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by Donald N. Schoenholt
Gillies Coffee Co.

The Borer And The Never Boring: The 2013 Coffee Review

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

The Great Durante was fond of say­ing, “Everybody wants ta get inta the act!,” The act is K-cups®, and it was the dom­i­nant fea­ture of the US indus­try in 2013. There remains a mad scram­ble to get into the sin­gle serve busi­ness, with just about every roaster aspir­ing to pro­duce them, and most inde­pen­dent multi-store oper­a­tors eager to have their own pri­vate label Keurig® com­pat­i­ble line of cof­fee. Every hot served liq­uid food, from apple cider to soup, is now being brewed in a Keurig®. If the tech­nol­ogy con­tin­ues to extend its plat­form in American kitchens and work­sta­tions, foods pre­pared from por­tion con­trol cups of dry ingre­di­ents, may brew long term change in American food prepa­ra­tion habits in the home and workplace.

At ori­gin, there are gen­eral con­cerns about cli­mate change, and spe­cific ones that are con­sid­ered, in part, the result of cli­mate change as cof­fee rust in Central America (attrib­uted to lower rain­fall), where “roya” may, accord­ing to the ICO (as reported by Reuters in March) reduce cof­fee out­put in affected areas by 20 per­cent. But, losses will not be even, and some coun­tries such as El Salvador are expect­ing to be hurt dis­pro­por­tion­ately (35 per­cent), while oth­ers as Costa Rica may only suf­fer a “man­age­able” loss (13 percen). Hypothenemus ham­pei, the cof­fee borer, is also a seri­ous con­cern. It is being fought, with vary­ing degrees of suc­cess this year, in Brazil and Hawaii.

The Arabica mar­ket con­tin­ued to drift down­ward dur­ing 2013, with only the very best grades hold­ing a value of 50 per­cent or bet­ter above the New York “C”. The bet­ter Robusta grades, on the other hand, held value against the Arabicas, such that by year end grades, as Vietnam GR1, SC16, Wet Polished, were being offered in New York at prices com­pa­ra­ble to “C” grade Arabica beans. These Robusta cof­fees from Vietnam, and other ori­gins offer­ing neu­tral cup and bold bean style, have found favor in recent years in the espresso brands of American roast­ers, some of whom would not have con­sid­ered the ingre­di­ent only a few years ago. Uganda, the 4th largest Robusta cof­fee pro­ducer, is plant­ing 300 mil­lion addi­tional Robusta cof­fee trees in a large eco­nomic wager, that in the West, the espresso mar­ket will con­tinue to bal­loon, and that in the East and in the Southern hemi­sphere, a grow­ing world mid­dle class will choose to be cof­fee drinkers.

To the grat­i­fi­ca­tion and relief of small inde­pen­dent roast­ers, and prob­a­bly the big roast­ers too, the stran­gling effects of the his­tor­i­cally high cof­fee mar­kets of recent years, fade into mem­ory as money flows back into their pock­ets and out of their inven­tory val­ues. In June, Starbucks raised prices into the teeth of con­sumer aware­ness of a falling mar­ket. They’ve got grit.

Usually, we would expect that reduced exports from Central American, and pos­si­bly some Brazilian regions, would echo through the mar­ket putting upward pres­sure on cof­fee prices; with increased rev­enues per pound help­ing to defray a por­tion of the loss to blights and bugs. That may not be the case this year as there may be an abun­dance in Arabica cof­fee sup­plies, as the ICO expects sup­ply to out­strip demand by 4-million bags, or roughly equal to the cof­fee crop of Mexico. If this comes to pass, there will be added eco­nomic pres­sure on sub­sis­tence coffee-farm fam­i­lies brought about by the double-whammy of hav­ing less cof­fee to sell, while receiv­ing a lower price per pound for that which remains. The answer, of course, is to pro­duce cof­fee at such a high level of excel­lence that its value breaks free of the “C” con­tract. Sadly, becom­ing as La Esmiralda, Clifton Mount Estate, or La Minita is not an attain­able goal, but only an aspi­ra­tion for most farmers.

Espresso has changed cof­fee in America. Espresso machines are found in every man­ner of food ser­vice oper­a­tion today, and Nespresso® and Keurig® are work­ing hard to bring easy-access espresso bev­er­ages into upper-middle class homes and apart­ments. Simultaneously, Italian cof­fee brands as Illy, Lavazza®, Danesi®, and Segafredo® con­tinue to pour into the American cup sat­is­fy­ing the insa­tiable American taste for the exotic, and seem­ingly upscale taste for that which is European.

It has been a long time since Lauren Bacall pitched Instant Maxwell House cof­fee, and once again celebri­ties are being iden­ti­fied with cof­fee. In Australia, Al Puccino hawks Vittoria Coffee. Hugh Jackman and Leonardo DiCaprio sup­port Laughing Man brand, and David Hasselhoff pushed Farmhouse Blend Iced Coffee. Rarely does a celebrity enter the indus­try as a strictly busi­ness ven­ture, but that’s what Patrick Dempsey appeared to do this past year, tak­ing an own­er­ship stake in the Tully’s® chain of 48 retail out­lets dur­ing bank­ruptcy pro­ceed­ings in January. Mr. Dempsey was evi­dently burned by the expe­ri­ence, though accord­ing to the Associated Press, he never invested money in the chain, as by August, Dempsey had divested him­self of his hold­ings in the cof­fee retailer. In other celebrity cof­fee news, Marley’s Coffee, who went pub­lic in 2011, (JAMN) is still los­ing money, though sales are gyrat­ing. 12 OZ Marley’s® cof­fee was spot­ted not long ago at a Long Island T.J. Maxx out­let for $4.99.

The year saw the re-launch of a grand old name in the trade, Martinson®. A top brand in New York in the first half of the last cen­tury, it had been brought low (to the price/value level) by a suc­ces­sion of own­ers who did not appre­ci­ate what they had. Joe Martinson’s brand is now owned by Mother Parker®, and the re-positioning in the mar­ket includes sin­gle serve, soft bags, and fiber cans. The blend selec­tion is mid-line with names such as Joe’s Light Latin, Joe’s Donut Shop, and Joe’s Rich African Brew. It’s nice to see Mr. Martinson’s brand out there again.

Another old New York brand, an A&P orig­i­nal, 8’Oclock® cof­fee, now a Tata com­pany, rebranded itself in 2013 with strik­ing new red 11 OZ pack­ag­ing fea­tur­ing infor­ma­tional strips on the right shoulder…and of course, a sin­gle serve line.

No one with access to iTunes needs to go through the day with­out a decent cuppa. The Find Me Coffee app can find you a cof­fee shop around the cor­ner or around the globe, give you direc­tions to get there, and can even place an order. The iPhone’s cof­fee­hunter app has a col­lec­tion of 7,000 inde­pen­dent cof­fee places.

