It was a busy time leading up to the World of Coffee in Amsterdam. The team were working long hours, roasting crazy quantities of samples, packing equipment, finalising schedules, checking checklists. Then the Brazilians arrived.
Everyone dropped what they were doing to meet Luiz Paulo Pereira and Hugo Silva from Carmo Coffees at the cupping table.
What we tasted was like nothing we have come to expect from Brazil. Alongside the great washed and natural coffees we know and love from Carmo Coffees were these SL28 and Rume Sudan anaerobic newcomers: clean, bright with candy-intense fruitiness.
Exotic varieties? New processing methods? Is this really Brazil?
The Carmo Coffees approach
This is exactly the response Luiz Paulo Pereira was hoping for. This has been his mission since he started Carmo Coffees with his cousin Jacques Caneiro in 2007.
The beginnings were not glamorous. The cousins, from a family of coffee producers, opened an export office in the small town of Carmo de Minas. It was important to look professional, so they hired Rose to work as a secretary and put a big white box of a computer on her desk. The machine didn’t work, but it showed they were a serious business; they had a secretary and a computer.
They exported their first coffees in 2007, the same time CCS founder, Robert Thoresen, was in Brazil, sourcing for our sister roasting company, Kaffa Oslo. The three discovered a shared mission to showcase Brazil’s potential for specialty coffee, and began one of CCS’ longest running relationships.
Twelve years later, Rose works in the QC department, Carmo Coffees employs 62 people, and all of their computers work.
Carmo Coffees and Specialty
Carmo Coffees work differently to other coffee companies in Brazil. Firstly, they believe good coffee is born of relationships.
“We have producers who come to us and ask, ‘I want to sell my coffee to you. What is the price?’” Luiz Paulo explained. “We want to know what is your plan? What future is there for both of us?”
Their sales force are called “Coffee Chefs.” Like a fine dining chef who sources the best ingredients and transforms them with passion and creativity into a delicious dish, the sales team must follow the coffee from the day it is planted until it is harvested, processed and delivered.
“Ninety nine percent of coffee traders in Brazil look for papers, the price, shipping times, negotiation possibilities. They sit at a computer all day,” Luiz Paulo said. “Our team are part of the coffee process from the beginning. They visit the producers, know their land, the costs, the challenges, the ambitions. This is all before the coffees arrive in our warehouse.”
While Carmo Coffees have impressed us year after year for their consistent clean and fruity profiles, it was the coffees from Luiz Paulo’s new project, Santuario Sul, that had us all mesmerized in June.
The project, which began almost five years ago, is a collaboration with Camilo Merizalde, the pioneering Colombian behind the Santuario project, plus the Santuario fermentation expert, Ivan Solis, from Costa Rica. The farm currently has 30 hectares of land in coffee production, and they aim to expand to 70 hectares very soon.
We want this farm to be different,“ Luiz Paolo said. “If we do the usual things, it’s just another farm in Brazil. We are bringing together Brazilian terroir with Central and South American styles.”
They began by planting different varietals, 25 in total, making it the biggest coffee garden in Brazil. Last year they harvested a their first crop of Sudan Rume. This year saw the first harvest of SL28.
The next step was to experiment with processing, specifically anaerobic fermentation. Rather than import expensive equipment from overseas, the team looked in their own backyard. Carmo de Minas is dairy country — Luiz Paulo's grandmother is as famous for her cows as she is for coffee — so they bought a fermentation tank used for cheese making.
The closed steel tanks are easy to clean and feature double walls and temperature controls, which Ivan Solís adapted to the exact temperature range required for coffee processing. The tank used on Santuario Sul can process 2000 liters of cherries - around ten bags of green coffee.
Anaerobic processing on Santuario Sul
The cherries are hand-picked to ensure perfect maturity, then washed to remove any juice excreted during the picking process which can significantly reduce the clarity in the cup.
The team then measure the Brix levels of the cherries. If they are higher than 23, the cherries are used for anaerobic fermentation. If the Brix levels are lower than 23, they are destined to become naturals.
The selected cherries are placed in the adapted dairy tank for 60 hours without any movement, then the tank is opened to check the PH level. When the PH of the mucilage inside the fermenting cherries reaches 4.5, it is time to take them out.
“We experimented with a PH of 5,” Luiz Paulo explained, “but the flavor was too funky.”
After fermentation the cherries are removed and left to dry with the cascara still intact. Drying takes between 18 to 21 days, depending on the weather.
The resulting cup is the perfect combination of washed and natural: clean, bright, full of fruit and sweetness.
