We love Colombia. Colombian coffee provides the consistent backbone of our espresso blends, the shining juiciness of our single espresso roasts and the ‘warm hug’ profile among our filter menu. In short, it’s the cornerstone of our menu. It is no surprise that a great number of our dearest producer relationships are Colombian too… there must be something in the water! (Actually, water is one of the biggest contributors in Colombia’s complex geography that provides fresh coffee year-round). Factoring into our deep love of Colombia are also the great cultivars, young and motivated producers, and the huge amount of time we’ve spent on the ground there.
Keeping it in the family – our sister company, Shared Source.
At Small Batch we consider that in Colombia, we have realised the fullest manifestation of our aspirations to work directly with a select portfolio of producers. In Colombia we are able to be present throughout every stage of the buying process, and provide direct support that enables producers to thrive. We set up a sister company in Colombia to help us manage all this, which means we literally handle every step from parchment to export (using our own export license). Most importantly, it also means that prices we negotiate with producers make it through to them 100% intact. As a single actor in the supply chain between the producer and delivery of the green coffee into Australia, we can keep our costs to a minimum and ensure producers get what they need, avoiding the high number of supply chain mouths there are normally required to feed.
We seek to be the best possible partners to the producers we work with. We commit to understanding their livelihood needs so we can work together towards their financial security and see them move away from subsistence, or season-to-season income, which otherwise remains the norm.
The producer who best embodies our actions in Colombia is Javier Pajoy, whom we met in 2015. At the time Javier was selling his coffee to the local cooperative at the market price, and unsurprisingly saw no future in this. A fluent Spanish speaker on our team connected with Javier and secured a sample of his coffee, we cupped it and immediately made an offer. We could only make this offer because we had the ability to legalise USD to Colombian Pesos, and we knew we could handle the downstream logistics of getting the coffee from farm to mill and to port. Word that Javier had connected directly with a final buyer spread through his network, and soon La Banda Rebelde was formed. The name Rebelde (rebel) refers to a motorcycle gang of rule breakers – at the time it was totally unheard of for a producer to trade on equal footing with a final buyer.
Roll on four years and the gang has made many advances, including replacing volume-oriented cultivars with older ones that perform better in the cup, installing new wet milling infrastructure to improve quality processing, and building a house and purchase of new land for one of the members. We have been able to provide further financial incentives and technical assistance for producers to transition towards sustainable farming practices. Javier is our champion peer-to-peer agriculture trainer, in a program that sees producers moving away from a reliance on conventional fertilisers in favour of a holistic agricultural system. We have seen conversion to farm-made pest control and fertiliser preparations increase plant resilience to changing climatic conditions, without increasing vulnerability to pests or suffering declining yields.
All of this has been possible because a small group of producers was able to connect with a small buyer. Our part in this was simply to recognise the potential they had and be prepared to pre-pay to some extent to secure it. The knowledge that we pay a guaranteed minimum price that’s not tied in any way to fluctuations in the market, combined with the confidence that we’ll be around to buy when they need us to be, means that La Banda Rebelde can invest in good farm management and pay a premium to pickers for picking selectively, as well as incur additional general costs in order to produce exceptional coffee.
Javier and the gang are an important part of our sourcing programme and we’re proud to bring you their coffee now and for a long time to come.