The cost of producing specialty Coffee - Part 1

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 has also almost doubled in price 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 and agricultural yields of some foods are still well below pre-drought levels. 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

CCS German Tour

CCS German Tour.jpg

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 to reserve your place. 

Tuesday May 22, 5PM

Vits der Kaffee 
Meglinger Straße 56,
81477 Munich

Wednesday May 23, 7:00 PM

Hoppenworth & Ploch 
Friedberger Landstraße 86
60316 Frankfurt

Thursday May 24, 5:00 PM

NEUES SCHWARZ Kaffeerösterei
Saarlandstraße 33,
4139 Dortmund

Friday May 25, 4:00 PM

Less Political
Sternstraße 68,
20357 Hamburg

Saturday May 26, 3:00 PM

Populus Coffee
Maybachufer 20
12045 Berlin, Germany

Meet Dulce Barrera, Quality Control Manager for Bella Vista, Guatemala

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

 Dulce Barrera (right) with Melanie Herrerra, both of Bella Vista, Guatemala 

Dulce Barrera (right) with Melanie Herrerra, both of Bella Vista, Guatemala 

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.

Violencia, pérdida y café en Colombia: Una carta de María Bercelia Martínez

Read this blog post in English

Dos cosas me impactaron cuando conocí a María Bercelia Martinez en su finca en Acevedo, Huila. Primero, que ella y su familia tenían una aproximación diferente al cultivo del café. Segundo, lo unida que era su familia, aún en comparación a otras familias colombianas. Curiosa de saber más sobre ella, le pedí que diera un poco más de información sobre ella. Así fue que ella le escribió esta carta a CCS.

No es fácil de leer, en especial para alguien que conoce la generosidad, el afecto y la determinación de esta mujer. Tristemente, es una historia común en Colombia y es posible oír diferentes versiones de cualquier persona que vive en el campo. Eso no la vuelve menos conmovedora o menos importante de leer.

 Maria Bercelia en su finca, Los Angeles, Acevedo, Huila, Colombia. 

Maria Bercelia en su finca, Los Angeles, Acevedo, Huila, Colombia. 

Apreciados CCS, 

Gracias por esta oportunidad de contar un poco de mi vida y de mis inicios con el café.

En 1982 mis padres se separaron, y tuve que cuidar de mi mamá y de mis dos hermanos menores. En 1984 me casé con José Vianey Erazo, y juntos trajimos al mundo a nuestros tres hijos, Andrea, Diego y Daniel.

Mi esposo y yo comenzamos nuestro negocio propio con los pocos recursos que teníamos entonces. Iniciamos con una pequeña ferretería en el pueblo de El Tigre, en el departamento del Putumayo y, gracias a Dios, pudimos comprar un terreno y construir una casa. Con ese hogar, nuestro negocio y nuestros hijos, fuimos muy felices. Habíamos realizado nuestros sueños, y pensamos que podríamos vivir allí toda la vida. 

Tristemente, no habría de ser así. De un momento al otro, empezó la fiebre por plantar cultivos ilícitos (tales como coca, el insumo necesario para la cocaína) en nuestra región, aquellos que tanto daño le han hecho a nuestro país. Con estos cultivos llegaron las guerrillas y tomaron control del área con la ayuda de “milicianos” (colaboradores de la guerrilla). Fue una época terrible donde se asesinaban personas a diario y muchas veces por razones injustas.

Como vivíamos en medio de la zona controlada por la guerrilla, todas las autoridades gubernamentales nos miraban a todos como si fuéramos guerrilleros, aunque muchos vivíamos de nuestros negocios y éramos inocentes. Eramos más los buenos que los malos, pero nos juzgaban a todos por igual.

Vivíamos tan tranquilamente como era posible, en la medida en que no nos metimos en problemas y solo nos dedicábamos a cuidar nuestros hijos y atender nuestro negocio. Eso fue así, hasta 1999. A media noche llegaron los paramilitares (grupo mercenario financiado por el narcotráfico y el mismo gobierno para combatir las guerrillas), se tomaron el pueblo y asesinaron a sangre fría y sin discriminación a 32 personas, en su mayoría inocentes. Desaparecieron muchas otras. Quedaron muchas familias destruidas; mujeres solas, hijos huérfanos. A nosotros, gracias a Dios, no nos pasó nada. Nada físico, porque el corazón y nuestra tranquilidad quedaron destruidos. Perdimos muchos amigos. Fue un momento de gran tristeza que marco nuestras vidas. 

Quedamos sin saber qué hacer ni para donde ir. No queríamos dejar abandonado todo lo que habíamos logrado, nuestro esfuerzo, nuestra vida. Los paramilitares dejaron una amenaza: iban a regresar para rematar a los que nos quedáramos. Esos días nos fuimos a quedar donde un hermano que vivía en La Hormiga, un pueblo vecino. Mirando a nuestros hijos pequeños decidimos que no era el sitio donde debían estar. Decidimos reunir algunos recursos y compramos un lote en Pitalito, Huila, y construimos una casa. Estábamos felices. Era una ciudad tranquila y no se escuchaba violencia por ningún lado. Mis hijos estudiaban en buenos colegios, pero como ni mi esposo ni yo teníamos buena formación académica no fue fácil encontrar trabajo y los gastos de la ciudad eran muchos.

Tomamos una decisión difícil. Dejamos a nuestros hijos solos en Pitalito para que terminaran sus estudios básicos y de bachillerato, y nosotros emprendimos un viaje a un pueblo llamado Llorente, en el departamento de Nariño. Era un pueblo dominado por la guerrilla, los paramilitares y el narcotráfico. No era lo que queríamos hacer. No queríamos volver a vivir en carne propia la violencia, pero trabajar como comerciantes en el negocio de la ferretería era lo único que podíamos hacer. Gracias a Dios fuimos muy responsables con nuestros proveedores, quienes nos abrieron sus puertas para iniciar de nuevo con el negocio. En poco tiempo teníamos un negocio bueno y rentable y nuestra situación económica volvía a estar bien.

Pero no todo era felicidad. Nuestros hijos permanecían prácticamente solos todo el tiempo. Los podíamos ver cada seis meses cuando salían a vacaciones, pero con la ayuda de Dios, ellos terminaron el bachillerato. Andrea siguió su carrera universitaria como contadora pública y Daniel empezó odontología. 

