Living Our Values

Living our Values 2018

Download the CCS Living Our Values 2018 Report

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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