Working with farmers
Coffee companies like ourselves seem to talk a great deal about the farmers they are working with. Maybe it’s a need to sign up to the collaborative community feel of the current decade. Maybe it’s to show their credentials as genuinely lovely people who care loads about the coffee they. Both may well be true. We hope they are.
We’re pretty sure that these are just two of the very valid reasons, but underneath the hype, there’s a massive difference between really working with someone, and buying their green coffee, (often via an intermediary or two, if not more). Spending a good few years working in the chain between coffee growers and coffee roasters means we have a pretty good idea when people may possibly over-exaggerating their influence on bringing those beans to their roaster, café, and onwards to your cup. The global coffee trade is an incredibly complex and demanding chain, with several specialised roles along the way.
As a roaster, we’re one of those specialist stops on the journey. We have 10 years of experience in shipping, importing and exporting coffee from various coffees, and a spell of Ed living in Ethiopia, but in reality, we’re going to be visiting only a handful of coffee growers per year. Sure, we’ll post photos, and our plan is to visit as often as we can. At the moment, however, if we’re both on a plane and filling our Instagram feed with smiling coffee farmers, it means there’s no-one at the roastery packing bags, delivering boxes, paying invoices, and the million and one other things that running small business entails.
We have a really ace relationship developing with the Caixeta family at Gerezim estate in South Minas Gerais, Brazil, and it’s been built up over 5 years, but 4 and half of those have been partnering with them to move their coffee here for a different UK roaster. This is the first year we’re buying their coffee as Neighbourhood, and plan to use it for the next 10 months or so. We intend to go visit them this year, but it’s going to be a few days of hanging out, taking photos, cupping coffee, and asking at least a million questions, and most of all, we’re going to be listening.
We don’t really know anything about coffee farming techniques, fertiliser regimes, pruning schedules, processing secrets, and everything else that they are experts in, so the proposed visit is the first step of getting to know them, and seeing how we can help inform them as they seek to grow the best coffee possible. We buy their coffee. We really like their coffee, and we want to see this relationship develop and grow, but it’s not like we’re going to be having weekly conference calls. They’re really great at what they do, in their part of the chain. We’re striving to be really great at what we do, in our part. Hopefully, buying our coffee and reading these posts, you’re inspired to coffee the best way you can.
So if you catch us saying that we “work with” them, then feel free to correct us, with a swift slap upside the head. We’ll let you know if that changes at any point in the future. In the meantime, their coffee is being loaded into the container, so it should be here in a few weeks.