The most exciting thing about sourcing coffee in 2019 is how utterly mundane the process can be. There’s a reality show version of what coffee sourcing is (preserved for history by a television program showing a man running around hacking through bushes with a machete) and then there’s reality. Developing relationships, buying directly from farmers — these are tenants of coffee buying that are usually pictured as handshake deals on a rocky mountainside framed perfectly from a vista over a misty, green valley. Sourcing coffee, mostly, relies on commitment, patience, and communication.
Some of the biggest hurdles in coffee sourcing are logistics. A farmer might have amazing coffee cherry, but how does it get to the wet mill? A mill might have high quality standards, but how easily are those applied to large quantities of coffee as they're being processed? The best quality green coffee might be waiting, bagged, at a dry mill, but how will it get to the coast so it can be loading into a shipping container, starting a journey that will go by boat, train, and a series of trucks, all the way to the roaster's front door?
As a coffee roasters, our specialty at Ruby is roasting coffee. Relying on import/export specialists allows us to focus our time and investment on the core of our goals: delivering freshly roasted, high quality coffee as responsibly and sustainably as we can. With that in mind, we're very proud to work with export groups and import groups that can bridge the gaps in the coffee sourcing chain that allows Ruby to have direct connections to coffee producers without needed to travel internationally on a regular basis.
We believe that traveling to meet farmers and producers to build relationships is important, but developing relationships with importers and exporters can be just as important, if not moreso. Earlier this summer, we were able to launch three new coffees from farmers and farmer groups that Ruby has been introduced to through three different sourcing partners. As we evaluate our practices from a sustainability standpoint, traveling to coffee farms utilizes non-renewable resources, and can mean a significant financial investment that impacts the amount of money available to pay higher premiums for green coffee, among other items.
Over the next few months, we'll be examining our sourcing process in this space, and hopefully help break down why traveling to visit coffee farms isn't always responsible, when traveling to coffee farms might be necessary, and how utilizing the full scope of the supply chain can help coffee farmers create value for their coffees.