In the age before mechan­i­cally bot­tled beer, the bev­er­age was car­ried in tin pails. They were known as Growlers, which may be related to the sound made by the slosh­ing of beer, and the release of car­bon diox­ide caused by that action in the pails as they were car­ried. Later, the pails were replaced with bot­tles, but the name stuck. The Growler was returned to the tav­ern as desired, where it would be refilled with fresh beer at mod­est cost. Today, a Growler is a refill­able con­tainer (usu­ally 64oz) and an affec­ta­tion used by Cold Brew Coffee entre­pre­neurs as a descrip­tion of the pack­age in which they mar­ket their wares.

Cold Brew Iced Coffee began to take hold in the sum­mer of 2013, with amber glass bot­tles of iced brew found in trendy cof­fee bars and upscale mar­kets, where local iced brew­ers are located. Among Brooklyn, New York’s entries is Grady’s New Orleans-Style. Others around the coun­try, include Slingshot 16oz read to drink Iced Coffee, Raleigh, NC, Installation Coffee Co’ Cold Brew, Los Angeles, CA, Jittery John’s Cold Brew, San Francisco, CA, and Chameleon Cold Brew, Austin, TX. Gorilla Coffee, Brooklyn, NY renowned for their prod­uct mar­ket­ing graph­ics has, per­haps, the most strik­ing pack­age for their Cold Brew cof­fee. You can see it here.

gorillacoffee.com/collections/cold-brew

Some cafés have declared war on WiFi squat­ters this year, and oth­ers con­tinue to make a point of adver­tis­ing free WiFi. The tug of war between pro­vid­ing added value to your cup, ver­sus the loss of seat­ing when some patrons take unfair advan­tage of the ser­vice by sit­ting for hours over a sin­gle cup of cof­fee depriv­ing the shop of open seat­ing for newly enter­ing cus­tomers, is becom­ing some­thing that is heard more fre­quently in con­ver­sa­tion between oper­a­tors. Along with the belief that WiFi squat­ters cre­ate a squalid atmos­phere that chases away a bet­ter qual­ity clientele.

Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain, Reiney’s Soda Fountain in Denison, Iowa, and Vincent’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain, John’s Island South Carolina aside, the old fash­ioned soda foun­tain, a fix­ture on Main Street in the first half of the last cen­tury, that as an indus­try, did not sur­vive the post WWII era, may be about to make a come­back with Starbucks in the van­guard. Stephan Wermuth reported in a Reuter’s piece that Starbucks, using Soda stream-like car­bon­a­tion machines is mak­ing old-fashioned soda foun­tain style sodas, by adding car­bon­a­tion to its juice, tea, and cof­fee bev­er­ages in an exper­i­ment in selected stores in Atlanta, GA, Austin, TX, and Asia.

During the Summer, while we were all drink­ing from Growlers and dream­ing of soda foun­tains of yore, SCAA Lifetime Achievement Laureate, Dan Cox, was spilling the beans on cof­fee spills with the pub­li­ca­tion of Handling Hot Coffee: Preventing spills, Burns, and Lawsuits. It is filled and over­flow­ing with help­ful infor­ma­tion on keep­ing hot cof­fee bev­er­age safe for the oper­a­tor, wait staff, and consumer.

The need for this thin vol­ume (98 Pages) pub­lished by Red Barn Books, ISBN-10: 1935922246, ISBN-13: 978–1935922247 should be obvi­ous to all in the trade, as law­suits over spilled hot cof­fee have been a reg­u­lar occur­rence since the ill-famed judg­ment in the 1994, California Liebeck v. McDonald’s case. Until Dan’s help­ful, orga­nized, anno­tated, illus­trated, and indexed sin­gle source book, oper­a­tors and attor­neys were forced to find answers from many dif­fer­ent resources. The trade owes the SCAA Past President, Cox, a thanks for help­ing his fel­low man (and mem­bers of WIC, too) with this use­ful tool.

McDonalds®, who upgraded the qual­ity of their cof­fee pro­gram some years ago, has seen the light, and is switch­ing to paper cups from poly­styrene. Big Mac® should be thanked for mak­ing this change, which will cost them money as the two mate­ri­als are not com­pa­ra­ble in price. McCafe® will taste bet­ter, and the envi­ron­ment will not have to con­tinue try­ing to ingest 10-million Styrofoam cups each day. Thank you, McDonalds®.

Joh. A. Benckiser, the new owner of Peet’s® and Caribou® cof­fee chains, has the two now-sister com­pa­nies play­ing dosey-doe your part­ner. Minnesotta based Caribou will become a regional North-Midwestern brand, with addi­tional out­lets in neigh­bor­ing Iowa, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Colorado. They will also retain out­liers in North Carolina. Caribou® stores in the rest of the coun­try will be con­verted to Peet’s®.

At the end of October, Kraft® announced that they would begin test mar­ket­ing McDonald’s® McCafe® brand cof­fee in selected mar­kets. In November, an arbi­tra­tor deter­mined that Starbucks must pay 2.76-billion dol­lars for walk­ing away from their pack­aged cof­fee deal with Kraft® to dis­trib­ute Starbucks®. One went in and the other went out.

Ron Popeil, move over, for as the year ground down, Keurig® infomer­cials were becom­ing omnipresent on cable TV.

In the Coals-to-Newcastle depart­ment, The Wall Street Journal reported that Starbucks®, whose stated goal is 20,000 retail stores by the close of 2014, plans to open its first retail shop in Bogota, Colombia in the com­ing months. This pilot store is hoped to be the first of 50 Starbucks stores in Colombian cities, to be opened over the next 5 years. So you see, with all that tran­spired in 2013, we still have things to which we can look for­ward to in the New Year, such as 50 more Starbucks®.

Distinguished roaster/cupper Donald Schoenholt is cof­fee­man at cel­e­brated Gillies Coffee Co., Brooklyn NY, now begin­ning its 175th year. Don, a found­ing father of both SCAA and Roasters Guild, doesn’t look 175, but he says there are days when he feels as he, and not the firm, is America’s Oldest Coffee Merchant. Mr. Schoenholt can be reached at coffeeman@gilliescoffee.com

A Tool for Every Climatic Hazard

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

c and c 3Project Description
Changes in the cli­mate are no secret to the cof­fee indus­try. Around the world cof­fee farm­ers are strug­gling to keep their crops and make the par­al­leled tran­si­tion with the cli­mate. From fun­gus on the plant’s leaves to com­plete crop destruc­tion, farm­ers con­tinue to scuf­fle with Mother Nature.

Coffee & Climate, whose motto is, “enabling effec­tive response” launched their ‘tool­box’ ini­tia­tive in February of 2013.  Project Manager, Mike Adler, is invit­ing us all to help spark this global and col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing process. It is aimed to help cof­fee farm­ers adapt suc­cess­fully to cli­mate change.

