Every year between half May and July (roughly) we are on a bean hunt. New crop Ethiopia, Kenya, Guatemala and other centrals are peeping up and it's very often a matter of being first, or left over with the left overs....
Our whole collection of Kenyan coffee (between 8 and 10 lots) is already bought at origin.
For the other country's we hope to find the necessary gems in between the dozens of coffee samples the coffee traders are sending us, or presenting us at cuppings in their tasting room or at trade shows all over Europe.
There are two types of coffee samples.
First ones are the pre shipment samples. These are samples coming from origin before all the beans are harbored. The processing of the beans is still in full swing, but hoping for early buys (and money) they ship already greens to specialized roasteries or coffee trading companies. If you act quickly on these pre shipment coffees the chances are pretty high you can actually buy the coffee.
Of course the big risk is here that the finally delivered product deviates from the sample. Sometimes the pre shipment samples tastes less good then the actual coffee you'll receive later but from time to time the final coffee (on spot) has more defects or very rarely it's a completely coffee all together. Every coffee trading company has a no-good-money-back-warrenty, but it never comes with a smile. There are very often big discussions about it and i understand. Tasting stuff is sometimes really complicated. Different water, grinders and your state of mind can fool your taste buds. And then i believe at origin they sometimes sift some defects out of the pre shipment samples to raise the score. Hard to prove of course.
Then we cup also samples from coffees that are actually on spot and waiting in the harbor for us. This time you can be sure we talk about the actual stuff you are going to roast once the deal is made.
We cup blind to start and when the samples are cooled down we read what is in the cup and look if there's anything useful in it for us.
Do we need a coffee for a certain blend? If yes; is there a price tag we should take notice off and does it blend in well with the other parts? What's the volume we need? Where is the coffee located? Is it a coffee for both filter and espresso roasts or does it limit itself towards one of these only? How long does the coffee stays fresh? Can we order some more later on if necessary? How do we finance it? Is there anything better (or cheaper) landing soon?
In general we are looking for the best bean and less for the price. Of course we have certain price restrictions. Caffenation has a reputation of being good on value, but mostly good coffee comes with a price. Recent market prices show significant lower prices for commodity coffees, but the true gems are only getting more expensive and so it happens we bought three different lots yesterday for prices ranging between 10 and 15 euro's a kilo. Of course all these coffees are fully traceable, very tasty and give the producer at origin a fair price, way above the fairtrade price, for their beans.
Towards the retail clients this mostly does not influence the price of the bags. For the professionals/wholesale we have a fixed margin (in euro's) we put on top of our greens price. There's no bullshit or hidden stuff here. We print our greens price - or buying price of the unroasted goods - on the invoice. So no yelling 'we have fantastic beans' and then mixing up cheap shit, but the facts on paper. We believe this is more honest and our clients deserve this transparency.
For the upcoming months we are still struggling to find great Ethiopian coffees, but for Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala we are already very well weaponed to make this an unforgettable second part of the year!