We stand on the shores of the ocean of coffee. The waters lapping around our toes, a remnant of the last wave to break on the shore, before retreating out to sea. A new wave is coming. Relentless, there’s always another wave coming, replacing the one before. Coffee is commoditized. Wave 1. Coffee is transformed into a social culture phenomenon. Wave 2. Coffee becomes traceable, specialty an artform. Wave 3. Coffee becomes a science. Wave 4.
Yet all waves, bringing forth their new ideas, seemingly replacing each other, leave their indelible mark on the beach. The only constant throughout, much larger than all the waves combined, the ocean. The ocean of coffee, endless in its capacity to enthrall is where our love affair began.
Every now and again, we all love a Guatemalan Finca Café Azul carbonically macerated natural Geisha V60 and who wouldn’t? It is exquisite and hats off to the producer of such a fine coffee. But what about everyone else? The other producers who were not blessed with the terroir to create such exotic flavours, or who did not have the investment from an experimental coffee roaster to fund the fermentation tanks? Aren’t they deserving of our attention too? Absolutely.
Our support for producers in origin goes deeper than paying a high price for the best of their crop. Our role in the coffee supply chain is to provide producers with the best market access for all of their production – be that undergrades, grinders, stocklots, commercial quality, and of course the best of the best. This policy, we believe, affords producer the flexibility to develop whatever strategy they see fit to maximize their returns based on what is available to them. This could be a focus on improving yields rather than quality, or a focus to export their lower grades which pays higher than domestic consumption prices. Improving the livelihoods of millions of coffee farmers does not boil down to a single action of creating better coffee to get a better price. It might, and this may come as a shock, might be to even stop producing coffee completely! But we can delve into that topic at a later stage.
As we hurtle through the 21st century at a breakneck speed, we are reminded just how many people in the world are yet to begin their coffee journey. Many traditional tea drinking nations are still experimenting with their affections for coffee – and believe me, they do not start their journey with a Guatemalan Finca Café Azul carbonic macerated natural Geisha V60 (mores the pity). This rising consumption from emerging markets, the growing wealth of and demand from developing nations shows little sign of abating. The reign of the international commercial roaster is not yet over, and with it the commercial coffee to fill it.
The global pandemic has shown us, that coffee consumption remains steadfast, a daily necessity. And if we can’t get it from our favourite local coffee shop, then we’ll make sure we get it at home instead! Retail sales of coffee have exploded in 2020/21 and the vast majority (but not all I hasten to add) have come from well established, respected brands in the commercial marketplace. Without these reliable roasters, trustworthy and loyal to their supply chains, I dare say the coffee producing world may be in a much worse position than it currently is.
We are not against specialty coffee – far from it. We just feel that there are a lot of coffee producers out there in need of access to markets that we can help to provide, and not all of them can produce coffee that accesses notes from 360 degrees of the flavour wheel.