Our Values

Living Our Values: The Right People at Origin

What makes a coffee 'specialty'? We believe it goes beyond cup score and is ultimately about the people involved. From the agronomists who strategize and train workers on soil nutrition and plant care, to the workers who carry out these plans, through to the dry mill staff that ensure the parchment is hulled and packaged to the importer's specifications; coffee passes through many hands before it is even roasted and finally prepared by a barista. While the final cup quality is of course impacted by the final two stages--roasting and preparation--the barista has no chance of extracting a tasty cup without the many previous steps having gone "right". So it makes sense that we spend a lot of time and effort getting to know our partners at origin very well before we purchase any coffee from them. What are we looking for in the "right" origin partner? We've found that the best partners are a mixture of ambitious, reliable, curious, passionate and continually striving for excellence. Heleanna Georgalis of Moplaco Trading in Ethiopia is a person who exhibits all of these traits and far more. We have been working with her since 2013 and are looking forward to many more years of close collaboration.

Below is an excerpt from our report Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017 where you can read more about Heleanna and the incredible work she does.

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The Right People at Origin

Finding the right people: Heleanna Georgalis, Moplaco, Ethiopia.

A romanticized idea of coffee trading is that one is sourcing from a farmer who is equipped and empowered to offer coffee from their  field, and bringing it to your market, and all other parties in-between are helping to make it happen. It isn’t always quite like that.

CCS’ relationship with Ethiopia as a coffee origin is like any other passionate relationship: it can be fantastic and fantastically challenging at the same time. The country offers coffees that are as unique as the many ways of handling them. Our source for guidance and relief has often times been Heleanna Georgalis of Moplaco.

She has, since CCS’ inception, presented strategies and solutions for dealing with Ethiopia as a multi-faceted origin. She is a coffee farmer. She processes her own coffee. She buys cherries and processes coffee from other growers. She buys lots from ECX and cleans them. She has a great dry mill, which makes all the difference. She is an exporter. She is a reliable partner. She reminds us again and again that coffee is not only people, but also politics and culture.

Heleanna is constantly teaching us the complexities of the trade, which has emboldened us to broaden our scope. We are now working with many more and very different partners in Ethiopia; farmers and millers, agronomists and researchers. The next step for CCS is to open our own lab in Addis, thus staying closer while also working more independently.

We are continuing our business relationship with Moplaco, getting the best services possible on milling and quality control, while nourishing personal connection with Heleanna’s team. That’s coffee romance to us.

Read the full report Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017.

Living Our Values: The Collaborative Model

Below is a excerpt from our report Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017.

The CCS team has always been made up of people who have worked throughout various parts of the coffee chain. We are and have been baristas, barista trainers, competitors, coffee shop managers, roasters and coffee buyers. Most of us only really know the coffee industry through the lens of specialty coffee and this automatically puts our team in both a position of privilege and responsibility.

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We have been privileged in so many different ways. At the coffee shops and roasteries each of us have worked at prior to CCS, each of us were a part of teams that were focused on excellence: roasting and serving the best coffee we could; buying the tastiest, most unique coffees from the brightest and most ambitious producers we could find. While not inherent to finding great coffees and producers, good relationships usually go hand-in-hand. It seems to go hand-in-hand that finding reliable partners producing excellent coffee year-after-year means working with great people. When we started CCS, we both saw the uniqueness of approaching coffee purchasing from a relational standpoint as well as the emerging market of roasters who were looking to find the same.

You see this context writ all over “The Collaborative Model” in Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017: the words “relationships”, “community”, “good coffee, good business”, “interdependency”, “communication”. These are not just words we throw about casually - they underlie everything that we do. When you read about our model, we hope that your experience matches what they are describing. Rest assured, we are doing everything we can to uphold them.


The Collaborative Model

One of the founding principles for the Collaborative Coffee Source is building relationships between people, in our case the craftspeople that are making coffee. Some are working in the field, others in roasteries, and still many more hands and heads and hearts are involved, so we think it’s only logical that there is a strong connection. The barista should be in the mix too, as they are the ones brewing beverages from these fruits-of-labor, they are on the frontier for all of us. We’re all needed, and we all need each other.

We strive to connect roasters, baristas, exporters, farmers, cooperatives, washing stations, and everybody else working in this community in a tight web of support, communication and feedback. This is fundamentally a model for collaboration, and quite frankly, it is a good business model too. Collaboration creates opportunities for learning, in all directions. Coffee travels the world and so do we, and it is in the exchanges of ideas and preferences that the best coffees are made.

