One of the things that makes our Farm to Cup sourcing model so special is that it allows us to connect with people across the world in our pursuit to source coffee transparently. However, living amidst a global pandemic, travel has become complicated, and in many cases, not possible for the time being. In light of this, producers and green coffee buyers alike have had to pivot, including our Green Team here at Stone Creek. This post briefly explores some of the ways we’ve done so over the course of the past 11 months and what green sourcing during a pandemic looks like for us here at Stone Creek Coffee.
Whether we’re in the midst of a pandemic or not, social media plays the crucial role of creating visibility for both roasters and producers. Social media has become a critical touch point for all participants in the value steam, including customers, and, though it may not surprise you, is one of the primary ways that we find new partners other than word of mouth. Thanks to social media, we’re able to connect with coffee producers around the coffee growing world, no matter what circumstances we might be living through, no matter where we are. In this sense, social media has become reflexively essential to business and interconnectedness.
Across the business world, virtual meetings have become a cornerstone of communication during the pandemic. For coffee, virtual meetings have become a placeholder for in-person visits, which often take place around harvest time, and allow us as green buyers to meet the people producing the coffee we purchase, as well as to see the conditions of the farms it is grown on. While in person meeting is often essential to international trade and partner management, virtual meetings allow us to continue to dialogue even when we’re not able to meet physically in person. Whether the relationship is new to us or we’re maintaining existing ones, video meetings are a great way to connect with people face-to-face.
Chepe, pictured on right, talking to me, pictured on bottom left, over video chat. Chepe is one of the farmers of MICEPA in Costa Rica, which is the Farm to Cup coffee that’s featured in our Costa Rica Green Dragon, and the fruit of a 7-year Farm to Cup relationship.
Virtual Origin Trips
What happens when green buyers can’t travel to origin? Some producers have taken the idea of virtual meetings and farm visits and turned them into a hybrid format: virtual origin trips. With the help of things such as drones, virtual origin trips are a way for green buyers to ‘visit’ the farms without ever having to step a foot on them. Since virtual meetings are often face to face business calls, these virtual farm visits go a step beyond and bring the farm virtually to us, allowing us to see the farms and the coffee growing on them. Our partners at Primavera Coffee in Guatemala are a great example of producers providing this.
You’ve probably heard of the messaging app, Whatsapp, but did you know that coffee producers and green buyers use this app as a means of communication? Since coffee producers and green buyers across the world live in different time zones, Whatsapp is an essential tool for being able to communicate with one another with ease and quickly. Though we have used this messaging app as a means of communication since before the pandemic, we’ve been relying on it even more heavily as we live through it. Especially while initially getting to know a new potential partner, as well as for easy communication during the sampling process, Whatsapp is a way for us to communicate at our fingertips. Producers are able to answer questions, send us pictures, call us, and more.
Farm Comes to the Cup
This February, we had the opportunity to host a visit from one of our producing partners, Cofinet. Cofinet is a Colombian exporter owned by producer Felipe Arcila. Felipe and his sales representative Juan Camilo Zuluaga had a chance to visit us while on a tour of roasting partners in the USA. We began our Farm to Cup Partnership with Cofinet at the beginning of the pandemic and haven’t had a chance to travel to Colombia to visit them yet, so having the opportunity to meet them in person was a definitive moment, allowing us to dialogue more openly than virtual meetings are able to provide.
Eric Resch, pictured on right, showing Felipe and Juan of Cofinet our production area.
Cupping in the Stone Creek Coffee Cupping Lab
The cupping lab is where all of the sampling magic takes place. Since we’re not able to travel to origin and sample high volumes of offers while visiting the farms and labs abroad, we’ve been cupping all of our offer samples in the cupping lab. When a sample arrives, we check in the green coffee and analyze things like moisture, density, green defects, and more. After we save the information in Cropster, our green and roasted coffee logging software, I sample roast it on our Diedrich IR-1 in the Cupping Lab. Once the coffee has sat off roast for one day, myself and Eric cup the coffee, providing feedback via cupping notes and scores. At this point, we make the decision to either purchase or politely decline the offers.
Sourcing coffee during a pandemic may look different, but Farm to Cup is never compromised in the process. It is perhaps during the most challenging times in life that we can lean into one another and learn the most. Click the button below and shop our Farm to Cup coffees with free carbon neutral shipping via UPS Ground.
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