Responsible Sourcing Helps Produce A Better Cup of Coffee
Last year we got a chance to take a tour of the Crimson Cup roasting facility on Alum Creek drive to see first hand how the local company roasts nearly a thousand pounds of coffee every day. This year we wanted to find out more about how the company sources their coffees from farms around the world and how the connections between farmers and roasters helps to make a better product for customers.
We spoke with Green Coffee Buyer Dave Eldridge, Coffee Buyer & Trainer Brandon Bir, and Marketing Director Melissa Rogner to find out more. Our full interview can be found below:
Walker Evans: How much has changed with coffee sourcing practices in the coffee industry since Crimson Cup first launched in 1991?
Dave Eldridge: There has been a great deal of change in the way we are able to source coffee since 1991. As the industry has evolved, so too has the coffee needed to fuel the changes in our industry. The consumer education that has taken place in the past 23 years has largely driven the need to find coffees that are more unique and complex in taste profile. All coffee roasters, large and small, can take pride in bringing these changes to our industry.
Due to the variety of coffees desired and often demanded by the costumers at large we have the ability to source directly to fill those needs now. We have often said that our job as a roaster is to protect the integrity of growers work. Now, more than ever, there are growers doing great work just looking for a roasting partner to show off the pride and craftsmanship they bring to their coffee. This desire for the grower to take part in the renaissance is where we find common ground. As an artisan roaster, we too want to opportunity to exhibit our commitment to coffee. Like minded and armed with great coffee we, the grower and ourselves, are able to walk stride for stride into the market with a coffee that reflects the dedication of our partnership.
In our understanding of each other we are able to offer a coffee today that I don’t believe could have existed only 10 years ago.
WE: Can you tell us about the Friend2Farmer program for those who are unfamiliar?
Brandon Bir: Friend2Farmer is about empowering coffee farmers and farming communities to produce an awesome crop to sustain their coffee farming community. We set criteria, beyond Fair Trade, to define what a F2F coffee sourced by Crimson Cup truly is. The key principles include that; the purchase of the coffee must offer support to the coffee growing community, the relationship with the farmer must be a mutual long-term commitment to better the production of coffee and the community, there must be complete transparency with purchases of coffee, and, there must be ongoing proof that the support of purchasing coffee is helping to transform the community. These guidelines help us remain grounded to the original idea of the program, and, ultimately, help us accomplish our goal of creating a better coffee growing community, international community, and local community.
We currently have five Friend2Farmer coffees including; El Socorro, Honduras; El Conquistador, Costa Rica; Hacienda Rio Negro, Costa Rica; Chanchamayo Highland, Peru and a Dark Blend, a dark roast crafted with our Honduran and Peru coffees.
WE: How often do representatives from Crimson Cup visit the farms where beans are sourced?
BB: We traveled every other month last year visiting coffee farming communities including; Costa Rica, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Brazil, to watch harvest, taste coffee, and ensure projects were moving along. Harvest is the best time to travel to the farms, as we are able to taste the coffee and watch the processing of the coffee cherries to guarantee its quality. Some farms already have quality control people in place to certify the quality of the product and the progress of the communities. It continues to be a priority for us to travel to the farms just to have a presence and let them know that we are interested (and invested) in helping their community today as much as we were at the beginning of our relationships.
WE: Do these smart sourcing efforts translate to increased sales from consumers who are becoming savvier with which kinds of coffees they buy?
BB: This is a work in progress, but the answer is yes. We have been offering some of these coffees on our brew bar menu at our coffee house in Clintonville. The coffees we source directly have passed our quality standards tests, and, therefore are incredible coffees with a range of taste profiles. Since customers have become savvier in coffee knowledge and coffee preference, we know they demand a level of coffee quality and expertise as well. Our brew bar coffees offer that heightened coffee experience for them. Having these coffees available at our coffee house allows us to engage each customer over a hand-poured cup to tell the story of the coffee growing communities – and – to speak to the distinct coffee notes of the coffee being poured. Sharing these stories of the coffee communities and sharing an awesome hand-brewed cup of coffee creates positive connections with our customers daily.
WE: How do these practices from Crimson Cup benefit the farmers directly?
DE: We have witnessed the direct benefits of working hand-in-hand with some of our coffee partners. Specifically, in El Socorro, Honduras. This was our first Friend2Farmer coffee and is our longest standing coffee community relationship so far.
Since 2011, Crimson Cup has been working with the coffee co-op in the Village of El Socorro de la Penita, Honduras to develop a sustainable coffee harvest and a better quality of life for local workers and their children. We have visited at least two times each year since our partnership to advise the farmers on growing and processing techniques that improve the quality of the coffee. We’re then able to pay more for the crop than farmers receive on the open market.
In 2012 we donated funds to purchase the raw materials to build school desks for the community elementary school and the community was able to hire a local carpenter to build the desks. We have donated funds to purchase new computers for the school to help the students achieve positive results through learning. And, we have continued to work with David Lopez and the farming co-op to improve the coffee processing at the co-op mill in El Socorro. With our commitment, the farming community has learned and appreciates the hard work that goes into processing an awesome coffee bean. This has allowed the community to produce more coffee (more efficiently) over the past three years.
In 2013, we stepped up support by sponsoring a service learning trip to the village with students from the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Ohio State students were able to experience, first-hand, the campus coffee’s long journey from farm to cup. It allowed them to be immersed in the production process and help create solutions to address the farm community’s infrastructure needs.
We look forward to the continiued opportunities to create sustainable solutions and engage our customers with such incredible coffee growing communities.
WE: Anything else we should know about the future of sourcing practices?
Melissa Rogner: Brandon traveled to the west side of the Puerto Rico last fall to learn more about efficiencies in coffee production. He visited several farms, including one owned by an OSU graduate, learning hands-on about the agronomy and processing of coffee. He brought back several ideas about honey-processing coffee and drying coffee. This was just one of many trips we have and will take to learn more about efficiencies and agronomy. As we visit more farms, we will learn more and share relevant experiences with the farmers we meet, to better the quality of coffee being produced. The ultimate goal of these visits is to better the quality of life of the farmers, their workers, and their communities. The better the quality of coffee they produce, the more money the farmers will get for their products, and the more they can reinvest into their communities. The bottom line is that we want to help farms become more sustainable.
Our goal to source direct with our farming communities is our commitment in 2014 and beyond!
For more information, visit www.crimsoncup.com.
From February 3rd to February 9th, Columbus Underground is celebrating Coffee Week 2014! Throughout the week, we’ll be taking a look at various coffee shops, roasters, brands, businesses and the people that contribute to this rapidly growing local movement.
Coffee Week 2014 is presented by our friends Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, providing handcrafted coffee to Columbus, OH since 1991. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter for more information.
Coffee Week supporting sponsorship by Stauf’s Coffee Roasters.