La situación en Llorente se tornó critica. Nosotros vivíamos casi como secuestrados. Abríamos la ferretería a las 6:00 de la mañana y cerrábamos a las 6:00 de la tarde. Luego de esa hora nos encerrábamos, porque los grupos armados habían prohibido salir después de esa hora. El que desobedeciera era asesinado. La violencia se apoderó del pueblo y la guerra por el poder no daba tregua. Desafortunadamente, no teníamos opción sino quedarnos; era la única forma de conseguir los recursos económicos para que mis hijos siguieran en la universidad. Eso fue, hasta que asesinaron a mi primo.

Nunca supimos por qué fue asesinado, porque nuestra familia nunca se involucró en la guerra o la violencia, pero no estábamos sorprendidos. Los paramilitares contactaron a mi esposo y le dijeron que fuera a recoger el camión que mi primo había estado manejando, que nos pertenecía. Cuando mi esposo llegó, un soldado paramilitar le dijo que no informara del sitio donde lo habían asesinado y desmembrado, porque no tenían planeado regresar el cuerpo a la familia. Pero la familia de mi primo hizo su propia averiguación, encontraron el sitio donde lo habían enterrado, lo exhumaron y le dieron un sepelio de acuerdo a sus creencias.

Desafortunadamente, esto creo problemas para nosotros. Los paramilitares pensaron que habíamos sido nosotros quienes les habíamos dicho a la familia de mi primo sobre su asesinato, y amenazaron con matarnos. Tuvimos que dejar Llorente inmediatamente, así que dejamos nuestro negocio atrás.

Lo único que queríamos era estar cerca de nuestros hijos y vivir una vida pacífica. De esa manera nos volvimos caficultores. Nos gustaba la idea de trabajar en el campo y con un producto insignia de nuestro país. Compramos la finco Los Ángeles, y comenzamos a cultivar café.


Al principio no sabíamos nada del cultivo del café, de la siembra, de la recolecta, de la fermentación o del lavado. Ni siquiera sabíamos como venderlo. No entendíamos qué era el factor de rendimiento y cómo afectaba el precio del café. No endeudamos por qué a veces nos pagaban menos. Afortunadamente somos gente de negocio y emprendedores. Contratamos a un caficultor local para que nos enseñara y aprendimos sobre la prueba de taza y como afecta el precio que se nos paga. Fue ahí cuando decidimos tratar de cultivar café de alta calidad. Pudimos sostener a la familia y, gracias a Dios, mi hija pudo terminar su carrera, cumpliendo mis sueños para ella de ser una profesional educada.

Mi felicidad no era completa, y mi corazón todavía duele por Daniel. Cuando el estaba en el cuarto año de universidad (de cinco), hubo una crisis en los precios del café en Colombia. Tuvimos que pedir unos préstamos para cubrir los sueldos de nuestros recolectores; de lo contrario, nos hubiéramos arriesgado a que se pudriera el café en el árbol. Logramos aferrarnos a nuestra finca, pero no pudimos pagar los gastos de la universidad, y Daniel se vio obligado a dejar sus estudios. Hice todo lo que pude para que se volviera una realidad, pero fallé. Hasta este día seguimos pagando los prestamos que tomamos para mantener la finca andando.

 Esta es la frustración de producir café. Los precios para el café especializado están enlazados con precios inestables de materias primas, aunque es un producto muy diferente. Producir café especializado requiere más dinero, más tiempo, más atención y más determinación. En estos días, todo lo que la fina produce, va a pagar nuestras deudas y no tenemos el dinero para invertir en la misma finca. Vemos los estragos de esto, con una baja producción y una mala densidad en el grano respecto a lo que solían ser.

Quisiera a veces que José y yo hubiéramos continuado nuestras vidas en el Putumayo, criando a nuestros hijos y administrando nuestra ferretería. Estábamos bien financieramente, y teníamos los medios para educar a nuestros hijos; pero estábamos rodeados de violencia y no podía mantener a mi familia a salvo. 

Pero, como dice el dicho colombiano, “no hay mal que por bien no venga”. A pesar de nuestras dificultades, aprendimos el valor de la vida y de la familia. Y, descubrimos el mundo del café! Fue frustrante ver a nuestros hijos abandonar sus estudios universitarios y cambiar sus libros por guadañas y cocos de recolección, pero me siento afortunada porque ahora vivo lejos de la violencia. 

Estoy enamorada del café, y estoy muy feliz de estar con mis hijos. Me trae mucha alegría trabajar junto a ellos para construir una mejor vida para nosotros mismos.

Hemos pensado vender la mitad de la finca para poder pagar nuestras deudas y empezar a re invertir. Buscamos un socio que conozca el mundo del café y que comparta nuestro sueño de producir la mejor calidad. Sé que mi finca tiene un gran potencial y sin la presión de pagar nuestras deudas, podremos vivir una vida más relajada.

Pero hay otra cosas que me motivan, como trabajar con ustedes. Con su apoyo y experiencia y el valor que le dan a mi trabajo, puedo sentir que he logrado mis sueños. La experiencia de recibirlos en mi casa ha sido una de las más bonitas, y siempre espero con ansias su regreso al país, para que vengan a visitarme, poder atenderlos con alegría y amor, un buen pedazo de carne ahumada y cerveza. Podemos compartir una charla entre amigos, y poder contarles sobre nuestro esfuerzo para mejorar día a día y así lograr un buen café.

Esta es una breve descripción de la historia de mi familia, de donde vengo, las situaciones que he debido enfrentar con mi esposo, que le han dado forma a mi carácter y a mi deseo por ir siempre hacia adelante. Me han salido algunas lágrimas escribiendo esta carta, pero lo hice con gran amor por el equipo de Collaborative Coffee Source.

Agradezco su interés en mis origines y en mis sueños. Espero que nos puedan visitar de nuevo pronto!

Con amor,

 Maria con su esposo, Jose Erazo, y sus hijos Diego y Daniel

Maria con su esposo, Jose Erazo, y sus hijos Diego y Daniel

Violence, Loss and Coffee in Colombia: A letter from Maria Bercelia Martinez

Leer este articulo en español

Two things struck me when I met Maria Bercelia Martinez on her farm in Acevedo, Huila. Firstly, that she and her family approach coffee cultivation a little differently. Secondly, her family are especially close, even by Colombian standards. Curious to know more, I asked her to give me some background. So she wrote CCS this letter, which explains her unique perspective on coffee, and the joy her family exude just being together. It also tells a very sad story.   

