“From seed to cup.” Normally this phrase stands for traceability and quality control. But for roasters, who are in the middle of the coffee supply chain, it means a bit more – because if they don’t make sure the beginning and ends of the chain are aligned, their business will suffer.
And, although this might surprise some, they may need to invest just as much time in “the cup” as they do in “the seed”.
Lee este artículo en español Tostador: Por Qué Debes Comunicarte Con Las Tiendas de Café
Finca Bambito, Panama, where the journey from seed to cup begins.
How to Decide What Coffee You’ll Roast
When you decide what type of coffee to roast, you’ll probably start by considering what you like to drink, what value proposition you’d like to make, and what the market conditions of different origin countries are.
But you can’t stop there – you also need to take into account several other factors, including:
- Who will buy your coffee?
- What equipment will they use to brew your coffee?
- Will the barista you sell to know how to brew your coffee well? Every roasting philosophy needs a brewing philosophy to match!
- If no, can you educate them on how to brew your coffee?
- Will your wholesale customers appreciate seasonality or will they prefer consistency?
- Are you willing, and do you have the time, to teach your customers about the different taste profiles of your coffees?
Knowing the answers to these questions before you begin purchasing green beans will save you a lot of headaches – and maybe even heartaches – later on down the line.
These may be the right beans for you, but are they the right beans for your customers?
When Good Beans Go Bad
Of course, choosing what beans to purchase is only the first step. Next, you have to build a working relationship with café owners – a point at which problems can arise.
Let’s say you’ve chosen your beans: one, a classic Brazilian; the other, a fruity, aromatic Ethiopian. You’ve roasted them, no doubt, excellently and then you’ve sold them to a café confident that it was a transaction well done.
And then you receive the feedback from the café: the Brazilian was okay, but the Ethiopian, well, it was sour, astringent, or worse.
So what do you do?
Well, one option could be to roast darker – but you shouldn’t. Not unless you really do prefer the taste of the coffee when it’s roasted dark. When you bought that coffee, you wanted to showcase its profile, and you can only do that if it’s roasted with the best profile for the beans. The thing is, if you buy a great coffee and roast it too dark, you buy expensive and make it cheap.
Consider your options before changing your roast profile.
Another option could be to buy commodity-grade coffee and roast it darker. You might not like this idea, but if your customers aren’t on the same page as your green coffee and roasting skills, then your roasting philosophy and green beans must get onto their page. It’s the only way your venture will be economically viable.
The third option, however, is what I think you really want to do: you change your marketing strategy and business relationships to enable you to sell to people that want to serve those great specialty coffees, and want to serve them well.
Develop a marketing strategy that reflects the quality of your beans.
Establishing Your Relationship With Cafés
Creating the right brand image and working relationship with customers won’t be easy – but it will allow you to roast the beans you want to roast, with the philosophy that you believe in, while still being economically viable.
You need to market your beans in a way that lets cafés know what to expect. Make sure all of your business associates share your vision, and can communicate it to prospective customers.
Yet even then, some cafés may be surprised when they serve your beans. That’s when you need to consider what else you can give them – and no, I’m not talking about freebies or discounts. Try to (tactfully and politely!) advise them on their storage operations, brewing techniques, recipes, and equipment. Talk to them about their marketing strategies, and help them to communicate your coffee in the right way.
You should be as concerned with your barista’s extraction as you are with your farmer’s cherry picking.
This level of involvement across the whole coffee supply chain, from seed to cup, is key to being a third wave coffee professional. Roasters, your work doesn’t finish when the beans leave your warehouse; it finishes when the end-consumer drinks that beautifully crafted third wave cup of coffee.
Photo credit: K. Sideris, Eleni Reisi.
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