According to their web­site, www.coffeeandclimate.org, “The c&c tool­box is a com­pi­la­tion of guide­lines, train­ing mate­ri­als and other didac­tic mate­r­ial to inform, capac­i­tate and empower farm­ers to cope with and adapt to cli­mate change. It addresses the lack of sys­tem­at­i­cally doc­u­mented infor­ma­tion and shared knowl­edge on good adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion prac­tices in the cof­fee sector.”

The main pur­pose of the tool­box is to ini­ti­ate a col­lab­o­ra­tive and global learn­ing process by col­lec­tion, eval­u­a­tion, and the fur­ther devel­op­ment of prac­tice and expe­ri­ence from the cof­fee fields.

References and rec­om­men­da­tions will be made avail­able to bring to the field with the assis­tance of pre­ex­ist­ing farmer know-how and knowl­edge. Via the web, tools and instru­ments nec­es­sary to aid farm­ers are becom­ing read­ily avail­able. This includes a global knowledge-sharing plat­form that will at some point in the future become the cli­mate change infor­ma­tion hub for the cof­fee sector.

The web­site states, “The objec­tive is to share, col­lect and con­sol­i­date knowl­edge and expe­ri­ences on cli­mate change adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion, to sup­port adop­tion and imple­men­ta­tion efforts and to stim­u­late inter­ac­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion between sci­en­tific research and imple­men­ta­tion in the field. This tool­box is the tool needed to close infor­ma­tion gaps but bring­ing together indi­vid­u­als of dif­fer­ent lev­els of knowl­edge, exper­tise, imple­men­ta­tion, and loca­tion to share their per­sonal expe­ri­ences and infor­ma­tion that oth­ers may or may not have.”

The frame­work is designed to instill change for cof­fee farm­ers everywhere.

It all begins with risk assess­ment of cli­matic risks. Then reeval­u­a­tion of tool util­ity is done through experts. Collaboratively, responses are iden­ti­fied and then imple­mented to the area in need. Monitoring of the process is done, accom­pa­nied by an eval­u­a­tion of the effec­tive­ness. Case stud­ies are then gen­er­ated for fur­ther knowl­edge and ref­er­ences for cases to come.

A sin­gle solu­tion that is suc­cess­ful for farm­ers in Brazil may not be the same solu­tion for cof­fee farm­ers in Costa Rica. A locally appro­pri­ate solu­tion must be defined in each des­ig­nated area. It is done though tri­an­gu­la­tion method between farm­ers, local experts, and scientists.

The tool­box wiz­ard is one of the most impor­tant tools within the box. It gen­er­ates infor­ma­tion that is spec­i­fied by rel­e­vance of cri­te­ria to the area one wishes to improve.  Climatic haz­ard, coun­tries, tool type, cof­fee vari­ety, and pur­pose are the five drop down boxes that helps gen­er­ate the infor­ma­tion. After fill­ing out the drop­down menus, results are made avail­able with infor­ma­tion that has been shared.

The amount of infor­ma­tion stored in this tool­box from just a few months past its launch date, is not only impres­sive but the first step toward help­ing farm­ers around the globe with cli­mate changes.

Scientists, farm­ers, experts, and indi­vid­u­als alike must band together to help each other. The cof­fee indus­try, from the United States where cof­fee is widely con­sumed, to farm­ers in Honduras and Guatemala who pro­vide the beans, lend a help­ing hand when­ever possible.

The Coffee & Climate Toolbox ini­tia­tive is a tool that every­one in the cof­fee indus­try should have in their box. Since the cli­mate around the world is con­stantly chang­ing, we must change with it. When a coun­try expe­ri­ences a drought for the first time, this tool­box will be their answer on how to keep afloat. So please, care and share the infor­ma­tion in your box.

toolbox.coffeeandclimate.org/

coffeeandclimate.org

Contact name:     Mika Adler
Website:     http://toolbox.coffeeandclimate.org/ and for the ini­tia­tive: coffeeandclimate.org
Location:     Brazil, Trifinio (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras), Tanzania, Vietnam
Email:     mika.adler@hrnstiftung.org
Phone:     +4949808112422

chart

The View

Categories: 2013, JuneTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

This July, we once again make our mag­a­zine avail­able to NGO’s and non-profits to strut their stuff. Our “Making a Difference” issue is one of those times that we give over our audi­ence to those orga­ni­za­tions that are work­ing hard for all of our ben­e­fit to improve the qual­ity of life for folks across the coffeelands.

It seems like only a cou­ple of months ago that we last pub­lished the “Making a Difference” issue for 2012 and now once again, here it is. But really, so much has changed in our world that is mak­ing life more dif­fi­cult for smallholders:

1.    Climate Change – prob­a­bly no other dan­ger to grow­ers is more com­pelling. In this last year it has become appar­ent that the trop­ics have reached a tip­ping point in the advance of adverse climate.

a.    The Andean range is los­ing its snow pack at an alarm­ing pace as the aver­age tem­per­a­ture range rises and reaches into higher alti­tudes. Snowmelt is the lifeblood of the lush grow­ing areas of the east­ern slope of the Andes through­out Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.

b.    The ris­ing tem­per­a­tures in the trop­ics are caus­ing shifts in the high alti­tude atmos­pheric rota­tion, which is pulling frigid air from the poles closer to the trop­ics. (Think Brazil, Tanzania, and Mexico)

c.    Another record hur­ri­cane sea­son is pred­i­cated in the Atlantic that not only will poten­tially cause increased dam­age to crops dur­ing the blos­som sea­son for cof­fee, but more impor­tantly, mas­sive destruc­tion of infra­struc­ture and heart­break­ing loss of life and liveli­hood in the trop­ics, as well as sig­nif­i­cant dis­rup­tion of ship­ping in the Gulf.

d.    The cyclonic mon­soon rains so pre­dictable in the past are now fiercer and more vari­able, miss­ing some parts of the world and drown­ing oth­ers. (Think India and ulti­mately Central America)

e.    The typhoon sea­son in the Pacific is shap­ing up to pound Indonesia, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia with the accom­pa­ny­ing mas­sive loss of life and infra­struc­ture. The com­ing typhoon sea­son is com­pounded with an El Niño that is pre­dicted to be neu­tral increas­ing rain­fall in the South Pacific and South China Sea (which may actu­ally be good news to the west­ern coasts of Latin America but not so good news for the Andean snowpack.)

f.    Continuing reduced mois­ture and ris­ing tem­per­a­tures in the Sub Sahara is not only threat­en­ing aver­age rain­fall lev­els in the high­lands of Ethiopia and Uganda but also water lev­els in the Great Rift Valley lakes. Food secu­rity is a rapidly grow­ing issue as pop­u­la­tions have lit­tle flex­i­bil­ity and resilience against sud­den crop loss and reduced fish stocks.