This letter is not easy to read, certainly not for anyone who knows this woman’s generosity, warmth and determination. Unfortunately, it is a common story in Colombia and you will hear versions of it from almost everyone who lives in the countryside. That doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking, or any less important to read. 

I have translated this letter from Spanish, edited for brevity, and I have added some notes in brackets to give context where needed, but as much as possible, I have tried to keep Maria’s story in her own words. We are so honored she agreed to let us share it with you. 

 Maria Bercelia on her farm, Finca Los Angeles, in Acevedo, Huila, Colombia. 

Maria Bercelia on her farm, Finca Los Angeles, in Acevedo, Huila, Colombia. 

Dear CCS, 

Thank you for this opportunity to tell you a little of my life and my beginnings with coffee.

In 1982 my parents separated, and I had to take care of my mother and my two younger siblings. In 1984 I married Jose Vianey Erazo, and together we brought into the world our three children, Andrea, Diego and Daniel. 

My husband and I began our own business with the few resources we had at the time. We began with a small hardware business in the town of El Tigre, in the department of Putomayo, and, thanks to God, we were able to buy a piece of land and build a house. With that home, our business and our children, we were so happy. We had realized our dreams, and we thought we would live there forever. 

Sadly, it was not to be. Suddenly, there was a great rush to grow illicit crops in our region (such as coca, the raw material for cocaine), those that have done such damage to my country. With those crops came the guerrillas and they took control of our area with the help of “milicianos” (guerrilla collaborators). It was a terrible time, people were killed daily, and for unjust reasons. There was no help from the government or military. They viewed anyone who lived in a guerrilla controlled area as guerrillas, even though most of us were merely hard working people living our lives, running businesses, raising families.

We lived as peacefully as we could, we didn’t put ourselves in trouble’s way and we dedicated ourselves to caring for our children and running our business. That was, until 1999. That was the year the paramilitaries arrived. These are mercenary armies created to combat the guerrillas, sometimes financed by narco-traffickers, sometimes financed by the government. One night they arrived in the early hours of the morning and took control of the town. That night they murdered 32 people in cold blood and without discrimination. In the following months many more people disappeared, families were left destroyed, mothers became widows, children were orphaned. 

We thank God nothing happened to us, or that at least we suffered no physical loss. But our hearts were broken and our sense of security was destroyed. We lost so many friends. It was a an era of such great sadness, one that marked our lives. 

We didn’t know what to do or where to go. We didn’t want to abandon everything we had achieved, our hard work, our life, but the paramilitaries threatened to return to kill all those who remained in the village, so we left. We stayed with my brother in the nieghboring village called La Hormiga, but it was not a safe place for our children. So, we gathered all our resources and bought a small plot of land in Pitalito, Huila and built a house. There was no mention of violence in that region. Our children could study in good schools. We we were happy to be safe.

However my husband and I couldn’t find jobs. We never received a good education which made it difficult, and the cost of living in that city was so high. We had an opportunity to open another hardware store in a town called Llorente, in the department of Nariño. It was a town caught between guerrillas, paramilitaries and narco-traffickers. We did not want to return to that violence, but running a hardware store was all we knew how to do. We made the difficult decision to leave our children alone in Pitalito, where they would be safe and could finish high school, and Jose and I moved to Llorente. 

Our business was successful. We had been very responsible towards our suppliers in the hardware business in Putomayo, and all of them opened their doors when we decided to start again. In a short period of time we were making a profit and our economic situation was once again stable.  

We were unhappy that our children lived alone. We only saw them once every six months when they could take a vacation. However it was worth the sacrifice. With the help of God, Andrea and Daniel finished high school. Andrea began studying a degree in accounting at the local university, and Daniel soon followed to study dentistry. 

Sadly the security situation in Llorente deteriorated. Armed groups imposed a nighttime curfew, and to ignore the curfew was to be killed. We lived like hostages in our own home. We opened the hardware store at 6am, and closed at 6pm, then we locked ourselves inside. Violence took over the town and the war for power between different armed groups gave no respite. We had no option but to stay, it was the only way we could afford to keep our children at university. That was, until the day the paramilitaries killed my cousin. 

We never learned why he was killed, because our family never got involved in the war or violence, but we were not surprised. The paramilitary contacted my husband and told him to come and pick up the truck my cousin had been driving, which belonged to us. When my husband arrived, a paramilitary soldier told him not to inform anyone of the place where they murdered and dismembered my cousin, because they did not plan to deliver the body to the family. But my cousin’s wife, and children did their own investigation and found the place where he was buried. They exhumed him, and gave him a burial according to his beliefs. 

Unfortunately this created problems for us. The paramilitaries thought we had told my cousin’s family about his murder, and they threatened to kill us. We had to leave Llorente immediately, so we walked away from our business. 

The only thing we wanted was to be close to our children and to live a peaceful life. This was how we came to be coffee producers. We liked the idea of working in the fields, cultivating the signature product of our country. So we bought the farm, Los Angeles and began cultivating coffee. 

 Maria and her family hired a neighbor to teach them how to cultivate coffee. 

Maria and her family hired a neighbor to teach them how to cultivate coffee. 

In the beginning we didn’t know anything about coffee farming, we didn’t know how to grow coffee, how to pick it, ferment or wash it, we didn’t even know how to sell it. We didn’t understand Yield Factors and how they affect the price of coffee. We didn’t understand why sometimes we were paid less. Fortunately we are business people and hard workers. We hired a local coffee grower to teach us, and we learned about cup quality and how it affects the price we are paid. That’s when we decided to try and grow high quality coffee. We were able to support our family, and thanks to God and coffee, my daughter finished her degree, fulfilling my dreams for her to become an educated professional. 

However my heart still aches for Daniel. When he was in the fourth year of his degree (of five years), there was a crisis in coffee prices in Colombia. We had to borrow money to cover the wages of our pickers, or face letting the coffee cherries rot on the trees. We managed to hold on to our farm, but we couldn’t afford the university fees, and Daniel had to quit his studies. I dreamed he would become an educated professional, and I did everything I could to make this a reality, but I failed. To this day we are still paying off the loans we took to keep the farm running.  

