A review of Coffee in 2011
It’s always nice to look back at where we’ve been, so we know where we are now, and where we might be able to go in the future. A lot has happened in our coffee program over the last year. Here are some brief reflections.
Visited long term trading partners in Honduras at RAOS co-op to select lots and review sorting & processing techniques Visited our other Honduras trading partner, the COMSA co-op, to cup samples with farmers from the Marcala region that were developing a specially prepared lot for us Visited Aida Battle in El Salvador to learn about her revered agronomy and processing techniques that have earned her top awards at the Cup of Excellence and one of the most sought after coffees in Latin-America. Visited the Mzuzu Coffee Planters co-op in Malawi, Africa twice to explore organic farm development and sourcing possibilities for the future Visited our long-term trading partners in Ethiopia, the Oromia union of co-ops, to visit farmers and washing stations in the Sidamo and Yirgacheffe regions and to see their community projects funded by fair trade coffee premiums Visited our long-term trading partner the UCIRI co-op, the pioneers of fair trade, to plan a delegation tour in Mexico to witness the coffee harvest in an indigenous community.
A large organization of producer co-ops across Latin-America (the CLAC) launched their new Small Producers Symbol and certification system as a means to maintain the founding principles of “REAL Fair Trade”, as the Fair Trade International (FLO) system is increasingly co-opted by multinational corporations. Just Us! becomes the first company in North America to join in alliance with the small producers and register to use the symbol We participated in 3 important meetings to plan the introduction of the Small Producers Symbol in El Salvador, Houston and Nova Scotia. I was elected to the Board of Directors of FUNDEPPO (organization of the CLAC) that manages the symbol and certification system, composed of 4 Latin-American producer representatives and 2 international traders After years of advocacy from small farmer organizations, FLO finally raised the minimum fair trade price, as well as the social and organic premiums FLO standardizes a new fair trade logo across the world to be fully implemented within a couple of years Global Market The global commodity price for coffee soared to a 34 year high, after concerns about supply in Brazil and Colombia and aggressive speculator activity; Coffee companies across the world, including us, scrambled to raise prices in order to survive Small-scale coffee farmers saw higher prices for their harvest but with the soaring costs of food, fuel and farm inputs, say that they are still struggling for basic necessities The high prices meant ‘coyotes’ (middlemen) increasingly offered famers cash at the farm gate as buyers scrambled to secure imports, resulting in less coffee being delivered to small producer co-ops, putting these important community organizations at risk.
Our vintage 1954 Gothot roaster was delivered from a shop in Arkansas where it was being refurbished Completed the propane, electrical and chimney hook-ups on the roaster along with a new bucket elevator to load green beans Gave our 1970s U22 Probat roaster a tune-up which has brought out improved acidity, intensity and body in our roasts Removed automated controls from our UP22 and started experimenting with craft roast profiles by hand for each of our coffee lines; After extensive trials and cupping, set new profile targets using data logging software and incorporated into production Built a new cupping and quality control lab Ran into delays because of mechanical challenges with the Gothot, but the machine is starting to show us that it is not only beautiful to look at, but also roasts beautiful coffee Launched a new line of ‘Single Origin Reserve’ coffees that are small lots sourced from individual or small groups of farmers with exceptional beans that are given special treatment; and a line of distinctive ‘Limited-Release’ coffees that we source and offer for a limited time Promoted 2 staff members into roasting positions; the whole team is helping lead our artisanal focus on coffee.
Implemented the first 2 levels of a multi-stage barista training program, with both coffee theory and hands-on coffee and espresso education Created 2 new coffee training centres in Halifax and Wolfville Purchased Nuova Simonelli espresso machines and Mahlkonig grinders for all 4 of our coffeehouses Baristas and roasters changed the components and roast profile of the Gondwana espresso blend, bringing a clean balanced flavour and consistency Phuong Tran, former US barista champ, worked with the Head Barista team to polish techniques on the espresso bar 2 Head Baristas volunteered at the US Barista competition in Houston and 1 attended Camp Pull-a-shot in California Coffee really is a dynamic business. I am looking forward to the possibilities in 2012.