May 7, 2020

How Brazilian Producers Are Roasting & Selling Their Coffee

Brazil is the world’s biggest coffee producer and consumer. With 98% of local households drinking it, Brazilian farmers don’t have to look far to find a receptive market for their coffee – something that few producing countries can boast.

By having a country with a major coffee consuming audience, Brazilian producers could profit from roasting their coffee directly for the local market. However, this will require  understanding what roasting coffee (and selling the finished product) involves.

To find out more about this, I spoke to four producers roasting and selling their coffee. Here’s what they had to say about adding roasting to their coffee production.

Lee este artículo en español Cómo Los Caficultores Brasileños Tuestan y Venden su Café

Why Should Producers Roast Their Own Coffee?

According to the Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association and Euromonitor International, Brazilian specialty coffee consumption grew around 21% per year from 2012 to 2018 – culminating in retail sales of US $2.63 billion in 2018. It’s evidently a lucrative market to enter, but how would producers benefit from getting involved in it by roasting their coffee?

Firstly, it would expand their income by enhancing the green beans they were already producing. Felipe Croce is Founder of coffee roastery Isso é Café and says roasting can also increase a producer’s knowledge of their coffee’s qualities, so they can speak with authority about their own coffee and advise clients on it. Roasting can help producers improve their coffee quality, as controlling the roast process helps them monitor and control its quality throughout its production. 

While roasting is beneficial, it can be complex, expensive, and long. Helcio Junior is Director of Unique Cafés Especiais, a coffee supplier in Minas Gerais. He says it can take up to five years for roasting to become profitable, as the first few years will be an investment that won’t necessarily add value.

You may also like Catuai & Yellow Bourbon: Exploring Brazil’s Coffee Varieties

Before You Set up Your Roasting Business

Adding coffee roasting to your coffee production will involve setting up a brand new business. Here’s how producers can prepare for this.

Research Your Target Market

Before you roast your coffee, you should know who you’re going to sell your coffee to. Visiting local coffee sellers and coffee shops could help you research your target market’s consumption habits. You should also research the roasting equipment and tools you want to invest in. 

Felipe advises using your existing coffee industry networks and undertaking field research to find out which setup would suit you best. Studying roasting is another option to consider. When choosing a course, consider factors like the school’s location, facilities and reputation, and make sure you’ll be able to practice roasting to increase your confidence in it.

Felipe Croce of coffee roastery Isso é Café

Delegate Work Roles 

Before you staff your roastery, you’ll need to understand what each role involves. This will help you split responsibilities, decide which tasks you’re able or willing to undertake and see if existing employees could step into these roles. For example, at Sitio Santa Rita, a coffee farm in Caparaó, different family members manage production, post-harvest quality checks, and the roastery and coffee shop.

Once you separate the roles, you’ll see why roasting coffee should be treated as a separate company. “Our roastery buys coffee [from the farm] and pays the same price as any other client at the Sítio Santa Rita… Our coffee shop buys roasted coffee from our roastery… So, there are three businesses within one”, says Fred Ayres, who is Sitio Santa Rita’s Barista and Head Roaster.

Test & Sample Roast Your Coffee

Once you’ve researched the machinery you’ll need, select one matching your production capacity, and spend time learning how it works and how your coffee responds to roasting. Felipe recommends producers start roasting small sample batches to get more experience. “Then, when your business grows, [you can invest in] bigger, automatic machines.” 

Helcio believes that you’ll also need to learn how to cup your coffee so that you can see how professionals might evaluate it. He says, “The number one thing that will help you on the farm and help you in the roasted coffee market is to become a cup taster [or] a grader”. 

Juan Vargas of Fazendas Klem

What Happens After Your Coffee Is Roasted?

Once your coffee is roasted, you’ll need to get it ready for sale. Here’s what you might need to focus on.

Market Your Coffee

Your marketing strategy should appeal to coffee shops and coffee drinkers. In both cases, it should communicate your coffee’s origin. Transparency can be fostered by sharing details on your coffee’s roasting dates, certifications, variety, and processing. “The more information I can make available to the consumer online or at the store, the better the communication will be. Always speak transparently, never hide anything from the customer”, Felipe advises.

To help reach any audience, make sure any communication you direct at them encourages a response and conversations. “Use social media, online communication… The more people consuming and talking about my product, the better it will be”, explains Juan Vargas, Business Director of Fazendas Klem, an organic coffee farm in Luisburgo, Matas de Minas.

Above all, don’t forget that no amount of marketing will make up for bad business practices or a poor quality product. Felipe explains, “Marketing is a mechanism to accelerate the inevitable. If the business is good, it will quickly show that it’s good. If it’s bad, it will quickly show that it’s bad.”

Helcio Junior of Unique Cafés Especiais

Focus on Packaging & Logistics

Juan explains that people buy what they see, and if a coffee’s packaging and design is original, understandable, and attractive, he’ll be curious about it or try it. 

Keep in mind your packaging’s practical traits, as it will need to accomplish the above while preserving your roast coffee’s quality – delaying its oxidation and maintaining freshness. Customers will also notice and appreciate environmentally friendly packaging.

Whether you plan to offer to sell coffee locally or across the country, you’ll need to partner with a third party for delivery. This is critical if your farm is far from cities or urban areas, or is difficult to access. Fred uses Brazil’s Postal Service to deliver small orders, and a private carrier to deliver large orders to wholesale roasters and coffee shops.

Build Relationships 

While your business might be scaling up, it’s important that you retain a personal touch with customers. Fred does this by making sure that his coffee shop is open to visitors all year so they can experience his product firsthand. He says it helps demonstrate “that it’s a family business, that we’re in charge of our business… we try to maintain a more intimate relationship with our customers, so we end up creating bonds [with them].”

To keep wholesale clients happy, appoint a team member as a representative or point-of-contact to maintain the relationship and ensure their needs are met. As the business owner, you’ll also need to create and enhance relationships with your clients, which can take effort but will be worth it in the end.

Fred Ayres of Sitio Santa Rita

Roasting and delivering a high-quality coffee to customers can take time, effort and money. However, its benefits are worth it. 

Roasting will help you get to know more about your coffee beyond the farm and having more direct contact with those drinking it, so you can keep improving it and tailoring it to your customer’s needs. This will help you increase your authority, expand your business, and shorten the distance between you and your customer. 

Enjoyed this? Then take a look at The Arara Variety: What Is It & Why Is It Popular in Brazil?

All quotes translated from Portuguese by the author. Photo credits: Unique Cafés, Adriano Fagundes, Fazendas Klem, and Renato Kerr.

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