This is the frustration of producing coffee. Prices for specialty coffee are linked to unstable commodities price, even though the product is different. Producing specialty coffee requires more money, more time, more attention and more determination. These days everything we earn goes to paying off our debts, and we don’t have the money to invest in the farm itself. We are seeing how detrimental this is, production is dropping and our beans have poorer density than they used to. 

I wish Jose and I could have continued our lives in Putomayo, raising our children and running our hardware business. We were doing well financially, and we had the means to educate our children, but we were surrounded by violence and I could not keep my family safe.

But, as the Colombian saying goes “there is no bad that doesn’t produce some good.”  Despite our difficulties we learned the value of life and of family. And, we discovered the world of coffee. It was so frustrating to see our children abandon their university studies, and change their books for scythes and collection buckets, but I feel lucky because we live far from violence.

I have fallen in love with coffee, and I am so happy to be with my children. It brings me such joy to work together with them to build a better life for ourselves. 

We have decided to sell half of our farm so we can pay our debts and begin reinvesting. We are looking for a partner who knows the world of coffee and who shares our dream to produce the best quality. I know my farm has great potential and without the pressure to meet our repayments, we could live a more relaxed life. 

But there are other things that motivate me, like working with you. With your support and experience and the way you value my work, I feel I can achieve my dreams. The experience of having you here in my house was one of the nicest moments of my life, and I eagerly await your return, so I can host you with happiness, love, a good piece of smoked steak and a beer. We can have a chat between friends, and I can show you all the effort we’ve invested in improving and producing great coffee.

This is a brief description of my family’s story, where I come from, the situations I’ve endured with my husband, that have shaped my character and my will to go forwards. I shed some tears writing this letter, but I did it with a lot of love for the team at Collaborative Coffee Source.

I want to thank you for your interest in my origins and my dreams. I hope you can visit us again soon.

With love

 Maria with her husband Jose Erazo, and sons Diego and Daniel. 

Maria with her husband Jose Erazo, and sons Diego and Daniel. 





In memory of Daniel Moreno

 Photo taken on a Hasselblad by Tuuka Koski 

Photo taken on a Hasselblad by Tuuka Koski 

Dear Daniel,

We just learned that you will not be there when we go to visit next time, that makes us very sad. I was looking forward to seeing you again, hugging you again, seeing your beautiful wife and children and grandchildren again. They will all be there, I know that, but you have been the anchor Daniel, you have been The Father Moreno, and The Farmer of ‘El Campo’. We will miss you.

We would, as always, meet at your house upon the hill, and it would have been a heartfelt revisit. We’d try to hold back some tears, but none of us could really help it. It has been like that for many years now, and that’s why. This is business for both of us, but we also know that we depend on each other, and over time affection and care and a sense of responsibility builds. It is as inevitable and natural as in all other aspects of life, certainly when meeting such a graceful man like yourself. 

As the routine has always been, you would be eager to show us the coffee on the drying beds just behind the house, behind the fermentation tanks, and every time there would be something new that had been done since last time we met that we’d look at and discuss. I am sure everyone that has come to visit has the same image as I have of you, standing by the drying beds, humble yet proud, while quietly and gently raking the coffee with your hands, always picking, always moving, always improving.

Seemingly, all of your nine children have inherited this from you, of working hard and always moving forward. You have raised a large family, I will admit that we sometimes joke about going to Moreno Town when we visit because the whole place up in El Cedral is crowded with people, all ages, carrying your last name. The first Moreno I met was Miguel, your oldest son. He has responsibly taken the role, as the first born son sometimes has to, of carrying the baton, maintaining the legacy that you have left them with. Yet there is a family behind him, a whole community of people ready to work on that now, all thanks to you. Well, as we both know that is something that Miguel and yourself have had serious discussions about since before the ‘new era’, back in 2004, when you were about to give up coffee farming altogether, the work was too much of a struggle, not well paid by any measure, and many of your children were trying to make a living by working abroad. But Miguel convinced you to give it one more chance, he was back in Santa Barbara for a short while, from his work ’en el Norte’, and you let him prepare a lot from El Filo and submit a sample to the first Cup of Excellence that year. He succeeded with that one, you had a winning lot yourself in the CoE from El Campo the following year and everything since then is history.

Dear Daniel, rest in peace my friend. You are not going to be around us in the same way anymore and we will miss you oh so dearly, but don’t you worry. We will continue to take care of each other, by working hard and working together and looking after each other. You have planted that in us, and planted many seedlings in the soil, and nourished them to become beautiful trees that you have taken so well care of throughout a long lifetime. We’ll continue to enjoy the fruit of your labor, a labor of love. El Padrino del los cafes delociosos de Santa Barbara, mil Gracias!


With Love, 

& Bjørnar
& Collaborative Coffee Source’s team and family and friends
& Kaffa and Kaffabutikk’s team and family and friends
& Java and Mocca Coffee shops’ baristas and family and friends
& our customers, Kaffa, Robert Kao, Sørlandets Kaffebrenneri, Nordbeans, Cemo, Åre, Da Matteo, Audun, Sey, 4letter word, Reveille, and Common Room Roasters, all loyal to your coffee year after year
& coffee lovers all over the world. 

Related posts

CCS Colombia Tasters Challenge Recap

The CCS Colombia Tasters Challenge, attracted some serious cuppers. We had roasters, exporters, baristas, and two national Cup Tasters champions, Dulce Barrera who won Cup Tasters of Guatemala in consecutive years, and Steven Cuevas, 2017 US National Cup Tasters Champion. 

The prize on offer that drew such high calibre contestants was a return flight to Huila, Colombia, for the next CCS Acevedo Cup, courtesy of our partners in the region, Fairfield Trading. To take home the prize in this triangulation challenge, the contestant needed to correctly identify the different coffee in eight sets in the final round.   


The first round of the challenge was very competitive, making it quite an accomplishment to continue to the final round. After three heats of four contestants, the top three times were less than twenty seconds apart, with two perfect 4/4 scores. The third place finisher, Zane Derven of Black Oak Coffee Roasters, managed to get three of the four correct in only 2:38 minutes, a blazingly fast time and a respectable score, but only two could advance to the finals.

The finalists were two very talented cuppers, who scored full points in selecting the correct cup in the first round of competition. The ensuing matchup was a fierce competition, and the two competitors finished only four seconds apart. This meant the accuracy of their selections would ultimately decide the winner. Stacey Ann Lynden of Pallet Coffee Roasters put up an impressive score, with 4/8 cups selected correctly, but ultimately the top prize went to Dulce Barrera, who correctly selected 6/8 cups.

