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by Joseph Rivera

Coffee Chemistry

Categories: 2014, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Welcome to this month’s issue of cof­fee sci­ence. Last month we briefly dis­cussed the role of two alka­loids: caf­feine and trigonelline, and briefly their role in cof­fee com­po­si­tion. This time we’ll explore some of coffee’s more com­mon com­po­nents, namely car­bo­hy­drates and pro­tein, and dis­cuss how these seem­ingly ordi­nary com­pounds react to form coffee’s allur­ing aroma.

Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates make up roughly fifty per­cent of coffee’s total dry weight by com­po­si­tion. After roast­ing, remain­ing car­bo­hy­drates in the cup con­tribute to mouth-feel or body, with some stud­ies sug­gest­ing they are also respon­si­ble for the qual­ity of the foam com­mon in espresso beverages.

Although there are numer­ous types of car­bo­hy­drates in cof­fee, per­haps the most impor­tant is that of sucrose. Sucrose, or more com­monly known as table sugar, makes up six to nine per­cent in Arabica with a slightly less (three to seven per­cent) amount con­tained in Robusta cof­fee. During roast­ing, sucrose is read­ily decom­posed, and stud­ies have shown that up to 97 per­cent of the ini­tial sucrose con­tent is lost even in light roasts. Its role dur­ing roast­ing is enor­mous with a large por­tion of the avail­able car­bo­hy­drates par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Maillard and numer­ous oth­ers sec­ondary reac­tions. One class of impor­tant byprod­ucts cre­ated dur­ing roast­ing are those of organic acids. In its native green form, cof­fee con­tains neg­li­gi­ble amounts of formic, acetic, and lac­tic acid. Though once roasted, there is an expo­nen­tial increase in acid pro­duc­tion, along with a par­al­leled increase in cof­fee acid­ity. Since acid­ity plays an impor­tant role in assess­ing qual­ity, it’s no sur­prise why we see typ­i­cally higher lev­els of per­ceived acid­ity in Arabica cof­fee than Robusta, due in part, to its higher sucrose concentration.

Proteins
Protein con­tent for both green Arabica and Robusta cof­fee varies between 10–13 per­cent and exists as free or bound pro­teins within the cof­fee matrix. Although actual con­cen­tra­tions vary within the bean, there are a num­ber of fac­tors that affect pro­tein con­tent. Factors such as level of mat­u­ra­tion, vari­ety, and stor­age con­di­tions all have an effect on pro­tein byprod­ucts dur­ing roasting.

During roast­ing, pro­teins com­bine with car­bo­hy­drates in what is per­haps the most impor­tant reac­tion for all ther­mally processed foods – the Maillard Reaction. This set of reac­tions, dis­cov­ered by a French chemist in 1910, is what is largely respon­si­ble for trans­form­ing the mere hand­ful of com­pounds found in green cof­fee to the com­plex matrix that cof­fee is today.

As tem­per­a­tures reach 150oC (302oF), the Maillard reac­tion react free pro­teins with sug­ars ulti­mately lead­ing to the for­ma­tion of hun­dreds of impor­tant aro­matic com­pounds. Furans, for exam­ple, impart sweet, caramel-like aro­mas, while more com­plex mol­e­cules, such as pyrazines, impart more nut­tier com­plex fla­vor notes. Ketones, or smaller mol­e­cules, also play a role with diacetyl (butane­dione) impart­ing buttery-butterscotch notes rem­i­nis­cent to fresh pop­corn. There are lit­er­ally hun­dreds and hun­dreds of aro­matic com­pounds being cre­ated dur­ing the roast­ing process, each con­tribut­ing a small por­tion to coffee’s com­plex aroma.

If you’ve ever won­dered why cof­fee is brown in color, it’s due to the very same reac­tion that cre­ates fla­vor. During roast­ing large mol­e­c­u­lar weight com­pounds com­bine with pro­teins to form com­plex brown col­ored melanoidins, which ulti­mately give cof­fee its char­ac­ter­is­tic color. Until recently, very lit­tle was known of these com­pounds, but over the years sci­ence has elu­ci­dated many of their struc­tural prop­er­ties asso­ci­ated with them. Perhaps the most promis­ing is that many of these com­pounds have potent antiox­i­dant, antimi­cro­bial, and anti-inflammatory prop­er­ties asso­ci­ated with them. This is great news con­sid­er­ing that cof­fee is the sec­ond to third most pop­u­lar bev­er­age con­sumed in the world, just after water and tea. It’s just another rea­son to enjoy another cup of cof­fee at home or your favorite café. Cheers!

Joseph A. Rivera holds a degree in food chem­istry and was for­merly the Director of Science & Technology at the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). He’s the cre­ator of coffeechemistry.com and newly devel­oped Coffee Science Certificate (CSC) pro­gram. He can be reached at jrivera@coffeechemistry.com

Marketing Miracles

Categories: 2014, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

When deal­ing with peo­ple, let us remem­ber we are not deal­ing with crea­tures of logic. We are deal­ing with crea­tures of emo­tion, crea­tures bustling with prej­u­dices and moti­vated by pride and van­ity.
—Dale Carnegie

In today’s mar­ket­ing world we can be con­fi­dent and cer­tain of two impor­tant facts:

1. The days when mar­keters or those who develop prod­ucts could sim­ply tell the con­sumer what they would have are over. While Steve Jobs in his own world might have thought that he could pre­dict what a per­son needed in life, before that indi­vid­u­als real­ized it, the real­ity of today’s hyper-connected mar­ket­place means that con­sumers are in the dri­ver seat and want to be included in the con­ver­sa­tion of buy­ing, using, and sharing.

2. While cof­fee is a mas­ter­ful prod­uct that is becom­ing ever more approach­able, it is a dis­ser­vice to not reflect on the emo­tional and phys­i­cal power of the ben­e­fits that such a tiny green bean can unleash upon an indi­vid­ual when trans­formed for con­sump­tion. And these per­sonal ben­e­fits are not just what cof­fee insid­ers think, it is from the heart and mind of the consumer.

Over the years and from many con­ver­sa­tions with cof­fee drinkers of all pro­files, a mindmap of how Americans think ratio­nally and emo­tion­ally about cof­fee can be drawn. Based on the point-of-view of the con­sumer, this blue­print lit­er­ally pro­vides the means of look­ing at the met and unmet needs of the indi­vid­ual, how exist­ing and new prod­ucts can be best posi­tioned, how busi­ness exec­u­tives see the impor­tance of work­place ben­e­fits such as cof­fee, and where the indus­try can uncover new oppor­tu­ni­ties for growth.

Slide1

The image shown here pro­vides the pos­i­tive path­ways of how con­sumers think of cof­fee from prod­uct attrib­utes to per­sonal val­ues. These are the sto­ries of how peo­ple see and talk about the rel­e­vancy of cof­fee in their lives. And these sto­ries reveal for us the power of both what is known and what is pos­si­ble. From these var­i­ous ori­en­ta­tions we can gar­ner sev­eral impor­tant learn­ings and opportunities.

There are two macro sto­ries for cof­fee: one address­ing value and social­iza­tion, and the other is address­ing health and per­for­mance. Think of the social­iza­tion aspect as the “we” and the per­for­mance as the “me.”