While Luiz Paulo notes that they are still learning, the initial experiments were so successful that they have installed tanks of three other sites: Fazenda Irmas Pereira (2000 liters), Alta Vista (2000 liters) and Pedralva (5000 liters). This is part of the Carmo Coffees approach. They are not interested in trends, or glamour, instead they aim to produce unique and delicious coffees year after year, which means everything must be repeatable.
The natural processing on Santuario Sul differs from other naturals from Brazil primarily in the picking, which is done manually. Maturing is a particularly long process in this part of Brazil, and trees frequently have both flowers and ripe cherries at the same time, making hand-picking only mature cherries essential. After picking, the cherries are laid to dry on average for 23 days.
In both styles of processing the cherries are hand sorted as they dry on the beds. Carmo Coffees recently ran a competition, men vs women, to see who could select the largest number of imperfect cherries in the shortest amount of time. The women won by a large margin.
The cherries are hand-picked for perfect ripeness. They are de-pulped with some mucilage left intact. The coffee is left to ferment for an average of 24 hours, or until the PH level reaches 4.5. It is washed to remove any remaining mucilage and dried. Micro-lots are dried on African beds. The initial layer of coffee on the beds is very thin and as the coffee dries, they increase height of the layers.
Want to get your hands on some samples?
Carmo Coffees will be special guests in Oslo at our Summer’s End Celebration in September, presenting more of these stereotype-busting coffees. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join us.
If you can’t make it to Oslo, add your details to the form below and we will contact you as soon as pre-shipment samples arrive.
Join us for a huge 2-day event to celebrate summer crops from Colombia, Burundi and Brazil. We’ll be cupping coffees from our innovative partners Long Miles Coffee Project, La Palma & El Tucán, and CarmoCoffees. Special guest, producer Luiz Paulo Pereira, will present his exciting project in Brazil, Santuario Sul, plus there'll be roasting and brewing workshops, and your chance to win LPET Heroes Series coffee.
CCS events are kept small and intimate to ensure our roasters have the best experience. Spaces in our Summer's End Celebration are strictly limited to 16 guests. Make sure you're among them - email email@example.com to reserve your place.
August 1 – 3, 2018
Tulua, Valle del Cauca
Discover the enormous potential of Valle de Cauca, and uncover some hidden gems.
CCS and Fairfield Trading invite you to the 14th annual Valle Cafetero competition in Valle del Cauca, organized by the department’s five FNC coffee cooperatives, and CAFEXCOOP mill.
Valle del Cauca is an innovative yet lesser-known coffee growing department of Colombia. This is a rare opportunity to be part of a region’s coffee development, and add some unique and delicious coffees to your menu.
July 31: Arrive in Cali, Colombia. Transport to Tulua.
August 1 to 3: Cupping and collaboration with producers
August 4: Return to Cali
Transportation to and from Cali airport, and accommodation in Tulua will be covered by the event organizers.
Assessing the top 30 micro-lots selected from 115 “micro-cuencas” in Valle de Cauca.
2. Business round:
A time for buyers and growers to connect, discuss, network, build relationships, and possibly trade coffee.
About Valle del Cauca:
Valle del Cauca is a department located on the Pacific coast, bordered by Chocó, Tolima and Cauca. This department is named after the Cauca river that runs through it, and this river is the basis of their unique approach to coffee cultivation.
The National Federation of Coffee Growers (FNC) divides Colombia into 86 “ecotopos” (ecotopes in English) within seven different coffee growing regions. These ecotopos are geographical areas that share the same soil and climatic conditions. Using this guide, the FNC create sustainable development programs, technical and crop forecasting models, and study the relationship between climatic conditions of the ecotopos and the cup quality they produce.
In Valle del Cauca, the flowing waters of the Cauca River unite the people, so instead of using ecotopes to determine their coffee sustainability strategy, the department uses “Micro-Cuencas” or micro river basins. Micro-Cuencas are the epicenter of the community and the source of coffee quality. Everyone, whether they work in coffee or not, must do their part to ensure the water is respected, because contamination flows downstream and negatively affects everything: the environment, the people, and ultimately, the coffee quality.
Sustainability programs in Valle del Cauca work with the unique ecosystem of each Mirco-Cuenca. They encourage coffee cultivation in harmony with the natural resources, maintaining the balance of the local insect population, stimulating natural fertility of the soil, and conserving the river basin for the future of both coffee cultivation, and the community.
Our partners in the region, Fairfield Trading, have worked with the group of cooperatives (organizers of this event) since 2002, serving as judges for the Valle Cafetero competition and purchasing winning lots of coffee. Alejandro Renjifo, founder of Fairfield Trading, is from this department, but that is not the only reason for his belief in its coffee growing potential. The exceptional coffees he has recently bought, coupled with the department’s unique approach to community and sustainability, has him convinced that Valle del Cauca will soon be one of the most highly regarded departments on Colombia’s coffee map.
