Anyone familiar with Stumptown Coffee Roasters knows they source outstanding coffees. What you might not know is the ongoing effort Stumptown’s green coffee buyers and roasters make to select these coffees.
In a traditional sale of green coffee beans, a roaster purchases green coffee from a broker or middle man, and the roaster has no contact or relationship with the farmer and has no control over how much money the farmer receives. In the last several years, independent coffee roasters have looked for opportunities to forge relationships with the farmer directly, cutting out the middle man so the farmer benefits by receiving a higher price and so the roaster can make a direct, positive impact on the lives of the people who provide the coffee. In this model of “relationship” buying, the roaster may visit the farm annually to learn first hand how the coffee is grown, harvested and processed. But the roaster’s expertise is in roasting coffee, not in agricultural processes, so he or she has no background to evaluate and advise on the effectiveness of these processes to best optimize the coffee’s potential flavor. This is where Stumptown’s green coffee buying practices for their “Direct Trade” coffees set an amazing industry standard and is now a model for partnership.
In recent conversations with Stumptown trainer Skip Colombo and green coffee buyer Ryan Brown, they shared how Stumptown’s green coffee buyers visit each Direct Trade coffee producing farm multiple times throughout the year — during the growing and harvesting/processing periods. During these visits any number of things happen, from teaching farmers to roast and taste their own coffees so they have the tools to evaluate how their farming practices affect coffee quality, to encouraging farmers to set aside money to improve the farm’s infrastructure in ways that directly improve coffee quality, to advising on updating harvesting and processing practices with the ultimate goal of improved coffee quality. With improved coffee quality, the farmer can ask a higher price, and we, the consumers, enjoy a more consistent and delicious coffee!
As mentioned in this month’s thump featured coffee article about Finca el Injerto Bourbon, Direct Trade, Stumptown requests that during the coffee harvest, beans are separated by varietal, by day of harvest, and by geographic region of the farm from where they grew. Stumptown then receives, roasts and cups samples of these separated beans to pick exactly which varietal, from which part of the farm, from which day it was harvested, to make up the lot Stumptown will purchase from that farm. They repeat this process with each direct trade coffee they purchase!
Stumptown green coffee buyer Ryan Brown said, “For fun, I’ve been tracking how many green samples I’ve cupped/evaluated since January 1st, and the number is presently 2,343 samples!” When it takes 150 samples to select Honduras Finca El Puente, and 25 samples to select Finca el Injerto, and 400 samples to pick the Kenyas: Ngunguru, Gaturiri, Gatomboya, Tegu, and some others, you might sip your Stumptown Direct Trade coffee with a little more awe. We know we do! Here’s to all of the work and passion that went into bringing us our delicious coffee!