Did you know the word “crisis” originates from a Greek word that means “decision”?
We have all been in crisis mode for the better part of the year, and six months in, we’re seeing a distinct change in our industry, and the vital importance of firm and early decisions.
The new model of specialty
The overwhelming feedback I have received from customers all over the world is that the demand for micro-lots has seen an incredible growth due to webshop sales. It is clear that coffee consumers are more willing to pay for quality coffee they brew at home than they might for coffee they purchase in a cafe.
This change in consumer habits has significantly impacted the demand for high scoring micro-lots.
The challenges of sourcing in a pandemic
You might have noticed our offers list is not as long as it used to be. We are still actively sourcing coffees but the pandemic has made this job much more difficult.
Longer sourcing times
Firstly, it takes much longer to select coffees. Previously our buyers could travel to origin, cup through several hundred coffees in a few days, make selections, and fill a container or three. Now we rely on samples sent to our Oslo office. If we don’t find the coffees we need in the samples sent, we ask for more samples, which can take several weeks. It’s just plain slower.
Lower volumes available
A number of factors at origin have reduced the volumes of specialty coffee available. The increase in the C-Price, and the drop in value of local currencies against the USD mean farmers are able to sell their coffee to local buyers for much higher prices than in previous years. This is great news for the producers, but it also means there are fewer quality lots available as there is less incentive to make the investment in producing specialty.
So the current reality is that there is higher demand for high performing micro-lots, and fewer micro-lots available.
Pre-booking: the solution to many problems
Pre-booking coffees is a way to ensure you get the profiles and qualities you need. It also lowers our risk and, in some cases, allows us to book additional containers with confidence, which is vital support for our producers who are also enduring this crisis.
Pre-booking coffee can mean booking a coffee as soon as we confirm a selection. It can also mean making a decision much earlier in the harvest which is what happened this year in the case of Rwanda.
Fully pre-booked container from Rwanda.
Rwanda, sadly, has been an origin we’ve struggled with over the years. This is not for a lack of enthusiasm on our part. We really believe in these coffees because the quality is always there. But for some reason, we haven’t been able to convince our customers of this, and we frequently have to discount Rwandas in order to sell them. This is the tough reality of being an importer, we have had to sell many great Rwandan lots at a loss.
This is obviously unsustainable, and we did consider the option of not buying coffee from Rwanda this year, but this would be a dire situation for our producers. So instead we reached out to our customers. We contacted roasters who have been loyal to the Mahembe and Gitesi projects in Rwanda to ask them to pre-commit to a specific volume before the container hit the water. Thankfully many customers said yes so we were able to maintain our long-term commitments to suppliers in Rwanda.
A big thank you to:
My Ugly Baby
Open Coffee LLC
Your decision to pre-book Rwandans made this container possible.
Get in touch with us if you think pre-booking is something you can do.
Have a great week and don’t forget to smile,