Coffee is a people business. When curious people meet, and great products are made, and beautiful understanding occurs and interdependency grows, it is the best environment for a healthy business relationship. Good Coffee deserves to be Good Business, for all parties.

An ambitious coffee roaster who wants to stand out with a desired product needs a coffee supplier that is delivering the right coffee year after year. We strongly believe that we help both ends when we connect them, and the best way to achieve that is to know them. This is why we work with coffee professionals we respect and cherish, whose hopes and dreams we share. We want to change the world. The process may be “poco a poco,” but we’re ok with that.

Read the full report Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017.

Living Our Values: Why we set the benchmark at 86

The following is a excerpt from our report Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017. Number one on our list of values is "We seek the right quality."

We often describe ourselves as an "86 company," meaning we begin with coffees that score 86 points and work our way up. We felt we should define what that means, why 86 is our benchmark, and what it means for the industry to source high quality coffee.


Defining Quality

We want to define what we mean by the term quality, especially since we claim to find the truly good coffees. We search for quality through screening and scrutinizing, then we articulate the result with a list of the coffee’s flavor attributes, and a numerical score out of 100. CCS sets the bar at 86 points for the coffee we buy. We recognize that this number isn’t self explained, but it is an efficient and simplified way of communicating a starting point for most people in the industry.

The common denominator for an “86” coffee is its clarity, and this means more than clean coffee. Clarity is a sensorial term that describes how a coffee opens and expresses its attributes, usually with the help of a structuring acidity. This combination creates complexity in the cup and many more desired attributes.

Sharing this experience of actually tasting the qualities through cupping is key to understanding and agreeing on a value for a coffee. Thus the point of using a numeric scale to express the quality is also a way to define its monetary value. Premium is a term for the extra money paid for higher quality, which suggests that the starting point is the right one. We disagree, because that level is more often than not too low.

High quality in coffee is the result of a concrete process and a particular craft, it doesn’t just happen. When certain conditions are in place, making a delicious coffee is achievable, but not easy. By setting our benchmark at 86 we mean to honor the honest craftsmanship and care that goes into making a truly special coffee.

Robert

Read the full report.

 A coffee picker from Gesha Village, Ethiopia. Just look at that selection!

A coffee picker from Gesha Village, Ethiopia. Just look at that selection!

Living Our Values: Celebrating Quality

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

Number one on our list of values is “We seek the right quality.” We use the word "seek" very consciously. We like to think we contribute to the development of quality by sourcing and rewarding quality, but we are well aware that we are not farmers, and can not lay claim to their hard work. However we can celebrate it, and that is the core purpose of events like the CCS Acevedo Cup.

The second CCS Acevedo Cup begins tomorrow and we are very excited to join Fairfield Trading and the community of Acevedo in this celebration. The event was delayed due to late harvests, and the past year was not a great one for coffee growers in Colombia, but we are committed to this group of producers and we will be there to celebrate their great coffees, in good years and bad.

The following story from our report encapsulates why this event is so important to us, and how we in the specialty industry can contribute to the cultivation of quality from afar.


Celebrating Quality

As buyers of specialty green coffee, we are not in a position to advise farmers on the finer points of coffee cultivation, we leave that to the agronomists. Instead, we contribute to the development of quality by celebrating, incentivizing and rewarding quality.

In January 2018 we will run the second CCS Acevedo Cup in Huila, Colombia, with our partners in the region, Fairfield Trading. This cupping competition is an opportunity for roasters and farmers to forge relationships, share experiences and gain knowledge, all great things. But the benefits extend well beyond the event itself.

Firstly, cupping competitions like the Acevedo Cup facilitate collaboration between farmers. Around twenty-five families attended the awards ceremony of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016. Afterwards, community leaders met with the winners and their neighbors to discuss farm protocols and strategies that could be implemented on farms across the region.

Secondly, the CCS Acevedo Cup offers recognition, both within a farming community and among roasters, of the vision and dedication of the coffee farmers. By holding the event annually, and offering a financial reward to the winners, the CCS Acevedo Cup can be a tool for inspiring and incentivizing producers to improve quality year after year.

“I felt really proud,” said Alexander Ordoñez of Finca Los Naranjos, who won third place in the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016. “My wife and two children accompanied me [to the awards ceremony], and it was a beautiful experience because they are part of the work one does on the farm. And this third place prize motivates me to continue improving so I can win first place.”

Read the full report Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017.

 The CCS Acevedo Cup 2016 Awards Ceremony

The CCS Acevedo Cup 2016 Awards Ceremony