2.    La Roya (leaf rust) – chang­ing con­di­tions have facil­i­tated the rapid expan­sion of leaf rust through­out Central America dec­i­mat­ing the cur­rent crop and poten­tial future crops by weak­en­ing the cof­fee trees’ vital­ity. The poten­tial that the United State’s lead­ing cof­fee sup­ply­ing region may no longer be able to sup­port cof­fee grow­ing on a macro scale has become possible.

3.    The rapid con­sol­i­da­tion of cof­fee pro­duc­tion into four major sup­plier coun­tries threat­ens to shift the pri­or­i­ti­za­tion lesser sup­plier coun­tries place on cof­fee as an export prod­uct and instead focus on inter­nal con­sump­tion. This year four coun­tries (Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, and Indonesia) account for 67% of all the cof­fee exported this year. This grad­ual shift toward a small club of pro­duc­ing coun­tries is made more dra­matic when one con­sid­ers that the next six coun­tries on the list rep­re­sent 23% of the cof­fee exported this year – that is 90% of all the cof­fee pro­duced this year came from only 10 coun­tries! The poten­tial threat this poses to the inter­na­tional sup­ply chain can­not be over­stated. Political unrest, nat­ural dis­as­ter, infra­struc­ture col­lapse, food inse­cu­rity, and other poten­tial events can have an imme­di­ate neg­a­tive effect on both large and small grow­ers, and of course on the reli­a­bil­ity of the sup­ply chain.

So this year there is much to con­sider. The human cost of these and other poten­tial­i­ties is dra­matic and ter­ri­ble to con­sider. The orga­ni­za­tions both large and small that will present next month are on the front line of these and other causes. Please tune in next month to learn about their pur­poses and goals and if you are moved to action donate money or time (or both) toward them. They are the heart of our industry.

As in past years, the orga­ni­za­tion that has the most click-thrus from their arti­cle to their web­site will receive a $1000 cash dona­tion from CoffeeTalk Media so get clickin’.

Cheers,
Kerri & Miles

& Fertilizer.">The Natural State of Coffee — A Contemplation of Grounds, Leaves & Fertilizer.

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

12_12 3-BI’m get­ting older. I paid $1.25 for a “nickel” Hershey Bar the other day. Things change. On the other hand, the $4.50 latte appears to be here to stay. Even in these hard times con­sumers, par­tic­u­larly the young, have deter­mined that they are will­ing to reach into their pock­ets for a bev­er­age that brings them joy. That too, is a har­bin­ger of good things to come for the roast­ing retailer and inde­pen­dent roaster, for our future is cheek-by-jowl linked to the con­sumers’ inter­est in the goods we make and sell. The econ­omy is still rough, and I keep find­ing myself remem­ber­ing my Dad talk­ing about the cof­fee busi­ness dur­ing the Great Depression when cof­fee sold for 25¢ a pound; 5¢ cup. The plain old nickel cup from the cor­ner news stand is now a buck. The Old Man would have found that funny.

A 36% decline in green cof­fee prices over the last 12 months has buoyed the spir­its of small inde­pen­dent roast­ers as the cost of raw goods has come back to earth, and accounts payables have come out of the stratos­phere to more man­age­able lev­els. As I write, the Exchange price for March 2013 is hov­er­ing at lev­els that most farm­ers and most roast­ers can accept as liv­able. The free flow of cash from inven­tory per­mits invest­ment in equip­ment, new prod­ucts, adver­tis­ing and per­son­nel that was unthink­able dur­ing the last 2 ½ years. It is a well-met asset thaw that bodes well for the future of the community.

There are new roast­ing busi­nesses in every nook and cranny of the coun­try. Recently an old cof­fee cur­mud­geon of my acquain­tance men­tioned that if you turn over a rock with your shoe there is a decent chance you will find a new roaster beneath it. There are many new entrants for sure, and this is a good and healthy thing. It indi­cates that there are folks who have the faith, nascent abil­ity, ded­i­ca­tion, and strength of pur­pose to make a place for them­selves in cof­fee. Where there is new blood, there is hope for the future of this stuff we love.

More and more tech­nol­ogy is creep­ing into the roast­ery. The roast­ing man is seen more and more often check­ing the progress of his roast on his iPad. Environmental man­age­ment of roast­ing bi-product appears to be taken seri­ously by a grow­ing num­ber of small roast­ers who have felt ambiva­lent in the past about the smoke, ash, and smells that are the byprod­uct of cof­fee roast­ing. This is as much a result of peer pres­sure, and con­sumer inter­ests as it is the result of munic­i­pal codes. It is good busi­ness to run a clean, envi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive busi­ness, and we are learn­ing that year-by-year, which is a good thing.

Espresso is an every­day thing in most parts of the USA now, and it is a rare roaster that does not blend and roast at least one item for espresso use. In an inter­est­ing devel­op­ment Robusta, shunned twenty years ago by any spe­cialty roaster worth his salt, has a grow­ing accep­tance now in Italian style espresso blends. Interestingly, the American style espres­sos are iden­ti­fied with pure Arabica blends. There was some talk a while back about the accep­tance of Robusta beans as spe­cialty cof­fee. That con­ver­sa­tion will con­tinue, and prob­a­bly get louder.

The mar­ket­ing of envi­ron­men­tal sen­si­tiv­ity is seen in the choices many roast­ers are tak­ing in the way they present them­selves to their cus­tomers. Kraft paper and hand-crafted look­ing lam­i­nated valve bags and pack­ing mate­r­ial has grown in use, as it gives the impres­sion of cor­po­rate envi­ron­men­tal sen­si­tiv­ity, small com­pany hand-crafted goods, and down-home neigh­bor­li­ness. Many of these efforts are suc­cess­ful. Sadly, few are more than window-dressing to improve the pub­lic accep­tance of goods offered for sale. Still, aware­ness of the public’s desire to seek out the goods of envi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive busi­nesses is a big step away from a cal­lus profit-driven inter­est and toward a higher plane of cof­fee consciousness.

The devel­op­ment of green cof­fee extract as an ingre­di­ent in food sup­ple­ments and bev­er­ages will be of con­tin­u­ing inter­est. This phe­nom­e­non of a weight loss ingre­di­ent hit the weight watch­ing scene back in April, when Dr. Oz intro­duced mil­lions of view­ers to it on his tele­vi­sion show. Green cof­fee bean extract, which seems to be pri­mar­ily chloro­genic acid and caf­feine, is now being mar­keted as a dietary sup­ple­ment by many food sup­ple­ment and nat­ural vit­a­min com­pa­nies. So far Starbucks is the only promi­nent roaster to have added cof­fee bean extract to its prod­uct mix. It is an ingre­di­ent in Starbucks’ new Refreshers bev­er­ages and in com­pli­men­tary VIA instant bev­er­age packets.