Both of these ulti­mately lead to the per­sonal value of accom­plish­ment and self-esteem. That may sound like a long way from a cup in the morn­ing to deep psy­chol­ogy, but in fact if you think about the story of what cof­fee can do for you and how it makes you feel, the jour­ney is not that far. This is a prod­uct that elic­its deep feel­ings both socially and individually.

So how does a mindmap like this work in mar­ket­ing? Consider these few exam­ples and then think of how you could fit your offer­ing in what con­sumers are look­ing for now or into the future.

• The tagline, “The best part of wak­ing up is Folgers in your cup,” is a clas­sic expres­sion that com­bines the ele­ments of smell/aroma to wak­ing up to get­ting started. And in many adver­tise­ments, the Folgers ads have astutely linked this to stronger fam­ily rela­tion­ships and a sense of belong­ing that is visu­ally shown.

• Single-serve con­tin­ues to explode in pop­u­lar­ity and plays directly to cof­fee drinkers want­ing a vari­ety of choices, to sat­is­fy­ing a crav­ing for a par­tic­u­lar type of drink, to sup­port­ing the con­fi­dence that one has that they made the right choice, and ulti­mately lead­ing to per­sonal pride and self-esteem.

• The National Coffee Association (NCA) and the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) con­tinue to pub­lish the pos­i­tive phys­i­o­log­i­cal impact that cof­fee con­sump­tion has on humans, both green and roasted! Coffee not only pro­duces an emo­tive response, but a phys­i­cal one as well. Consumers view this in terms of feel­ing phys­i­cally bet­ter and an improved men­tal state. In this case, improved health leads directly to improved per­sonal per­for­mance tied back to coffee.

• Although the idea of third wave cof­fee is just tak­ing hold, the premise is that cof­fee should not be looked upon as a com­mod­ity, but rather as an expe­ri­ence. Indeed, if those in the indus­try want to under­stand how to seed a co-creative, col­lab­o­ra­tive, and customer-centric move­ment founded on higher order com­mu­nity impact, look no fur­ther than these val­ues. Chipotle did it with the Crow Foods video story.

But the big oppor­tu­nity, as one can see from the image, is a desire for less stress in life and a feel­ing of reju­ve­na­tion. This acts as a “bridge” between the social and the per­for­mance ori­en­ta­tions, which is a space that not many cof­fee brands or prod­ucts tend to play today. If there is mar­ket­ing “white space” in the cof­fee cat­e­gory, this is it – for now. In every soci­ety, per­sonal val­ues do not tend to rapidly change. Whereas prod­ucts and ser­vices come and go and are highly influ­enced by short-term events, the fun­da­men­tal human desire for pride, hap­pi­ness, suc­cess, secu­rity, self-esteem, and accom­plish­ment is con­stant. Coffee yes­ter­day, today, and tomor­row is a story of human val­ues. Lets tell the stories.

Mike Dabadie is the founder of Heart+Mind Strategies, LLC, a research con­sul­tancy that con­tin­ues to pio­neer the use of personal-values insights and mar­ket­ing. He can be reached at mdabadie@heartandmindstrategies.com.

Retailer/Roaster Profile

Categories: 2014, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Hi! I am in my home coun­try of Russia in beau­ti­ful Saint Petersburg. Yay! It is still quite hard to find a good cup of cof­fee around here; you usu­ally have to travel across the city for it. It isn’t Seattle with inde­pen­dent cof­fee shops on every cor­ner and hip­sters paint­ing the scene, but very slowly it is get­ting there. There is one place you can count on to get a good fix – Bolshe Coffee! “Bolshe” means “more” in Russian, so More Coffee! Nice sim­ple name, ah? It is also located in a grot. How cool is that? I had a chat with the owner – Nicholas Gotko. Listen up:

V. Please tell us about the cof­fee scene in Saint Petersburg. I have noticed lots of cof­fee shop chains, but not so many inde­pen­dent cof­fee shops around.
G. I believe this year to be the best so far for inde­pen­dent cof­fee shops in Saint Petersburg, and I think that this inter­est will only keep grow­ing until we have enough neigh­bor­hood cof­fee shops to serve all of the locals on every street and cor­ner. Right now, many have to travel far to get a good qual­ity cup in a friendly, relaxed envi­ron­ment. Just in the past year, my team, which includes me, my wife Zoya, and Nicholas and Tatyana Yarlanskie, man­aged to open five inde­pen­dent cof­fee shops. All of these shops have dif­fer­ent names, themes, and carry a local char­ac­ter. Meaning, they are meant pri­mar­ily for clients study­ing and work­ing nearby.

V. I am sure that many of our read­ers are very inter­ested to know more about the specifics of doing busi­ness in Russia. I know that west­ern­ers have that idea that the mafia still rules the streets here, and you also have to have a sig­nif­i­cant startup cap­i­tal to do any kind of busi­ness. Is it so?
G. The mafia isn’t really here any­more, at least not in small busi­ness. It is eas­ier to open your own busi­ness now; no one helps, but at the same time no one inter­feres too much. We didn’t have sig­nif­i­cant startup cap­i­tals; nei­ther did we have rich par­ent spon­sors. We got together with my part­ners, took out some loans, and started work­ing. We real­ized that it would be naïve to com­pete with giant fran­chises. So we decided to play by our own rules. We decided to sell a high qual­ity prod­uct for a lower than mar­ket price, even though we have a dif­fer­ent stan­dard of prepa­ra­tion. For our cof­fee we use a por­tion of 18 – 20 grams instead of the reg­u­lar six to nine grams. In addi­tion to that, our lever cof­fee machines intro­duce a com­pletely dif­fer­ent level for the Russian market.

V. Your spot is cool! A grot sounds like a great fit for a cof­fee shop. Did you have to intro­duce sig­nif­i­cant changes to the place’s archi­tec­ture before you opened?
G. A search for the per­fect place took almost six months. In the end, we got the grot! Until we got the place, the grot was empty for about three years. There were some ques­tion­able beer places here pre­vi­ously, and that is why when we got here, every­thing was pretty beaten up. We had to redo many things using our own hands. We got help for very chal­leng­ing tasks only; break­ing some walls, chang­ing electrics, and prepar­ing every­thing for a paint job. Overall, con­struc­tion and prepa­ra­tion to open took us about a month, so every­thing went pretty quickly. We didn’t change place’s archi­tec­ture, we decided to work with what we had and fit in organ­i­cally. Many believe that a major­ity of your busi­ness expenses should be spent on the inte­rior, but we believe that equip­ment and prod­uct are more impor­tant than fancy walls.

V. Did you get into cof­fee busi­ness right from the begin­ning of your pro­fes­sional career?
G. Before I opened my shops, for almost 10 years I worked as an engi­neer in big cof­fee com­pany, and my part­ner Nicholas was a vice pres­i­dent in a roast­ing com­pany. In the mean time, we also par­tic­i­pated in barista cham­pi­onships and even judged some of them. We are still judges in cham­pi­onships orga­nized by the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE). It is a very pres­ti­gious title in cof­fee world. To become a judge, one must take up a really hard exam that lasts four days, and only if passed prop­erly, you would receive an offi­cial cer­tifi­cate. Plus, you have to recon­firm that cer­tifi­cate every two years.
The idea of open­ing our own shops was in our heads for a long time before we started to act on it. The first talk about it was about three or four years ago, but we were too busy with cur­rent work at a time, until finally about a year ago, we started Bolshe Coffee!

