Coffee. It’s one of the largest traded commodities. Globally we consume billions of cups a year and most of the time it goes without any thought. If anything, the praise goes to the roaster or brand and of course, the barista. But we have forgotten the most important link in the chain and that is the grower. And without question, great coffee starts and ends right here at origin.
Let’s take a look at other industries such as wine or even beef producers. They are praised for their farming and celebrated for their talents. But why should coffee be any different? Great coffee starts at the plantation. From the way the crop is nurtured and grown, maintained, and harvested, an excellent cup of coffee starts with the bean.
It take 3 years to establish a coffee tree before you can harvest from it. A well- managed plantation will yield 3+ kgs per tree and while tree’s can last more than 15 years, it reaches capacity by year 7 before the farmer needs to replant and start the process again, in order to maintain a high-capacity crop.
Flavour profiles are also unique to different countries and regions with soil and altitude creating many unique tasting notes. Just like any producer, if the crop isn’t managed well, it won’t produce a desirable taste and quality will be poor.
From the harvested green bean, it goes to the roaster. Just like a talented chef can make a well-farmed piece of beef sing, the roaster creates a blend composition to enhance the flavours. But if the beans are not of a high quality, it doesn’t matter how talented the roaster, the coffee simply won’t taste good.
We give a lot of praise to the barista and the roaster, but really a great coffee starts at the source and it is time we recognised and celebrated them and their stories as well as paid the right price for coffee. Unfortunately, given the low price of coffee, people are abandoning crops as they are earning less than what it costs to produce. Others are uprooting plantations to focus on other crops to ensure they can provide for their families. For such a widely consumed product, we need to recognise the C price is far too low and pay the grower accordingly for their talents, giving them incentive to continue, to entice youth back into coffee (the average age of a farmers is 54) so we can continue to enjoy coffee for years to come.
Great coffee starts here at the source and its high time we recognise this and celebrate the grower.
By Julia Tink, Director St Remio.