Roasters will be watch­ing more than their shades this com­ing year. Leaves are much on their minds also since Starbucks, owner of the Tazo tea brand since 1998, has opened a Tazo tea store in Seattle’s University Village shop­ping area. They fol­lowed this con­cept store with the announce­ment that Starbucks will acquire Teavana, Teavana’s 300 small shops spe­cial­ize in tea leafs, tea bev­er­ages, and tea acces­sories. The chain, sprin­kled in mostly mall loca­tions through­out much of the coun­try, expected to make $220–230 mil­lion dol­lars this fis­cal year. Nobody’s bet­ting like Mitt Romney on this, but my nickel is on Teavana out­lets becom­ing Tazo-branded stores before long. Some roast­ers have been offer­ing loose teas for years, while oth­ers offer only tea bags to their whole­sale cus­tomers. It is a fair guess that we are all going to be more inter­ested in teas of every type and descrip­tion in the com­ing year than we have been in the past year.

Among the rare and exotic items that may find its way into North American blends this year is Kopi Luwak, the ster­co­ra­ceous Indonesian cof­fee del­i­cacy that has been imi­tated in Peru and Vietnam after pro­duc­tion was juiced in recent years since being fea­tured in the 2007 film The Bucket List. The Indonesian item has taken a pub­lic rela­tions hit from the UK news­pa­per The Guardian, which reported on alle­ga­tions of ani­mal rights abuses at civet farms in Indonesia. Likewise, the Associated Press has made us aware of Thailand’s Black Ivory cof­fee (cul­ti­vated from ele­phant dung) that hits the fan this year. At $500 a pound, this exotic adds con­sid­er­ably to the avail­able vol­ume of this type of item which may put down­ward pres­sure on the pound price of this class of goods. I have not cupped Black Ivory, but I have pon­dered if it is good to the last dropping.

12_12 3-AAuthor and Roaster’s Guild founder, Donald Schoenholt, is said to have an unerr­ing sense of cof­fee, cof­fee his­tory, and cof­fee continuity—but no sense of humor. He will deny this. He believes he is quite droll. Mr. S., cel­e­brat­ing his 50th anniver­sary in cof­fee, can be found round the roast­ing room at
www.gilliescoffee.com.

The View

Categories: 2012, SeptemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Robusta?

Start­ing last year we began warn­ing read­ers that the vari­able pric­ing of Arabica cof­fees would stim­u­late some cof­fee com­pa­nies to lower their stan­dards of qual­ity in order to keep prices at retail unchanged. As we know, that is exactly what came to pass! What we did not expect was the quick embrac­ing of Robusta within the spe­cialty cof­fee com­mu­nity in the U.S.

Before I start, it is impor­tant for all those Robusta true believ­ers to under­stand that I know there are small pock­ets of grow­ing areas that pro­duce Robustas of very high qual­ity. I also can under­stand that there may be a need for “R” graders to cer­tify the qual­ity of Robusta cof­fees. Additionally I under­stand the moti­va­tions of some enter­pris­ing con­sul­tants to rush toward Robusta as a way to expand their client pool through niche spe­cial­iza­tion. If the mar­ket calls for it, then some­one needs to help it get done.

My prob­lem with the rush toward Robusta is that the care­fully crafted value sys­tems upon which the spe­cialty cof­fee indus­try and espe­cially the Specialty Coffee Association of America are pred­i­cated are being inten­tion­ally col­lapsed. Ever since Alfred Peet, there has been a con­certed push for Arabica beans as the pin­na­cle of qual­ity. The idea that any roaster or café that calls itself spe­cialty would ever serve Robusta used to be unthinkable.

The word “Robusta” was used broadly as an insult – it was spat out as sym­bolic of all that was bad about the “big guys.” Coffee con­spir­acy the­o­rists proudly declared that “the evil Starbucks” clearly was vile because they served Robusta, and even though that was patently false, it was the sym­bol of “how ter­ri­ble” Starbucks and all of those other “thems” were.

And why is the con­cen­tra­tion on Arabica cof­fee by the spe­cialty indus­try impor­tant? Because for 40 years, we as an indus­try have encour­aged farm­ers of Arabica cof­fees to improve qual­ity, improve prac­tices, and improve con­di­tions in their com­mu­ni­ties with the assur­ance from us that we will pay them well for their efforts. Our rela­tion­ships with Arabica cof­fee grow­ers are founded on the prin­ci­ple that we will pay fairly for their prod­ucts if they com­ply with our often dif­fi­cult and seem­ingly friv­o­lous requirements.

Because of this rela­tion­ship, farm­ers rein­vested in land and pro­duc­tion equip­ment; they devel­oped water treat­ment sys­tems and improved picker hous­ing; they built schools and med­ical care all because of the belief that we shared the same goals. For a while, I even began to believe that Specialty Coffee was com­mit­ted toward end­ing the Imperialist/colonialist buy­ers’ mar­ket men­tal­ity of “buy it cheap and let them starve – deplete the resource and then move on.”

Then came one year of high prices that gave some advan­tage to the grower/sellers – just one year – and sud­denly many cof­fee buy­ers are behav­ing like “ugly Americans” once again.

Why does the shift from Arabica to Robusta count? If some Robusta cof­fee is of spe­cialty stan­dards why not use it? This is the big ques­tion that is thrown about by many in the SCAA. It was a major ele­ment of the recent Roaster’s Guild Retreat that included cup­pings and pre­sen­ta­tions on why Robusta is now “golden.” I can answer that with one phrase – is all Arabica cof­fee spe­cialty cof­fee? All of us are a lit­tle out­raged that the big gro­cery cof­fee guys have co-opted the idea that Arabica cof­fee equals good cof­fee and so freely pur­chase the dregs of cof­fees off the patios of Arabica farm­ers and sell it to une­d­u­cated con­sumers as “100% Arabica,” which it cer­tainly is but I wouldn’t drink it. Now the “big guys” are being assured that it is okay to use Robusta beans in their cof­fee with­out restraint on qual­ity require­ments – and the ones who are telling them this are the same spe­cialty cof­fee indus­try leaders/Associations that labeled the major roast­ers as vil­lains in the first place.

Still, there is a kind of revenge in this story; the com­mod­ity price of Robusta has soared in the last few months (after the global finan­cial bounce in 2008) as more roast­ers move toward lower qual­ity beans. It closed today (08−29−12) at $1.11 per pound (from a low of 28.9 cents per pound) with Arabica clos­ing at $1.82. Analysts antic­i­pate that Robustas with con­tinue to rise, clos­ing the gap between Arabicas and Robustas. As the price rises for Robusta, pro­duc­ing coun­tries like Uganda, Vietnam, Cote de’Ivoire, and oth­ers will rapidly increase pro­duc­tion and flood the mar­ket with Robusta cof­fee. Any of this sound famil­iar – maybe the cof­fee cri­sis of 2001? Hmmm.