V. So what is your secret, why peo­ple love you so much?
G. When we first thought about open­ing up a shop, we had dif­fer­ent vari­ants of what the final result would be. We decided not to play by the rules: we decided to offer excel­lent, some­times even rare cof­fee for an afford­able price. Basically, instead of mak­ing an uptight place with high prices (of which there are many in Russia), we waned to cre­ate a space where every­one has the oppor­tu­nity to drink great cof­fee for a com­fort­able price.

We suc­ceeded in our orig­i­nal task of not to cre­ate a flash that would appear and then blow out. Rather, we cre­ated a place that would become a part of the city’s leg­end that every­one would know about. Our places have con­stant move­ment, action, and life in them. It is really impor­tant for our clients to feel our pres­ence and that we care once inside our shops. We have the envi­ron­ment where one can be com­fort­able and you don’t have to pre­tend that you are some­one else. We com­mu­ni­cate this mes­sage to our clients very clearly. We have peo­ple in expen­sive suites next to sporty clients in shorts. We have mates with dogs and lit­tle chil­dren roam­ing around freely. Our envi­ron­ment is so easy­go­ing. “I want cof­fee and I go get it at Bolshe!” We made it sim­ple as that in Saint Petersburg.

V. Any advice to other busi­ness own­ers like you in both Russia and other coun­tries?
G. I would say learn to con­trol your fears. Our biggest fear was that we weren’t sure if the Russian men­tal­ity would halt our progress – “if some­thing is cheap, then it must be bad.” However, every­thing actu­ally turned out to be great! It was more of a pleas­ant shock for our clients, they were con­fused, “Why is every­thing is so good and why does it cost so lit­tle?!” We love our cus­tomers, and we try to show it in the ways I described ear­lier.
Since we men­tioned fear though, I would say that fear is a good thing! However, it has to be the kind of fear that is moti­va­tional, the one that makes you want to keep going fur­ther, even though you are scared. This kind of fear makes you more care­ful about the qual­ity of your job. Lastly, I would like to add my most impor­tant advice: “Do your job well, and you won’t run away from success!

Bolshe Coffee!

Alexandrovsky Park 3-G,
Saint Petersburg, 197101
+79095814571
Nicholas Gotko

vk.com/morecoffee

gotko@mail.ru

Coffee Chemistry

Categories: 2014, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Every­day mil­lions of peo­ple around the world begin their day reli­giously with a morn­ing cup of cof­fee. Though today we eas­ily iden­tify cof­fee in its bev­er­age form, it wasn’t always this way in the begin­ning. Throughout his­tory, cof­fee has taken on sev­eral phys­i­cal trans­for­ma­tions, ini­tially serv­ing as an energy source when nomadic tribes com­bined cof­fee berries with ani­mal fat as an early form of an energy bar. Later it was con­sumed as a tea, then wine, and finally to the bev­er­age we’ve come to iden­tify today.  But how much of coffee’s chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion do we actu­ally know? Fortunately, over the past half-century sci­en­tists have made sig­nif­i­cant progress, which has allowed them to unlock more than the 1,000 com­pounds found in roasted cof­fee. In this arti­cle of Coffee Science we’ll briefly dis­cuss a fam­ily of com­pounds called ‘alka­loids,’ which serve an impor­tant role in coffee’s unique chem­i­cal composition.

Caffeine
For many, cof­fee drink­ing is sim­ply a deliv­ery medium for a potent alka­loid we have come to iden­tify as caf­feine, or oth­er­wise known as 1,3,7 – trimethylx­an­thine.  Although caf­feine is typ­i­cally asso­ci­ated with cof­fee, its pro­duc­tion within the plant king­dom spans across numer­ous other plant species. Mate, for exam­ple, which is tra­di­tion­ally con­sumed in parts of Uruguay and Argentina, con­tains less than one per­cent by weight. Whereas, teas of Camellia sine­sis, which orig­i­nated in China, con­tain almost three times the con­cen­tra­tion of caf­feine than Arabica.

But for humans, caf­feine is very unique. Thus far, we are the only liv­ing forms on Earth that read­ily seek caf­feine for both its stim­u­la­tory and psy­cho­log­i­cal effects.  For all other life forms, caf­feine is a potent toxin capa­ble of ster­il­iza­tion, phy­to­tox­i­c­ity, and anti­fun­gal prop­er­ties. As such, sci­en­tists believe that caf­feine, with its intensely bit­ter taste, has evolved as a prim­i­tive defense mech­a­nism in cof­fee ensur­ing its sur­vival in the wild for thou­sands of years. It’s no sur­prise then, that the caf­feine con­tent of the more “robust” Robusta species is almost dou­ble that of the more del­i­cate Arabica. The belief is that as insects attack the cof­fee cherry, they are deterred by the bit­ter taste of caf­feine and sim­ply move on to other crops.

Trigonelline
Another less known alka­loid that shad­ows in the light of caf­feine is that of trigonelline. In Arabica cof­fee, trigonelline con­cen­tra­tions make up roughly 1 per­cent by weight with a slightly less con­cen­tra­tion (0.7 per­cent) found its Robusta coun­ter­part. Although its con­cen­tra­tion is slightly less than that of caf­feine, it plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in the devel­op­ment of impor­tant fla­vor com­pounds dur­ing roast­ing. But unlike that of caf­feine, which sur­vives the roast­ing process, trigonelline read­ily decom­poses as tem­per­a­tures approach 160°C (320°F).  Model stud­ies have shown that at 160°C, sixty per­cent of the ini­tial trigonelline is decom­posed, lead­ing for the for­ma­tion of car­bon diox­ide, water, and the devel­op­ment of a large class of aro­matic com­pounds called pyridines. These het­e­ro­cyclic com­pounds play an impor­tant role in fla­vor and are respon­si­ble for pro­duc­ing the sweet/caramel/earthy-like aro­mas com­monly found in coffee.

TableAnother impor­tant byprod­uct pro­duced dur­ing the decom­po­si­tion of trigonelline is nico­tinic acid, or vit­a­min B3, more com­monly known as niacin. Depending on roast­ing con­di­tions, niacin can increase up to ten times its ini­tial con­cen­tra­tion, pro­vid­ing any­where between 1mg of niacin per cup for Americano-type cof­fees and roughly two to three times this con­cen­tra­tion in espresso-type bev­er­ages. When one con­sid­ers that most Americans con­sume about 3.2 cups of cof­fee per day, accord­ing to the NCA (2008), makes cof­fee an ample source of dietary niacin.

So far that’s great news for peo­ple with an unbal­anced diet, but there is another ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fit to cof­fee that is even more sur­pris­ing. Recently, Italian sci­en­tists dis­cov­ered that drink­ing cof­fee might lower our inci­dence of den­tal caries. According to researchers, trigonelline works by pre­vent­ing the adhe­sion of mucus-like acid byprod­ucts onto teeth, which would oth­er­wise lead to den­tal caries. In the end, it looks like drink­ing a cup of cof­fee may not only keeps the doc­tor away, but the den­tist too.

