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Direct Trade Bean Sourcing Questions

cneilson

New member
Dec 8, 2013
2
0
Hey.

Was hoping to gather some info about a few subjects I've been struggling with.

I've been working on breaking into the Roasting business, and I'd really like to do it RIGHT. Part of that means making sure I am being Properly educated, using the best equipment, making sure I am organize, document, produce consistent and high quality product.

But nothing matters more than the Bean. It's the basis for everything. I, like many of you, believe the future of Artisan and Craft Coffee is based on the Wine Model. There's a huge market for people to produce single source coffee that not only focuses on quality and Arabica beans, but sub varieties and growing locations/conditions.

That said, After having visited Honduras and Costa Rica and a few coffee plantations, I would very much like to ensure I am providing the farmers with the best possible price for the best quality product.

So having read about Direct Trade I thought it was a GREAT idea. And it really is.

But what was nagging me was the problem of "how does a small roaster contact and source beans from farmers halfway around the world." It seemed to me that the average joe (no pun intended) wouldn't be able to afford to source, import and sell beans in large enough volume to help these farmers. They probably know as i learned form my previous business experience that there is a lot of risk in going with the guy who shows up promising more money, cutting ties with your previous buyers, only to have the new person disappear from the market if things go south.

So I came across this excellent Post by John P on these boards:

Join Date
Jan 2007
Location
Salt Lake City
Posts
609
These are the facts:

FairTrade is a FOR profit company. (Really, you need to know nothing more than this)

Quality of product is not a factor in the price received by the farmers. This means member farmers who produce low quality coffee can get a price their product does not deserve and member farmers who produce excellent, stunning coffees do not get paid the high price their coffees would command outside of the FT umbrella.

FT prices are based on commodity coffee prices .

The Premiums paid (subsidies) by the buyers to be certified, about 20 cents, go to the FT cooperative, they are not passed on to the farmers.

If you actually care about the farlmers AND not duping your customers, find a reputable importer - Mercanta, Cafe Imports, Zephyr, Atlas, ... to name a few. Or a reputable Direct Trade sourcer/roaster like Counter Culture, Intelligentsia, Barefoot, Stumptown or similar. They can tell you price paid for the coffees they carry. And/Or donate to a charity such as CoffeeKids.

Some great coffee happens to be Fair Trade, but unless you know you are paying above Fair Trade prices for it, your buyer/importer are probably "questionable".


Honestly, if your buyer is paying anywhere near FT prices, I would seriously question the coffees and their ethics. If you source your coffees based on quality, and pay for that quality, the farmers will always receive above FT prices. Most non-commodity brokers are paying well above FT prices.
Last edited by John P; 05-27-2013 at 09:14 PM.
John Piquet
caffe d'bolla
Salt Lake City, UT
twitter.com/caffedbolla

So basically, I gather i was right and only the larger players really are able to truly Direct Trade their beans.

So my question becomes:
What is the best option for the little guy to do their part?
Where do you turn to buy beans that will pay the farmers a fair share, but can also provide you with amounts small enough to deal with?
John listed some importers. Some of them certainly Claim to be doing these sorts of things. Is that the best option?
Has anyone used RGC Coffee from Montreal?

Thanks for any help you can give.

Chris
 

BuzzRoaster

New member
Feb 20, 2012
82
0
I'm currently working on this same problem. Actually, I'm working on two projects.

The first is a group buy program for home roasters. It works by collectively purchasing large amounts of coffee to get the best price then distributing it amongst the group.

The second project uses the same model but on a larger scale. I've been in contact with both small to mid-sized roasters across the country and small farmers all over the world. The idea is to help the small roasters who want to participate in Direct Trade but aren't in the financial position to do so. A group buy scenario is the perfect solution to the problem.
 
OP
C

cneilson

New member
Dec 8, 2013
2
0
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #3
I'm currently working on this same problem. Actually, I'm working on two projects.

The first is a group buy program for home roasters. It works by collectively purchasing large amounts of coffee to get the best price then distributing it amongst the group.

The second project uses the same model but on a larger scale. I've been in contact with both small to mid-sized roasters across the country and small farmers all over the world. The idea is to help the small roasters who want to participate in Direct Trade but aren't in the financial position to do so. A group buy scenario is the perfect solution to the problem.


That occurred to me. I saw that there are several Grower Co-ops in many places. I assumed the same would work in the other direction. Didn't know if it exisited, but i'd certainly be willing to get on board when the time is right.
 
Dec 4, 2013
10
0
Rutherfordton, NC
cneilson, where are you located? My father and I are also getting started with a roasting business and share the same ideals with regard to responsible sourcing. If you are anywhere near western NC we might be able to split shipping costs...

BuzzRoaster, please add me to your list of interested parties for group buys. We're not ready for any large purchases yet, but soon...

Monte
 
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