There, I said it – the cof­fee cri­sis that our indus­try has spent the last 10 years apol­o­giz­ing for and attempt­ing to fix is poised to hap­pen again and for the very same rea­sons. Those rea­sons of course are
•    Greed, Quick cash, and per­sonal aggran­dize­ment
•    Imperialistic atti­tudes about global trade
•    Moral bank­ruptcy
•    Speculative com­mod­ity trad­ing
•    Improving global economies and dol­lar val­u­a­tion
•    Disregard for the sus­tain­able pros­per­ity of growers

I believe that Robusta cof­fees have their place; just not in the spe­cialty cof­fee North Americans drink. The almost overnight shift in atti­tudes about Robusta within the Specialty Coffee Association is puz­zling and, as with so much of their activ­i­ties, lack­ing trans­parency and there­fore seems sus­pect. I do not want to be writ­ing another “fol­low the money” style edi­to­r­ial 5 years from now while we once again strug­gle to save chil­dren with dis­tended bel­lies from famine and pesti­lence. Children whose only crime was to be born into a cof­fee grow­ing fam­ily that trusted us to hold to our promises and relationships.

Let’s strug­gle against indus­trial farms pro­duc­ing mechan­i­cally har­vested ton­nage of cheap low grade Robusta. Let’s keep our promises to our farm­ing part­ners. Let’s fol­low the morally high path. Let’s keep Robusta out of Specialty Coffee.

Cheers,
Kerri & Miles

Colombia: A Heart of Opportunities

Categories: 2012, AugustTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Shut off by the world for many years, Colombia’s bad high debts and inter­nal con­flicts with drugs, vio­lence, and Guerrilla war­fare scared pub­lic away from engag­ing in many busi­ness and tourism ven­tures that had to do with the coun­try. However, this is not entirely the case any­more. Maybe it is the beauty of the moun­tains, the peo­ple, or the exotic fruits that taste like they are from the Garden of Eden, but within a few hours of being in the coun­try you wish you had planned a longer stay. The country’s rich­ness in cul­ture, beauty, flora & fauna, and nat­ural resources has always been a mostly untapped poten­tial. Finally, the coun­try has come into its own and travel, tourism, export and for­eign invest­ments are improv­ing national pros­per­ity and increas­ing world recognition.

On May 15, 2012. The Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Colombia was final­ized. Giving way to a new mar­ket and new oppor­tu­ni­ties. In order to help seize this new mar­ket, in June 2012, ProExport held a match­mak­ing forum between 250 local exporters, and 150 inter­na­tional buy­ers aim­ing to pro­mote around the world the fish farm­ing, live­stock, agri­cul­tural, and agroin­dus­try sec­tors of Colombia. Through these forums ProExport is hop­ing to elim­i­nate the mid­dle­man and pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties for direct trade rela­tion­ships between Colombians and the rest of the world.

Colombia is not wast­ing any time. In the past few months talks about Free Trade Agreements have started with Costa Rica, Korea, Turkey and Japan. Being a coun­try with over­abun­dant nat­ural riches has allowed the coun­try to become the pri­mary exporters of flow­ers into the United States, not to men­tion the wide array of exotic fruits and other agri­cul­tural prod­ucts that can be found. Climate, and alti­tude have also made it pos­si­ble to grow tea in cer­tain regions. At the moment Hindú is the only com­pany that pro­duces tea in Colombia. In addi­tion, com­pa­nies such as Listo & Fresco are sell­ing frozen fruit pulps, frozen fruits, pre– cooked veg­eta­bles, and Colombia’s sig­na­ture Creole pota­toes. Dr. Ricardo Vallejo, Vice President of ProExport stated, “We want to become a pantry for the world.” And this vision is not far from being true.

So what does this mean for Coffee? This means you should expect to see not only green cof­fee com­ing out of Colombia, but also added-value prod­ucts like roasted cof­fee, cof­fee con­cen­trates, and con­fec­tions. For many cof­fee farm­ers, such as the own­ers of Café Pitayo, the FTA is what is moti­vat­ing them to go beyond export­ing green beans. They have now diver­si­fied to sell­ing roasted and ground cof­fee. For Rafico Gómez, Manager of Café Pitayo, the FTA has opened way for ver­ti­cal inte­gra­tion. “This has allowed us to con­trol and guar­an­tee the qual­ity of our cof­fee; con­trol is not lost in the mid­dle man.”

Likewise, Miller Olaya Toro, Manager of the San Isidro Co-op, sees this as a new oppor­tu­nity to reach the inter­na­tional mar­ket. San Isidro is an orga­ni­za­tion of 100 pro­duc­ers, which com­prise a total of 700 hectares of cof­fee. Since 2005, they have par­tic­i­pated in the Cup of excel­lence, win­ning five times. For Mr. Olaya, this is a great oppor­tu­nity to pro­mote cof­fee and prod­ucts that are 100% from ori­gin, as well as pro­mot­ing their achieve­ments of qual­ity and sus­tain­able prac­tices. Representing women in cof­fee is Lucía Londoño Jaramillo, General Manager of Hacienda Venecia. She has looked to diver­sify and truly pro­mote the cul­ture of cof­fee in Colombia. This Entrepreneur woman is involved in her family’s estate farm located in Manizales, Colombia; she is sell­ing every­thing from green and roasted cof­fee to Barista train­ing and cup­ping courses. Ms. Londoño com­ments, “We want the rev­enue from value added prod­ucts to stay in Colombia and ben­e­fit our country.”

Beyond the increase pop­u­lar­ity in value-added prod­ucts, Colombians are tak­ing the ini­tia­tive towards cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. They are rec­og­niz­ing the need to dif­fer­en­ti­ate Colombian cof­fees from other coun­tries and stand out in the mar­ket. However, cer­ti­fi­ca­tions are not the only com­pet­i­tive advan­tage that the national com­pa­nies are seek­ing to acquire, inven­tive­ness and inno­va­tion are a con­stant effort. Guava energy snacks; alter­na­tive sweet­en­ers; frozen exotic fruit pulps; even fla­vored iced cof­fee machines, man­u­fac­tured by Colcafé, that make Peach and lemon iced cof­fee (which amaz­ingly was pretty tasty) are emerg­ing from this trans­formed economy.

According to Alberto Lora “Colombia is becom­ing an export­ing plat­form for peo­ple who want to export to the United States and other coun­tries.” Last September the Wall Street Journal accred­ited Colombia as one of six devel­op­ing nations that “are being touted as the next gen­er­a­tion of tiger economies.” These coun­tries are known by the acronym CIVETS* (and no, I am not refer­ring to the lit­tle cof­fee eat­ing crea­tures who’s diges­tive track has become the lat­est cof­fee pro­cess­ing method).

Even though Colombia still has strug­gles with secu­rity, this should not over­shadow Colombia’s momen­tous achieve­ments in reduc­ing over­all lev­els of vio­lence. Colombia’s moti­va­tion to becom­ing a world econ­omy is noth­ing less than admirable.

