I choose Sourcing Partners carefully, and like everything in coffee, these choices are based on relationships. To start off, I did some of my earliest trainings and cuppings at Atlas Coffee Importers (now a part of Neumann Kaffee Grupe. I took roasting courses, attended numerous public cuppings, took my Q-Arabica course, traveled to El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Rwanda, and Uganda with them, and was simply just friends with many of the folks making up Atlas. It is a wonderful company made up of smart, well-trained, and empathetic individuals. I knew I would start there.
Over the course of roasting, I moved my roasting operations from a small roastery to a rented space inside of yet another importer, Mercon Specialty. They are the arm of a large commercial importer, but specialize in well, specialty coffee. They have a program called LIFT that not only pays more for coffee, but also invests in more training at origin. I’m currently attempting to get my friends Eduardo Banegas and Brenda Leiva (more on them in a future blog post) into a LIFT program in Honduras to enable them to more easily sell their coffee every year.
As I continued my sourcing, I befriended James McKinney at Sucafina Specialty. They do great work all over the world, but I am especially impressed with their coffee sourcing and commitment in Indonesia. I have purchased fantastic Papua New Guineas, a Timor-Leste and a Sumatra from them. They’re also caring partners in that they helped bring in a Rwandan natural coffee as well as the aforementioned Honduran coffee. Like Mercon’s LIFT program, they have a Farmgate program that guarantees more money at origin to producers.
I met Jeanine Niyonzima-Aroian and JNP Coffee via my volunteer work with the Specialty Coffee Association. She is a one-woman powerhouse who exports Burundian coffee all over the world (based in Massachusetts, she then imports it into the US). She pays premiums to the farmers well above Fair Trade, which lifts these farmers to great heights. For example, our most recent addition, Burundi Turihamwe is the product of a woman-owned washing station, paid for with premiums from Jeanine’s company.
My friends at Boon Boona Coffee in Renton, WA (soon to also be on Capitol Hill in Seattle as well!) introduced me to Laetitia Mukandahiro of Ikawa House Coffee in Rwanda (the same coffee Sucafina helped import). Laetitia supports young coffee professionals in Kigali with a coffee training center and direct quality control with her farmer partners.
Our newest importing partner is Shared Source, a green importer who understands the value to the farmer in selling all xsdxtheir coffee, not just their top scorers. They transparently list what they paid for the coffee, well more than Fair Trade, and help support farmers improve their practices.
As 2021 progresses, I hope to add Grand Paradé coffee to this list. They import high quality, sustainable Kenyan coffee.
As you can see, the relationships I make with importers and exporters connects me to farmers and millers in producing countries. And sometimes I have direct relationships with farmers that I in turn use other relationships to connect my customers to their coffees. We are all connected via this delicious beverage, and our goal should always be to respect the farmer by paying them more.