Relationships and sourcing the highest quality coffee are why we travel to origin. Cultivating relationships in the coffee industry is a time-consuming process and one that requires a lot of love and respect, which is exactly why Heath travelled to Africa this year. Having never travelled through the continent before, he felt it was important to put in some time forging new contacts and sourcing great coffee.
Finding delicious coffee is easy…right? You turn up in a country, visit a bunch of farms, sample their coffee. Then you’ll decide which of the best tasting coffees to buy and strike a deal with the farmer, put the coffee in a container and ship it back home for roasting and sale.
This process may seem reasonable enough, but to make sure the coffee industry thrives and is sustainable it ends up being a more complex activity.
‘Cherry picking’ is what Heath describes as roasters heading to origin and coming back with the best coffee, usually beans that have scored over 88 points when cupped. This makes building relationships with farmers very difficult if one year you buy their coffee, and the next you ditch them for the new, higher scoring coffee.
Heath explained you can’t just turn up and buy the cream of the crop from a particular farm, dropping them the following year because their quality may have slipped. This isn’t good for lasting relationships and isn’t good for the livelihood of the producers.
Instead, Heath looks for producers he can be honest with. It's a great asset to have the opportunity to work with producers who understand what our needs are and vice versa. There are some producers we work with, who can create flavour profiles we want year after year. However, this requires building relationships with farms that are willing to try new things and are committed to progress.
While traveling at origin Heath keeps an eye out for coffees with flavour profiles that work in our blends, complementing each other and making a well balanced and tasty brew.
Heath’s always on the look out for special coffees that can stand alone. Usually, these beans have distinctive characteristics and flavours that are unique and interesting. Sometimes these coffee’s can be hiding in the most unexpected places, but building great relationships with producers means you’re more likely to find those special beans.
It's relatively common to find producers planting new varietals and trying new techniques. Due to the great relationships Heath and Coffee Supreme have cultivated, we’re in the position to bring them back to Australia for our customers. This is one of the beauties of coffee – it's an ever-evolving product – more money flows to producers who invest in development and experimentation resulting in quality coffee.
Coffee Supreme made the decision four years ago to go out and buy our own green, which means we have more control over the coffee we supply. Without being paid a fair price producers can’t continue growing coffee while investing in their infrastructure. Without a price that fairly reflects their costs they may, ultimately, pull out coffee plants and sow something that’ll be far more profitable.
Heath has made some great connections in Africa and is looking forward to building on these relationships in the future.