Something to shout about!

 

GREEN COFFEE SOURCING AND TRANSPARENCYOn Monday, we sent out some information about our sourcing program to our wholesale network, and we want to share this here too.

 

Our commitment going forward is to increase our transparency around the way we work and the prices we pay. Today we’re offering a more detailed overview of the way we buy the coffee that we roast and sell.

 

We’ve been sourcing and purchasing green coffee via our sister company, Shared Source S.A.S. since 2016. Shared Source has a different ‘reason for being’ than Small Batch – it exports coffee directly from Colombia, imports from there and other countries, and sells some green coffee to other roasters. Small Batch is primarily a local roaster. But it’s the same people running the show, with the same ethics and ideals.

 

Recently there has been some noise in the media about how coffee pricing and agriculture are in crisis. We very much agree with this assessment and find this sadly unsurprising given the coffee industry was built on the back of colonialism, economic slavery and damaging agricultural practices. As a result, most coffee is traded as a commodity product, which means that sometimes growers are earning less than it costs them to grow their crops – not ideal! We operate entirely outside of this system, and up until now we haven’t realised the importance of sharing this. We feel it’s time to put it out there so that coffee drinkers can make considered decisions about the system they’re supporting.

 

We all want do our bit to change the world for the better, right?

 

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We have four guiding principles when sourcing green coffee:

  • what we pay for coffee reflects the needs of the grower to make a good livelihood from their crops;
  • we are in touch regularly throughout the year, supporting producers outside harvest times so they have confidence to invest in making their coffee better;
  • we provide interest free cash loans so that producers can improve infrastructure on their farms, as well as maintain a good standard of living throughout the year;
  • we educate and empower producers to transition towards organic and sustainable agricultural practices.

 

By necessity, these principles manifest differently in different countries. We’re sensitive to local customs and spend time getting to know what will work best in each location. This model is most fully realised in Colombia (more on that later) but we also work regularly in Guatemala, Kenya and Ethiopia.

 

No matter where we work, we always preference buying from smallholders, and people who are the least able to otherwise gain access to an international buyer. For example, in Guatemala and Colombia this almost exclusively means the smallest, remotest and least-English-speaking growers.

 

We always buy in “parchment form”. Farmers by definition can only finish coffee as far as this parchment state – this is after the cherry is picked, has had the pulp removed and after the process of fermentation or mechanical washing. At this point, the green seed is still covered by its protective parchment layer, and carefully dried. Parchment is the format that is most recognisable and dollars-translatable to the producer, and accordingly, we pay for this form.

 

We pay in the producer’s local currency, at the farm gate, and assume the risk on the coffee from this point onwards. We also bear all the costs from this point on (more on that later, as well). For every coffee we buy, we make sure we know what the grower received. A roaster might pay 5 times the ‘C-price’ for a coffee, but between the washing station, exporter, transport company, and importer, there are so many middle men it’s hard to know where in the chain the money is going. We want to know that the grower can sustain their business and live a good life, so we make it our business to know what they’re paid. You can see what all our producers are paid for their coffees on our website.

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One way of knowing that our producers are living well is working with them on an ongoing basis throughout their harvest and over years of harvests, and maintaining a base of pricing that exceeds the producer’s costs. We pay a premium additional to the base price for transitioning towards chemical-free and holistic agricultural practices. We also pay them an extra bonus, after the fact, when a coffee performs well on our menu.07ed9262-2da0-4fd1-bd6c-a61aa83221b8Importantly, we pay great prices for everything we buy, including what goes into our blends. Some roasters will highlight the prices they pay on select coffees or single origin roasts, and be less careful about the prices they pay on coffees for their blends, for example. This probably makes great business sense, but is still propping up a sick system that we don’t want to be a part of.
We’re over the moon that these issues are getting some mainstream airtime, and applaud those (sadly) few fellow roasters who also buying responsibly. Several years down the track with our improved sourcing program, we’ve learned so much and are learning more each day. We’re excited to be able to share more of this journey with you. Our aim is to engage with our community to amplify this important discussion, so that we can all continue learning and making better choices.
Check in here and via our socials for more updates. As always, if you’re hungry for more detail, get in touch#powertotheproducer