A Gamboa Family Tradition

A Gamboa Family Tradition

Every visit to the Montes de Oro micro-mill gives us a glimpse at this family’s commitment and dedication to producing incredible coffee. Moreover, it is reflected in the taste of their coffee itself. We’re all too aware that the quality of the coffee we source is a collaborative effort of the producers, millers and individuals who commercialize it. However , to be great and successful, it is imperative to do what you love, which for us is the coffee business.

Don’t forget to register for our new platform pre-launch here to stay connected with our community!

Astrid Medina: A Legacy in Excellence

Astrid Medina: A Legacy in Excellence

“Specialty coffee changed my life and that of my family for the better. It allowed us to improve infrastructure, improve the salaries of our workers, and gave us the opportunity to travel abroad, encounter new cultures, to meet with the people who had come to visit us on our farm. Coffee really unites people.” – Astrid Medina

Meet Astrid at our New Harvest cupping on April 12th, 2019! Register for our Boston cupping here   

Rema Fund Distribution - Costa Rica

Erik Rosendahl, CEO of our sister roastery KAFFA Oslo, and Robert from CCS recently traveled to Costa Rica to distribute funds raised through the Rema 1000 Fund, an initiative between KAFFA and Rema 1000, a supermarket chain in Norway. As part of its mission to become one of Norway’s leading suppliers of organic and sustainable food products, Rema 1000 bought a farm-to-table restaurant chain in Norway called Kolonihagen. KAFFA now supplies Rema 1000 with specialty roasted coffee under the Kolonihagen brand, and CCS is sourcing the green coffee.

The clear advantage of supermarket distribution is that KAFFA can sell specialty coffee at a lower price than ever before. “Early in the planning stage we said that we would do that on one condition: we would pay more to the producers and their workers,” said Erik. 

From the outset of the project, all four companies involved agreed to charge an additional 2 Norwegian Kroner (NOK) per bag (approx. $0.23 USD) to support the people employed on the farms where we source the coffee.

In Costa Rica we distributed $15,869 USD raised through the sale of 67,080 bags of coffee from Montes de Oro in Tarrazu to Emilio Gamboa and his workers.

Emilio Gamboa runs the farm with his wife and father, Tutto. Emilio and Tutto where one of the first farms building their own micro mill back in 2007 and Robert, then buying for KAFFA, was one of his first customers. For many years almost the entire production of Emilios coffee was sold to Stumptown, but with the large volume of coffee needed for Kolonihagen, and as Emilios production increased, we were able to return to buying from this producer.

The money was split between the owners of the farm and the permanent workers, some of whom have worked for Emilio since the mill was built twelve years ago. The amount paid to each worker was equivalent to 2-3 months of salary.

“It was a joy to see how Emilio runs his farms and the micro mill. The distribution ceremony was held at the local restaurant Chicharronera San Francisco, with prayers, tears and an Argentinian one-man-band entertaining us all, followed by cake for Robert’s birthday,” said Erik.

Emilio at the mill with a bag of his coffee, roasted and sold under the Kolonihagen brand in Norway. Consumers pay an additional 2 Norwegian Kroner directly to the workers of the farm.

Emilio at the mill with a bag of his coffee, roasted and sold under the Kolonihagen brand in Norway. Consumers pay an additional 2 Norwegian Kroner directly to the workers of the farm.

Guatemala Origin Trip Update

Cupping a lot of coffee, that is a big part of what we do at origin, and that is how we began our Guatemala origin trip this year, early morning, late January, at the Bella Vista mill. 

This trip grew in both emotion and size as the days passed. I began that day with David from Belleville Brûlerie in Paris, and by the end of it we collected Emily from Tandem Coffee in Portland, Maine, and Melanie Herrera from our export partners Zelcafe, for our trip to Huehuetenango. 

HUEHUETENANGO

Thanks to a new domestic air route, it is possible to fly from Guatemala City to Huehue in half an hour, a great convenience compared to the 5 - 6 hour journey by road.

The difference between this region and Antigua is in the air, in the snippets of conversations I overheard which are not in Spanish but in the local Mayan language, Mam. The producers in this part of Guatemala are predominantly indigenous small holders, working on farms around one manzana in size (0.7 ha), processing in concrete tanks and wooden troughs on their property. 

Byron Benavente is our guide to this region. A second generation coffee buyer, he has collaborated with our export partners, Zelcafe, for many years. He works with four farmer groups, divided geographically based on hillsides or towns: La Encenada, San Jacinto, Las Palomas and Todos Santos Cuchumatanes. 

As always, the joy of these trips is connecting roasters to producers. Belleville have been buying San Jacinto for many years and Tandem Coffee feature Huehue coffees on their menu. It was emotional and educational to visit these producers with the people who roast their coffee.  

This year, as per usual, expect Huehue coffees to be intense with notes of cacao. 

ANTIGUA

Back in Antigua we were joined by Erik from KAFFA Oslo, plus Nicolas and Alex from Camera Obscura, Russia. Together we visited the farm of Dario Hernandez. CCS has been working with Dario for many years, and Kaffa has been buying his coffee since 2012. Lots that are not sold under his own name are sold through the Hunapu brand. 

Next we visted the Potrero farm, managed by Luis Pedro Zelaya (LP) of Zelcafe. The team have invested heavily in renovating the farm and planting new varieties. LP is always experimenting and managing the farms to be more sustainable and productive, both in terms of quality and volume. For example, in one plot there is too much water in the soil, so they are experimenting with different varieties that will thrive in that environment. 

AFTERMATH OF EL FUEGO

After several great days of cupping and farm visits, we said goodbye to our roaster friends from Russia, France and the US, and continued our journey with Luis Pedro to Candelaria in Acatenango. This area was in the direct path of lava, ash and molten rock that erupted from the El Fuego volcano in June of last year. It devastated local farms and homes, and as the suddenness of the eruption left little time for evacuation, and over 200 people died. 

We have been sourcing coffee from a farm named after the region for many years, and went to see the impact of the natural disaster. Finca Candelaria has 280 hectares of coffee, 40 hectares of which were destroyed by the eruption. This entire area of the farm remains a dead zone, with no nutrition in the soil. LP and his team are experimenting with planting trees in coffee pulp to see if that provides enough food for the young plants to thrive. 

REMA FUND DISTRIBUTION

Fortunately we had another, more joyous reason to visit Candelaria. 

