Posts Tagged ‘direct trade’

Big Rock Coffee Company

March 4, 2018

I had never heard of Big Rock Coffee Company until my attention was drawn to a coffee shop hosting a focus group.

Canopy Coffee are looking for keen coffee enthusiasts to partake in a FREE focus group discussion this Wednesday 28th at 6.30pm to give some consumer reaction to an exciting new coffee concept – Big Rock.

When anyone talks of something being exciting, the alarm bells start sounding, worse still a focus group.

Why is everything referred to as exciting? It is PR marketing gibberish, nothing else.

Focus groups are widely discredited.

Why would any reputable coffee shop host a focus group?

Why restrict to the age group 25-40, does no one drink coffee outside this age group? What does it say of the coffee shop?

It took place, the snow was bad. No detailed report posted for those who could not attend or who were barred by the age discrimination.

My curiosity was piqued.

I decided to check out this coffee company, what was special, why did they need a focus group, why not simply sell speciality coffee to discerning coffee shops?

Big Rock is a small single-origin coffee company built on a big idea.

We’re committed to :

1. Providing exceptional quality coffee from single origin sources.

2. Making a big difference to people’s lives by offering stability and hope in an unpredictable world.

We’re honest people with a clear message. We wanted our name to reflect those principles.

It just so happens that we found our first coffee partner on a farm overlooked by a gigantic monolith called ‘El Peñol.’

Marketing hype, tells me nothing about the coffee.

Digging further, more marketing hype, ‘genuinely unique flavour profile rarely found in the UK’ they claim what they are doing is something new, ‘pioneer a new sourcing model directly from his farm’

We’re not willing to compromise and sell Better Coffee using an outdated system which disenfranchises our own farmers. That’s why we created ShareTrade.

And more of the same

Our greatest asset is our direct relationships with individual farmers; the people who’ve planted, nourished and tended their crop – often for decades. So before we started building websites and designing logos, we packed our bags and travelled to the mountains of Colombia.

We learned that the real struggle farmers face is uncertainty. Fluctuating prices and currency exchange rates, insect infestations and plant diseases that threaten their livelihood combine to make coffee farming an extremely risky way to provide for their families. Not only that, some of these problems lead to a lower yield and poorer quality coffee, creating a chain reaction that ends up hurting you, our customer.

The current system seems to work for everyone except the people who matter most- the farmers. There’s so much good work being done by agencies and NGOs on the ground, but we believe the only solution is a total review of the pricing model and striking a mutually beneficial economic deal with the farmers, and a better system of value creation. So we created ShareTrade, a new sourcing model.

NGOs are not doing an excellent job on the ground, they are outsiders, make promises rarely kept, take a few photos with smiling faces to be use for fund raising back home, then depart in their air-conditioned 4x4s, never to be seen again.

NGOs step in, launch projects, outsiders, with no local knowledge, no long term commitment.

As Phil Adams reports, they have a name for these projects in Uganda.

Project has become a dirty word. In Ugandan coffee farming circles it means “fuck things up and take pretty pictures”.

So what is ShareTrade? Is it a coffee crowdfunding, as the name would suggest? Or maybe with all the marketing hype, a scam?

No, it is Direct Trade, but given a different name.

ShareTrade is a new model of cooperation with coffee farmers that recognises and rewards the value they create.

We start with a simple viability price. This price is what’s needed to ensure the profitability of coffee farmers – and take it from us, it’s a lot more than the market price, or even the Fairtrade price. This viability price is guaranteed, come rain or shine (and you need a bit of both.) It’s the foundation that gives our farmers confidence, stability and a basis for committing to their farms and to producing quality coffee.

But a better price and a commitment to investment are just two thirds of what ShareTrade is. The final part is our relationships. We maintain constant contact with our farmers, sometimes as mentors, but mostly as pupils, working together to build a long term system which rewards quality and innovation. And as we look to develop our business and start to make a profit, our commitment is to sharing this with the farmers too.

ShareTrade is the heart of Big Rock – the foundation that lets us accomplish our dream: to bring about deep satisfaction at every level of the coffee chain.

FairTrade is a marketing scam to make smug middle class feel good, nothing more. It pays a tiny premium above commodity price. By not rewarding quality, it maintains growers in poverty.

Direct Trade is about building long term relationships, paying a higher price for quality. Everyone benefits, the growers, the roasteries, coffee shops, those of us who appreciate decent coffee.

Direct Trade offers transparency, accountability, traceability.

No mention by Big Rock of varietals, processing, Q grade of their coffee.

To claim they are doing something new, is disingenuous, it is insulting to the many who have been working hard for many years to establish long term relations to pay higher premiums for coffee, to bring us speciality coffee.

To name but a few, Square Mile, Union Hand-Roasted Coffee, Hasbean, Small Batch, Falcon Speciality Coffee, Dark Woods Coffee, with apologies to the many I have not mentioned.

The name Union in Union Hand-Roasted derives from a union of farmers, roasters, tasters, drinkers and tweeters.

Last week I was contacted by someone who tried to justify drinking at Starbucks because he did not wish to drink coffee at a hipster indie coffee shop. This level of bullshit only serves to reinforce their prejudice.

All Big Rock has done, is renamed Direct Trade, ShareTrade, claimed it is something new, then surrounded it with marketing bullshit.