Joseph A. Rivera holds a degree in food chem­istry and was for­merly the Director of Science & Technology at the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). He’s the cre­ator of the cof­fee sci­ence por­tal coffeechemistry.com and newly devel­oped Coffee Science Certificate (CSC) pro­gram. He can be reached at jrivera@coffeechemistry.com

Myanmar And Specialty Coffee: Critical Crossroads

Categories: 2013, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

When I received an invi­ta­tion from Winrock International to vol­un­teer in USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program in Myanmar’s nascent spe­cialty cof­fee sec­tor, I had only one ques­tion: “Myanmar and Specialty Coffee?” The two con­cepts just didn’t seem to fit together. I looked at the nicely framed SCAA “Coffees of the World” map in my office and Myanmar (or Burma) was not even iden­ti­fied as a cof­fee pro­duc­ing coun­try – Arabica or Robusta. I did a quick Internet search and found very few ref­er­ences to cof­fee in Myanmar. So, I accepted Winrock’s invi­ta­tion immediately.

I knew that Myanmar had gained inde­pen­dence from Great Britain in 1948 and had been under mil­i­tary rule from 1962 until 2010. Just recently the coun­try has started to open up to the world and to more global trade. President Obama was in Myanmar just over a year ago to encour­age lead­ers to con­tinue on their paths toward democ­racy and par­tic­i­pa­tion in the global com­mu­nity. The coun­try is still recov­er­ing from Cyclone Nargis, that took more than 130,000 lives in 2008. Today it remains one of the planet’s least devel­oped nations by many mea­sures. Yet, things are changing.

I arrived in Yangon in mid-November, and I was met at the air­port by Dr. Ai Thanda Kyaw, a Country Director for Winrock International who trav­eled with me my entire stay, and patiently trans­lated all of my inter­ac­tions with farm­ers and oth­ers. As the first vol­un­teer to work in Myanmar’s cof­fee sec­tor, I had been asked to pro­vide some train­ing on how cof­fee is farmed, processed, roasted, eval­u­ated, and mar­keted in more mature cof­fee ori­gins around the world, and to ulti­mately rec­om­mend how the entire sec­tor could be strength­ened to help the coun­try take advan­tage of this high-value agri­cul­tural prod­uct. In short, my role was to explore, to lis­ten, to train, and to make rec­om­men­da­tions for the future devel­op­ment of Myanmar’s cof­fee sector.

Before leav­ing Yangon, we met with USAID and with the 3,000-member Myanmar Fruit, Flower, and Vegetable Producer and Exporter Association (MFVP) that was a host orga­ni­za­tion for my trip. The MFVP sup­ports its mem­bers with a vari­ety of ser­vices includ­ing exportation.

Our first stop was the Shwe Pu Zun cof­fee estate in Yet Sauk, located in Shan State near the cen­ter of the coun­try. Shwe Pu Zun is a large ver­ti­cally inte­grated busi­ness that has 1,000 employ­ees who work on cof­fee farms in Yet Sauk and Pyin Oo Lwin, or at a 200-head dairy farm, a bak­ery oper­a­tion, a café and retail bak­ery, all in Yangon.

Shortly after our arrival, we met to dis­cuss our agenda over lunch, which like all meals dur­ing the two weeks, always included rice at the cen­ter of the plate, with a vari­ety of smaller dishes to sam­ple and mix with the rice. These dishes were pri­mar­ily veg­eta­bles, dark leafy greens, beans, baby bees, and deep-fried small fish, with many dishes hav­ing some “heat.” All meals were accom­pa­nied by a soup broth, green tea, and finally coffee.

Eighty per­cent of the farm’s 300 acres is planted in cati­mor, grow­ing organ­i­cally under a shade canopy of care­fully planted sil­ver oak, mango, rub­ber, and macadamia trees. The farm also has test plots of SL 34, #795, and yel­low caturra, and expects to have over 1,000 acres in cof­fee pro­duc­tion by 2018.

The Shwe Pu Zun farm in Yet Sauk (alti­tude: 3,000–3,300 ft.) is one of the best mod­els of sus­tain­abil­ity and diver­si­fi­ca­tion I have seen any­where in my cof­fee trav­els. The entire farm is pow­ered by its hydro-electric gen­er­a­tor, which also has an inge­nious sys­tem to pump water uphill to pro­vide drip irri­ga­tion for cof­fee, macadamia nut, and mango pro­duc­tion. It cap­tures and uses methane from a bio-digester; has its own large organic com­post facil­ity that uses rice husks, molasses, and other local ingre­di­ents to pro­duce a very clean “black gold;” it treats water from milling, and sun dries its cof­fee on screened beds that are neatly placed on the well-marked cement patio.

After I spent a full day train­ing the staff of Shwe Pu Zun, we drove over four hours to Ywar Ngan Township (alti­tude: 4,300–4,500 ft.) where we worked with 60 unor­ga­nized, small-scale farm­ers, some of whom had trav­eled over 20 miles to attend the train­ing and dis­cus­sion. Here, the cof­fee is shade grown organic cat­uai that is grad­u­ally replac­ing older vari­eties. The well-diversified farm­ers have no out­let for their cof­fee other than Chinese traders who offer one price, regard­less of qual­ity. This “take it or leave it” approach leaves farm­ers lit­tle or no incen­tive to improve qual­ity and no oppor­tu­nity to nego­ti­ate the price. During my time with the farm­ers, I encour­aged them to orga­nize them­selves so that they could nego­ti­ate together, enjoy economies of scale, share tech­ni­cal infor­ma­tion, and join the pro­posed Myanmar Coffee Farmers and Exporters Association.

Our final stop was the Shwe Pu Zun farm in Pyin Oo Lwin (alti­tude: 3,500–3,800 ft.), which was a near replica of the farm in Yet Sauk in terms of vari­eties, sus­tain­able farm prac­tices, and over­all excel­lent farm man­age­ment. Nearby, we vis­ited the impres­sive Coffee Research, Information, Extension & Training Centre in Pyin Oo Lwin that, with proper resources, could be the hub of cof­fee tech­ni­cal assis­tance in Myanmar.

Once I returned to Yangon I had meet­ings with the Managing Director of Shwe Pu Zun oper­a­tions, with USAID, with farm man­agers, and the lead­er­ship of the Myanmar Fruit, Flower, and Vegetable Producer and Exporter Association (MFVP). I shared my view that there are three crit­i­cal needs to be met to fur­ther develop the cof­fee sec­tor in Myanmar:

1) Organizational devel­op­ment at the com­mu­nity level (i.e., the devel­op­ment of small farmer asso­ci­a­tions or cooperatives)

2) Organizational devel­op­ment of the sec­tor at the national level (I pro­posed the estab­lish­ment of a Myanmar Coffee Farmers and Exporters Association – MCFEA)

3) Better resourced tech­ni­cal assis­tance and farm exten­sion services.

When I pre­sented the con­cept, the Myanmar Coffee Farmers and Exporters Association each endorsed this con­cept. Better yet, the MFVP said that they would wel­come and pro­vide it with needed incu­ba­tor space and guidance.

