Kent, Finley and I recently high tailed it to Portland for the evening to attend Stumptown’s “Meet the Producer” event, featuring El Salvadoran coffee producer, and Cup of Excellence winner, Aida Batlle. Stumptown’s senior green coffee buyer, Aleco Chigounis facilitated the conversation between Aida and the audience, shedding light on his own tremendous knowledge of coffee harvesting and processing and the role he plays in educating and encouraging coffee producers to improve coffee processing practices in the name of coffee quality.
Among the many things that were discussed, 2 things stood out: 1) the real and positive impact that the Direct Trade relationships between Stumptown and the coffee producer have on coffee workers’ quality of life; and 2) the opportunity for continual innovation in coffee processing and its ultimate result in improved coffee quality.
Many of the coffees that Stumptown offers are Direct Trade coffees. Stumptown works and negotiates directly with these exceptional coffee producers, leaving out the coffee broker and other middle men. The farmer receives more money when middle men are not in the picture, and Stumptown further incents the farmer to produce higher quality coffee by offering a premium for coffees that meet Stumptown’s quality standards. Aida Batlle described that through this model, her workers are the highest paid in the country of El Salvador. She is also able to provide health care, school uniforms for children, and food for her workers. Some coffee producers in the area charge their workers for food, Aida does not.
Through the Direct Trade model there are opportunities for collaboration between Stumptown and the coffee producer. When the green coffee buyer has a depth of knowledge of coffee harvesting and processing practices, sharing this information with the coffee producer can not only transform the coffee, but if the coffee producer is open to continual improvement through small batch experimentation, the results can be phenomenal! Aleco and Aida spent a good portion of the evening describing how their ongoing work together and Aida’s interest in innovative practices have produced spectacular results. Aleco commented that he and Aida exchange emails nearly weekly, sharing ideas on the methodology of processing the coffee after it has been picked. (Processing is the period of time when much of the flavor of the coffee is developed.)
Aida, a repeat El Salvador Cup of Excellence winner, is known worldwide for her meticulous coffee cherry selection and attention to picking perfectly ripe coffee cherries. She elaborated that her coffee pickers are skilled at picking cherries when they are perfectly ripe for the specific processing method used at her farm. Arturo Aguirre Jr., coffee producer of Guatemala Finca el Injerto, Direct Trade, and Cup of Excellence winner, echoed a similar message when we met him a few years back. On his farm, the coffee pickers’ skill for picking cherries when they are ripened properly for the processing method used on his farm, is a hugely significant factor in the outcome of the coffee’s flavor.
During the evening, Aleco reflected that there isn’t “specialty coffee” so much as there are “specialty coffee producers” — coffee growers who are interested in improving their coffee, continuing to implement best practices in coffee production, and developing the skills of their workers and compensating them accordingly. Thump is committed to continuing the chain of quality through our persistent and meticulous attention to the details that go into preparing the perfect drink. After all of the effort that goes into producing the perfect bean, we are determined to see its journey to completion as a perfect drink for you!