Origin travel suspended
Traveling to origin has been the cornerstone of our buying since this company was founded. Every year we travel to each of the coffee growing origins we work in at least once, often several times, to meet with export partners and producers, explore farms and check out the dry milling facilities, and of course, to cup coffee and make selections. Many of you have joined us on these trips, and you know how powerful the face-to-face connection is when building a new business relationship.
So what happens, now that we’re all grounded?
Strong value chains
Fortunately, these years of investment on the ground have put us in a good position to continue our work of sourcing, even if we can’t travel. We have built strong value chains based on trust and mutually beneficial relationships, which continue to thrive during this crisis.
How are we sourcing coffee?
We are in regular contact with all of our partners at origin through WhatsApp, email and video chats. We’re keeping up to date on the impact of Covid-19, and restrictions applied to contain it, and how they are impacting our producers, local prices, transport, logistics and shipping.
We continue buying coffee according to each origin’s harvest cycle. Our suppliers send us samples, and we’re making selections in Oslo.
Our values remain the same
We continue to buy from producers with whom we have developed a relationship, be it long-standing or very recent. We are working hard to balance our risk, that of filling our warehouse with coffee we can’t sell, and the producers’ need to sell coffee and support their family. Wherever possible we are maintaining the volumes we purchased last year, however many of our producers are seeing lower yields due to the challenge of finding pickers during lockdowns.
We continue to focus on smallholders, promoting micro-lots where we have enough volume and developing “concept” blends for smaller producers so they have access to specialty premiums. We continue to pay producers the highest possible price for their coffee, based always on quality premiums. We are pre-contracting with our partners to ensure the relationships and programs we have created continue to flourish.
Future travel to origin
We don’t know what the other side of this pandemic looks like, and if we will continue to travel to origin with the same frequency as pre-Covid times, but we have confidence in our partners and trust the relationship to continue benefiting everyone in the specialty coffee value chain.
Current sourcing activities
The next coffees to arrive will be from Indonesia, mainly harvested from the end of May to mid July. We have had a continuous pre harvest dialogue with our producers, Wildan and Fikri at Frinsa Estate in Java, and David who manages our prep at Alko Coop in Kerinci, Sumatra.
We pre-contracted all our volumes at the start of the harvest in April/May. As with previous years, we also contribute substantially with pre-financing. We see this financial commitment is more important than ever to give our producers the resources they need in very uncertain times.
The harvest started early this year and we have scheduled the first shipment to depart early August. Another shipment is expected to leave in early September for the coffees harvested towards the end of the season.
We have increased the volumes of a lot of the coffees we enjoyed from last year, like anaerobic and lactic fermentation on both washed and naturals. We have already received and approved most offer samples based on the contracted preps, and we are absolutely certain these coffees will meet our high expectations. We will cup PSS in the next few weeks and get these coffees going. Check out the incoming Indonesians here.
In the south, Narino has been in harvest for some weeks and we have started to cup offer samples of what will likely be the first new harvest Colombians.
We expect to see further samples from Huila and Tolima through September.
We remain focused on existing partners, individual small producers and creating groups of producers where volumes are too small.
We started planning earlier this year after assessing our business needs mid-pandemic, we have already contracted the volumes we plan to purchase. Now we just need to choose the specific coffees, and we are working with our partners to receive adequate sample material and cup and make those decisions.
We have already cupped some very early samples from some partners that were tasting great, and we expect to see more volumes in the next two weeks, with an initial shipment in September.
We have been holding regular calls with our partners, communicating our needs on volumes and the kinds of coffees we hope to see this year. We will be receiving a lot of sample material in order to cup in our lab in Olso and make good decisions.
We have been in regular contact with our suppliers since April, on the phone and via Facetime.
We mostly purchase coffees grown at altitudes from 1600 to 2200 masl, and the harvest at these altitudes is peaking now. They seem to be approaching the halfway mark of the harvest in many places, and it will go on until October.
We have both pre-booked and pre-contracted a good amount based on specific coffees from certain communities, at fixed qualities and price levels. We need to ensure we get priority on the coffees we want, and to receive that we need to show we are fully committed.
Shipping samples is a big expense, so we have agreed with some of our suppliers that we will pay for a wider range of sample lots, knowing we can’t be there to scroll through table after table as we normally do.
We speak with our suppliers weekly to get updated harvest info, and will receive the first samples within a week. We’re aiming to get some early shipments going in early September, and continue to ship coffees until December. As far as we can tell, shipping will proceed as usual.
Uganda is an emerging specialty market and unlike neighbouring countries like Kenya, pre-contracting is essential if you want quality coffee. We have always pre-contracted and planned ahead for our Ugandans so we were well placed to deal with these travel restrictions.
West Uganda is just getting into their harvest. We have some naturals we have pre-contracted that we hope will ship in a few month’s time. In the south-west we are finalising the pre-contracts with Kingha Estate. They will start the harvest in late September. We basically buy their total volume, and we are confirming the different preparations we will do for both washed and naturals. Last year we had some great success with experimental preparations and will continue this for the upcoming harvest in bigger volumes.