Much like Myanmar, the cof­fee sec­tor needs sup­port as it opens up. Being out of global cir­cu­la­tion for decades has its draw­backs; how­ever, it also presents sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­ni­ties, per­haps the largest being to learn from oth­ers’ mis­takes. The work I started needs follow-up, and Winrock International is com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing its sup­port of Myanmar’s cof­fee sec­tor by pro­vid­ing addi­tional vol­un­teers to cre­ate a thriv­ing industry.

I believe that the “secret” of Myanmar’s spe­cialty cof­fee will soon emerge, first per­haps as a bou­tique offer­ing, and before long as a more main­stream cof­fee ori­gin. The poten­tial for a con­sis­tent sup­ply of high qual­ity, sus­tain­ably pro­duced cof­fee from Myanmar will be real­ized; it is just a mat­ter of time. Best of all, it is grown by some of the kind­est, most gen­tle peo­ple anywhere.

Rick Peyser is Director of Social Advocacy and Supply Chain Community Outreach for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters where he has worked for over 24 years. He is a past President of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the world’s largest cof­fee trade asso­ci­a­tion, and served six years on the Board of Directors of the Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) which sets the stan­dards for Fair Trade that ben­e­fit over 1,500,000 small-scale farm­ers around the world. Currently Rick serves on the Coffee Kids Board of Directors, the Food For Farmers Board of Directors, and the Board of Directors of Fundacion Ixil which is work­ing to improve the qual­ity of life in Ixil cof­fee com­mu­ni­ties in El Quiche, Guatemala.

Enhancing Food Security for Coffee Producers

Categories: 2013, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Project Description
25 mil­lion peo­ple depend on cof­fee cul­ti­va­tion for their liveli­hoods around the world. The nature of cof­fee pro­duc­tion, how­ever, often con­sists of a once a year har­vest for which farm­ers are paid for their labor, leav­ing many strug­gling to make ends meet for sev­eral months out of the year.  In too many cases, fam­i­lies do not have enough to eat and chil­dren go to bed hun­gry. These are known as “the thin months.”

At Mercy Corps, we are work­ing closely with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. and other part­ners to fight sea­sonal hunger and poverty in the cof­fee­lands. Like all Mercy Corps pro­grams, our projects are community-led and market-driven, rec­og­niz­ing the unique con­texts of each com­mu­nity we work in.

The causes of food inse­cu­rity and poverty among cof­fee farm­ers around the world are as diverse as the beans they grow. A com­mu­nity of farm­ers in Indonesia might need mater­nal and child health sup­port, while a Nicaraguan cof­fee pro­duc­ing fam­ily may need tech­ni­cal advice to increase pro­duc­tion or help diver­sify crops.

In Colombia, our Land and Opportunity in Tolima (LOT) pro­gram is help­ing 1,300 cof­fee pro­duc­ing fam­i­lies secure land own­er­ship as well as pro­mot­ing sus­tain­able use of resources through train­ing in land man­age­ment, farm­ing, and fam­ily gar­dens. Land own­er­ship means that famers can access the finan­cial ser­vices they need to invest in their land, lead­ing to increased pro­duc­tion, qual­ity, and income.

In Indonesia, our Community Health and Investment for Livelihoods Initiative (CHILI) is pro­vid­ing finan­cial lit­er­acy train­ing, pro­mot­ing sav­ing habits, and access­ing credit to 3,000 farm­ers. Farmers now have the resources they need to cre­ate and fol­low a bud­get and access credit for pur­chas­ing inputs like seeds and equip­ment. This helps farm­ers to help them­selves out of poverty. The mater­nal and child health com­po­nent of this pro­gram has estab­lished mother sup­port groups where moth­ers meet to share and learn from one another, with a spe­cific focus on pro­mot­ing breastfeeding.

We are work­ing in Guatemala with USAID and other part­ners to pro­vide train­ing ses­sions for farm­ers based around top­ics like the safe han­dling of pes­ti­cides and water and soil con­ser­va­tion. The Innovative Market Alliance for Rural Entrepreneurs (IMARE) project is help­ing rural farm­ers gain the skills to access larger com­mer­cial mar­kets for their pro­duce. In the first three years of the IMARE pro­gram, farm­ers increased their net earn­ings by 59 per­cent and boosted their sales to for­mal mar­kets by $1.2 million.

Mercy Corps is also part­ner­ing with the Coffeelands Food Security Coalition, which is com­posed of six cof­fee com­pa­nies includ­ing: Counter Culture, Farmer Brothers, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc., S&D Coffee, Starbucks, and Sustainable Harvest; along with the Specialty Coffee Association of America— com­mit­ted to address­ing sea­sonal hunger and poverty in the cof­fee­lands. We have teamed up with the Coalition and Association Aldea Global Jinotega on our Empowering Food Secure Communities pro­gram in Nicaragua. We are work­ing with 900 peo­ple to improve farm­ing and busi­ness tech­niques, develop diver­si­fied sources of income by encour­ag­ing the cul­ti­va­tion of home gar­dens and diver­si­fied crop pro­duc­tion, and engag­ing local gov­ern­ments in pro­vid­ing assis­tance to vul­ner­a­ble families.

Photo: Ken deLasky for Mercy Corps Two girls involved in the Inclusive Market Alliance for Rural Entrepreneurs (IMARE) project  around Coban, Guatemala.

Photo: Ken deLasky for Mercy Corps
Two girls involved in the Inclusive Market Alliance for Rural Entrepreneurs (IMARE) project
around Coban, Guatemala.

Who Benefits from this project?
At Mercy Corps, we work in the tough­est places around the world to turn crises into oppor­tu­nity. The ben­e­fi­cia­ries from our food secu­rity projects are often the most vul­ner­a­ble coffee-producing fam­i­lies suf­fer­ing from food inse­cu­rity. In the areas that we work in Colombia, for exam­ple, over half of the pop­u­la­tion lives in poverty while food inse­cu­rity affects 70 per­cent of the rural pop­u­la­tion. Our pro­grams tar­get his­tor­i­cally mar­gin­al­ized groups, includ­ing the land­less, women, and young peo­ple. Food inse­cu­rity affects men, women, girls, and boys dif­fer­ently. We seek to under­stand the con­nec­tions between gen­der, poverty, and hunger; and we work to ensure that pro­gram design and imple­men­ta­tion are gen­der sensitive.

Here is the story of one woman we work with in Indonesia, in her own words:
“I was in my sec­ond preg­nancy, and every month I was checked by the mid­wife in my vil­lage. She invited me to join the Mother Support Group held in my vil­lage. I joined the group when my preg­nancy was six months along and I was happy to get more infor­ma­tion about exclu­sive breast­feed­ing and the health ben­e­fits. My first baby wasn’t exclu­sively breast­fed (only breast­fed for three months) and my baby was often ill and I didn’t know why. I have applied all the infor­ma­tion I gained in the group and my hus­band also sup­ports my deci­sion to pro­vide exclu­sive breast­feed­ing to my sec­ond baby. I encour­age other moth­ers to do the same and to get involved. The group also teaches other health related topics.”

