Just over two weeks ago, I traveled to the state of Bahia, Brazil, to visit the Neves Family. Stone Creek Coffee began working with this great family in 2005 to purchase coffee and support social projects that they have been able to put in place on their farm. Over the next few weeks, I'll be writing a series of posts about my trip and our relationship with the Neves Family.
By way of background I wanted to provide a bit of explanation on the process for buying coffee. On the surface, it isn't a super complicated process:
- Producer grows and sells coffee.
- Roaster buys and roasts coffee.
- Consumer buys enjoys coffee.
- Everyone is happy and caffeinated...right?
As you can guess...it's not QUITE that simple. As a roaster, there's a few options for sourcing and purchasing raw coffee.
First, and the most simple, I can call any number of coffee importers throughout the United States and ask for their offering list. I can pick a coffee off the list, they give me a price, I agree and the coffee can be in my warehouse within three days. There's nothing wrong with this method and many coffee companies in the US buy coffee this way. It's relatively easy and roasters can buy as much or as little coffee as they need.
The second method is to call an exporter in a producing country. An exporter will go out to many different farms and buy coffee from producers. This coffee goes into a warehouse and is primarily sold to the importers mentioned above, but can also be sold directly to roasters. In order to purchase in this manner, the roaster has to be familiar with export/import procedures and have the capacity to buy larger quantities (typically around 40,000 pounds at a time).
The final method for buying coffee is to go straight to the source - the roaster purchases from the producer. In order to do this, a roaster must be able to find the producer and figure out how to export and import the coffee. While not impossible, this is definitely the most complicated way to buy coffee. There are many different names for this process: Direct Trade, Relationship Coffee, Farmer Direct, etc.
Here at Stone Creek, we have used all three of these methods. In the case of our relationship with the Neves Family, we are using the latter. I negotiate directly with the owner of the farm on pricing together we facilitate getting the coffe out of Brazil and into Milwaukee.
Why do it this way? Check back next week and I'll tell you. Thanks for reading and please remember to sip slowly.