Roasters, green coffee buyers and QC managers are invited to join us as judges of the Valle Cafetero 2018. For more information, and to register your interest, fill in the form below.
“No one is crying for the poor Napa Valley vineyard owner,” said Peter W. Roberts, speaking at the Transparent Trade Coffee Colloquium in Hamburg late last month. Peter is a professor at the Goizueta Business School, Emory University and he began his academic career investigating the wine market, which he says functions well.
“Markets work best when there is a lot of information, and a lot of opportunity,” Peter explained. “A vineyard owner can deliver their grapes to the back door of a winemaker, then walk around to the front door to find out how much their wine sells for,” he explained. As a result, “Napa Valley vineyard owners are paid well. Coffee farmers are not.”
Several industry veterans attended the colloquium, including Peter Dupont of Coffee Collective, Geoff Watts of Intelligencia and Mark Dundon of Seven Seeds Coffee. All agreed that after 20 years working in this business, little has changed for coffee producers. They still struggle to make a living, they work at the mercy of the market, and they remain at the bottom of the supply chain, with no power to change their situation.
Part of the solution is to increase the amount of information available, or in other words, increase transparency. “Get roasters to origin. Get farmers to places where coffee is sold,” Peter W. Roberts suggested. And, when this is not possible (and it rarely is), those of us working in green coffee purchasing need to be the conduit of information, providing negotiating power to producers, the kind enjoyed by Napa Valley vineyard owners.
Sounds easy enough. So why is it so hard?
BARRIERS TO TRANSPARENCY: Business and competition
The first and most obvious obstacle is business. Sharing sensitive financial data makes us uncomfortable as it could negatively impact our bottom line. Will customers complain when they see the margin we earn for our labor? Will our competitors use that information to steal our precious coffees by offering producers slightly more than we pay?
These are valid concerns and highly probable scenarios. The only defense against them is trust, the kind of comes from long term and mutually beneficial relationships. Customers must trust the work we do and the value we add. Producers must trust us to come back to buy the coffee year after year, which would make it less attractive to sell at a higher price to a one-off buyer. We must also welcome the competition and pay higher prices, trusting our customers, and their customers, will be willing to pay extra too.
BARRIERS TO TRANSPARENCY: Which number do we share?
You may have seen claims like “we pay an average of 20% above,” “twice the market price,” or some other multiplication of the C-Price. This is an easy way to contextualize the high prices paid for specialty coffee, and we admit to doing something similar ourselves. But it is a fundamentally flawed comparison because, as most in the specialty industry would agree, the commodities market is a flawed system.
The most common number shared by specialty coffee companies who practice transparency is the FOB. This stands for Free On Board and it represents the price paid by the importer to get the coffee out of the country. Consider it the moment the crane carries the container of coffee from the dock to the ship.
The reason the FOB is the most commonly shared number is because it is the number those of us working in the markets know and can verify. As importers, this is the price CCS pays for the coffee, and we can prove it with our purchase contracts.
The problem with the FOB is that it says little about how much the producer was paid. Included in the FOB price are many additional costs, such as milling, storage and transportation. There may also be an exporter’s fee, which covers their work in sourcing the coffees, supporting and training the teams that cup these coffees, possibly paying agronomists who advise the producers. Often it includes origin country taxes and insurance.
Return to Origin (RTO)
Based on the FOB, several roasters have begun publishing percentage they call Return to Origin, or RTO. This is the FOB as a percentage of the final cost of roasted coffee. A 20% RTO means that 20% of the final price of that roasted coffee was paid to people in the country where that coffee was cultivated.
This is an interesting initiative, and hats off to the roasters who use it. However, the risk of publishing the RTO as a percentage is that a higher percentage looks better, it suggests more money in the pockets of people at origin, but that isn’t always true. It really depends on the final price of the roasted coffee; 10% of a high-priced coffee might mean more money than 20% of a cheaper coffee.
Free on Truck (FOT) is the amount paid when the coffee is transferred to a truck for transport, and it is hard to know if this was paid to a producer, or another actor along the supply chain. FOT might be paid to a farmer, but it is more likely it was paid to a washing station, dry mill or exporter who must then transport the coffee to port.
A more accurate reflection of what a farmer earned is called the Farm Gate price. This is the price paid the moment the coffee was transferred from the hands of the producer. Once again we encounter problems with this figure.
Firstly, the Farm Gate price is almost never the price paid for green coffee, as producers usually deliver cherries or parchment. Calculating the price paid for green coffee based on the Farm Gate is complicated by a number of different factors, all of which impact the amount of green coffee derived from the delivery. Even when the producer is delivering dry parchment, coffee in its final state before milling, there is no easy equation to calculate the amount of green coffee purchased. This depends on the yield factor, which is the amount of green coffee produced after waste from parchment and any impurities like stones and sticks is discarded. As you can imagine, the yield factor can vary from lot to lot.