How Can I Help?
Mercy Corps relies on the sup­port of indi­vid­u­als, foun­da­tions, and cor­po­ra­tions to make our work in the cof­fee­lands pos­si­ble. Visit www.mercycorps.org/ways-to-help to learn more about how you can help. To learn more about the Coffeelands Food Security Coalition, visit www.mercycorps.org/tags/coffeelands

Contact Name:     Britt Rosenberg
Website:     www.mercycorps.org
Location:     Portland/Oregon/USA
Email Address:     brosenberg@mercycorps.org
Phone Number:     503.896.5863

The Café Femenino Foundation Story

Categories: 2013, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

3_13 10-AThe Café Femenino Foundation was first con­ceived in 2004 through the inspi­ra­tion of a group of women in Peru who decided to change their sit­u­a­tion in life and cre­ate their own orga­ni­za­tion and their own cof­fee prod­uct.  Women in most cof­fee com­mu­ni­ties through­out the world have no rights, they are une­d­u­cated, they are poor, and live in iso­lated rural com­mu­ni­ties.  Without rights, liv­ing in poverty and iso­la­tion, women are often abused, and they have no voice in their fam­ily.  So the Café Femenino Foundation was cre­ated to ben­e­fit women and their fam­i­lies in cof­fee com­mu­ni­ties around the world.

The foun­da­tion was licensed by the IRS as a 501©(3) in December 2004.  A week later, the tsunami hit in Sumatra, so the first thing the foun­da­tion did was work to raise funds to help the vic­tims in the rural cof­fee com­mu­ni­ties in Aceh, Sumatra.  Funds went directly to cof­fee coop­er­a­tives that used the funds to pur­chase water, rice, and funeral cloths for those who lost their lives.  Since that time, the foun­da­tion has funded grants in Kenya, Rwanda, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, and Haiti.  The foun­da­tion works to raise funds to be able to fund grants that are received directly from cof­fee orga­ni­za­tions in all these coun­tries.  The door is open to hear the needs of these impov­er­ished small pro­duc­ers.  The requests are as var­ied as the coun­tries they live in.  Over the years, the foun­da­tion has funded grants for health train­ing pro­grams, san­i­ta­tion, can­cer screen­ings, schools, libraries, water projects, school books, food secu­rity that involves, ani­mal breed­ing pro­grams, quinoa pro­duc­tion, com­mu­nity gar­dens, and can­ning.  The foun­da­tion has funded income diver­si­fi­ca­tion such as weav­ing, embroi­dery, roast­ing and sell­ing their own cof­fee, micro-lending pro­grams, candy pro­duc­tion, and fruit tree pro­duc­tion.  The Café Femenino Foundation lis­tens to the needs of these small pro­duc­ers and is open to fund­ing all types of aid projects.  The funds are gen­er­ally over­seen by the cof­fee orga­ni­za­tions them­selves or by local NGO’s.  Construction projects such as schools or irri­ga­tion projects are done by the pro­duc­ers and the com­mu­ni­ties them­selves keep­ing project cost to a min­i­mum and allow­ing the foun­da­tion to accom­plish a great deal with the small­est cost possible.

The Café Femenino Foundation is an all-volunteer orga­ni­za­tion.  Funds come from dona­tions and fundrais­ing by com­pa­nies and indi­vid­u­als work­ing within the cof­fee indus­try.  Other orga­ni­za­tions such as churches and Soroptimists have also been donors to the foun­da­tion.  Coffee Fest, which puts on sev­eral regional trade shows each year, gra­ciously donates show floor space in every show to enable the foun­da­tion hold a Bid for Hope Silent Auction to help raise funds.  All items in this auc­tion are donated by the com­pa­nies that are exhibitors at each of the show.  This year, for the first time, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) is also donat­ing show floor space to hold the “Call to Auction” silent auc­tion to help sup­port the Café Femenino Foundation.  All vol­un­teers in the foun­da­tion even pay their own way to each of the trade shows.  So the only money that the foun­da­tion spends is for mar­ket­ing, allow­ing the foun­da­tion to be able to donate most of the funds to fund the many grant requests that come into the foun­da­tion every year.

The reward for all the work that the foun­da­tion does every year to help these poverty stricken com­mu­ni­ties comes directly from these com­mu­ni­ties when we can see a home that now has clean run­ning water or a child that now can speak because he had cleft pal­let surgery through the rela­tion­ship the foun­da­tion main­tains with the Faces Foundation, located in Portland, Oregon.  We have seen the level of poverty improve, and we’ve seen cul­tural changes where women are now being respected because the woman now is able to gen­er­ate her own income.  Girls go to school where once they did not.  A com­mu­nity where all chil­dren failed school because of a lack of any resources or books now has its own library and a trained librar­ian is there to help the chil­dren learn.  So many won­der­ful things are hap­pen­ing in so many coun­tries due to the work of the Café Femenino Foundation.  But there are still so many fam­i­lies around the world that need help; there is still so much work to do.  We hope the cof­fee indus­try will con­tinue to help and sup­port the work of the Café Femenino Foundation.

Juana, Cesar, and Hope

Categories: 2012, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

PrintI first met Juana and Cesar at their home in El Coyolar, Nicaragua in 2008. I was trav­el­ing with Santiago Dolmus, Director of Social Programs for CECOCAFEN, a large Fair Trade coöper­a­tive based in Matagalpa. We planned to spend the day vis­it­ing co-op mem­bers who were par­tic­i­pat­ing in the food secu­rity project GMCR was spon­sor­ing. After an hour we turned off the heav­ily pot-holed road, and started the climb to El Coyolar on a “bricked” road that even­tu­ally turned to dirt. After another 30 min­utes we came to the end of the road where our Toyota pick-up stopped in front of a small home, con­structed of rough lum­ber and a metal roof, with a cement floor.

As we were intro­duced, I learned that Cesar had lost his left arm in the war fight­ing the Contras. Both Juana and Cesar were in their early 40’s, and were happy to give me a tour of their 3 hectare farm. We passed about 1 ½ hectares of cof­fee, sparsely shaded by a hand­ful of tall native trees and a few banana trees.  Much of their cof­fee was strug­gling in the sun, and needed more shade. Other parts of their par­cel were long over­due for some prun­ing. Other than cof­fee and bananas, there were just a few fruit trees visible.

Like so many fam­i­lies in the region, Juana and Cesar expe­ri­enced 3 to 4 months of extreme scarcity of food every year. With Santiago and CECOCAFEN’s tech­ni­cal team, they had devel­oped a plan to improve their cof­fee par­cel, to devote part of their land to pro­duc­ing food prod­ucts for their own con­sump­tion, and to sell in the local mar­kets. While the plans sounded promis­ing, to me the great­est rea­son for hope was Juana’s “can do” approach. On this first visit, I could not tell if her atti­tude was real, or whether she was sim­ply try­ing to impress me.

A year later, in 2009 I returned to El Coyolar and vis­ited Juana and Cesar. Things were start­ing to change on their farm. They had devel­oped a cof­fee nurs­ery to ren­o­vate their par­cel, and had planted malanga (a root crop) and a vari­ety of fruit trees that they proudly showed me as we again toured their farm.

12_12 2-BIn September of 2010, with the help of Santiago, we returned, to pro­duce the film “After the Harvest.” Santiago had asked Juana and Cesar if they would be will­ing to be in the film. Fortunately they were. After film­ing, we toured the farm. The fruit trees that were planted the year before were now tow­er­ing over the cof­fee and were pro­duc­ing their first yield. Juana had started mak­ing mar­malades from the fruit to sell at the local mar­ket as another source of income. Even their cof­fee looked health­ier and more pro­duc­tive. Before leav­ing, Cesar gave me a gift – a home­made Sandinista flag that had been nailed to the out­side of their home.

