Last show of the SCA, one of our producer partners asked me:
“Ángel, for you, what makes a coffee sustainable?”
A hard question to answer, isn’t it?
Involved on the coffee buying of the company, from one side, and having been part of a family producing coffee for over a hundred years, on the other; these are the kind of questions that makes your nights sometimes, shorter.
I can try to answer it, based on my experience, or based in my beliefs. Perhaps the best way to try to give an answer is by our actions.
We have just bought our yearly stock to one of our main producing partners in El Salvador. We previewed it together, and took the decision together, in terms of: Quantity, Quality & Price.
That means that the 3 elements suit us both well. What is particular on this? That’s the way everybody makes business, right?
Well, not exactly, if we consider that these coffees are going to be produced from December to February. That means, delivered to us, from January to April. But that’s the way coffee is traded normally, some would say. Well, not exactly, if we considered that 1) this is a buying of Estate coffees, and microlots 2) scoring at least, 84 points and up 3) With a fixed price. It is good to know that you can produce and you’re not going to lose money doing it, just for the stock market.
On our side, we are sure, that we won’t miss any of his coffees, in case of any major eventuality (rust leading to a small harvest, for example). That’s from our side.
For the farmer, this will ensure him stability and also will help him to have an organization for the harvest, in terms of production, milling, and & export prevision. For his logistics, this is like heaven.
This is something certainly extremely important for him, considering that agriculture is perhaps one of the most volatile & insecure sectors to work in. You can get agricultural insurance, someone would say. That is something I learned was possible, when I arrive to Europe. In Latin America (and I guess I can also talk for Africa), is extremely difficult (or expensive), to have an agricultural insurance. Also, our contracts would certainly help him to get a loan from the bank. This money would be for him, to finance his harvest. This is not negligent for him, as we buy under a basis FOB (free on board), that means, that he will absorb all the costs of the picking (sometimes production, when we pay partially to give him a work capital), milling, conditioning and transport of the coffee, until the moment he would put it on the boat. Said simple, he would receive the money for his coffee once it is on its way to us; any previous cost is for his pocket.
Some have asked me, “how can you buy a coffee when is still a green cherry?” Experience during these years; have made us create strong partnerships with producers being on the same path we are following, that of the quest for high & consistent quality. This experience, lead us to give them our trust to do it. We do every contract subject to the approval of a sample.
However, this is a huge responsibility coming from us as for them. As it is to protect us from one side, saying it clear, that the quality will match our needs. Otherwise we won’t buy the coffee he agreed of being capable to produce.
We don’t go with our spoons every year, just to find only those 88+ & 90 coffees hide on a table. As we are not one shot buyers, we are long term partners. This doesn’t mean that we don’t go with our spoons, we do go with them and we are sure to certify what we buy for roasters.
Finally, this doesn’t mean that our coffees are not outstanding; on the contrary. We give farmers the best conditions for them to produce outstanding coffees every year, and not, to be a miracle for them (as for us) when they happen to produce them.
This is for us, sustainability. And this, is leading us and our partners (farmers as roasters), a long term business. The only way for making a difference, we believe, is by being & doing different things.
And for you, what is sustainability?
Angel, green coffee buyer