DISCOVERY

Long-Term Partners

Creating long term relationships is one of the most effective and fair ways to consistently source excellent coffees. Being able to have a shared language about taste, shared expectations on both quality and purchase volume, and a degree of trust, enables a mutually beneficial relationship. A roaster receives coffees of the profile and quality that they want and expect, and a producer can plan long term to produce these types of coffees and expect a fair price to do so. This is what we aim to do in our long-term sourcing relationships such as those with Long Miles and Primavera, who are our partners in both of this month’s coffees.

To understand these coffees, it is important to understand the unique context in which they are produced; what makes our relationships with our partners in Guatemala and Kenya so special?

DISCOVERY

Relationships

This month, the focus is on two of our longest sourcing partnerships, The Long Miles project and Primavera. Both focus on extremely rural areas, where access to market and to knowledge and physical resources is difficult. In Kayanza in Northern Burundi, Long Miles have built a system of coffee mills where smallholders can deliver cherry, and receive agronomic and financial support. In Huehuetenango, Primavera have built a network of small producers who each process their own coffee, with centres in many small towns around the region. Here, there is a strong focus on process as a means of flavour creation and differentiation in a more established speciality coffee market. Through both models, these partners have created some of the finest and most characterful coffees we have tasted from their respective origins, and we look forward to continuing our work together.

PROJECT

Long Miles in Kenya

We have been looking forward to this new project from our long term partners at Long Miles for some time. We’ve been working together with the Long Miles team since 2014, and during this time they have made great strides in Burundian coffee; bringing vibrant and varying lots of coffee to roasters and consumers, while also bringing a sense of stability and prosperity to large groups of farmers in rural northern Burundi. They now aim to create a similarly fair and equitable system in Kenya. Although a much more established and stable coffee origin, there are still several challenges facing producers here.

The dominant cooperative structure here leads to a power dynamic in which producers end up into long term agreements with regard to things like payment and fertiliser use. Often these agreements can be mutually beneficial, but we have heard of some instances of questionable practices. For example, as a farmer who can only harvest and therefore sell coffee once per year, it’s often necessary to ask for an advance from the cooperative in order to keep food on the table. These advances are often available, but involve locking in the entirety of the next harvest with the cooperative at a rate far below the market price, as a type of interest. Cooperatives who aim to produce large amounts of high value ‘AA’ lots, consisting of very large beans, push small producers to use a great deal of chemical fertiliser on their farms, often in collaboration with fertiliser companies. This high level of fertiliser usage, while leading to the required large bean size, is a threat to groundwater supplies and a direct threat to producer’s health.

LONG MILES

Bringing better practices

Long Miles are aiming to break this structure, and support producers in the same way they do in Burundi. They have purchased a mill in Nyeri, Thunguri, and have processed a small amount of coffee here during the past harvest season. They have already begun to assemble a team of young agronomists who will serve the same role as the Coffee Scouts team in Burundi. Based at the Long Miles Thunguri mill, they will provide agronomic advice and support to the farmers delivering. The first production from Thunguri was very small, but Long Miles are committed to growing slowly, building trust within the community and creating a real difference for their partner coffee farmers, just as they have in Burundi. Furthermore, Long Miles are in discussions about a small plot of land in western Kenya, not far from the border with Uganda, where they look to establish their own farm, planted from scratch with a focus on regenerative farming practices.

The reforestation work started in Burundi with the ‘Trees for Kibira’ project will continue here, planting green belts of trees and encouraging shade-grown coffee. The coffees we have purchased this year are part of the start-up phase of Long Miles Kenya. As the production from Thunguri was so small, Long Miles have worked together with some neighbouring mills, visiting and participating in their quality control procedures. They have then exported these coffees through their existing channels, involving roaster partners like us in this early stage of the project.

We see these coffees as an investment in the future of Long Miles’ project in Kenya, and will be following developments closely over the coming seasons, and hope to share as much as possible with you. It’s very exciting to have one of our closest and most trusted partners involved in one of our favourite origins, and have every confidence that this is just the start of a fruitful and delicious adventure.