The Rema 1000 Fund is an initiative with our sister roastery, KAFFA Oslo and Rema 1000, a supermarket chain in Norway. As part of its mission to become one of Norway’s leading suppliers of organic and sustainable food products, Rema 1000 bought a farm-to-table restaurant chain in Norway called Kolonihagen. KAFFA now supplies Rema 1000 with specialty roasted coffee under the Kolonihagen brand, and CCS is sourcing the green coffee.

The clear advantage of supermarket distribution is that KAFFA can sell specialty coffee at a lower price than ever before. “Early in the planning stage we said that we would do that on one condition: we would pay more to the producers and their workers,” said Erik Rosendahl, CEO of KAFFA. 

From the outset of the project, all four companies involved agreed to charge an additional 2 Norwegian Kroner (NOK) per bag (approx. $0.23 USD) to support the people employed on the farms where we source the coffee.

On this trip, Erik from Kaffa had the great pleasure of distributing funds to 135 workers, both seasonal and permanent, at the Candelaria mill. Each worker received between 1000 - 1500 Quetzales ($128  - $193 USD) which is at least half a monthly salary. In Guatemala we distributed $27,503 USD raised from the sale of 116,256 bags of 225g whole beans and ground coffee from Candelaria farm and mill.

Luis Pedro is a  very caring and socially responsible person, and he organized a big fiesta to celebrate. He explained to the workers that the money comes from Norwegian coffee consumers, and it was touching to see the value this holds for workers in Guatemala, to feel their contribution recognized by coffee consumers so far away who were lucky enough to drink the literal fruits of their labor. 

Erik said “it was a beautiful ceremony with the kids playing at the small kindergarten they have for the workers children on the farm. The Marimba band performed as the workers names were called to come and receive a check from the manager of the farm.”

To do this at Candelaria, a farm that was so recently hit by one of the biggest volcano eruptions in centuries, it was extra special. Not only did the farm lose 40 acres of coffee, many of the workers had personal losses.”

The extra payment came as many schools start and the families have extra costs for books and clothes.

 

GUATEMALA SAMPLES 

Guatemala samples are available now. Check out our Guatemala offers list.  



Ethiopia Origin Update, 2019

DSC06968.JPG

By Robert W

We are in Addis making 2019 selections. The harvest is over, samples are in from the fields, and we are cupping day-in and day-out in the labs, also checking out the dry mills we’ll be using, and planning shipping with our exporters. It is sizzling these days. 

The whole country is on the move, the economy is the fastest growing in Africa they say, God knows what the actual substance behind it is. The roads and streets of Addis are steeped in white and blue, the colors of the infamous Lada taxis, and while the traffic is frenetic, smoky, smelly and congested, most of the city’s neighborhoods are walkable. It can be busy, but it feels friendly.

The townscape is a patchwork of new and old, a mix of grace and misery. Humble shacks neighbor grandiose houses with tranquil gardens, tossed between tacky malls and office complexes, sprinkled with new hotels of glimmer and the latest in luxury. Looming over it all are half built concrete structures, above the traffic and the people, above the herds of goats and heaps of gravel, like shrieking skeletons. Addis is a construction site, it’s a place in progress.

This is where we find ourselves; trying to settle in, establishing a CCS presence in the midst of a city, at the ebb of a harvest, and at the flow of an upcoming export season. What’s happening, what’s new, what’s worth sharing? 

We know that the Ethiopian economy is driven by the coffee sector. Coffee is culture and cash to this country, it is a source of pride of the people, and a source of foreign currency to the government. In a political environment of pushing economic growth, helped by a targeted liberalization, the national ambition is getting more coffee out — and getting more dollars in.

It feels a bit like the wild west here, in the capital of coffee, on the Eastern Horn of Africa.

Many farmers and washing station owners are taking advantage of opportunities of getting closer to the market, even Ethiopians who have lived abroad until recently are coming back home to join the party. Export licenses are more easily obtained, even by players without the technical or financial means, and some without the expertise in coffee quality or market knowledge. Way before a bag of coffee can leave a harbor, it goes through many processes and is changing hands along the way, and it may even change ownership many times. So, who is in control, what are the systems, is it transparent?
 

ECX  - auction and non-auction lots

Without getting into too much nitty gritty about the ECX system, the minor changes that we have seen in the recent past, whether it is good or not, it is probably wise to remember and acknowledge that ECX is a system that is built to take control of the trade of Ethiopian coffee, for the sake of taking control of the flow of money, or more precisely; the input of US dollars into the Ethiopian economy.

ECX has built an infrastructure of regional inspection points to control the movement of the coffee from the inland out to its market (Addis), but believe it or not, a core component of the system is discovering value. Each truck of coffee going from the washing stations’ warehouses around the country has to stop at a regional warehouse for physical evaluation and cup profiling. Their protocols may be rigid, but the procedures are rudimentary, and in the end, a ‘score’ that a coffee gets from an ECX assessment, for example 90 points, does not have any reference to the score one would give to the same coffee based on a SCA or CoE cupping protocol, which is only based on an organoleptic evaluation.

However, the ECX score is a reference in its own right. The differentiation of quality is used to prove that some lots are more valuable than others, with the intention of fetching a higher price whether at the auction or when sold directly. Which brings us to another point; all coffees, whether bought from the ECX auction or not, whether bought ‘directly from a source’, such as a washing station owner, coop, farmer, or whomever: the lot has to be tested; cupped, and information reported and logged at the ECX regional station before continuing its journey to Addis — where most of the dry milling is happening. This takes time.

The ECX is far from CCS’ primary or preferred way of finding great lots in this origin. We may come across and buy a lot from the auction from time to time, some gems might be found there indeed (just like in Kenya), and it can be a great way of discovering a place and a person, since the source will now be revealed after purchase. And when one buys a lot from the auction, the coffee is already on its way to Addis, so no time is wasted.

We also  depend on the ECX system for the coffee that we buy outside the auction, let’s say a lot from a washing station we have a relationship with. It is also screened and assessed at an ECX station before it arrives in Addis. Every time. In this case, a sample cupped in Addis might represent a lot that is still stored in  a warehouse close to where it was produced. It may take a month or more before that lot can be milled, bagged and made ready for export.
 