 Dulce Barrera (right), winner of the CCS Colombia Tasters Challenge, with Melanie Herrera, both from Bella Vista Mill, Guatemala

Dulce Barrera (right), winner of the CCS Colombia Tasters Challenge, with Melanie Herrera, both from Bella Vista Mill, Guatemala

 Stacey Lynden of Pallet Coffee Roasters won 2nd place. 

Stacey Lynden of Pallet Coffee Roasters won 2nd place. 

Dulce is part of the CCS family! She works as QC manager and Green Coffee Buyer for our partners in Guatemala, Bella Vista Mill. (We can assure you, there was no favoritism at play here, Juan Valdez was on hand to adjudicate and can swear that Dulce won the competition fair and square.)

I had the opportunity to cup with Dulce in Guatemala last week, so it was no surprise to me that she was able to navigate the difficult competition. Most impressive may be the fact that Dulce only started cupping consistently in 2016. Since then, she has posted back-to-back Guatemalan Cup Tasters titles.   

Thanks to everyone who participated, and to our partners, Fairfield Trading, for a great competition. 


Supporting farm labour

The following is an excerpt from our report Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017

In 2017, CCS and our sister company Kaffa celebrated twelve years of working with San Vicente and the farmers of Santa Barbara, Honduras. This relationship has been fruitful, yields have never been higher, quality has never been better.

This is a great achievement, and we take great pride in the dedication of these farmers, and our small contribution as long-term buyers. But a relationship like this holds an even greater power.

 A coffee picker in Santa Barbara who stands to benefit from the new payment structure. This and the banner photo both taken on a Hasselblad by Tuuka Koski.

A coffee picker in Santa Barbara who stands to benefit from the new payment structure. This and the banner photo both taken on a Hasselblad by Tuuka Koski.

After twelve years of working together, we can speak differently in Santa Barbara. We can be more direct, we can trust that our partners are looking out for us and our partners can do the same. With our friends in Santa Barbara we have been able to discuss delicate issues like poverty and the livelihoods of coffee pickers and farm workers.

There is a fine line between a suggestion and a requirement. It is one thing to expose ignorance, it is entirely another to disrespect cultural differences and inter-relational dynamics in the communities that we only visit for a few days each year. We have to acknowledge that we don’t live our farming partners’ lives.

Still, our vision is to bring quality, prosperity and community to everyone in coffee, and that includes farm employees, many of whom are friends and neighbors of the farmers.

From a frank conversation with our friends in Santa Barbara, a new initiative was born. In 2017 we increased the FOB price to $4.25/4.50 per pound as the base price for an 86-points lot, and farm gate prices increased proportionally. We asked the farmers to use that premium to pay their farm-workers and pickers more.

It is not a condition, rather a request. This increase of $0.50/lb. from last season is intended to give farmers the financial means to distribute some of their profits to their workers. When we visit Honduras again in 2018 we will report to you the progress of this initiative.

Welcome, Julia


Julia is not actually new to CCS. In fact, she has been part of the extended family for over four years, working as a barista for our sister cafes, Java and Mocca. Last year she took over Quality Control and management of the CCS Sample Lab in Oslo, and with the force of her organizational energy, the lab suddenly became a picture one could post in Things Organized Neatly

While Julia is not new to the team, she is in a new role: Asia Sales Representative! Julia will be based in Tokyo, Japan, for the next few months, helping our partners in the region and presenting CCS to new roasters. We miss her vibrancy and enthusiasm here at HQ, but we know it will be warmly welcomed by CCS friends and family in Asia. 

Are you a roaster in Asia? Send an email to She would love to connect you with our partners, send you some samples, or help host a cupping!

CCS Oslo HQ Spring Cupping

CCS SPRING Cuppings HQ .jpg

Spring is here and new crops are bringing sunshine into CCS Oslo HQ. Join us for a day-long workshop of CCS Acevedo Cup winners from Colombia, plus stellar selections from Ethiopia and Kenya. 

Friday April 27 from 9.30am


  • Presentation on the CCS Acevedo Cup by Suzie Hoban.
    Suzie lived and worked in Colombia for nearly 7 years before joining CCS in Oslo in January this year as CCS Communications Director. Suzie attended the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 and will discuss the winning lots, and how these cupping competitions impact coffee producing communities in Colombia. 
  • Cupping CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 winners and other gems from the region. 
  • Light lunch provided



  • Presentation by Nicolas Pourailly on Ethiopia.
    Nico travelled with the CCS team and a large group of roasters from all over the world. He will share his first hand experience from the mother-of-all origins, and the his impressions of Ethiopia compared to his experiences in Latin America. 
  • Cupping new crop Ethiopia
  • Cupping new crop Kenya
  • Beers and refreshments

Spaces are limited! Email Bjørnar to reserve yours.

CCS at the SCA

CCS will be at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle this week from April 19 to 22. Check out our events below, and get in touch if you would like to organise a time to meet. 

Friday April 20, 11am
Ikawa Demonstration Roast

Ikawa x CCS SCA FINAL.001.jpeg

Matt will join our friends at the Ikawa Booth 2624 during the SCA Specialty Coffee Expo for a demonstration roast. Matt has extensive experience as a roaster and manages QC and samples for CCS globally. He'll talk about his experience at origin with a portable Ikawa, and using it for sample roasting, while serving up some Ikawa-roasted Colombias. 

Saturday April 21, 10.15am
CCS Cupping

CCS SPRING poster template.jpg

Join us in Room 605 for a cupping of our CCS Acevedo Cup winners from Huila, plus fresh crop Guatemala, Kenya and Ethiopia. 

There are just a few spaces left and reservations are essential. Reserve your place at Eventbrite.

Get to know the coffees ahead of time! Check out our origin pages for Colombia, Guatemala, Kenya and Ethiopia where you can learn about the market and our partners, check out the offers, and download hi-res photos and our coffee info sheets. Plus, you can download the Coffee Information Sheets on the coffees that will be presented on Saturday from this Dropbox Showcase.


Sunday April 22, 10.30am
CCS Colombia Tasters Challenge

Basic Info Poster.001.jpeg

Win a trip to Colombia! Sign up here.

