition, we're paying 3.6 million pesos—about $1,800 USD— tunity and potential for farm infrastructure investment. in prize money to be divided among the three producers with the t8FNVTUFTUBCMJTIBDIJFWBCMFHPBMTDVTUPNJ[FEUPUIFGBSNFS and support the farmer's efforts while mitigating the risks associ- top-scoring coffees. The money is earmarked for farm improvements so the producer remains sustainable long-term. ated with change. For this first Colombia trip, based on feedback from Leonardo t8FXJMMQSPWJEFPQQPSUVOJUJFTGPSHSPXFSTUPDPOOFDUXJUIUIF U.S. consumer market through existing and newly created mar- and the growers, we decided to do three rounds of cupping. Leonardo had the job of finding and securing initial lots—basically, keting channels. clean "specialty-grade coffee"—which we would then cup to find 18 barista magazine

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