What to expect this season

Producing coffee, even specialty coffee, in Ethiopia is business as usual. Little changes in picking, processing and drying. The craft is the same, the reasons for making it in such an ordinary way is reasonable, or at least understandable. Exceptions exist, and there are good ones, but they are few.  

Most ‘coffee’ farmers don’t sell coffee, they sell coffee cherries, so they are depending on another facility, to buy their cherries for whatever the ‘market’ is offering on that very day. It can range from around 10 Birr per kg of cherries, up to 20-something Birr per kg. The range depends on the geographic area and what moment in the season the cherries are delivered. Whatever the price is, there is no particular incentive in doing it much differently. The value is added to the coffee once the cherries are bought, by which stage the cherry farmer is out of the equation. From the producer´s perspective it looks like this: with an average of 15birr per kg of coffee cherries, from a garden farm with 3-500 trees, producing approximately 3-5kg of fruit per tree, they earn from one harvest an amount that is the equivalent of 3 USD per day.

The people processing those cherries have another economic mindset. They may accept only fully ripe cherries, but there are few places that demand perfection. The coffee cherry is a raw material, a commodity, that may or may not be scrutinized carefully before pulping. Some washing stations may require some selection, but very few would use the floating method or take any other extra step to reduce half mature cherries from what’s going into the hopper.

Producing coffee in Ethiopia means producing a commercial product that the market is not willing to pay more than around $3.50 USD/lb FOB for a top lot of Gr.1 for. So why bother with a ton of labor intensive and expensive procedures, the quality issues can be handled at the dry mill with a color sorter and hand picking, can’t it? Unfortunately no, we know, it can’t.

Drying is where we see even more critical quality concerns. One may think that the drying is done carefully, raked by hand, hand picking defects and so on. Realistically for most facilities, the drying stage is a process that must be achieved as efficiently as possible. Time is money and space is a logistical matter. For example, shade drying which is highly preferred, is almost never seen. Shade drying takes up to three times longer. The surface space needed, and the time required increases the cost of production of the coffee several cents per lb. In the end, is one guaranteed to get that invested money back?

We are seeking those facilities, meeting the right people people, and working with coffee suppliers who take these extra steps. They are few and the coffee is more expensive, but we think it is worth it.

There is a small wave of experimentation with new processing techniques, mostly small volumes. We have yet to see if there are buyers willing to pay for the ride. Often these coffees are targeted at coffee competitors or special lots to be sold at auction. The offer prices reflect a premium for novelty and uniqueness, as well as the extra time invested in making small exclusive batches, thus it is not necessarily in a direct correlation to the cup character alone.


CCS in Ethiopia, February 2019 

CCS is building its presence in Ethiopia on many fronts. This origin continues to be one of the most challenging, but still large and important in our portfolio. Succeeding with finding and delivering delicious lots to the world is our reward.

We want to stay close to the people that work here, whether at farm level, washing stations, dry mills, and exporters. The post-processing, the dry milling, is our target of utter scrutiny. CCS’ team and partners will be at all the dry-mills we will use throughout the export season, following up on the milling itself, the sorting and the bagging.

This is where CCS adds value: by knowing the field, finding the lots, presenting well screened and curated sets of coffee, following up with the dry milling and logistics, in short, getting the lot from this place to your place, and financed all the way.

We follow the movements and the trends, but more than anything, we want to convey our respect and understanding of the traditions of a rich culture and elegant coffees that our partners and producers share with us. Still, we do think that there is plenty of room for change and improvement in how things are done in the field of making specialty coffee in Ethiopia. That is why we are here. This is why we will stay.

You are welcome to join us at CCS’ cupping lab with our partners Snap Specialty  Coffee on Bole Road, 12th floor. Join our upcoming origin trip, or contact me to make another time to cup with us.

If you cannot make it here before Feb 15th, we’ll send you a curated set of samples. Contact your sales rep to order them now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

We're Hiring

Financial Controller, Arabica Group

Location: Oslo, Norway
Contract: Permanent contract, full time
Starting date: As soon as possible

The Arabica group is looking for a highly professional self-motivated person to join our team in Oslo. You will assist the Management and the Board of the group with financial control and administrative support for the 5 companies of the group, but mainly for Collaborative Coffee Source AS (CCS).

Arabica is group of vertically integrated specialty coffee companies based in Norway, still, working internationally. The group was born in 1997 with Java espresso bar, one of the first specialty coffee shops established in Oslo. Later on, other coffee businesses were founded, including CCS which is a quality focused and knowledge driven green coffee trading company. CCS is now the largest and most complex organization within the Arabica group, currently sourcing coffee in over ten countries in Central & South America, and East Africa, and serving clients across three continents; Europe, North America and Asia.
 

RESPONSIBILITIES & TASKS

For all the companies of the group:

  • Preparing budget

  • Monthly reporting, cash management, financial control

  • Close communication with the accountants and auditors

  • Assisting the management for the preparation of the board meetings 

Specific to Collaborative Coffee Source:

  • Financial control and cash management (in particular, close control of inventory, accounts receivable and accounts payable)

  • Close communication with CCS’ financial partners

  • Daily management of administrative matters

  • Onboarding new employees, close relationship with CCS team members on a daily basis

  • Regular reporting to the Management on financial, administrative, legal and HR matters.
     

JOB REQUIREMENTS 

  • Education: Business school Bachelor or Master preferred, with a focus on Corporate finance.

  • A creative person, who undertakes initiatives and suggests improvement/solution for key issues.

  • The ability to maintain confidentiality in all matters.

  • Strong attention to detail.

  • Excellent interpersonal and intercultural skills.

  • A demonstrated capability to collaborate with and maintain effective relationships and communication with colleagues and partners.

  • A flexible nature, positive temperament and ability to handle stressful situations.

  • Enjoys working independently with minimal guidance as well as with a close-knit team.

  • Strong work ethic, self-motivated.

  • Language Skills: Excellent English reading, writing and speaking skills are required.

 

COMPENSATION

For this position we are offering a yearly salary of 400,000 NOK per year or more, depending on the profile and the experience of the candidate.

To apply, please submit your resume and cover letter to charlotte@collaborativecoffeesource.com and fill this Google Form.

CCS in Ethiopia, 2019

Some of CCS’ strongest and longest standing partnerships were built in East Africa, and in Ethiopia specifically. Laws and trading parameters, restrictions and possibilities, they are changing all the time. As much as we want to hold onto things that work, we keep a dynamic approach and curious mind, always holding the door open for change and improvement. 