Join Collaborative Coffee Source and Fairfield Trading at the Café de Colombia booth for this cupping competition of select Colombians from Huila and Tolima. Hosting this special event is Walter Acevedo, roaster at Amor Perfecto and Colombian Cup Taster Champion 2017, who will go on to represent Colombia at the 2018 World Cup Tasters Championship. 

Café de Colombia Booth
SCA Specialty Coffee Expo
Sunday 22 April

CCS Colombia Tasters Challenge at the SCA

Win a Trip to the next CCS Acevedo Cup! 

SCA Colombia Cupping Comp Poster.001.jpeg

Join Collaborative Coffee Source and Fairfield Trading at the Café de Colombia booth on Sunday April 22 for this cupping competition of select Colombians from Huila and Tolima. Hosting this special event is Walter Acevedo, roaster at Amor Perfecto and Colombian Cup Taster Champion 2017, who will go on to represent Colombia at the 2018 World Cup Tasters Championship. 

Café de Colombia Booth
SCA Specialty Coffee Expo
Sunday 22 April

How the CCS Colombia Tasters Challenge will work:

Before the competition commences, each cupper will taste the four coffees and learn their origins.

Round 1:

There will be four sets of three cups. Two cups in each set will contain the same coffee, the third cup will contain a different coffee. Cuppers must identify the different coffee.  Cuppers have four minutes for this task. The finalists are those who correctly identify the different coffee, in the largest number of sets, in the shortest amount of time. 

Round 2:

Two finalists will go head to head with eight sets of triangulation. 

The winner:

The cupper who can identify the different coffee in all eight sets, and correctly identify the origin of the differing coffee in at least five of the eight sets will be awarded the prize. 

The prize:

Fairfield Trading will provide the winning contestant with return flights to Huila, Colombia, to attend the CCS Acevedo Cup, 2019! 

Sign up for the CCS Colombia Tasters Challenge

The ten contestant spaces have already been filled. If you would like to be on a stand by list, in case a contestant has to pull out, please fill in the form below. 

Name *

About the CCS Acevedo Cup

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. 

Our partners, Fairfield Trading, have committed to developing this region. They have a buying station in Acevedo town, and their professional and dedicated team have developed strong working relationships with producers in the region, advising on agronomic and processing improvements, lifting the cup quality considerably. 

The first CCS Acevedo Cup was held in December 2016, and the second in January 2018. The intention is to hold an annual event, but of course, we must schedule the competition according to the coffee harvest, which was a little later this time around.

The impact of these events should not be underestimated. The recognition and financial reward that comes with placing in the top 20 coffees in this competition is a great incentive to invest the time, energy and money required to produce specialty coffee. The financial reward also allows farmers to invest in infrastructure and plantings that further improve their cup quality. And, above all, events like these bring a community together, which creates an opportunity for collaboration. The Acevedo coffee producing community is particularly strong, with leaders like Ciro Lugo, whose gentle guidance and experience has lifted many farmers into the specialty market.  

The top twenty lots from the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 are already in Europe, and arriving soon in the US. To discover these varied and delicious coffees for yourself, see our Colombia offers list and order your samples. 


The coffees

Get a head start in the competition. Read all about the coffees we'll present for the CCS Colombia Tasters Challenge. Full farmer information sheets can be downloaded from this Dropbox folder

 Astrid Medina with Eduardo Urquina (left) and Alejandro Renjifo of Fairfield Trading, and Robert W Thoresen of CCS. 

Astrid Medina with Eduardo Urquina (left) and Alejandro Renjifo of Fairfield Trading, and Robert W Thoresen of CCS. 

Astrid Medina, Planadas, Tolima

We are in awe of Doña Astrid, both as a producer and as a person. Growing up in a part of Colombia that was one of the worst affected by the country's internal conflict, Astrid suffered, like most of her friends, family and neighbors. But Astrid found purpose in coffee and family. Her dedication to her finca and her coffee inspires us. 

Download the Astrid Medina Farmer Information Sheet.






 Jair Caicedo, winner of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018

Jair Caicedo, winner of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018

Jair Caicedo, acevedo, Huila 

Jair was the winner of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018. The announcement of his name elicited a gasp from the audience, as the young producer is only 26! We are obviously watching this producer very closely.

Download the Jair Caicedo Farmer Information Sheet

Julio Olaya, Ibague, Tolima

Julio is a second generation coffee producer who inherited his lot of land from his parents. He was inspired to work towards producing specialty coffee when his neighbor, José Arangel Rodriguez, won a specialty competition organized by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC). Realizing the potential for the region, Julio and his wife Yanet Rincón requested training in cultivating, collecting and processing for quality, and sold their first specialty lot to Fairfield Trading in 2017. 

Download the Julio Olaya Farmer Information Sheet


 Julio Olaya, a new entrant to the specialty market. 

Julio Olaya, a new entrant to the specialty market. 

 Maria Bercelia on her farm, Los Angeles

Maria Bercelia on her farm, Los Angeles

Maria Bercelia, Acevedo, Huila

Another rock star of specialty coffee, Maria and her family stand apart from most coffee producers, possibly because they are all first generation farmers. Previously the family ran a hardware store in a part of Colombia badly affected by the internal conflict. For their safety, and to build a more stable financial future, Maria and her husband Jose Erazo purchased a plot of land in Acevedo, and the entire family began cultivating coffee. Maria's farm, Los Angeles, has a set up unlike any other.  Without generations of knowledge and tradition, the family approach each challenge with a fresh perspective, a difference that can be tasted in the cup.  

Download the Maria Bercelia Farmer Information Sheet.  

Maritime regulations could increase shipping costs in 2020

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set new regulations for the shipping industry that take effect January 1, 2020.  The new regulation will reduce the limit of sulphur emissions from 3,5% down to 0,5%.  

This is a drastic reduction which is estimated to save hundreds of thousands of lives each year. The pollution from container ships, cruise ships, and other large vessels is greatly attributed to the bunker fuel they use. Bunker fuel is essentially the leftovers after the more valuable fuels like gasoline and diesel are refined out of raw oil. The fuel is often solid and needs to be warmed before being burned, resulting in a raw exhaust that pollutes not only the air, but also the port areas where these ships dock.

The new regulations will have a positive effect on the environment, but they also present challenges to the shipping industry. To meet the new emission standards, the ships will need to use different versions of low sulphur fuels, the kind many people use to fuel their cars and SUVs. The demand from the shipping industry will compete directly with current demand for clean burning diesel for personal and commercial vehicles.

