Well, what’s interesting is that a lot of times you’ll buy a cup of coffee, you won’t think about where it comes from.Knowing where your coffee comes from and knowing who participated in the production of it is a big part for us; we’ve kind of hung our hat on that fundamental fact for our business.
Treating the production side the same way that we would treat our consumer side, which is with love and sort of participation is how we want to do it. I work with coffee producers; that’s my back of the house, these are our partners. Our entire company is built on those relationships and it’s just magic to us.
A coffee is bought on a relationship model, which is on the quality of the coffee. We work in multi-year contracts, which is necessary for the producer to have some peace in mind and some insurance that we’re coming back. Most importantly we buy coffees that are very marketable for the producers. We work with people that we like; we work with people that we trust and we work with people that we feel have professional integrity. We’re in a lot of countries; we’re in Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador… I was just in Haiti last week. Those relationships take many years. To form a relationship with a producer, or a producer group, the first thing that we like to do is taste the coffee. It’s not to say that the coffee has to taste perfect; sometimes that’s what happens. You taste coffee and it’s magic and we move forward. Other times, we taste the coffee, we know a little bit about the area, about the group, and we understand that there’s a high potential for really great coffee in that area.
A fact that you hear thrown around a lot is that coffee is the second most traded commodity next to oil. The definition of a commodity is something that’s traded with no common on its quality. We are not buying commodities; we are buying a food product. We buy it based on quality. The two qualities that we look for in coffee as sort of a starting point are that they’re clean and sweet; that’s an industry-wide standard. If processing is done correctly, then the actual aftertaste and what we call the finish of the coffee cup will really be clean; so that’s your starting point.
You need that starting point of clean and sweet; it’s like the platform of all good coffee. You have to drink the coffee and say “wow.” Everybody did their work; everybody benefited but also this is something very special and I feel very strongly about that.
It’s an intense community that produces one single cup of coffee; it’s humbling. We use that in training; when we’re teaching people how to make coffee we let them know, “you have to remember, you’re the hundred and first person that’s touched this coffee, so respect the people that were behind you.”
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