Let’s Talk Coffee is an annual event hosted by coffee importer Sustainable Harvest. Several of Equator’s key coffees are secured through Sustainable Harvest so, we try to attend the event every year. Unlike larger conferences held by professional organizations, the more intimate Let’s Talk Coffee is designed to bring partners who work together under one roof for a few days of learning and celebration. As a coffee buyer, one of the best aspects of the conference are the meetings scheduled with the coffee producers we work with. In these meetings we review the previous year’s business, check in on the upcoming harvest and discuss future imports. It is one of the most efficient series of meetings I participate in. This year we connected with current and potential partners from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru. At the same time, in the context of the conference itself, the interactions become even more powerful as there are a broad assortment of presentations, discussions and activities that help build and strengthen the relationships between roasters and producers.
Although I just visited the group this past August, it was great to meet again with our friends from the Colombian coffee cooperative Cooperandes. Based in Antioquia, Equator has purchased coffee from smallholder co-op members who live in the Jardín growing region. We reviewed the challenges of the previous year, particularly the unusual periods of dry weather at the beginning of 2016 led to outbreaks of the coffee berry borer, a tiny beetle that eats into coffee cherries and lays eggs in the seed. The result is a massive loss of the specialty coffee we seek and, as a result, the co-op needed to spend extra time sorting our coffee, at great expense, to deliver the quality we needed. As Equator continues to grow, so does our need for great coffee. We also discussed strategies to increase the amount of coffee we purchase from Cooperandes.
We were happy to connect with Luiz Rodrigues from Fazenda California, a coffee estate located in Brazil’s Paraná State. I visited the farm a few years ago and have been in contact with Luiz ever since. Last year we purchased a few bags of coffee from his farm and those of his neighbors in the emerging Norte Pioneiro growing region. Straddling the Tropic of Capricorn, one wouldn’t think the region is suitable for high quality coffee production but, the terroir is outstanding and the unusual latitude is offset by moderate growing elevations, a broader range of seasonal temperatures and outstanding agricultural practices. We discussed logistics challenges and are working with Luiz’s new exporting company Capricornio Coffee to secure greater volumes of coffee for the upcoming year. Plans are still in flux but, we hope to be able to introduce coffees from the growers of Norte Pioneiro in the first half of 2017.
In addition to meetings with established partners, we were happy to make connections with representatives from grower groups in Bolivia and Peru. We plan to continue the conversation with Agricafe located in Bolivia’s Los Yungas growing region. In addition to owning their own farms they also partner with smallholders in the area to help improve quality and facilitate the export process. Their Sol De La Mañana program is particularly interesting and we hope to taste samples from the next harvest and possibly plan a visit to the area in the coming year. Bolivia produces a minuscule amount of coffee compared to their big volume neighbors Brazil and Peru. Speaking of Peru, we were also impressed with the quality of samples we evaluated from a new cooperative called Ruta del Inca. Just three years old, the 213 member grows primarily traditional varieties at elevations that span an impressive 1,900 to 2,400 meters. We hope to taste more samples from this group in the near future.
These examples are a snapshot of the conversations Let’s Talk Coffee helps facilitate. Due to the massive distances between coffee producing countries throughout the world and our own roasting facility here in Marin County, we are not able to visit every producer every year. Let’s Talk Coffee helps bring the coffee world a little closer together and we thank our import partners at Sustainable Harvest for making it happen. We look forward to more conversations in the years to come.
Director of Coffee
Equator Coffees & Teas