In August of this year, I returned to Nicaragua to con­duct “Most Significant Change” inter­views. While CECOCAFEN had pro­vided good quan­ti­ta­tive infor­ma­tion about the project in their reports (i.e. how many fam­i­lies ben­e­fited from the project, how many train­ing ses­sions had been held, etc.), this infor­ma­tion largely reported on activ­i­ties, not the impact these activ­i­ties were hav­ing in the house­hold. Michael Sheridan, from Catholic Relief Services (CRS), shared the “Most Significant Change” tech­nique with me a cou­ple of years ago, that is designed to elicit responses through inter­views with project par­tic­i­pants relat­ing to the project’s impact. Now we had the chance to give this a try.

12_12 2-CIn Aguas Amarillas, a small com­mu­nity nes­tled in the moun­tains not far from Tuma la Dalia, Nicaragua, I inter­viewed Cresencio Pao, a cof­fee farmer, and asked him, “What has been the most sig­nif­i­cant change in your family’s diet since this project began 4 years ago?” Cresencio told me, “The win­dow of 3–4 months of food scarcity has been closed. My fam­ily now has more than enough to eat all year long. This has had an impact beyond my family’s home. It has affected our local coöper­a­tive. People now believe that pos­i­tive change is pos­si­ble. And it has gone beyond the co-op and has brought the entire com­mu­nity an air of hope that just didn’t exist a few years ago.”

Later that day, we drove to visit Juana and Cesar. They both appeared to be doing well. Remembering the flag, I brought them a glass flask of Vermont maple syrup. What a dif­fer­ence two years can make!  As we walked around their farm, the fruit trees that we filmed in 2010 had grown sig­nif­i­cantly in the trop­i­cal cli­mate. The young cof­fee plants had also grown, matured, and now appeared to be healthy and very pro­duc­tive. Juana told me that she was still sell­ing mar­malades in the local mar­ket, and then she said, “Come with me. I want to show you something.”

We fol­lowed a path through the cof­fee par­cel and through a heav­ily forested area where we came out to an open field of approx­i­mately 1 ½ hectares. I was stunned. This field that had been fal­low for years was now planted in pas­sion fruit. Large 6 ½ ft. tall, 6” x 6” wooden stakes had been dri­ven into the ground in nice even rows, sep­a­rated by about 10 ft. Overhead, heavy gauge wire had been run between the stakes and con­nect­ing sup­ports. The pas­sion fruit vines had been trained on the wire and were now pro­duc­ing fruit that was ripen­ing in the sun, hang­ing from the wire, and wait­ing to be har­vested, packed, and shipped.

Juana and Cesar had been earn­ing approx­i­mately $4,000 from their cof­fee. Now, accord­ing to Juana, even with the “low” mar­ket price for pas­sion fruit, they will hire a few peo­ple to help run and man­age this project. Yet even at cur­rent mar­ket prices Juana told me she expects that she and Cesar will earn over $700 per month (at least $8,400 per year) from pas­sion fruit after expenses. This, com­bined with improved earn­ings from their cof­fee, and their own food pro­duc­tion, will “put food scarcity behind us for­ever,” accord­ing to Juana. In addi­tion, this new enter­prise will start to pro­vide new employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties in this iso­lated rural hamlet.

When I first learned of “los meses fla­cos” (the thin months) of extreme food scarcity five years ago, I was stunned and felt pow­er­less given the scope of this chal­lenge. I won­dered if change would be pos­si­ble for fam­i­lies like Cesar and Juana. They, and many other fam­i­lies, are demon­strat­ing that given the will, the nec­es­sary resources, and the tech­ni­cal sup­port, hunger can be a thing of the past. It all starts with hope and a lit­tle of Juana’s “can-do” optimism.

12_12 2-ARick Peyser is Director of Social Advocacy and Supply Chain Community Outreach for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters where he has worked for over 24 years. He is a past President of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the world’s largest cof­fee trade asso­ci­a­tion, and served six years on the Board of Directors of the Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) which sets the stan­dards for Fair Trade that ben­e­fit over 1,500,000 small-scale farm­ers around the world. Currently Rick serves on the Coffee Kids Board of Directors, the Food For Farmers Board of Directors, and the Board of Directors of Fundacion Ixil which is work­ing to improve the qual­ity of life in Ixil cof­fee com­mu­ni­ties in El Quiche, Guatemala.

Quality and Supply Driven Markets — The Future of Washed Arabica Coffee

Categories: 2012, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

12_12 6-BCoffee in gen­eral and spe­cialty cof­fee in par­tic­u­lar, is a cycli­cal busi­ness. From the nat­ural rhythms of plant­ing, prun­ing and har­vest­ing to the start up, growth and con­sol­i­da­tion of roast­ers and retail­ers, this cycli­cal nature plays out over and over again, and those of us get­ting longer in the tooth rec­og­nize and accept these cycles as a part of the business.

The year we saw what would appear to be some reaf­fir­ma­tions of this cycli­cal nature of the cof­fee busi­ness. In par­tic­u­lar, after two years of tight sup­ply and ele­vated prices, we saw cof­fee stocks increase and prices begin to sub­side. This is typ­i­cal of cof­fees his­tory, with high prices dri­ven by tight sup­ply spurring more inten­sive hus­bandry, new plant­i­ngs and ren­o­va­tion of exist­ing farms. The result­ing increase in sup­ply dri­ves price down, and if the cycle con­tin­ues over time the mar­ket pushes to new bot­toms before the cycle con­tin­ues and hus­bandry declines, new plant­i­ngs cease, and the sup­ply and demand equa­tion slowly turns push­ing prices higher again. There is noth­ing new under the sun here, and it is very tempt­ing to accept this as the nature of the business.

On closer inspec­tion, there is some­thing fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent in the cur­rent cycle. This time, while over­all sup­ply of cof­fee has increased some­what, the real story is not the down­ward price pres­sure of increased sup­ply of cof­fee to the mar­ket. The story of real inter­est is tied up in the kinds of cof­fees being pro­duced, exported and roasted in the marketplace.

Total pro­duc­tion of cof­fee in the 2011/12 crop year was nearly 135 mil­lion bags of cof­fee to sat­isfy a demand of roughly 140 mil­lion bags world­wide. Closer exam­i­na­tion reveals two down­ward dri­vers on price. First, is a 2012/13 crop pre­dic­tion for upwards of 146 mil­lion bags, pro­duc­ing the first sub­stan­tial sur­plus in sup­ply since 2006. The sec­ond is the change in the mix of both sup­ply and demand by cof­fee type. In the 2011/12 crop year robusta pro­duc­tion accounted for over 53 mil­lion bags, or 40% of the world total. Brazil and other nat­ural ara­bi­cas accounted for another 41 mil­lion bags Colombian and other milds just 40 mil­lion bags. The result­ing mix on the world mar­ket is less than 30% washed Arabica and over 70% nat­u­rals and robus­tas. The over­all result was sig­nif­i­cant down­turn in both the ICO indi­ca­tor price and the bench­mark New York ‘C’ price. In spite of a dimin­ished pro­duc­tion of the under­ly­ing prod­uct, washed Arabica cof­fee, fore­cast for the com­ing crop year, prices remain low as roast­ers turned to ever increas­ing com­mit­ments to cof­fees other than washed Arabica.