A recent transparency reform at the ECX, plus an easing of restrictions on export licenses for coffee suppliers, has opened the market. While new opportunities are great, opportunism is not, so we were cautious when it came to meeting new partners taking advantage of these new trading arrangements.

On the streets of Addis, beyond dusty air and traffic jams, behind construction sites, piles of gravel and hordes of goats, we were introduced to a mild mannered, helpful and service-oriented Abenezer Asfaw. Abenezer is the Supply Chain Manager for Snap, one of those new specialty coffee companies taking advantage of a more open market.

Abenezer Asfaw, Supply Chain Manager for Snap Specialty Coffee, our new partners in Ethiopia

Abenezer Asfaw, Supply Chain Manager for Snap Specialty Coffee, our new partners in Ethiopia

Snap was established by Negusse D. Weldyes, for whom Abenezer is the right and left hand. The company has its own washing stations in Guji, Gedeo and West Arsi, and it also manages coffees on behalf of other washing station owners such as Daniel Mijane in Gedeb, and the Jebril brothers in Uraga, to name a few. Their coffees are meticulously processed, washed and naturals alike. Starting next season, all coffees exported by Snap will be hulled and screened, sorted and bagged at their own dry milling facility in Addis. 

It was clear from the outset that Snap is a company with a long-term commitment to producing well-crafted coffees, not out to make a quick buck before the export license system changes again. Controlling and following up on the last and final steps of the coffee’s journey out of Ethiopia is key, and Snap have proved they have the know-how and infrastructure to make that happen. That is why we have partnered with them.
 

CCS PRESENCE IN ETHIOPIA, JAN AND FEB 2019

CCS will be working closely with Abenezer and his team, sharing cupping tables, lab functions and offices in the Snap building on Bole Road, Addis Ababa. 

Robert will be in Addis from January 11th to the 28th. If you are passing through town, we invite you to the lab to cup with us.

Matt will be leading an official buying trip with customers for CCS from Feb 4th to Feb 11th, 2019. Email Matt to find out more.

If you will be visiting outside of these days, get in touch, we can arrange a cupping of CCS coffees with the team at Snap.

See you in Ethiopia!

Ethiopia Origin Trip5.jpg



Living our Values 2018

Download the CCS Living Our Values 2018 Report

Yes, it is that time of year already, annual report time! Before we all begin the festivities in earnest, we invite you to read our report, CCS Living Our Values 2018.

This year every member of the CCS team contributed a reflection, report or update from their field of expertise, assessing how well we have worked according to the values we hold as a company.

The CCS Living Our Values 2018 report includes our first Transparency Report. This document features every lot of coffee stripped in to our warehouses between January 1st and December 6th this year. Details include the quantity of coffee purchased, the export partner involved, the FOB paid, the cost of transport financing and insurance, and the CCS markup on that lot before discounts. We are acutely aware of the shortcomings of the FOB, there is so much it fails to communicate, but as we have discussed in this forum, it is the number we consistently have for every coffee, and we must begin our transparency journey somewhere.

We encourage feedback and discussion about any of the topics raised in this report. If you would like to talk to us about it, please email us.

Behind La Palma y El Tucán - Part three: Sustainability

THIS BLOG POST IS THE THIRD IN A THREE-PART SERIES. READ PART 1, AND PART 2

In Part 1 of this blog series, Nico wrote about La Palma y El Tucán’s (LPET) impressive social impact. In Part 2 he outlined LPET’s rigorous approach to quality

In this final blog post, I will tell you about BIODIVERSAL, a new project from the founders of LPET which seeks to support coffee growers and their land by diversifying and marketing their crops. 

Barriers to sustainable coffee production in Colombia

Coffee has been integral to Colombia’s rural economy for decades, but its current model is unsustainable. With the C-Price at an historic low, farmers struggle to cover the cost of their production. For some, it seems if they want to put food on the table their two options are to stay on their farm and grow a more profitable crop, often illicit products like coca, used in the production of cocaine. Alternatively they can head to the city where there are more economic opportunities. 

“As the average age of coffee farmers rises above 60 and their children seek non-farm employment or migrate to cities, the coffee sector will lose its viability,” said Felipe Sardi, cofounder of LPET. 

Additionally the mono-culture farming often practiced today is depleting the soils and requires more and more expensive chemical inputs. 

“We are convinced that coffee alone cannot generate adequate income to enable sustainable progress out of poverty or opportunities for the next generation of farmers,” Felipe said. 

They also see that monocultural coffee production is environmentally damaging, and vulnerable to global warming, which threatens to reduce viable coffee growing land in Latin America by 88% by 2050, according to the SCA. 

Biodiversity is one answer 

Felipe and cofounder, Elisa María Madriñan, see crop diversification as the answer to many of these issues. This involves cultivating other agricultural products in addition to coffee, to give farmers an additional source of income, and reduce the environmental impact of monoculture agriculture. Of course, this is LPET, so rigorous processing to uphold the highest quality in all products is the foundation of their project, giving farmers access to specialty markets for all of their crops. This is the core ideal behind BIODIVERSAL. 

“It brings forward a diverse pool of value-added agricultural products cultivated and sourced in a way that protects the community and the environment,” Felipe explained.  

“In today’s system, farmers have been encouraged, and eventually forced, into producing monocultures. We want to break this cycle. With the collaboration of our neighboring farmers, we will produce, transform, and commercialize value-added products in an array of local and global markets.”  

While this appears simple on paper, it involves great risk for the producer. Many come from a long line of coffee growers, so coffee is the crop they understand. Removing coffee trees and planting alternative crops presents many challenges, they may not know what will grow well on their land, or have access to the market for that agricultural product. 

With BIODIVERSAL, Felipe and Elisa plan to raise capital for the necessary agricultural research and development, to learn the highest standard processing methods, and to find the specialty markets for these new products.  

Holistic business model

The core idea behind BIODIVERSAL is to generate added value. This means transforming raw materials into something closer to the final product. Felipe noted, this requires a process of “continuous innovation in production, processing, and marketing to establish more direct, relationship-based trade between farmers and consumers in a high-quality agricultural market.”

Farmers involved in the project will benefit from LPET’s experience and expertise in design and marketing. The team intend to focus on the local market first, to reduce the carbon footprint of their products. “While we understand the importance and value of an international market,” Felipe said, “we want to focus on our local niche markets before branching out.”