Each step in processing coffees carries with it loss and risk. The loss is in the form of cascara, pulp, humidity and parchment. The risk is that something goes wrong during processing that could impact the quality of the coffee, lowering its value. The more loss and risk a producer carries, the more they are paid for the product they deliver. This makes it almost impossible to compare a Farm Gate price paid to a producer in Colombia, who processed their own coffee and sold it as dry parchment, to a Farm Gate price paid to a producer in Ethiopia, who sold fresh cherries to a washing station.
Similarly, it is difficult to compare these numbers without understanding the cost of production in each origin. And imagine the producer delivered their coffee over a series of weeks, with differing yield factors, price fluctuations and changing currency valuations.
The calculations get complicated.
LACK OF CONTEXT
The biggest obstacle to transparency is context. A single number can not communicate the long and complicated supply chain of coffee, and the costs associated with delivering it. Nor can it account for variations in cost of production, cost of living, currency fluctuations or volumes produced.
There are efforts to improve this. Colombian coffee exporters, Azahar, presented data to those gathered in Hamburg from their own study into providing their producers with a living wage. Working with 100 farms in three departments in Colombia, they determined three price points for a carga (125kg) of parchment, which is how most Colombian producers sell their coffee. The three price points indicated the price Azahar needed to pay in order to:
- Meet the poverty line
- Meet the minimum wage in Colombia
- Meet the minimum wage, plus enough extra to reinvest in developing the farm.
The fourth column, which contained only question marks, asked “How can we do better?”
This data goes a long way to contextualize the Farm Gate price, and is a great potential model for other companies buying green coffee. However, for now, its scope is limited.
“Transparency is not marketing,” Peter Dupont noted, “but we do need to market these numbers better.”
Our customers do not have time to investigate the supply chain of every product they buy, they need at-a-glance information in order to make their purchase decision. This is something Fair Trade understands well.
More importantly, consumers need to believe transparency matters.
No profit in transparency, yet
Operating transparently requires an enormous amount of work. It means asking everyone in the supply chain to keep and share detailed financial documents, which need to be understood, analyzed, distilled, then formatted, packaged and communicated to customers. It means research into local economies to provide context for these numbers.
It is difficult for small specialty coffee companies to justify the additional expense unless the customer is willing to pay for it.
This is the crucial link in the transparency chain. We must convince customers to demand transparency, even if they don’t have the time to analyze and understand the data we provide them. “Ultimately, no one will choose to pay producers more for coffee,” Peter W. Roberts said, “the market has to force it.”
For transparency to make business sense, we need to convince consumers to ask:
1. "How much was the farmer paid?"
2. "Is that enough for them to live?"
If enough consumers ask, everyone in the supply chain will make it a priority to find the answers.
Share what you have
The overwhelming agreement in the few days spent in Hamburg was that transparency can’t wait until we have perfect data.
“We have to start somewhere,” Peter Dupont added, “then push the conversation forward,” even if that means we start with the FOB.
Professor Peter W. Roberts is working on research to strengthen transparency in specialty coffee, but even he noted “we can’t ask you to share data you don’t have.”
This is the reason the research to create a Data Backed Transaction Guide for the Specialty Coffee Market will begin with the FOB. It is an imperfect number, but it is the one we all have and can verify. The hope is that the breadth of the data in this pilot study will be robust enough to encourage further research into producing better numbers.
TRANSPARENCY AT CCS
Transparency is one of our core values, and yet we have struggled, as have so many companies in specialty coffee, with all of the above issues. In the past we have shared the FOB of the coffees we buy with our customers, but we have not published them for fear of misrepresenting what the farmer is earning for that coffee.
We have been pushing for better data, from our producers and from our partners. We are trying to contextualize the prices paid for specialty coffee with the cost of producing such high quality. We have an initiative to source better data and create a methodology for people at origin to do this on a regular basis. Plus, we will be data donors for the Data Backed Transaction Guide mentioned above.
And, from today, in the spirit of the Hamburg colloquium, we will start with what we have. Below you will find the FOB of all coffees we have purchased so far in 2018. You can also find them on the origins pages on our website. We will do this for all coffees we purchase from now on.
FOB of CCS Selection, 2018
The FOB represents the price we pay our export partners at origin. To calculate the cost we charge to roasters, we add the following:
- Financing and logistics, on average USD $0.3/lb
(USD $0.4/lb for inland coffees such as Burundi).