And no this is not an ‘exciting new coffee concept’ as falsely claimed by Canopy Coffee who hosted the event, which took place during the snow.

Thank you to all the participants for this discussion evening in assocation with Big Rock. Hats off for braving the freeze and the brutal wind chill to talk about all things coffee.

An extremely informative and diverse discussion with lots of opinion and great insight, both in regard to what companies perhaps could be doing and what exactly we all were drawn to as consumers. A big thanks again.

Nothing informative. A detailed report for those who did not or could not attend or were excluded by the age discrimination would have been useful, maybe something to look forward to. The claim ‘what companies perhaps could be doing’ is simply false, many companies are engaged in Direct Trade, working hard to improve the lot of growers, improve the supply chain, to deliver quality coffee.

I have made no mention of the coffee, I have not tried, but Big Rock are not doing either themselves or the farm from which they source any favours with this bullshit. Excellent coffee speaks for itself. It does not need marketing hype or bullshit.

It may well be Big Rock supply excellent coffee. I am more than willing if supplied with a bag, to cup and see how it stacks up in a cup of coffee.

Real Fresh Coffee by the co-founders of Union has a section on Direct Trade, Coffeeography the growers and farms from where Stephen Leighton head of Hasbean sources his coffee,  The Monk of Mokha the risks one Yemeni man Mokhtar Alkhanshali took to bring speciality coffee out of war-torn Yemen.

The Lincoln Coffee Festival kicks off on Wedneday 14 March 2018 at Coffee Aroma  with an afternoon of conversation and book signing with Stephen Leighton. An opportunity to learn about Direct Trade with one of the pioneers of Direct Trade. No bullshit guaranteed.  Chat and speciality coffee served by experts.

Why buy coffee from a supermarket?

July 24, 2017

The furore created by the decision of Sainsbury’s to ditch FairTrade has raised two separate but interrelated questions. Why FairTrade, why buy coffee from a supermarket? Which leads to another, are there not superior alternatives?

Since the furore arose I have checked out the shelves of three UK supermarkets, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, and for comparison a little indie food shop Food for Thought.

Asda and Sainsbury’s were stacked with rubbish undrinkable brand coffee. Only a small section with what could remotely be called quality coffee.

In Waitrose, half the shelf space stocked with an attempt at quality, the other half rubbish brand coffee. If nothing else, exposing the lie Waitrose shoppers have good taste.

One of the criticisms of Sainsbury’s pulling out of FairTrade, was that in Waitrose will find FairTrade.

I did not, maybe I should have looked harder.

I did though find coffee from Union Hand-Roasted Coffee. Quality coffee, not FairTrade but direct trade. It was the only coffee with a roast date, old coffee, past its best.

FairTrade is little more than a brand to make buyers feel good, they have done their bit by picking up a bag of FairTrade coffee.

Coffee is traded on international commodity markets, Arabica in New York, Robusta in London. It has no intrinsic value, it is a commodity to speculate on. Unfortunately the price speculators will gamble on, impacts on the livelihoods of coffee growers, as everything is pegged to that price.

Coffee roasters in search of quality coffee, speciality coffee, will pay for quality, the higher the quality the higher the price. There is an incentive to produce higher quality as a higher price will be paid. FairTrade offers no incentive for quality, it locks farmers into poverty dependent upon handouts.

Coffee roasters want quality, not only this year but next year, the year after. They will enter into long-term agreements with farmers, partnerships, help them improve quality, adopt better agricultural practices that improve the soil fertility, safeguard forests.

Kew Gardens have been mapping forests in Ethiopia to establish the impact of climate change and what mitigation measures to take. To safeguard the forest, which is an important genetic resource for coffee as contains many wild coffee trees, the forest has to have value. The forest has value by Union paying a higher price for the coffee, not only paying a higher price, working with the farmers to help them improve the quality, establishing a cupping lab in order that the farmers themselves can assess the quality of their coffee.

Another example is the Los Nogales Project on an estate in El Salvador owned by the Salaverria family. One estate, three farms, different varieties, different plots, different processing of the beans. Taylor St Roasted and Horsham Coffee Roast are sourcing from Los Nogales Project.

Square Mile has a similar project, though not as ambitious. Short Stories, same varieties of beans, grown at different altitudes.

Indie coffee shops want quality coffee, as that is what their customers are demanding. This feeds back to higher prices for coffee.

If you want quality coffee, coffee that is freshly roasted, then buy the bags of coffee from the coffee shop, or failing that, little shops that specialise in quality, or direct from the roasters.

If you want to support growers, drink quality coffee, why are you buying from a supermarket?

Little shops like Grocer and GrainThe Deli at 80, Food for Thought, have quality coffee in stock, as does the slightly larger Infinity Foods.

Indie coffee shops that are brewing quality coffee, will often have coffee for sale, often they roast their own.

Failing that, there are many quality coffee roasters, Has BeanUnionSquare Mile, Taylor St Roasted, Horsham Coffee RoasterThe Roasting PartyKaruna Coffee, to name but a few.

The furore relating to Sainsbury’s pulling out of FairTrade should be turned around, why are people buying coffee from Sainsbury’s, when if you like coffee, want to support growers, you should be supporting the coffee trade by supporting the local indie coffee shop, the little shop stocking quality coffee or buying direct from the coffee roasters who engage in direct trade. In doing so you are not only supporting the coffee growers with higher prices, you are also supporting the local economy.