Felipe refers to the multiple players required to make this business model work as a “symphony of collective efforts.”

Farmers are the production experts and caretakers of our ecosystems. Experienced entrepreneurs and investors bring the capital and experience to create value-added products through investments in technology and innovation. Conscious consumers support the project by seeking quality and the highest standards of ethical and ecological principles in the products they purchase.

THE PILOT PROJECT 

BIODIVERSAL will begin with a pilot project, working with twenty small-scale farms located around LPET´s farm in Cundinamarca, Colombia. The team have already leased a two hectare farm that meets all the characteristics of an average coffee farm in the region. They plan to implement four different BIODIVERSAL farming designs that will include over 24 species in addition to coffee. The results of these experiments will be shared with the local community and farmers. Farms will be divided into four groups, five farms will replicate one design, so that twenty farms can help test all four designs. Sixteen farms have already signed up for the challenge, all of which belong to LPET’s Neighbors & Crops Program. 

Some of the agricultural products that they intend to produce include:

  • Coffee

  • Pepper

  • Inca nuts

  • Archira (a local root vegetable used to make flour)

  • For shade:

    • Fourteen varieties of trees including Cedar, Chachafruto, Yarumo and Palm

  • For essential oil:

    • Lavender

    • Tumeric

    • Rosemary

    • Thyme

    • Citronella

    • Vetiver

  • For syrup:

    • Yacon

Following Colombia’s peace agreement and the withdrawal of FARC guerrillas from many parts of Colombia’s countryside, Felipe and Elisa see an opportunity to bring this new approach to conflict-prone areas. This could help farmers transitioning into legal crops create a more sustainable business model, strengthening peace in one of the world’s largest coffee producing countries. 







Brazil - leading the fourth wave?

We have written many blog posts this season about our friends and partners, Carmo Coffees, in Brazil. With each and every post, my desire to visit Carmo de Minas grew. When they announced that the World Brewers Cup would be held in Brazil, my heart leapt. It meant I could also visit Santuario Sul. Cupping the first releases from this farm earlier this year, my reaction was like most others at the table: “hey, are you sure this is Brazil?” I couldn’t wait to see the plants and the process in action.

 

4th coffee wave?

I visited the Santuario Sul farm in early November, a quiet time of the year for this part of Brazil. There was no noise coming from the processing machine, no workers around carrying cherries. Instead the team were preparing land for another season while cupping and reviewing this year’s harvest.

While things might have been chill on the farm, they were very exciting on the table. This year Brazil has surprised us all, importers, roasters and competitors alike. What’s happening in Brazil right now could be called fourth coffee wave. Well-resourced Brazilian producers are harnessing new technology, experimenting with different processing techniques, and planting new varieties. This is to discover new taste profiles, improve the longevity of their coffee, and create replicable systems that ensure quality coffee every harvest.

Carmo Coffees are among those pioneering new fermentation methods and varieties. On their farm, Santuario Sul, they have created a coffee garden with over 25 varieties of coffee. So far, we have tasted Sudan Rume and SL28. We expect to see even more varieties this coming harvest.

 

Brazil on TOP!

Clean, bright with candy-intense fruitiness, the coffees I cupped on my visit possessed none of the notes I have come to expect from Brazilian coffees. On the table were new varieties: Sudan Rume, Geisha, SL28, Yirgacheffe, Laurina, and Tanzania, featuring new fermentation methods. These profiles have caught the attention of competitors, who presented these beans on the world stage during the World Brewers Cup 2018 with great success. The winning brew, presented by Emi Fukahori from Switzerland, was a Brazilian Laurina, a variety famous for its lower caffeine content.

 

Looking for competition coffee?

Are you looking for something unique and astounding to present on stage? Something to spice up your offering? As a fellow competitor I have some advice for you! We will receive the very first harvest of SL28, new variety Yirgacheffe and Sudan Rume processed with anaerobic fermentation. Limited quantities are available, exclusive for coffee lovers willing to experiment along with the producers! Interested? Contact me for details, and order your samples now!

Julia's Top Five

Burundi - Mikuba 100 Honey

Burundi is my all time favorite coffee origin, both because of the coffees and our partners, the Long Miles Coffee Project. I love what they're doing for Burundi, the people, the country, sustainability, and for the coffee industry! I love this sweet and fruity cup, the Mikuba lots this year have been amongst some of my favorites ever to come from Long Miles.



Producers on Mikuba Hill, Burundi

Producers on Mikuba Hill, Burundi

Peru - Pedro Padilla, La Lucuma

Our very first container of Peruvian coffees will be landing soon! I was pleasantly surprised by this juicy cup. It is clean, balanced, with a pleasing finish. I am so excited to be importing and working with this new origin. Samples will be available soon.

Guatemala - Antigua Los Santos

This Guatemalan is nicely balanced and a great option for both espresso and filter on cold wintery days.  

Honduras - Danny Moreno, El Filo

CCS has been working with the Moreno family for 13 years! I am always thrilled  to have Morenos on the table. This particular lot makes a great filter brew.

Danny Moreno on his lot of the family farm, El Filo

Danny Moreno on his lot of the family farm, El Filo

Brazil - IP Natural: 

CCS is always on the search for lots that shine. Brazil is not normally the origin that really stands out the table but this lot coffee from our partners, Carmo Coffees, had our heads spinning. It will change the way you see Brazils.  

Careful tracking and measurement is key to consistency in production at Carmo Coffees in Carmo de Minas, Brazil.

Careful tracking and measurement is key to consistency in production at Carmo Coffees in Carmo de Minas, Brazil.

Behind La Palma y El Tucán - Part Two: Quality

THIS BLOG POST IS THE SECOND IN A THREE-PART SERIES. READ PART 1, AND PART 3.

In Part 1 of this blog series, I wrote about La Palma y El Tucán’s (LPET) impressive social impact.

In this blog post, the second in a three part series about LPET, I will dive deeper into the strict methodology and innovative processing behind the stellar cups that have earned LPET an impressive reputation for quality.

A quest for quality

When LPET began in 2012, the founders, Felipe Sardi and Elisa María Madriñan were convinced that varieties like Castillo, known for their disease-resistance, but not for their cup quality, had the potential to produce delicious lots, if they were picked selectively and processed well. Starting a farm from scratch meant that the pair could design both the processing facility, and the methodology, with quality as the number one priority. This is the vision behind LPET’s Neighbors & Crops program (N&C).