We work with financing partners as we are an independent sourcing company without the capital to finance coffee. Logistics covers shipping, insurance and other costs to transport coffee from ports at origin to our warehouses located in Oslo, Hamburg, New Jersey and Oakland. This price is only for full containers. When we ship smaller quantities of coffee, like from Panama for example, financing and logistics costs are much higher.
- Our markup to cover our costs.
The markup varies, depending on the FOB, volumes purchased, and the need to remain competitive in the market. For example, we take a lower margin on our most expensive coffees. On average, in 2018, our markup is 20%.
So the equation for all origins, except Burundi, looks something like this:
Price to roasters per pound = (FOB + US$0.3) x 1.2
Price to roasters per kilo = (FOB + US$0.66) x 1.2
The equation for Burundi looks something like this:
Price to roasters per pound = (FOB + US$0.4) x 1.2
Price to roasters per kilo = (FOB + US$0.88) x 1.2
Please remember, these are averages.
Push the conversation forward
“It’s not necessary to go from zero to one hundred in the first try,” said Meredith Taylor, Sustainability Manager for at Counter Culture. Their first transparency report included data on twelve coffee contracts. Now they publish details on over 300.
Publishing the FOB of all coffees purchased in 2018 is, perhaps, starting at five. Meanwhile we, and many of our colleagues in the industry, are working towards delivering one hundred.
Nine roasters from all over Europe joined us for this exciting challenge, with a few late entrants who cajoled the judges into letting them in on the fun. The prize had to be good in order to coax so many great cuppers away from the RAI Amsterdam to the considerably more stylish surrounds of the La Cabra pop up cafe. And it was an awesome prize indeed: an exclusive LPET Fermentation Pack from our friends La Palma y El Tucán.
The competition had three rounds:
Cuppers were presented with the four coffees that were part of the competition and given a chance to get to know the fermentation profiles:
It was all-in for Round 2, with nine cuppers at the table at once. They all had ten minutes, but time mattered, and the fastest cuppers would move on to the finals. Nikko from Andante in Helsinki, Finland, flew through to the finals, while Tomas of Rebel Bean in Brno, Czech Republic, earned his place with a stellar time.
In this final round Tomas and Nikko had to identify the fermentation method of the coffees: Acetic, Natural, Honey or Lactic. An informal round followed, as the cuppers gathered at the table to compare their thoughts with the selections of the finalists.
Despite Nikko's prowess in the triangulation, it was Tomas of Rebel Bean who won the day! In a lightning quick time of 48 seconds, Tomas correctly identified two of the four fermentation methods. He left Amsterdam with a bag 4kg heavier than when he arrived. We can't wait to see what Rebel Bean do with these exclusive coffees.
An enormous thank you to all who came for this fun event, and an extra special hug for La Cabra who provided the perfect venue. It was an ideal space, away from the craziness of the Roasters Village, to appreciate great coffee (and hear each other speak).
How to get your hands on these coffees
Want to know how these innovative processing methods affect the cup? Looking for a unique coffee for your next competition? Check out our Competition Coffees page on Cropster Hub, and read this guide on buying greens for competition.
Our Ikawa roasters are indispensable tools both at origin and in the lab. Nico will show you all the features while roasting some exceptional Burundian coffees from our partners Long Miles Coffee Project at World of Coffee, Amsterdam. See you there!
And don’t miss our packed schedule of cuppings at the CCS stand, Booth 30 in the Roasters Village. See our full cupping schedule and all our sideshows for the next fun-filled three days.
Veronika Gálová Veselá, five-time Slovakia Brewers Cup champion, and the latest member of the CCS team, will be brewing at the WB.coffee Booth, Roasters Village, World of Coffee, Amsterdam.
Join Veronika and enjoy her award-winning brews of this delicious coffee from our friends at Finca Elida, Lamastus Family Estates, Panama.
Friday June 22, 11.30am - 1pm.
Plus, we'll be cupping every day at our stand, Booth 30 in the Roasters Village. See our full cupping schedule.
Eight contestants will battle in this triangulation competition, with the extra challenge of identifying La Palma & El Tucán's different fermentation methods.
The winner will take home an exclusive LPET Heroes Fermentation Pack, with four different green coffees, featuring four fermentation methods from our innovative partners from Cundinamarca, Colombia.
Don't miss the action, start time 2pm this Friday June 22 at La Cabra's pop up cafe, Qunllijnstraat 80, Amsterdam.
Plus, we'll be cupping every day at our stand, Booth 30 in the Roasters Village. See our full cupping schedule.
Join CCS and Fairfield Trading at the Café de Colombia Brew Bar at World of Coffee, Amsterdam. We will be there with friends and colleagues from KAFFA Oslo and Nordbeans, who will brew their roasts of Maria Bercelia Martinez and the El Tesoro blend, place winners in the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018.