Another challenge is the refining capacity. Demand for these cleaner fuels is likely to skyrocket in 2020, but the refining industry is unlikely to have the infrastructure to deal with that demand in place so soon. Key ports in the US and Europe may have access to the cleaner fuels, but secondary ports around the globe, like those used by Specialty Coffee Industry, may not. 

How will this affect Specialty Coffee? 

The short answer is cost. 

The cost of clean, low sulphur fuel is almost double that of the Bunker fuel that is currently used. That price differentiation could increase even more during the first part of 2020 as demand for cleaner fuel suddenly spikes. Shipping costs will rise as that price increase is passed along to customers. 

Speed reduction 

The IMO is also proposing a speed reduction of ships by 10-20% in order reduce emissions. That means coffee will spend more time on the sea, and more time at port waiting for those ships to arrive to collect it. This could potentially impact the quality of the coffee, and the window of time we have to roast and sell it. 

Geographically dependent products

If the cost of shipping increases as significantly as expected, the manufacturing industry will likely move production that has been outsourced, to China and other countries, back to the markets where the manufactured products are consumed. 

This is not an option for coffee. The ideal climatic conditions for growing coffee are found in countries around the equator, while its consumers are overwhelmingly in the Northern Hemisphere, with emphasis on the north! Our industry doesn’t have the option of moving production to another part of the world, so we are entirely reliant on shipping to bring our product to market. 

The coffee industry will be dependent on shipping no matter the price, but the pain may be temporary. The initial price increases could come down over time as supply comes closer to meeting demand. However this could take several years. 

Planning for the IMO

So what can we do in the meantime? Plan ahead! We can offer some alternatives that can help hedge costs against the rise of shipping costs.  

1. Forward planning

Planning your future buying with our sales team for 2019 and 2020 can help. By buying ahead we can lock in pricing with our suppliers to offset future increases.  

2. Refrigerated transport

Reefer containers are available from several of our origins, we just need some time to book them (see the paragraph above). Your sales person can help organise this. 

3. Freezing coffee

CCS also offers frozen storage in the US and the EU. Buying ahead and freezing coffee, either at one of our warehouses or locally at your own local facility, can mean that you are roasting a cheaper supply while the rest of the market is paying for more expensive shipping. That will keep you competitive.


Keeping you informed

We are always working to keep our clients informed of changes in the market.  Please contact our sales team to discuss your future planning, and subscribe to our newsletter for more updates.   

Changes to the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange

The introduction of the Ethiopia Commodities Exchange (ECX) in 2008 was a disaster for the Specialty Coffee Industry. The system of sale obscured any information relating to the coffee beyond its region. Basically, it wiped out traceability. Recent changes however, have dramatically improved the situation. 

What is the ECX?

The ECX is a private company made up of both private parties and the Ethiopian government. Upon its inception in 2008, all coffee in Ethiopia had to be sold through the ECX. Initially, it enforced a system where smallholders sold their cherries to a ‘collector’, who in turn sold to suppliers/washing stations. Collectors had to obtain licenses in order to buy from their specific areas (e.g. Kochere). They were only allowed to buy from their specific areas.

Once processed by a washing station, coffee was delivered to the auction in Addis and was cupped and graded by the Coffee Liquoring Unity (CLU). Auctions happened every day and exporters had the opportunity to see, but not cup the samples, and knowing only the coffee’s region, made their purchasing decisions.

In a newer version of the auction, which was implemented soon after the first, collectors were eliminated, and centralized marketplaces were implemented. Rather than suppliers buying from collectors or specific smallholders, they bought from centralized markets and cherry prices are based on ‘market price’.


The ECX has grown quite expansively over the years. Of the 600,000+ metric tons of product sold through the exchange, coffee makes up only 3,000 metric tons. Still, 6.5 million pounds is no small number, and it requires a large amount of infrastructure.

The inception of the ECX was a step backwards for the specialty coffee industry. In the process of being sold on the ECX, coffee lost all traceability. Not only did coffee origins become anonymous beyond a region, information about the cup profile was also often unavailable until after a coffee was purchased.

Fortunately, the ECX is improving, and for this harvest we have seen huge steps taken to keep the coffee, and its vital information, together.  

The ECX now relies on an electronic auction system for access to data related to a particular product and all related transactions. Not only will this ensure that information stays with the product being sold, it allows a massive expansion of amounts and types of criteria that can be traded along with the product. For coffee, full traceability means reliable data pertaining to where the coffee was grown, down to the Woreda (district) or washing station. It also means better physical or sensorial data such as cup score, moisture content, and water activity of the coffee. Additionally, the ECX has revised its grading system for both washed and sundried coffees to improve the accuracy, reliability and consistency of scores.

Our long-time partner in the region, Heleanna Georgalis of Moplaco, was initially skeptical about the promised changes. She has been in Ethiopia long enough to know promises and action are not always the same thing. However on our latest trip to Ethiopia Heleanna was optimistic, and said the changes have been successful thus far. For the first time in many years, she is encouraged by the direction the ECX is headed.

Want more updates like this?

Stay up to date with this and other changes to the Specialty Coffee Industry by subscribing to our newsletter


CCS + Ikawa at SCA

Matt will join our friends at the Ikawa stand during the SCA Specialty Coffee Expo for a demonstration roast. Matt has extensive experience as a roaster and manages QC and samples for CCS globally. He'll talk about his experience at origin with a portable Ikawa, and using it for sample roasting, while serving up some Ikawa-roasted Colombias. 

Ikawa x CCS SCA FINAL.001.jpeg

Collaborative Coffee Source will be at the SCA Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle. Join us in Room 605 for a cupping of our CCS Acevedo Cup winners from Huila, plus fresh crop Guatemala, Kenya and Ethiopia. 

Spaces are strictly limited so reservations are essential. Reserve your place at Eventbrite.

CCS SPRING poster template.jpg

Want to chat with us while we're in town? Let's make a time to meet!
West Coast sales: Colleen
East Coast sales: Sal
Buying & QC: Matt

CCS + Ikawa at the London Coffee Festival

We'll be joining our friends at the Ikawa stand during the London Coffee Festival for a demonstration roast. Nico will discuss roasting on our portable Ikawa while sourcing coffee in Ethiopia, and we'll have a few delicious Ikawa-roasted coffees from Burundi and Ethiopia available to taste.  