To ensure perfect ripeness, the cherries destined for the N&C lots are picked by LPET’s own team of highly-trained women who select only the ripest cherries. (The deep cherry-red nail polish they wear helps them identify the perfectly ripe fruit!) The cherries are then transported by truck to the LPET farm for processing. 

Receiving the cherries at the station

Receiving the cherries at the station

Due to the very small size of their farms, a single N&C producer is unlikely to produce sufficient cherries in a single day to fill a ten bag lot, so lots are usually composed of cherries from five or six different producers. The lot will keep the name of the producer who has the most cherries in a single lot. 

Checking the pH of the lots.

Checking the pH of the lots.

Measuring the Brics

Measuring the Brics

Adding rigor to research

Each lot will be tracked and recorded. At the farm gate an LPET team member notes the weight of cherries. At the station gate they measure the pH and sugar content. All this information is recorded on a physical tracking sheet for each lot, and transferred to a spreadsheet. This is essential data which they can use in the future. For example, this year the team reviewed every cupping sheet for the lots they produced in the last five years. They identified the best lot for cup profile and scores, and noted the relevant data including brics, pH, and time spent fermenting. With this data they created several “recipes” which they applied to cherries delivered this year. If you get a chance to cup the incoming fresh crops from LPET, you will understand the positive impact this rigorous approach has on quality. 

After the cherries pass the quality controls, they will undergo lactic pre-fermentation, water sorting, depulping, fermentation, washing and drying. To share all the details of these processing method is a blog post for another day, but we can at least tell you about their star process: lactic fermentation.

Tracking the coffee through the quality process

Tracking the coffee through the quality process

What is LPET Lactic Fermentation?

LPET lots show extremely diverse cup profiles. From a juicy tropical punch to a rum raisin syrupy shake, they can fit all preferences and curiosities. This is due to the extremely “picky-picking,” the state of the art equipment of their processing facility, and the knowledge of the whole team. Additionally, a large chunk of credit must go to this innovative Lactic process they have mastered over the years. A unique acidity structures each lot with its milky or winey tones, bringing a heavy body and a sparkling touch to the cup.

Sweet cherries ready to ferment!

Sweet cherries ready to ferment!

Before depulping begins, cherries are placed in a closed tank. Sugar content, temperature and pH are noted. The high sugar content of the perfectly ripe cherries provides ample food for yeast and bacteria naturally present in the air and on the cherries, so fermentation begins. One by-product of this fermentation is carbon dioxide. As the tank is closed it will slowly fill up with CO2 and the air will be chased out. Under these anaerobic conditions (meaning without oxygen), the bacteria that survives will produce lactic acidity, hence the name. For Lactic Fermentation, LPET will leave cherries fermenting in tanks for approximately 70 hours before depulping.

An easy way to see if cherries have been through a lactic fermentation is to look at the beans after depulping. If everything went well, a bit of alcohol was also produced during the fermentation, transferring some color from the pulp to the beans.

Lactic fermented beans after depulping

Lactic fermented beans after depulping

The quality control is not finished yet. After drying and milling, each lot, be it a Neighbors and Crops micro-lot of 350kg, or a Heroes Series nano-lot of 25kg, is sorted again by hand with the objective of achieving zero major and zero minor defects. Perfection is always the goal.

Final hand sorting

Final hand sorting

All of these sorting steps give us an incredible ratio of cherries to green of 1:8,5. On average, LPET needs 85 kilos of cherries to produce ten kilos of green. Think about that on your next sip!

Innovation never stops behind this farm’s doors, ambition to improve is always carrying them forward.  We are more than happy to chat to you about this project by phone, or over a coffee when we see each other somewhere on our beautiful home planet.

This season, we have fifteen stellar lots for our customers in Europe. The first ten lots are ready to go and will arrive in Hamburg early December. Five additional lots from the late harvest are being processed as I write this. Expect those around February 2019!

Nine lots have been already booked so hurry, before they all go. To book your LPET Neighbors and Crops lot, contact me at nicolas@collaborativecoffeesource.com !

Cheers – Nico

Read Part 1 of this blog series here.

CCS & Finca Deborah - World Brewers Cup 2018 Recap

CCS Sales Rep Veronika Galova Vesela represented Slovakia in the World Brewers Cup Championship in Brazil, Nov 2018. Veronika brewed Finca Deborah natural geisha, a coffee she has been competing with for three years at the international level.

CCS will have limited lots of Finca Deborah carbonic maceration and natural available in 2019! Contact Veronika to book them now.


Behind La Palma y El Tucán - Part One: Social Impact

This blog post is the first in a three-part series. Read Part 2, and Part 3.

I could probably write a book about La Palma y El Tucán (LPET). Instead I will limit myself to three blog posts.

I was lucky to travel to the LPET farm in August to make the CCS 2018-2019 selection, along with my team mate, CCS Global Buyer, Matt Hassell. Together we went behind the scenes to discover the strategy, science and hard work behind these stunning coffees.

In Part 2 of this blog series I will tell you about the famous processing and the laser focus on quality, and yes, we will review the crazy varietals they grow on their eighteen hectare farm. In Part 3 we will learn about LPET’s plans for increasing biodiversity and protecting farmer incomes with a new project.

Here in Part 1, what I really want to share with you is the positive social impact that the LPET team have on the local coffee growing community.


Let’s start at the beginning

Felipe Sardi and Elisa María Madriñan bought the LPET farm, located at 1600 masl in Cundinamarca, about 2 hours away from Bogota, and planted trees between August and December 2012. They employ 22 permanent workers and 60 to 70 seasonal pickers for the harvest. 

The farm is eighteen hectares, four of which remain wild primary forest. The fourteen hectares in coffee production are separated into five plots: Typica, SL28, Sidra, Geisha and Java. This is the coffee that will become the LPET Estate and Varietals series, including Heroes Series nano-lots of 25kg. Also on the farm is the state-of-the-art LPET processing facility, where they process coffee cherries purchased from neighboring farms for the Neighbors and Crops Series.

The Neighbors and Crops Program:

The goal of the Neighbors and Crops program (N&C) is to produce finely crafted and diverse cups, while simultaneously helping producers with fair revenues. 

To understand the LPET payment structure, you first need to understand how most coffee is bought and sold in Colombia.