Much of this change in the mix can be ascribed to increas­ing con­sump­tion in tra­di­tional pro­duc­ing coun­tries, where price sen­si­tiv­ity and entry level con­sump­tion pat­terns push greater con­sump­tion of lower priced and/or qual­i­ties. Some small mea­sure is also attrib­ut­able to mature mar­kets, par­tic­u­larly in Europe, demon­strat­ing a will­ing­ness to sac­ri­fice qual­ity for price and push­ing con­sumer expec­ta­tions down­wards. This is another cycle in itself, where decreas­ing qual­ity drags down con­sump­tion, a sce­nario played out in the US in the not dis­tant past. This con­flu­ence of decreas­ing prices, changes in pro­duc­tion mix and increas­ing aggre­gate sup­ply cre­ate an unusual, decid­edly non-cyclical sce­nario in which qual­ity is hard to find and pro­duc­ers strug­gle to find a bal­ance between the costs of qual­ity and dis­ap­pear­ing price incentives.

The cycli­cal nature of growth and con­sol­i­da­tion in the retail mar­kets also had some inter­est­ing man­i­fes­ta­tions this year, most notably the acqui­si­tions of Peet’s Coffee and Tea and Caribou Coffee by the Joh. A. Benckiser Group. In the inde­pen­dent spe­cialty world smaller com­pa­nies con­tin­ued to grow, with new cap­i­tal infu­sions, per­haps most notably Blue Bottle Coffee, dri­ving expan­sion in a vari­ety of markets.

The SCAA con­tinue to work to sup­port and inform the spe­cialty cof­fee com­mu­nity, and we will be adding more insights into the sup­ply and demand sce­nario and its impli­ca­tions for spe­cialty cof­fee as the new year begins. We will also be con­tin­u­ing our work from last year in under­stand­ing the consumer’s rela­tion­ship to spe­cialty cof­fee and will have new infor­ma­tion to share on that topic.

12_12 6-ARic Rhinehart is cur­rently serv­ing as the Executive Director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Prior to tak­ing on this posi­tion he was the President of a Los Angeles, California based roaster and retailer. Mr. Rhinehart has over the past twenty years held exec­u­tive posi­tions in sev­eral cof­fee & tea firms.

For 2013, Quality is still the Key

Categories: 2012, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

12_12 15-A At the Coffee Quality Institute, we have expressed since 1996 that the best sus­tain­abil­ity project is one that improves and rewards qual­ity. It is just as true today as it was then. CQI con­tin­ues to build on over a decade of suc­cess in the pro­mo­tion and edu­ca­tion about qual­ity cof­fee. 2013 will be a record year for lives helped through our efforts.

Improving Quality Improves Lives!
When founded, CQI had a strong focus on the sci­ence of taste for­ma­tion and eval­u­a­tion of cof­fee. It was deter­mined that this sci­ence could be the most use­ful if the entire sup­ply chain spoke the same lan­guage and were cal­i­brated on fla­vor attrib­utes. From this, the Q-Grader Certification was born. Since then, the world has been pop­u­lated with over 2,100 Q-Graders in 59 Countries. The edu­ca­tion com­po­nent con­tin­ues to improve and the value to the stu­dent grows each year. The release of the lat­est ver­sion of the Q-Grader course mate­r­ial in early 2013 will be one of our first great achieve­ments for the year.

12_12 15-DWhat may not be so well known about CQI are the many other areas where we serve the cof­fee sup­ply chain. Technical assis­tance has been given in the areas of pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing, qual­ity improve­ment and increased inter­nal con­sump­tion. Many pro­duc­ers are unaware of mar­ket­ing tools, geo­graph­i­cal iden­tity of pro­duc­tion zones and use of cup pro­files. We find that pro­duc­ers are eager to learn about qual­ity improve­ments and mar­ket­ing of spe­cialty cof­fees. CQI has an inti­mate under­stand­ing of cof­fee indus­try needs and has years of expe­ri­ence in the devel­op­ment of effi­cient cof­fee mar­ket link­ages, tech­ni­cal assis­tance, mar­ket devel­op­ment, and capac­ity build­ing in devel­op­ing countries.

A great exam­ple of help­ing to cre­ate a mar­ket for spe­cialty cof­fee was our efforts to help the Specialty Coffee Association of Indonesia bring some of their best cof­fees directly to the spe­cialty roaster with a cof­fee auc­tion. CQI was able to lend exper­tise in grad­ing, select­ing and prepar­ing for the auc­tion as well as pro­vided an auc­tion­eer to help boost the prices. All cof­fees received higher than mar­ket prices by being in the auc­tion! Over seven times mar­ket in some cases!

12_12 15-CCQI’s Coffee Corps™ vol­un­teer pro­gram matches coffee-industry experts with farm­ers and asso­ci­a­tions at ori­gin. The Coffee Corps is a group of vol­un­teers pas­sion­ate about cof­fee and will­ing to share their time and tal­ents with cof­fee farm­ers and cof­fee com­mu­ni­ties. These vol­un­teers help grow­ers improve their pro­duc­tion meth­ods and pro­cess­ing, and train labs, roast­ers, pack­agers, exporters, baris­tas and café own­ers about qual­ity con­trol processes and marketing.

A well-received class in 2012 was the ‘Honey and Naturals Processing Class’ in Ethiopia run by CoffeeCorps Volunteers.

The lat­est new pro­gram for CQI is the R-Grader pro­gram. This is sim­i­lar to the Q-Grader pro­gram but focuses on Robusta cof­fee and the farm­ers that pro­duce this mis­un­der­stood crop. It is entirely pos­si­ble that a whole new com­mu­nity will be able to ben­e­fit from the increased edu­ca­tion and qual­ity pro­grams ini­ti­ated by CQI. When you think about it: Quality Improvement is Quality Improvement, and Lives are Lives; there­fore, regard­less of plant species Improved Quality = Improved Lives.

As we look ahead to 2013 we see more con­tracts in place to do good work and pur­sue new research. We see pro­grams grow­ing on their own so we can focus on oth­ers that need more atten­tion. We pre­dict that there will be more lives helped by CQI than any other year in our his­tory! Bring on 2013!

12_12 15-BCoffee Corps Volunteer Coördinator, Coffee Quality Institute

Joan is orig­i­nally from Wyoming, grow­ing up in Cheyenne and grad­u­at­ing from the University of Wyoming in Laramie in 1976.  She grew up in the travel agency busi­ness that her dad started in 1949, learn­ing from him after school and dur­ing sum­mer breaks. She spent sev­eral years in the hos­pi­tal­ity indus­try as a sales man­ager for a resort hotel in Hood River fol­lowed by five years as Administrative Assistant at a small hos­pi­tal in the area.

Joan has trav­eled exten­sively and brings a good deal of expe­ri­ence to man­ag­ing logis­tics for the Coffee Corps Volunteers and Consultants.  She also assists with pro­posal devel­op­ment, report gen­er­a­tion and train­ing activities.