*CIVETS – Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa

& Climate">Initiative for Coffee & Climate

Categories: 2012, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Contact Name: Mika Adler

Website: www.coffeeandclimate.org
Location: Brazil, Guatemala, Tanzania, Vietnam
Email Address: info@coffeeandclimate.org
Phone Number: +49–40-808–112-431

Project Description

Although cli­mate changes are affect­ing the entire cof­fee sec­tor, pro­duc­ing com­mu­ni­ties, in par­tic­u­lar small­holder farm­ers oper­at­ing with a weak resource base, are the ones with the least adap­tive capac­ity to cope with such changes. In many places their work­ing envi­ron­ment is char­ac­ter­ized by sig­nif­i­cant struc­tural inef­fi­cien­cies hin­der­ing access to ade­quate know-how and means of financ­ing. Furthermore, cof­fee eco-systems are highly vul­ner­a­ble against cli­mate change impacts espe­cially due to their, in the major­ity of cases, degraded soils and very high defor­esta­tion rates. Without ade­quate infor­ma­tion on the likely impli­ca­tions for agri­cul­tural activ­i­ties and pos­si­ble solu­tions, the liveli­hoods of many thou­sands of small­holder farm­ers and their fam­i­lies are at risk. This will affect not only rural com­mu­ni­ties but poten­tially the com­plete social tex­ture in main cof­fee grow­ing areas.

This project aims at enabling cof­fee farm­ers to effec­tively respond to chang­ing cli­matic con­di­tions by assem­bling best prac­tices for cli­mate change adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion into a glob­ally applic­a­ble tool­box. The project com­bines farmer know-how with state of the art cli­mate change sci­ence and builds upon expe­ri­ences gained within other rel­e­vant projects such as AdapCC (www.adapcc.org). Pilot projects in four key cof­fee regions (Brazil, Guatemala, Tanzania, and Vietnam) are designed to test the tool­box in the field and to develop appro­pri­ate train­ing schemes for farm­ers and ser­vice providers. Worldwide dis­sem­i­na­tion of the refined tool­box is pro­moted through the estab­lish­ment of a self-financing insti­tu­tional framework.

The ini­tia­tive for Coffee & Climate is a devel­op­ment part­ner­ship with the pri­vate sec­tor within the BMZ pro­gram develoPPP.de. The ini­tia­tive col­lab­o­rates with fur­ther impor­tant part­ners such as the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux International (CABI), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). The ini­tia­tive is pre­c­om­pet­i­tive, open to include fur­ther ded­i­cated parties.

A farmer fam­ily in Tanzania

Coffee farm­ers check­ing the freshly washed cof­fee beans

A Guatemalan cof­fee farmer

Who Benefits From This Project?

Stakeholders within the pilot projects are under­go­ing capac­ity build­ing activ­i­ties, enabling them to apply effec­tive strate­gies in order to respond to cli­mate change. At least 3.000 farm­ers, includ­ing oper­a­tors of pro­cess­ing sta­tions, are trained directly by the project in order to meet cli­mate change chal­lenges. Furthermore, stake­hold­ers along green cof­fee sup­ply chains can uti­lize the tool­box for devel­op­ing and apply­ing best adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion practices.

How Can I Help?

Please visit our web­site 
(www.coffeeandclimate.org) and con­tact our Hamburg office to obtain more infor­ma­tion on the ini­tia­tive. We appre­ci­ate and encour­age con­struc­tive feed­back as well as the pro­mo­tion and uti­liza­tion of our toolbox.

Uniting Efforts to Meet 
Sustainability Challenges in the Coffee Sector

Categories: 2012, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Contact Name: Verónica Pérez-Sueiro

Website: www.4c-coffeeassociation.org
Location: Various Coffee Growing Countries
Email Address: Veronica.perez@4ccoffeeassociation.org
Phone Number: 406−542−3509

Project Description

The 4C Association was ini­ti­ated in response to the so called “inter­na­tional cof­fee cri­sis” in 2001. Back then, an over­sup­ply of cof­fee led to the plum­met­ing of inter­na­tional cof­fee prices, push­ing mil­lions of cof­fee farm­ers into poverty. The dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers in the cof­fee sec­tor came together to jointly dis­cuss and find solu­tions for sup­port­ing farm­ers in becom­ing more sus­tain­able in their pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing prac­tices. Since the launch of the Common Code for the Coffee Community Project in 2003, the 4C System has come a long way. Reaching agree­ment on a base­line stan­dard for sus­tain­abil­ity by the dif­fer­ent actors in the cof­fee sec­tor was an impor­tant early mile­stone, fol­lowed by the for­mal estab­lish­ment of the 4C Association end 2006. The asso­ci­a­tion has now suc­cess­fully built a net­work to train pro­duc­ers in the appli­ca­tion of the 4C base­line stan­dard, set up a ver­i­fi­ca­tion sys­tem, and broad­ened its net­work of mem­bers and partners.

By the end of 2011, 79 cof­fee pro­duc­ing enti­ties (4C Units), encom­pass­ing over 455,000 farm­ers and work­ers in 16 coun­tries, had been inde­pen­dently ver­i­fied to com­ply with the 4C Code of Conduct. This Code is the base­line sus­tain­abil­ity stan­dard for the pro­duc­tion and pro­cess­ing of green cof­fee. The aggre­gate pro­duc­tion poten­tial of these 4C Units amounted to over 15 mil­lion bags of 4C Compliant Coffee, rep­re­sent­ing nearly twelve per­cent of today‘s global cof­fee supply.

As a pre-competitive ini­tia­tive, the 4C Association does not only pro­mote its own base­line stan­dard and ver­i­fi­ca­tion sys­tem. It also col­lab­o­rates closely with other sus­tain­abil­ity ini­tia­tives such as UTZ Certified and the Rainforest Alliance, which are both 4C Members. The objec­tive is to pro­mote sup­ply and demand of ver­i­fied and cer­ti­fied cof­fees in the mar­ket. “It is very encour­ag­ing to see that the vol­umes of ver­i­fied and cer­ti­fied cof­fee are grow­ing steadily and that more and more com­pa­nies are com­mit­ting to sus­tain­able pur­chas­ing. However, there is still a lot of untapped poten­tial to advance sus­tain­abil­ity in the sec­tor by bring­ing actors together. The 4C Association is com­mit­ted to be the plat­form that enables all cof­fee stake­hold­ers to join together in forg­ing long-term solu­tions through joint projects and part­ner­ships,” stated Melanie Rutten-Sülz, 4C Executive Director.