A view of the farm from the neighboring mountain

A view of the farm from the neighboring mountain

The “FNC” Price

In Colombia, the standard way for producers to sell their coffee is to work with the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros (FNC). Created in the late 1920’s the federation is run by elected members, and boasts over 500,000 members. It is the largest agricultural NGO in the world.

One great reason for producers to join the FNC is their guaranteed purchase scheme. On any day of the year, producers can sell their coffee to the FNC at one of over 500 buying stations around the country. The price offered that day is based on the C-Price, with a differential of around 20% paid by the international market for coffee that meets the FNC’s strict export standards.

How does a producer, or anyone interested, learn the FNC price for a given day? Google “FNC precio café” and you will find this document:

FNC chart Nov 19.jpg

Every week the FNC updates this spreadsheet with the current pricing. For logistical reasons, the price offered will depend on the region. The deeper you travel into the country the lower the price, to account for the logistical costs of transporting the coffee to port.

Let’s take a closer look at the second table.

FNC chart Nov 19 table 2.jpeg

This table shows the price paid by yield factor, or “factor de rendimiento.” The yield factor is the kilograms of parchment coffee required to obtain 70kg (a standard bag in Colombia) of green coffee. Lower numbers are the goal, it means there is less that is lost in milling.

We see here that for the best yield factor, 89, the price per carga (125kg of parchment) is 834,125 Colombian pesos (COP). With today’s rate it is $263.40 USD, or $2,10 USD/kg of parchment coffee.

The LPET Model

Felipe and Elisa’s goal from the outset was produce the highest possible quality whilst creating a sustainable financial, social and economic model for neighboring coffee producers in Cundinamarca.

The challenges are many. The farmers in their area, about 200 in total, are small holders, most owning one hectare of land or less. With such limited space, it is almost impossible to build a processing facility that will result in high quality coffee. Additionally, the farmers mostly cultivate varieties that are known for their hardiness and disease resistance, but not for their cup quality, specifically Castillo. Plus, the region suffers another major sustainability issue, that is the absence of young coffee producers. Younger generations flock to the cities in search of more stable and profitable livelihoods, leaving an aging population of producers behind.

From the very beginning Felipe and Elisa aimed to create a long-term model that addresses multiple problems with multiple innovative solutions.

Sustaining coffee communities 

When you travel around the LPET Farm and meet the neighboring producers, it is rare to meet a farmer under the age of thirty. The youngest producer I met was Faustino Reyes. He is 60 years old.

Faustino by his processing tanks


Faustino by his processing tanks

His land is adjacent to Dioselina’s farm. Dioselina, who recently passed away, worked together with her neighbor Carmen, who is 83. 

If you ask any farmer in the region about their children, they always say “they live in Bogota, where they have a nice life and a better job.” The new generation don’t want to work on their parent’s farm. Between the low incomes that coffee offers and the close proximity of Bogotá, a large city with more economic opportunities, it’s a no-brainer for the children of coffee producers in Cundinamarca.

The question, of course, is who will produce coffee here in twenty years time?

Producer Carmen, Simon (Sales Representative at LPET) and Edwin (agronomist at LPET).

Producer Carmen, Simon (Sales Representative at LPET) and Edwin (agronomist at LPET).

The late Dioselina on her farm, August 2018, aged 84. We are deeply saddened by the passing of this dedicated coffee producer.

The late Dioselina on her farm, August 2018, aged 84. We are deeply saddened by the passing of this dedicated coffee producer.

Ensuring timely and selective picking

To ensure selective picking, LPET hire a team of pickers that they train themselves. This both guarantees picking of only the ripe cherries, and delivers pickers to the farms when they are needed.

The proximity to Bogota, and competition with new agricultural production such as industrial flower crops and palm oil plantations, makes it increasingly difficult to find pickers during harvest. Additionally, coffee producers are competing against coca plantations for labor around the country, especially in the south. Coca is the raw material for cocaine, and “raspachines,” or coca leaf pickers, earn much more than coffee pickers.

LPET can guarantee a team of pickers for every producer because they pay exceptionally well. The national average paid for cherry picking is about 450 COP per kilogram (about 14 cents USD). The average fee paid for pickers employed by the LPET Neighbors & Crops Program is around 800 COP per kilo, almost 80% more.

Producers do not have to advance the money to the pickers; LPET subtracts the fee for picking from their payment for the cherries.

State of the art processing

To manage the risks of processing on small lots of land, LPET buy cherries, instead of parchment. This takes much of the work, and the risk, from the producers, allowing them to focus on what they know best: how to produce beautiful and healthy coffee cherries from their land.

Timely transport

When buying cherries, it is essential they are delivered to the wet mill promptly to avoid problems with fermentation. This can be a challenge for producers, who may not have immediate access to the required transport.

LPET solved this problem by employing a fleet of trucks to collect cherries as they are picked and deliver them to the LPET farm for processing in their high-tech facility. This is a cost that LPET cover, saving the farmers time and money.

Faustino’s processing set up

Faustino’s processing set up

Faustino told me the thing he loves most about working with LPET was the fact that “pickers are coming.”

Finding people to pick your coffee cherries when they are perfectly ripe is one of the biggest challenges producers face in this region.

“I ask pickers to come next Monday because my cherries will be perfectly ripe, and they tell me yes, but when Monday comes I don’t see them. A lot of my production is damaged because of that,” says Faustino.

Encouraging environmentally sustainable practices

For every kilogram of cherries a producer sells to LPET, they receive 1kg of organic compost, created by LPET’s experienced team of agronomists and chemists. This free organic compost saves producers money, and reduces their reliance on chemical inputs year after year. Plus it improves the quality of the coffee.

Furthermore, from 2019 LPET will provide additional services to their N&C producers through a sister company called BIODIVERSAL. This company will work with the growing community to diversify crops, building environmental resilience and promoting income protection for growers. Stay tuned for Part 3 of this blog series to learn more!

LPET Pricing model 

LPET base the price they pay for cherries on the FNC price. To this they add three potential premiums:

Quality premium = 65% of the base price:
To earn this premium the cherries must pass the quality test. When arriving at the processing facility, Marlon, the Production Manager, measures the number of floaters from a representative sample. Then he removes the under-ripe and over-ripe cherries and calculates the percentage of healthy cherries. Almost all producers get the premium, as it depends mostly on the work of LPET’s own team of trusted pickers.

