Sourcing coffee is a complicated issue for a small business.
The first question is an attempt at honest self evaluation.
From a farm perspective, what the industry considers Specialty Coffee "Top Lots" makes up a small small small small small percentage of seasonal production. Green Coffee that trained Q-Graders and Importers would consider in the high 80's to low 90's are easy to sell at premium prices.
But for the average farmer, it only makes up 5-20 percent of their production. The rest of their coffee might score in the 80-85 point region.
(Sub 80pt "commodity grade coffee" has it's own ongoing challenges and dark past, think about the history of Oil, Sugar or Spice)
The real make or break for these farmers is the challenge to move the other 85 percent of their coffee at a price that gives them the ability to keep combat markets set up against them and still have the ability to pay their employees fairly in an attempt to grow their own business.
Corruption, changing weather, volatile markets, supply chain issues, and the already small margins in coffee make this a dance that is flawed on so many levels. Not to mention say, a global pandemic paired with a frost that killed 2 million trees in Brazil, the country that sets the global coffee base price.
Crew Brew is a one person operation. It's me. I like fancy unicorn coffee. But I also buy coffee that supports other businesses and efforts to do good. I want to bring interesting coffees to you but am equally excited about buying small lots of coffee that are tied to the effort of improving the coffee industry, specifically the lives of farmers.
No farmers, no coffee. Same like us. No Crews, no show. No Musicians who gave up their awkward teenage years to practice, no music. You get the analogy.
What I want to communicate is that while I can't buy quantities of coffee to have direct relationships with farmers, I can buy coffee from importers who have a strong ethos and have done their homework.
Importers who have fair relationships with farmers and are equally committed to helping new roasters like myself have a sustainable business. And now you can see how daunting this whole thing is.
I am one of the the last stops in the coffee supply chain. I do the fun work. But there are many hands that made it possible for me to put coffee in a bag with my logo on it. And I want to make sure we all recognize that the real work was done long before the green beans show up at my doorstep.
So thank you to these people. We all have choice of intent and I'm proud to be a small partner with these folks.
Jen Hurd at Genuine Origin.
The team at Cafe Imports/Bodega.
And Jacob Henderson at Bodhi Tea/Leaf Company.
And last but not least, Elliot and Len at the California Roasting Collective who provide an incredible place for roasters like me to grow and learn.