Dear Collaborators, It’s been quite a momentous inaugural year here at the Collaborative, thanks in large part to the support and enthusiasm of all of you. For us, it’s almost a year to the day when this project became a reality and so it is doubly appropriate that we now look back and reflect on all that’s passed and plan for the coming year. Without further ado, here is our look back on 2012.
Visits to Origin Partners
Our main aim is to facilitate long-term partnerships between roaster and producing partners and regular and frequent face-to-face visits to our producing partners are crucial to this process. Just as much for building trust and engaging in mutual exchange as to observe, learn and participate in coffee production of Collaborative lots.
Most of our trips this year were to gain a deeper understanding of the partnerships already established in the 10 countries we are currently working in. For most of these visits, we were present near the end of harvest in order to select the best the harvests’ had to offer. In the case of Bjørnar’s two-month stay in Guatemala, he was able to regularly cup day lots at Bella Vista’s wet mill and this gave him the unique opportunity to skim the “cream of the crop” of that season’s harvest. Also doing a two-month stint at origin was Melanie, who chose Burundi as the site of her fieldwork for her master thesis. At the same time that she interviewed people from all over the coffee sector about how “direct trade” is impacting the livelihoods of coffee producers, she met with and visited the people and coffee washing stations we have purchased coffee from. Burundi is a new origin country for us and we are excited about the potential of this developing origin with its recent focus on producing high quality specialty coffee.
During our most recent trip to Ethiopia, we spent two full weeks in the West and South regions of the country in order to become experts in these areas. Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, provides distinct and some of the most sought after coffees in the world and we are as in love as everyone else. Joanna and Robert toured cooperative washing stations we currently work with, met potential future partners and chatted with cherry producers about how coffee quality is determined at farm level.
Just as important as meeting origin partners is meeting face-to-face with Collaborative roasters, current and potential. You drive the work we do. Your drive to obtain and provide better coffee is what inspires us to do the work we do. This is a community of producers and roasters. The goal is to close the gap between producers and roasters, so the collaborative aspect of what we do is foundational to the building of this community.
In London we cupped with some of London’s finest purveyors of coffee at Prufrock’s lovely café. The two cuppings hosted at Prufrock proved to be so interesting and successful that the Prufrock crew decided to continue hosting their own cuppings and involving us via Skype. At SCAA in Portland, we met with and cupped with producer and roaster alike. Robert participated on a panel discussion on direct trade at this year’s Nordic Roaster Forum. Finally, we hosted Le Carnaval du Café in Paris where leading experts and producers coming out of Brazil, Panama and Burundi presented on how varieties and processing techniques impact coffee quality. To round out and provide some context to these theories and experiences, participants cupped representative samples of the very differences in variety and technique that were presented on.
Most recently, Joanna and Robert flew to Korea to attend Café & Bakery Fair, an expo dedicated to presenting the latest and greatest of all things café: coffee, tea and bakery, with a heavy emphasis on coffee. Korea is a rapidly growing and interesting new market for specialty coffee. We were invited by our first Korean partner, Momos, who felt there were good opportunities for us to meet with roasters eager to work with high quality specialty coffee but currently lack access to these producers and their coffees.
Coming Up in the New Year…
Collaborative roasters have recently solidified their commitments for fresh crop Brazils (Carmo and Piatà regions) and Burundis. We are expecting these shipments to arrive in February. Check out our current list of offerings here.
We are finalizing plans for a January trip to Central America. This will be the first of (hopefully) many trips where we will be joined with Collaborative roasters who will meet the producers they buy their coffees from face-to-face! The tentative 10-day itinerary includes stops in Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. In February, Bjørnar and Robert head to Kenya and Ethiopia to finalize this harvest’s lots and to meet with current and potential partners.
We at the Collaborative Coffee Source would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas. May the New Year bring you success and excellent coffee...
Robert, Joanna, Bjørnar, Per and Melanie