Our approach to sourcing speciality coffee beans in Rwanda, Kenya and Nicaragua
Finding great coffees in green bean format is relatively easy in the UK and Europe. We are very fortunate to have numerous speciality coffee suppliers based in the UK who all have links and relationships with coffee farmers and producers around the world. When we started Horsham Coffee Roaster we always hope to one day source coffee directly from origin and to build and cultivate relationships rather than relying exclusively on other people to do this for us.
All of the coffees we source and roast have been traded directly either by us or one of the companies we work with. This ensures a fair and transparent price for the producers that is well above the fair trade base price. In May 2015 we started sourcing coffee directly from Rwanda following a visit to several washing stations. We visited Rwanda again in May 2016 and are continuing to work with Gishyita washing station, a small co-operative located on the eastern shore of lake Kivu. Prior to the 2016 harvest we donated $1000 to the co-operative to help fund new facilities (flotation tanks, fermentation tanks and grading channels) which has enabled them to further increase the quality of the coffee that they are producing. We are also working with several other coffee farming operations and will be visiting Rwanda again in 2017. We are 100% committed to cultivating long term relationships with small hold farmers and co-operatives in Rwanda. These coffees arrive in October-November and should be available on the website for several months.
Early in 2016 Matthew, our head roaster, travelled to Nicaragua to visit several coffee farming operations. He was able to spend some time with Ben at Gold Mountain Coffee, a social enterprise working with numerous small coffee farms. They specialise in a variety of processing methods including washed, honey and natural and are very much focused on working towards better prices for hard working farmers. We purchased coffee directly from them this year and hope to do so again year on year.
Our direct trade plans for the future include a trip to Kenya in December 2016 followed by visits in 2017 to Nicaragua, Rwanda and Brazil to develop new relationships and to continue to develop those that are already established.
In addition to a strong focus on direct trade the quality of the coffee we purchase is paramount. In order to help us assess samples pre shipment we utilise a moisture meter (ideal moisture content is between 10 and 12%) and an Ikawa sample roaster. We are meticulous about making sure the coffees we buy meet the strict standards we’ve set for ourselves. Improved quality means better prices for farmers so it is very important that we continue to support the producers that work hard to supply us with high scoring coffees.
Research and development:Many coffee producing countries have realised the added value of alternative processing methods. Countries like Costa Rica and Nicaragua are producing excellent washed, honey and natural processed coffees. Honey and natural processing can create some very interesting and distinctive flavours if done correctly with the right training. During our visit to Rwanda in 2016 we were able to provide training at two washing stations who agreed to produce a honey and a natural processed coffee alongside the regular washed Red Bourbon varietal. Over time this teaching and experimentation will help co-operatives and farmers to add value to their coffees through alternative processing methods.