By offering a fixed price at a premium above market—and, for Cafe Imports, above our usual differential for Regional Select coffees, which are already priced at a quality premium—a producer is able to make plans and investment decisions for the future: One of the biggest obstacles for coffee farmers is unpredictable income and unreliable payment. By closing this gap, Farm Select producers can more efficiently, effectively, and sustainably grow their businesses. (Producers who participate are still eligible for microlot pricing on their exceptional coffees, as every bag will be sampled and cupped for quality control, as usual.)
The long-running and aptly named coffee review platform Coffee Review has, in its own words, “at long last” awarded a 98-point score to a roasted coffee. The review site, run in part by longtime coffee taster, roaster and author Kenneth Davids, often awards exceptional coffees scores in the mid-90s, giving roasters the authority to proudly boast of the quality of their coffees as measured by a third party. In this case, the coffee itself was the Lamastus Family’s Elida Estate Gesha variety that broke the Best of Panama auction record by earning an astounding $1,029 per pound earlier this year, as roasted by Boulder, Colorado’s Dragonfly Coffee Roasters. Davids explains in a recent post why arriving at a 98 when multiple tasters are involved is a nearly impossible feat:
The problem with reporting scores above 95 is the question of relativity of taste. At Coffee Review, we aim to reflect and interpret the broad gustatory values of the leading edge of the global coffee community. You can find an essay on how we attempt to do that and why at The 100-Point Rating Paradox. And I feel pretty confident about the Coffee Review team’s consistency and judgment in respect to scores up through 94 or 95. However, I regret to say that we seldom have complete consensus when we start pushing past 95. When the three of us emerge from our slurp-ridden silence around the cupping table and share our ratings, and if two of us have pushed up past 95 or 96, there is almost always one holding out for a lower score (and perhaps another holding out for an even higher score).
Coffees that score in the mid-to-upper-90s are bound to command high prices from buyers. All the other coffees, meanwhile — the 99.99 percent of them — are currently subject to a price crisis that threatens the viability of coffee farming as a means to achieve a living income. This was among the major topics discussed at the first ever Coffee Research Symposium, held last week at the University of Florida. Café Campesino Co-Owner and Cooperative Coffees Founder Bill Harris Jr. was on hand to give the keynote address. Here’s more from Café Campesino:
“Twenty-five of the last 30 years, farmers have been in crisis,” Harris said, explaining that when adjusted for inflation, small-scale farmers are making less today than they did 35 years ago. He also estimated that less than 4 percent of worldwide specialty coffee purchases were at fair trade pricing or above. “We need to stop talking about this pricing problem and start doing something about it,” he said, encouraging keynote attendees to collaborate toward solutions.
During his address, Harris showcased the work of Cooperative Coffees, a green coffee importing cooperative of 23 roasters in the United States and Canada that he helped found in 1999. The group has long-term, transparent trade relationships with farmer-owned cooperatives around the world. It has also made public its free on board (FOB) pricing via the website www.fairtradeproof.org for more than 10 years.
That’s one kind of transparency in coffee. Another beautiful example of transparency comes from the boutique manual coffee gear outfit Manual, whose initial Manual brewer first found funding on Kickstarter in 2014. Manual Founder and Creative Director Craighton Berman — who also pitches the pourover brewer as a kitchen counter showpiece — recently took to Kickstarter again to launch the Manual Coffeemaker N°4, which includes ceramic bases beneath the brewer’s glass dome. The campaign, which expires Friday, Nov. 15, promises early backers a N°4 for $80, while the price will soon move to $100 before settling on $125 for a full market price. Berman shared more in an email to DCN:
Originally launched on Kickstarter 5 years ago, Nº4 is the latest iteration of our signature coffeemaker. Since this was the product that originally launched Manual, I decided to create an anniversary edition to celebrate. The defining design gesture of the Manual Coffeemaker has always been the hand-crafted sculptural glass dome, so for this edition I created a new ceramic base—available in three colors.
After fielding a bad review from a customer unhappy with being asked to remove his feet from a chair, a cafe owner in Australia came right out and said what a lot of cafe owners are probably feeling every day, referring to “entitled” customers. In an interview with News Corp Australia, the longtime owner of That Place in Townseville, Ann Maree Reid, didn’t pull any punches:
“If you come into the cafe, you should do things my way. Everyone has their own rules in their establishments. Where are we headed if everyone is allowed to give their opinion — who is to gauge who is right or wrong?”
The Los Angeles Coffee Festival has announced the impressive list of 16 barista competitors for the first ever West Coast edition of the fast-paced, head-to-head-style Coffee Masters competition. Taking place Friday to Sunday, Nov. 8-10, the event naturally includes lots of West Coast representation, though some competitors are making the trek from as far afield as Arkansas, and even Australia. Here’s more from the London Coffee Festival:
The 16 competitors were just announced, and include Blair Smith (Augie’s Coffee, USA), Carlos de la Torre (Café con Jiribilla, Mexico), Casey Wilson (Boxcar Coffee Roasters, USA), Christos Andrews (Ghost Note Coffee, USA), Cole Torode (Rosso Coffee & Forward Coffee, CAN), Diana Johnson Ledezma (Dr. Wakefield, UK), Dylan Siemens (Onyx Coffee Lab, USA), Elisabeth, Johnson (Hagen Coffee Roasters, USA), Emily Orendorff (Intelligentsia, USA), Jenna Gotthelf (Counter Culture Coffee, USA), Jimmy Dimitrov (Clifton Coffee, UK), Malvina Segura (Cognoscenti Coffee, USA), Reef Bessette (The Coffee Movement, USA), Shinsaku Fukayama (St. Ali, AUS), Stephen Welch (Due South Coffee Roasters, USA), Varvara Stukalo (Coffeemania and L’Adresse, USA).
The U.K. sustainable business news source Edie this week published a profile of the recent corporate sustainability plan put forth by the British coffee roasting company Lincoln & York. If phrases like SDG-aligned CSR strategy don’t get your motor running, one interesting aspect of the sustainability program is that it was employee-approved:
In order to develop the CSR strategy, Lincoln & York put its contents up for a vote among the entirety of its employee workforce. In that vote, 95% of staff gave their approval.
This approach echoes that taken by Unilever, which asked its 172,000 staff what sustainable business meant to them as it designed its post-2020 environmental goals.
“It is important that our strategy is reflective of our company values, so I’m extremely pleased that the overwhelming number of our workforce support our direction,” Lincoln & York’s managing director James Sweeting said.
Sources from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority told Reuters this week that the country is expecting coffee exports to rise in the 2019/20 year by as much as 16%. While the predictions seem based on favorable weather conditions boosting production, Uganda may also be reaping the rewards of sector-wide production efforts that have been sewn over the past three years:
James Kizito Mayanja, market intelligence and information manager at state-run Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) told Reuters shipments of the beans in 2019/20 (October-September) crop year may reach 5.1 million 60-kg bags, up from 4.4 million bags exported in the previous period.
Coffee was long Uganda’s single largest commodity export but it has since been overtaken by gold whose shipments exceeded $1 billion in the year to June.