Saturday June 23, Café de Colombia Brew Bar, 1.15pm.
Plus, we'll be cupping every day at our stand, Booth 30 in the Roasters Village. See our full cupping schedule.
July 6 to 11, 2018
We'll be visiting our partners in Burundi, Long Miles Coffee Project, for cuppings and visits to farms and washing stations. You're invited to join us. Complete the form below and we will be in touch with all the details.
Join Julia and our friends at Green Coffee Gallery in Taiwan for a cupping of new crop Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your place.
Win a 4kg Heroes Fermentation Pack from La Palma y El Tucán!
Collaborative Coffee Source presents the LPET Tasters Challenge at World of Coffee, Amsterdam.
Friday June 22, 2pm at the La Cabra pop up cafe.
Correctly identify the different cup and the fermentation method in this triangulation challenge, and you could win a selection of La Palma y El Tucán's Heroes Series. This limited edition WoC selection includes 4 x 1kg packs featuring different processes from this innovative producer from Colombia.
Eight contestants will compete in this challenge. Register below and we will inform you on Monday June 18 if you have been selected.
The CCS team will be at World of Coffee in Amsterdam this June, 21st to the 23rd. We'll be hosting several cuppings a day of exciting current and incoming crops from our current offers list. Come and see at at Booth 30 in the Roasters Village.
Thursday Jun 21, 3pm
Nicolas roasts burundi with ikawa
ikawa booth, World of Coffee
Join Nicolas and our friends from Ikawa to roast some samples from our partners Long Miles Coffee Project.
Friday Jun 22, 11.30am
Veronika Galova Vesela brews Finca Elida
Roasters Village, World of Coffee
Slovakia Brewers Cup Champion, and CCS Sales Representative, Veronika Galova Vesela, will brew Finca Elida, Panama.
Friday Jun 22, 2pm
LPET Tasters Challenge
La Cabra pop Up Cafe, QUELLIJNSTRAAT 80, Amsterdam
Eight contestants will battle it out in this triangulation challenge with an added twist: pick the odd cup out, and identify the fermentation. The winner will take home a special Heroes Fermentation Pack from our innovative partners in Cundinamarca, Colombia, La Palma y El Tucán.
Saturday Jun 23, 1.15pm
CCS Acevedo Cup Winners 2018
Café de Colombia Brew Bar
CCS and Fairfield present a selection of lots from the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018, brewed by our friends from Kaffa Oslo and Nordbeans.
Meet Veronika Galova Vesela, five-time Slovakian Brew Champion, and our new sales representative for Europe.
Veronika began her coffee journey almost eight years ago when she took a job as a part-time barista at Starbucks in Prague. She fell in love with coffee and sought to learn more, undertaking several advanced barista courses. Soon she was spending more time immersed in coffee education than her university studies.
Upon graduating, Veronika took a job with the Czech roastery La Boheme Café, and entered her first barista competition at the Coffee in Good Spirits in Prague. She took home the national title. The following year she competed in her home country of Slovakia, and took that national title too. Competitions became such a focus that Veronika left the roastery to start her own business as an independent barista and consultant, eventually opening a barista training school in the Czech Republic, all so she could have more flexibility to train for competitions. She also traveled to Panama, her first trip to origin.
The opportunity to work for CCS was the perfect next step for Veronika, who is eager to discover more flavors from different origins, and to hear the coffee stories and innovations from producers, roasteries and coffee shops.
“Traveling to origin and around Europe, meeting other coffee professionals, it sounds like heaven for coffee enthusiast like me,” Veronika said.
Welcome to the CCS team!
I recently returned from my first trip to Honduras, and CCS’ second trip for this harvest. I wanted to write a blog post with poetic descriptions of the beautiful farms, amazing people and delicious coffees I discovered in the region, or how I attempted to break the record for most baleadas eaten at El Rincon Del Sabor (not a pretty story, I’m not a breakfast person). Instead I have bad news to report:
Yields in Santa Barbara, Honduras, are down almost 50% compared to last year.
My heart breaks for our partners and producers in the region, knowing the hard work and care they invest in this, and every, season. In this origin update I will try and explain what’s happening to cause such low production, and what the producers are doing to combat these problems and prepare for the future.
The natural cycle of high years and low years
Last year was an atypically productive year for Honduras, so comparing the 2018 harvest to 2017 is a bit deceiving. Additionally, this year happened to be the lower-yielding year in the bi-annual ebb and flow of productivity.
“In 2016, the rainy season was a bit more typical with multiple rain patterns, producing more flowerings. Because of this, 2017 was a fruitful year,” Benjamin Paz of our export partners, San Vincente, explained.