A plat­form to expand sus­tain­abil­ity in the cof­fee sec­tor Membership in the 4C Association also grew con­sid­er­ably over the last year. As of 1 June 2012, the 4C Association had 167 mem­bers, an increase of nearly 25% from the same period in 2011. The most sig­nif­i­cant growth in mem­ber­ship was seen among cof­fee pro­duc­ers, traders and roast­ers. The 4C Association offers its mem­bers and other cof­fee actors a plat­form where they can iden­tify and address over­ar­ch­ing sus­tain­abil­ity chal­lenges and trans­late ideas into actions. For instance, it co-organized the first Regional Forum on Coffee and Climate Change in El Salvador in 2011. The Forum brought together for the first time, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the main stake­hold­ers in the Central American cof­fee sec­tor to jointly define a Coffee Agenda for the Adaptation to Climate Change for the entire region (ACCCCA). Other activ­i­ties and ser­vices include sus­tain­abil­ity forums, the­matic work­ing groups and acqui­si­tion of project fund­ing on spe­cific sus­tain­abil­ity issues.

Producers sort­ing out green cher­ries from har­vest in Dalat, Vietnam

Multistakeholder Participation

Spreading cof­fee to dry – Indonesia

Who Benefits From This Project?

The 4C Association is about mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the lives of those who make a liv­ing from cof­fee pro­duc­tion and trade. Farmers in the 4C System ben­e­fit by improv­ing effi­ciency, increas­ing their yields, and improv­ing their stan­dards of liv­ing – socially, envi­ron­men­tally and eco­nom­i­cally. Coffee traders and roast­ers are able to build last­ing con­tacts and ensure a long term sup­ply of cof­fee from bet­ter, more sus­tain­able sup­ply chains. Retailers are thereby able to pro­vide their con­sumers with a worry free prod­uct and meet the increas­ing demand for sus­tain­ably sourced cof­fee while NGOs can sup­port rel­e­vant sus­tain­abil­ity projects. All in all, a win-win sit­u­a­tion is cre­ated for the entire cof­fee community

How Can I Help?

Become a mem­ber of the 4C Association to con­tribute to our joint efforts of main­stream­ing sus­tain­abil­ity. Only through con­tin­ued col­lab­o­ra­tion through this multi-stakeholder plat­form can the Association attain its ambi­tious goal of achiev­ing sector-wide com­pli­ance with at least base­line sus­tain­abil­ity cri­te­ria in the com­ing years.

What about the other 50 million? Achieving sustainability through Robusta

Categories: 2011, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

The mis­sion of the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) is to improve the qual­ity of cof­fee and the lives of peo­ple who pro­duce it. You may notice that no lim­its are spec­i­fied in our mis­sion. While we often think of spe­cialty cof­fees, and almost always think of Arabica cof­fees in this con­text, here at CQI we are inter­ested in help­ing all cof­fee farm­ers suc­ceed. We have been able to build a suc­cess­ful pro­gram around Arabica cof­fee that has trans­formed the way actors in the sup­ply chain talk about qual­ity. To date, we have cer­ti­fied over 1,300 “Q” Graders who are dis­cussing qual­ity cof­fee in a more sys­tem­atic and sci­en­tific man­ner. The pro­gram has been used for var­i­ous pur­poses, but most impor­tantly, it has allowed more peo­ple at ori­gin to dis­cover, sep­a­rate and sell higher qual­ity cof­fee, and pro­vide insight into those lots that have the poten­tial for higher pre­mi­ums. With 50 mil­lion bags of Robusta pro­duced in 2010, and with mil­lions of farm­ers depen­dant on its suc­cess, we think it’s well worth a try.

When we started announc­ing the devel­op­ment of a new pro­gram for Robusta cof­fee, “R” Coffee, there was a lot of dis­be­lief, and even some anger. How could the Coffee Quality Institute be focused on a species of cof­fee that is asso­ci­ated with lower qual­ity and higher envi­ron­men­tal impact? How could we pos­si­bly turn to Robusta know­ing very well that there is not a space for it in the spe­cialty world? The answer is sim­ple – with the cur­rent shape of the mar­ket, and with numer­ous fac­tors affect­ing sup­ply, it is very likely that higher qual­ity Robusta could relieve some sup­ply short­ages for the spe­cialty mar­ket. Even though there are some notable fla­vor char­ac­ter­is­tics that dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from Arabica (some might say very notable), Fine Robusta cof­fee may even find a cozy home with con­sumers who appre­ci­ate lower acid­ity, or with roast­ers look­ing for a dif­fer­ent qual­ity cof­fee to com­ple­ment a blend.

In order to make Robusta palat­able for the spe­cialty drinker, a whole lot needs to be improved first. CQI has started to develop Fine Robusta stan­dards, much like those of Arabica, which will help build qual­ity aware­ness among Robusta pro­duc­ers and lead to a more sus­tain­able sup­ply of high qual­ity Robustas. The Robusta Program, now inte­grated with our Q Coffee System, has made some sig­nif­i­cant process in just over a year and a half. We have over 15 cer­ti­fied “R” Graders and will con­tinue to host Fine Robusta work­shops in Uganda, Brazil and Indonesia, with the hopes of expand­ing to Vietnam and India in the near future. Ted Lingle, exec­u­tive direc­tor of CQI, expands, “The suc­cess of the Fine Robusta Coffee Workshops can­not be over­stated. It clearly iden­ti­fied the poten­tial for huge growth in the mar­ket place for this cat­e­gory of cof­fee; growth based on qual­ity not price. The suc­cess also clearly iden­ti­fied the road­block to improved Robusta prices: DEFECTS. All of the cof­fees cupped dur­ing the Workshops had been cleaned and graded so that the defect counts were com­pa­ra­ble to those for spe­cialty Arabica grades, and con­se­quently the fla­vor improve­ments in the Robusta cof­fees were strik­ing. As a by-product of these work­shops, the cof­fee indus­try now has a set of train­ing mate­ri­als to use in a sys­tem­atic approach for qual­ity improve­ment in the Robusta cof­fee sup­ply chain.”

Tackling the qual­ity issues inher­ent in the har­vest­ing and pro­cess­ing of Robusta cof­fees is the very first step and then it is nec­es­sary for Fine Robusta stan­dards to become inte­grated into the sup­ply chain, just like SCAA’s Arabica stan­dards. Investments, part­ner­ships, and long-term strate­gies will be vital to cul­ti­vat­ing a steady sup­ply of Fine Robustas, and sev­eral orga­ni­za­tions have also started to focus on Robusta, includ­ing Catholic Relief Services, Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). While the Fine Robusta stan­dards con­tinue to be adjusted and refined, and as we move for­ward with the intro­duc­tion of this pro­gram into Robusta-growing regions, we under­stand the chal­lenge and effort needed to make this suc­cess­ful for every­one. Once the indus­try is ready to embrace this lesser loved bean, Robusta will be there wait­ing with open arms.

Alexandra Katona-Carroll is the pro­grams man­ager for the Coffee Quality Institute. She is respon­si­ble for the devel­op­ment and imple­men­ta­tion of CQI’s new data­base, along with mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. She’s cur­rently a mem­ber of SCAA’s Sustainability Council and is flu­ent in Spanish.