Relationship Coffee

Relationship coffee

Working Directly with green coffee producers

When we started Horsham Coffee Roaster in 2012 one of of main long term goals was to develop links with coffee producers and to learn more about direct trade. The term ‘direct trade’ is used by many coffee roasters and importers to signify a direct link with producers. The problem with the phrase is that it’s sometimes not clear who is actually responsible for the direct trade. In many cases the importer of the coffee is actually the one trading directly and not the roaster. This is still the case for us with many of the coffees we purchase. There can often be quite a few links in the chain, in places like Kenya and Rwanda the chain is usually something like: Farmer – Washing Station – Exporter – Importer – Roaster, a total of 5 links. Most of the time the direct trade link is between the Importer and the Exporter and that’s where the money is changing hands and flowing back through the system. The chain was quite different with the coffees we bought this year from Gold Mountain in Nicaragua with just 3 links: Farmer – Mill/exporter – Roaster. The biggest challenge with this approach is that we had to pre finance the coffee before shipment with the total time from payment to receiving the coffee adding up to about 8 weeks.

In 2015 we visited Rwanda for the first time and have now developed direct links with washing stations and exporters. Rather than use the phrase ‘direct trade’ we’ve decided to introduce a ‘Relationship Coffee’ logo to some of our info cards and labels. The first coffees to receive this logo will be the Rwanda Karisimbi microlot and the Nicaragua Finca Idealista lot. For this logo to be used on a specific coffee it has to meet the following criteria:

  • Be able to directly communicate with the producer (ie washing station and exporter) with full transparency of the financial trail.
  • Must have visited the washing station / farmer with the intention to visit at least every two years but preferably every year.
  • Work with the producer on projects to improve quality, sustainability and a long term working relationships.

In most cases our relationship coffee will be exclusive or special preparation lots. This year we had some small lots prepared for us by our friends at Gishyita washing station in Rwanda to our specific requirements. Our long term goal is to develop relationships with multiple origins and we will be spending the first week of December visiting co-operatives and washing stations in Kenya. If it all goes according to plan we will be able to develop relationship links with some of these producers in Kenya with the coffees arriving in February/March, 2017.

We hope you enjoy drinking these new relationship coffees.