Loyalty premium = 25% of the base price:
From the second year a producer sells to LPET they receive an additional 25% of the FNC price as a loyalty premium.

Organic premium = 10% of the base price:
LPET don’t demand their producers be certified organic, as certification is an expensive and laborious process, but they do pay a premium if their team of agronomists can verify that the producer is using environmentally sustainable practices on their farm.

LPET Pricing Structure.png

As you can see from this chart, LPET producers have the potential to earn double the FNC price. This pricing structure is the heart of LPET´s sustainable mission. With this income stability, LPET hope to encourage the children and grandchildren of coffee growers to remain in the region and dedicate themselves to coffee. With organic premiums, and the gift of organic fertilizer, they hope to sustain the local environment so it can deliver coffee for these next generation coffee growers, and beyond.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the LPET story - how they achieve those dazzling cup profiles!

CCS Acevedo Cup 2019

Wednesday January 16 to Monday January 21st, 2019.

Join us in Huila, Colombia, for the third annual CCS Acevedo Cup, with our partners, Fairfield Trading.

The CCS Acevedo Cup is an annual quality competition that brings together the entire community of specialty producers in the micro-region of Acevedo. Five action-packed days of cupping and farm visits culminate in an awards ceremony with the entire community in attendance. The top twenty coffees are announced, along with the winners of the price premiums offered for each category.

CCS invites roasters, green coffee buyers and QC managers to join us in Acevedo, Huila, as judges of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2019.

Register to attend the CCS Acevedo Cup 2019

Name *
Name
Role
Sign me up for the CCS Newsletter

Why attend the CCS Acevedo Cup

The CCS Acevedo Cup is the perfect way to get to know an entire community of coffee producers in a condensed period of time. Through five intense days of cupping and farm visits, plus the awards ceremony which is a major event on producers’ calendars, roasters can cup and meet the producers behind scores of unique and delicious coffees. It is an opportunity to forge a long-term relationship with an individual producer, like Parlor Coffee in Brooklyn, NY, who are now exclusively buying the entire specialty grade production of producer Maria Bercelia Martinez.

This event is a fixture in the harvest in Acevedo, attracting hundreds of entries from the entire coffee growing community. The feedback provided by international judges is invaluable to producers, and placing in this competition is a great honor for any grower. As an international guest, you will be treated with great respect, and you will enjoy heartfelt hospitality from all of the producers and their families.

Price premiums per carga of parchment (125kg)

The price paid by Fairfield in recent months for coffee that passes their strict quality assessment was, on average, between 900,000 and 1,100,000 COP per carga. Prices that will be paid to the top twenty lots in the CCS Acevedo Cup 2019 are:

1st place - $2.200,000 COP
2nd place - $2,000,000 COP
3rd to 5th place - $1,800,000 COP
6th to 10th place - $1,500,000 COP
11th to 15th place - $1,300,000 COP
16th to 20th place - $1,200,000 COP


LOGISTICS

We will fly from Bogota to Pitalito early morning on Wednesday January 16th, and return to Bogota from Neiva in the evening of Monday January 21st. Judges must arrange their own international flights, and we will send you the details of the domestic flights. Ground transport and hotels in Huila will all be arranged by Fairfield Trading.

Each day we will cup in the morning, and visit producers in the afternoon.

We will cup three tables per day, 50 to 70 lots in total that have been screened and preselected by the well trained quality management team at Fairfield Trading. The last two days will be spent cupping and placing the top twenty coffees.

On Sunday the producers are invited to the award ceremony in Acevedo Town. The top twenty place getters are announced, followed by a Colombian-style celebration where you can meet the producers of these exceptional coffees.


Why Acevedo?

Acevedo is a municipality located in the south-easternmost corner of the Huila department of Colombia, wedged in the fork between the central and eastern cordilleras (mountain ranges) where the Colombian Andes split into three distinct mountain ranges (the western, central and eastern cordilleras). Just beyond the central and eastern cordillera convergence is jungle and thus, moist, cool air. This cool air simulates increased elevation, and creates many different microclimates with diverse humidity, temperature and rainfalls, leading to varying and ideal coffee-growing conditions. 

The variety found in the cup profiles coming from Acevedo reflect its array of microclimates. Altitude ranges from 1200 to 1800 meters above sea level (masl) with many of the farms we buy from lying within the 1400 to 1800-meter range. Coffees produced at higher elevations are typically denser and are therefore appreciated more by specialty coffee professionals. An increase of elevation usually results in an increase in perceived acidity in the cup. This is potentially in part due to an increase in exposure to UV radiation, but mostly caused by the larger diurnal swings that happen at higher elevations. The cooler nights that occur at higher elevations lead to slower cherry maturation, which leads to sweeter, more complex cups. 

Elsewhere in Colombia, altitudes of around 1400 masl can produce uninteresting, flat coffees. But Acevedo coffees are the exception to that rule. Whether they’re grown at the higher or lower part of the elevation range, they are incredibly sweet, complex and fruited cups. When you visit Acevedo, it is easy to understand why. Mornings and evenings are cool, even in Acevedo town which is only 1300 masl. Daily showers are extremely refreshing, or brutally cold, depending on your attitude, as hot water does not pour from taps in this part of Colombia. On many farms you can see literally watch the billowing, moist clouds roll in from the jungle to envelop the farms. This moist air makes drying the coffee difficult, so farmers use raised, covered beds, which adds to the fruited complexity of these beautiful lots. 

Taiwan International Coffee Festival

Taiwan International Coffee Show.jpg

Friends in Taiwan, Julia will be in Taipei at the Taiwan International Coffee Festival with our partners Green Coffee Gallery! Join Julia and the team for four cuppings daily at booth N1305-11, 1206-12.


Cupping Schedule:

Friday November 16
11:00 Kenya
14:00 Ethiopia Washed
15:30 Ethiopia Natural
16:30 Burundi, Colombia

Saturday November 17
11:00 Kenya
14:00 Ethiopia Washed
15:30 Ethiopia Natural
16:30 Honduras, Guatemala

Sunday November 18
11:00 Kenya
14:00 Ethiopia Washed
15:30 Ethiopia Natural
16:30 Panama, Costa Rica 

Monday November 19
11:00 Kenya
14:00 Ethiopia Washed
15:30 Ethiopia Natural

Email Julia for more information.