(Feature image by WKSHOP)
Specialty contract coffee roasting and green bean sourcing company WKSHOP considers not simply the origin of the coffee, but also region, altitude, variety, climate and process method when selecting the correct coffee.
By WKSHOP Head Roaster Paul Golding.
In 2020, despite all the challenges of the year, the green coffee world quietly went about its business, continuing to grow, harvest and process coffee while working around the new restrictions in place that have created labour shortages and transport issues.
For roasters, green bean sourcing remains a vitally important task hidden behind the roar and drama of the roasting machines. Blends are only as good as the raw materials, making sourcing one of the key pillars of quality. As with any agricultural product, coffee is inclined to change subtly or substantially from season to season. As consumers tend to expect their favourite cup to stay faithfully the same, green bean buyers must remain intimately connected to the product, and highly agile in their purchasing decisions.
At WKSHOP we employ a range of sourcing strategies, beginning with the relative importance of each bean in the blends, and a comprehensive risk assessment of its availability and consistency. When assessing each coffee, we’ll consider factors such as uniqueness of flavour, shipping distance and lead times, political and environmental stability of the origin country, and quantity produced. Coffees with a higher risk score will require greater commitments in terms of forward ordering and inventory holding, while low-risk beans can be held “short”, saving space and money.
Our sourcing is diversified across local wholesalers, export companies located at origin, farmer cooperatives, and some farm direct sources. The choice of which option to apply is governed by who might have the strongest relationships with the producers and be best able to guarantee the supply on a sustainable, long term basis with the lowest risk and most reasonable cost.
We find that the importance of sourcing the correct coffee for a blend cannot be overstated. A generic Colombian coffee might be acceptable in some circumstances, but when quality, originality and point of difference are so crucial to remaining competitive, it’s of great importance to select the coffee with precisely the right profile to carry out its role in the blend. This will often require extensive cupping sessions, and when able, travelling to the source for selection from the widest possible range.
A coffee buyer’s range of relationships and origin experience is key to the effectiveness of the buyer. When selecting the correct coffee, we not only consider the origin of the coffee, but also the region, altitude, variety, climate and process method.
As sustainability is an important pillar of WKSHOP, we want a procurement chain that works for all involved, both upstream and downstream. Having the correct coffee is vital for us, which means we need a strong relationship with the producer, and for the producer to be motivated and happy in the relationship with us. The market price for coffee is rarely a feature in our decision-making; price negotiations are based on quality in the context of a long-term relationship.
This kind of buying is a visibly increasing trend in specialty coffee. We, like many specialty roasters, prefer to take ownership of responsibility for sustainable supply chains and win-win solutions for roaster and producer alike.
In the selection of specialty coffees, another increasingly noticeable trend is the booming popularity of experimental origin processing techniques. Many farmers are pushing beyond the traditional methods, employing a range of variations including anaerobic, or lactic fermentations, temperature control, and yeast or lactobacillus inoculations. This is giving rise to a startling array of new flavour experiences and reinventing the accepted flavour profiles for many producing countries.
It’s the consideration of all these sourcing strategies that allows us at WKSHOP to consistently deliver the best quality coffee for our contract roasting customers.
About Paul Golding
Paul Golding is Head Roaster for WKSHOP. He has 20 years of experience buying, roasting, and blending specialty coffee. The team at WKSHOP are coffee industry experts with a proven track record working with cafes, restaurants and multi-site franchises.
WKSHOP is here to supply, create, educate and innovate your coffee business. We provide specialty contract coffee roasting, private label packaging, coffee training via our WKSHOP Academy, coffee machinery and technical service support. If you’re a café, restaurant or multi-site franchise, let us workshop your coffee business. Enquire now at wkshop.com.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org.