Ikawa x CCS London Final.jpeg

We'll also be cupping with our friends at Ozone Coffee Roasters on Saturday April 14. Taste new crops from Colombia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Spaces are limited, email Nico to make sure you don't miss out. 

Developing potential: Burundi

The following is an excerpt from our report Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017

 Felicity - a cherry producer delivering to Long Miles' Bukeye washing station

Felicity - a cherry producer delivering to Long Miles' Bukeye washing station

Burundi is a difficult place to work. It is one of the ten poorest countries in the world with serious corruption and a lack of infrastructure that make sourcing, purchasing, storing and shipping coffee extremely challenging. So why are we there?

The short answer: CCS is driven to discover new gems, be they origins or individual coffees. The best Burundian coffees exhibit intense sweetness and elegance, with balance and a honey-like mouthfeel.

Beyond the coffee, however, we love developing potential and Burundi has it in spades: high altitudes, suitable cultivars, good soils and good rainfall. While exploring this origin, we met professionals from two pioneering coffee companies who also recognized Burundi’s great potential. Our relationships with Ben Carlson of Long Miles Coffee Project, and Luis Garcia and Maxime Acien of Greenco are what make our work in Burundi possible.

The entire Carlson family moved to Bujumbura, Burundi to start the Long Miles Coffee Project, and built two beautiful washing stations that process cherries from over 3000 neighboring families. They are uncompromisingly selective about the cherries they accept, and have implemented innovative agricultural programs. Their “Coffee Scout Teams” for example, travel from village to village to teach farmers best agricultural practices and disease management, like avoiding the potato defect by hand picking antestia bugs from the coffee trees. 

Luis Garcia moved to Burundi after many years working in finance and coffee trading in Switzerland to take a job managing thirteen washing stations for Greenco. He immediately began methodically revising the entire Greenco organization to focus on quality. Luis has since moved on to another challenging role, as the manager of Sucafina's dry mill. Since the 2016 harvest, Maxime, who also comes from the trading floor, has energetically taken on the role as Greenco's Managing Director. From speculating coffee futures on your computer to overseeing the operations of washing stations that serve thousands of farming families, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Burundi’s poverty and sometimes harsh and difficult export environment has been challenging since the beginning of our work there in 2012. It’s important to acknowledge these realities. We keep coming back year-after-year because it’s a stunningly beautiful country with beautiful coffee, and because we believe in our friends, partners and farmers, and the potential they are working so hard to realize.

Download the full report The following is an excerpt from our report Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017

How To Buy Coffees for Competitions

We love working with coffee professionals who are competing in local and international competitions. These events are a great showcase for our producing partners, and the skills of talented and dedicated baristas, brewers and roasters. 

To stand out in these competitions, you need a distinctive coffee with a great story, and we have some limited edition coffees, available in Europe, which can give you the edge you need. Just ask Tom Kuyken, Norwegian Brewers Cup champion 2018, and Agnieszka Rojewska, 2018 Polish Barista Champion, who both won with distinctive and fascinating coffees from our partners in Cundinamarca, Colombia, La Palma y El Tucán.

Check out the full selection in our new CCS Competition Coffees store on Cropster Hub, and order a sample. 


Green coffee buying can be somewhat confusing if you haven’t done it before, and it can be expensive to buy a single bag. When searching for that special coffee for your next competition, here are a few things you should know in advance. 

IN EUROPE we can only sell to companies, not individuals

This is for tax reasons. When a coffee arrives in our warehouse in Antwerp or Hamburg, tax is yet to be paid. The amount of tax charged depends on which EU country the coffee is sold to. In order to calculate the tax, and which country receives it, we need an EORI number and a Customs Clearance Contract, which only companies can apply for. If you are competing on behalf of a café or roastery, they can purchase the coffee for you. 

There are costs beyond the cost of coffee

In addition to the price of the coffee, there are some extra costs you need to consider. 

1. Customs Clearance
In Europe, for orders of less than a full pallet (10 bags), there is a Customs Clearance Fee of $120 per order. This fee is waived if you order a full pallet, so if you work with a roastery, you might consider buying a full pallet. You can buy different coffees to fill a pallet. 

2. Palletization
Shipping companies like TNT and DHL will not collect or deliver individual bags of coffee, they must be put on a pallet. Palletization, strapping and wrapping costs $38 USD in Europe, and $25 USD in the US. That’s a flat fee for an entire pallet, whether it contains one bag or ten.  

A Step by Step Guide to Buying Competition Coffee

1. Choose your coffee

We have selected some coffees that are delicious, unique and fascinating, and put them all in a special store on Cropster Hub. Browse our selection and order a sample. 


2. Compile all the necessary documentation

In Europe there are two essential documents you will need. 

EORI Number
If the coffee will be shipped to a country in Europe, we need an EORI for tax purposes or our warehouses can’t release the coffee. Generally it’s not hard to get one, just ask your national tax authority. Customers in Switzerland, Iceland and Norway are exempt from EORI.  

Customs Clearance Certificate
Customers in Europe must complete and sign a Customs Clearance Certificate. You can download it here

3. Calculate the total cost

If you are in Europe and planning to buy just one bag, calculate the full cost of the bag, plus $120 for Customs Clearance and $38 for palletization. 


4. Contact our Sales team

Email Julia with your special request. Make sure to let her know the following information:

  • Company name.

  • Billing address.

  • Your delivery address including phone number and delivery contact (this can be different from the billing address).

  • Your EORI number. (Remember, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway are exempt.)  

  • A signed version of our Customs Clearance Contract.

And don’t forget to let us know when and where you’re competing. We will be your social media cheer squad! 

Good luck. 

 Tom Kuyken's winning brew at the Norwegian Brewers Cup was a Sidra Natural from La Palma y El Tucán. 

Tom Kuyken's winning brew at the Norwegian Brewers Cup was a Sidra Natural from La Palma y El Tucán. 


SCA APril 2018.jpg

Collaborative Coffee Source will be at the SCA Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle. Join us in Room 605 for a cupping of our CCS Acevedo Cup winners from Huila, plus fresh crop Guatemala, Kenya and Ethiopia. 

Spaces are strictly limited so reservations are essential. Reserve your place at Eventbrite.

Want to chat with us while we're in town? Let's make a time to meet!
West Coast sales: Colleen
East Coast sales: Sal
Buying & QC: Matt