GUATEMALA

Primavera in Huehuetenango

Huehuetenango is located in the north-western highlands of Guatemala, and borders with Mexico. It is home to the highest altitudes in all of Central America, due to the presence of the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes mountain range, which peaks at 3837 masl. This creates lots of high altitude land to grow high-quality coffee, an important crop in an area where agriculture is the largest industry. A dry hot wind also blows in from the Tehuantepec plain in Mexico to the north, which protects crops from frost, allowing coffee to grow even higher up the slopes, often above 2000 masl. These high altitudes also lead to very beautiful scenery, something the area is known for, but also to a remoteness not found elsewhere in Guatemala. 9 different ancient Mayan dialects are still spoken here, and the region is home to some of the best preserved examples of Mayan architecture. The remoteness also makes sourcing coffee a challenge here, the journey to farms often takes days over unforgiving terrain, and would-be coffee buyers require knowledge of the local dialects, or an experienced guide. It is precisely for these reasons that we have built so much trust in our partners at Primavera, who we have visited for the past three years, always being stunned by the beauty of both the coffees they have been sourcing, and of this captivating region.

FIRST COFFEE

Kiruga - Washed SL28

Long Miles Project in Kenya

This lot is from the Kiruga station in Nyeri, the first of two lots we have purchased from the Othaya cooperative. This year they have struggled with lower yields than normal, and an ageing farmer population means the future of their cooperative looks rather unstable. Attracting younger farmers through more sustainable business conditions and more involvement in the supply chain is also part of Long Miles’ aims for the future. Lack of space on drying tables during the peak harvest season was also an issue, so they have invested in larger tables for next year. Like many Kenyan lots from this region, the coffee that makes up this lot has been grown in fertile volcanic soil, rich in natural phosphorous, leading to both high quality and yield. This washed lot is over 90% SL28 and SL34, also leading to high quality in the cup due to the lack of rust resistant Robusta hybrids. This varietal make up, alongside the rich soil conditions and careful processing, lead to a very clear and rich Kenyan profile, with clear currant notes, a crisp almost tannic dryness, and a sweet syrupy structure.

SECOND COFFEE

David Ramos - Washed Caturra & Bourbon

Crisp currants in Huehuetenango

David Ramos purchased this plot of land 11 years ago, and struggled for some years to afford essentials like fertiliser, and new plants. Eventually, together with his wife and family, he was able to scrape together enough investment to create a sustainable coffee business. David and his wife named the farm Yulm’on Canalaj, which in the local Popti dialect means ‘near the mountain’, referring to the location of the farm. Another key move David made was to join a local cooperative El Sendero. The cooperative provides member farmers with advice and support, and helps to create connections to buyers, such as Primavera. Primavera have had a relationship with El Sendero for a number of years now, picking several hard-working producers with high quality potential to build long term relationships with. avid is one of these, and the stability in income and trust has led to further investment in quality at the farm level, and in his wife’s work in processing. This lot is a blend of high quality varietals from David’s fields, mainly Bourbon and Caturra, processed using a careful washed method. This gives a familiar deep Guatemalan sweetness, punctuated by a crisp and fresh currant acidity.

DISCOVERY

Memorable flavour experiences

Creating long term relationships is one of the most effective and fair ways to consistently source excellent coffees. Being able to have a shared language about taste, shared expectations on both quality and purchase volume, and a degree of trust, enables a mutually beneficial relationship. A roaster receives coffees of the profile and quality that they want and expect, and a producer can plan long term to produce these types of coffees and expect a fair price to do so. This is what we aim to do in our relationships with Long Miles and Primavera, who we hope to continue to build and grow with over the coming years.

ABOUT DISCOVERY

The opportunity to share new experiences

Our Discovery Subscription allows us the opportunity to share new experiences with you every month, taking you with us on our journey through the changing seasons of coffee. This allows you the opportunity to taste new lots from across the coffee landscape as they arrive at our roastery, when they’re fresh and in season. We strive to find the most delicious and thought-provoking coffees we can get our hands on, working together with a group of innovative and dedicated partners we have met over our years in the industry. We are inspired not only by sharing their painstakingly created raw material, but by conveying how each step of its journey has led to what you find in your cup, be it terroir, varietal, post-harvest processing, or something else entirely.

We always aim to tell a story

One of the best ways to appreciate the effect of these factors is to taste coffees side by side. Our most popular option allows you to experience two coffees every month, maybe different varietals or processes from the same farm or region, or maybe two parallel lots from producers at opposite ends of the coffee belt. We always aim to tell a story with our coffee choice, focusing on a different aspect of what we’re finding exciting in coffee right now. Sharing these experiences each month allows us to expand our coffee horizons together, and develop a shared vocabulary within both taste and preference in coffee.

We’re always happy to continue our conversation with you through our webshop portal, whether it be purely practical, or discussions about this month’s coffees. We see our role as simply a middleman between you and some of the best coffees in the world, and the people who produce them. These people inspire us, and we do our utmost to share both their coffees and their stories with the people who appreciate them most.

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