“It was a perfect storm for quantity. Numbers were way up. However, in 2017, there was a long period of time over the summer when the weather was atypically hot during stretches when they usually receive rain. This pushed the flowering much later into the year, and plant production suffered. This of course led to smaller production in 2018.”
Combating Climate Change
Benjamin added “this country is certainly struggling with climate changes. We should all be much more concerned with how we’re treating the environment.”
While many coffee producing countries are experiencing a drop in production, Central and South America seems to have been hit harder than other regions. It is certainly the worst case of climate-induced agricultural issues that I’ve seen to date. It was sad and frightening, but also hopeful to witness the support from Benjamin and his staff, and the work they are doing to prepare producers for future low-yielding seasons.
Some farmers are switching varietals, moving away from Pacas and planting the more disease resistant option: Paraneima. This variety has become popular the last couple of years because of the mentioned resistance, and the ability to achieve 86+ scores from much lower altitudes, around 1200 m.a.s.l.
Additionally, farmers have renovated existing Pacas and Catimor trees to ensure more fruitful seasons in the future. Some farmers are adding newer, healthier plants altogether.
Benjamin stated that we should expect climate change to continue impacting yields, but he hopes that production will be more stable in the future. While thinking positively is admirable, it is not enough to protect farmers, so Benjamin and the staff have been working closely with producers to build systems to combat down-years. They have been working on more accurate projection models, and teaching farmers how to predict low production so it’s not as great of a financial shock. This makes it easier for farmers to know when cash flow will be down, and thus, when to invest back into the farm.
This was my first time in Honduras, an origin that holds a special place in CCS’ heart, with many friends we have been working with for over twelve years. Benjamin Paz, friend to us all, was a wonderful host and we were so well taken care of by the San Vincente team. The coffees were stellar and the high percentage of the offerings that scored 86+ was nothing short of impressive. We have so much love and respect for our friends in Honduras, and we desperately hope their efforts and foresight will help them avoid low-seasons, like this one, in future.
As an industry we talk about FOB prices, contextualising these figures by describing them in relation to the C-Price or Fair Trade Price Floor. However these numbers don't reflect what farmers actually earn, or what they have to invest to produce coffee of such high quality.
Most of us are aware that producing specialty coffee requires a greater investment from the producer, but knowing exactly how much is hard to calculate.
Colombian producer, Maria Bercelia Martinez, was an entrepreneur before she was a coffee producer, and her daughter graduated university with an accounting degree. She keeps detailed accounts of her expenses for her farm, Finca Los Angeles, in Acevedo, Huila, and she has very generously compiled and shared some financial information with us. This data, in the downloadable spreadsheet below, provides an insight into the kind of investment required to produce specialty grade coffee.
Maria Bercelia Martinez is a unique producer. Almost 70% of the coffee she cultivates achieves scores of 86 or higher, which is a remarkable achievement. But she admits that she is struggling to make ends meet. The costs of production are increasing, but the price paid for coffee does not reflect this.
Maria Bercelia's biggest expenses
The number one expense is picking coffee. Maria Bercelia pays her pickers 5000 Colombian Pesos (COP) per arroba (12.5kg), plus the family provide food and accommodation. Maria told me the salary of pickers has more than doubled in the last two years, and finding trained pickers who know how to select only the ripe cherries is a challenge for all producers of specialty coffee in her region.
The cost of food increased significantly in the last two years, something I can attest to from personal experience, having lived in Colombia from 2011 until early this year. This is due to two main factors. Firstly the country was hit by a drought two years ago. Secondly, the Colombian peso lost over 40% of its value in a six month period in 2014/2015, which caused high inflation and an increase in the cost of living. This impacts Maria Bercelia's costs of production, as she offers food in addition to the pickers' wages, rather than subtracting the cost of food from their salary.
This sudden devaluation of the peso also significantly increased the cost of inputs like fertilizers and fungicides (to fight the ever-present threat of coffee leaf rust), which are imported, or use imported ingredients.
Drying coffee while maintaining quality is a slow and involved process. On Maria Bercelia's farm, the coffee spends four to six days in a second story drying bed with a plastic canopy and walls that can be raised to allow airflow, and closed when it rains. The coffee is then moved to a series of raised drying beds. During this process the coffee is moved every couple of hours, depending on humidity, to ensure even drying. This is also the period when the parchment coffee is carefully hand-sorted to remove any contaminants and less than perfect beans, a time-consuming task.
The financial information in this spreadsheet was provided by one producer, working on one farm. It is not meant to be representative of all farmers working in specialty coffee, or even all farmers in her region. We do not present this information as verified data, it is self-reported financial information reported directly to us. The estimated day-rates of labor are Maria Bercelia's. The estimated cost in USD is based on an average conversion of COP to USD for the December 2017 to May 2018 period in which Maria Bercelia was paid for her coffee.
