A higher price for better coffee

In this post, Richard explains some of the important and key factors that go into conversations around paying more money for higher graded coffee, and the benifits of doing so for us as a company.

  • It is the second year we’ve purchased from the Antioquia (‘Anti-o-kea’) Cooperative and there's a remarkable the difference in quality from this shipment compared to last year. We asked our cooperative partners (Coopertiva de Caficultores de Salgar) if it was possible to have a coffee from the farmers they represent that had a cupping score of 85 and had a defect rating of 0 primary and no more than 20 secondary defects per kilo of green coffee. What we asked from them was in effect a speciality grade coffee suitable as a delicious single origin or as a high quality coffee for our blends.

    While most producers in Colombia own farms that are less than a hectare in size, it’s important to remember that most coffee farmers are very small producers. The 17 ton shipment from Antioquia comes from 30 families surrounding the beautiful town of Betulia and all the coffee that we purchased from these farmers has to be first picked, then processed at their own small mills and once dry is passed onto the cooperative for sorting and hulling. In an attempt to keep this brief, it’s important to point out that the coffee has passed through many hands prior to it reaching our shores and the quality and value added steps begin with the farmer.

  • An example of a very clean and well looked after small wet mill in Valle de Cauca - Richard Corney from Flight Coffee, Torsten Hahn from Good Karma Coffee and Miguel Farjardo from Helena.

    It’s all very good and well asking a cooperative and farmers to produce quality coffee, but when coffee farmers are subject to the volatile commodity market that coffee is traditionally sold through, it can be very hard at times to provide incentives to producers because of the volatility of what is normal market conditions. When the market is up, it’s up, but when it’s down and more often than not it is, farmers can make very little money on their harvest and in some instances they’ll be forced to sell below the cost of production.

    We offered a premium above the market rate if the farmers could achieve the desired quality we were after. The coop went out to the farmers and told them that we were prepared to pay more for better quality coffee, some didn’t want to participate and others did.

  • Matt Graylee from Flight Coffee, Torsten Hahn from Good Karma Coffee, Richard Corney from Flight Coffee and Tyler Youngblood from Azahar Coffee with Hernando de Jesus Restrepo, cooperative manager of the Antiouqia Cooperative talking to the 30 farmers in Betulia.

    It was by absolute coincidence that the day we visited Betuila in May this year that Hernando de Jesus Restrepo, the cooperative manager and the cooperative committee had all 30 farmers present in Betulia to present them their premiums. Hernando asked us if we could present the farmers with their cheques, we of course gladly obliged and what followed was one of the most remarkable experiences I’ve ever had in coffee.

    Over all, we paid a little over $25,000 USD in quality premiums in addition to the market rate to our farmers, it was paid out proportionate to the amount of coffee the farmer contributed and were a little over double the Fairtrade premium at the time.

    Leocadio Posada Correa contributed 7 ton to the lot, the single largest contributor, and he received a cheque for over 20,000,000 Colombian Pesos, that is equivalent to $12,200.00 NZD. To put this in perspective, the average annual wage in Colombia in 2012 was a little under 16,000,000 COP. Leocadio received 125% of the average wage in one cheque, which was purely incentivised by quality.  

    It was the first time that some farmers had met a coffee roaster and when I asked what they’d spend their premiums on, common replies were servicing debt and buying fertilizer. We are using this coffee in Bomber, every cup or kg you buy is actually helping make a difference to families and after the response we got from them in May this year, I can certainly thank you on their behalf if you’re supporting them by purchasing our Bomber blend.

  • The 30 farmers who contributed to the Betulia Lot with their cheques.

    We need to acknowledge that this achievement would not have been made possible without the commitment of each farmer and the Coopertiva de Caficultores de Salgar alike. The passion that Hernando, Himay and the cooperative team have for the sustainability of the people they represent is truly inspiring.

     If you have any questions about this post, please feel free to email me at richard@flightcoffee.co.nz or matt@flightcoffee.co.nz.

    Have fun and happy coffee drinking,


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