Not included in this document
There are many costs that are not included in this spreadsheet, including the cost of purchasing land, setting up the farm, buying the seedlings, planting trees, building worker accommodation, or the interest Maria Bercelia must pay on the loan she took to keep the farm running when Colombia's coffee prices plummeted. These costs should be considered as part of the cost of production, and without them we decided not to calculate a cost of production per kilogram in the spreadsheet below.
Why share this information?
Despite its omissions, this is detailed financial information that can enlighten those of use who work in specialty coffee, but don't spend our days on a farm. We see this document as a crucial starting point for a discussion about specialty coffee prices, in Colombia and beyond. Maria Bercelia, and most farmers we have spoken to in the region, all question why the price paid for specialty is linked to the C-Price, and does not reflect the cost of production. For farmers like Maria Bercelia, the latter has significantly increased in recent years while the price they earn for their coffee has not.
Next week we will publish data of Maria's production, and the prices she was paid for her coffee from the recent 2017/2018 harvest. Sign up for our newsletter if you would like to be notified when Part 2 of this blog post is live.
We welcome your thoughts, opinions, concerns and ideas. Please leave us a comment below.
Download the document: Production Costs, Finca Los Angeles.
Nico will be taking CCS on tour around Germany with our friends, Populus Coffee. Check the tour dates below to find a cupping near you, and email email@example.com to reserve your place.
Tuesday May 22, 5PM
Vits der Kaffee
Meglinger Straße 56,
Wednesday May 23, 7:00 PM
Hoppenworth & Ploch
Friedberger Landstraße 86
Thursday May 24, 5:00 PM
NEUES SCHWARZ Kaffeerösterei
Friday May 25, 4:00 PM
Saturday May 26, 3:00 PM
12045 Berlin, Germany
Dulce Barrera recently triumphed over twelve other competitors to take the inaugural CCS Colombia Tasters Challenge crown at the SCA. When not killing it in competitions, Dulce is in charge of Quality Control for Zelcafe, our partners in Guatemala.
It is not surprising that a professional cupper might win a cupping competition against coffee professionals who have to leave the cupping table now and then to run a roaster. What is remarkable is that Dulce has only been cupping for a few years, and in that time she has managed to win the Guatemala Cup Tasters Championship two years in a row.
But it wasn’t sheer luck that won Dulce these accolades. Nor can her success be put down to natural talent. It was dogged determination and constant practice, as she explains below.
Meet Dulce Barrera
I began working with the Zelaya family at the Bella Vista mill on January 4, 2002. We were working with small producers and processing record quantities of cherries. About eight years after I started, Luis Pedro (Zelaya) began working with micro-lots to meet the demand from our customers. It was my job to prepare the samples for the Quality Control manager, who came the to farm once every week or so with customers. That’s when I discovered coffee cupping, and I wanted to know more.
Luis Pedro invited all the administrative staff to learn to cup coffee. We worked in a small space that later became the Bella Vista laboratory. Long after everyone else had left I was still there, tasting tasting tasting, learning everything I could. I shadowed the Quality Control manager each time he came to Bella Vista, and I learned how to score coffees. I learned from the customers who came to taste coffees, people like George Howell, Laura Perry, Tal Mor, Tom Owen and others. It was difficult because I don’t speak English, but I watched to see what they liked and didn’t like, and always tasted those coffees once they were done.
The Bella Vista Quality Control manager retired around three years ago, and I became the cupper for Bella Vista. I was still learning, so if we had major doubts about a coffee we would send a sample for a second opinion, but Luis Pedro had faith in my skills. In May 2016 he entered me into the Guatemala national Cup Tasters Championships. He didn’t tell me until a week before the event! I had no idea how the competition even worked, and I finished in seventh place, just outside the finals selection.
I competed again in 2017 and I made it to the finals in fourth place. I won the final, the first woman to win the Guatemala Cup Tasters Championship, with seven correctly identified coffees in 5,24 minutes. I went to Budapest to compete in the international competition, and placed 21st. This year I won the Guatemala Cup Tasters Championship again, and I am ready to compete for the international prize in Dubai in November.
At Bella Vista I work with small producers. I make sure to record all the information about each lot, where the coffee is from, the altitude, the varieties the farmers work with. I manage the Quality Control, and I give a price to the farmers based on the quality of their coffee.
Guatemala is known for its washed coffees, more so than its honeys or naturals, but these days there is a trend to experiment and buyers want to see more flavor options. My favorite Guatemalan coffees are bourbons from Antigua for their bright and sweet cups with notes of peach, plum and cane sugar, and coffees from Huehuetenango for their tropical fruit notes with pronounced acidity.
Best wishes and I hope you enjoyed my story.