Roasted Brown & The Pledge

It’s taken years and a lot of digging deep to buy the coffee that we do to keep you supplied. It’s been a fine dance between spending more for house espressos, wanting to do that in the tastiest possible way, whilst trying to keep competitive in a thriving market that is often not clued in about the money at the other end of the chain.

The reality is, it’s easy enough and very cheap to build infrastructure in developing areas and the money we pay packs a punch in terms of contributing to these initiatives, but as a roastery, it’s not enough to pay for an initiative here and there and believe we’ve done our bit, we have to first of all pay good money for coffee and do our best to get it into producers pockets. It’s a bigger and harder commitment but it’s a non negotiable for us.

This year we signed up to The Pledge which is a public coffee buying transparency platform where we publish what we pay for coffee and are audited by The Pledge to make sure we qualify. Unfortunately The Pledge isn’t perfect either, A coffee buyer only needs to be 20 percent compliant to be signed up with the pledge, but they do publish a percentage of compliance report and we in turn publish that on our web site. 

The great news is, 

1. Roasted Brown is among the first of a tiny number in Ireland signed up to The Pledge, alongside some of the most well respected coffee buyers and roasters on the world, and we’ve been buying this way for as long as we’ve been roasting.

2. Roasted Brown has achieved 98.66% in 2021 and by the end of 2022 we will have achieved 100%. Our shortfall of 1.35% in 2021 was due to producer privacy, where a farmer has to right to keep their numbers private and we want to respect that.

3. Roasted Brown achieved 14cent per pound (there’s 2.2 pound in a kilo) higher than the highest average in our coffee score category based on 2.48 lowest price average / 3.00 middle price average / 3.40 upper price average - Roasted Brown 3.54 per ib price average.

This is a massive success in terms of what we’re paying for our coffee but it is just the beginning as we aim to trim the process and get more money direct to the producer in the coming years, but as a Roasted Brown customer, we are delighted you can be confident that the coffee you are buying is punching way above it’s weight globally and significantly contributing to better lives for our producers.

You can confidently tell your own customers that by drinking coffee in your shop, they are investing in and improving the lives of those who produce it at origin.

Peru Visit

Peru has always been an interesting coffee origin - It’s all certified Fair-trade Organic but it’s quality has never been at the races whenever we had a chance to by some. 

After some digging around and talking to people in the know, we learned the harsh truth behind these government pushed certifications. The cost of certification fell heavily on the farmers and after that, the contracted price and the actual price paid by buyers were two very different things, but buyers were just happy to have cheap coffee with all the certs and never pushed for quality and getting good money to producers. 

Often broader projects and initiatives (building infrastructure or supporting various projects etc) were tagged onto these coffees which on the whole didn’t mean anything close to producers being paid well, these things in and of themselves are not expensive and much cheaper options than simply paying producers good money for great coffee.

As a result in the last few years more and more Peruvian producers have moved out of coffee and into other fruits, and in many cases back into coca leaves where the real money is!

The coop we are working with, Aromas del Valle, have worked hard and funded very cleverly to get investment into better growing, processing and milling facilities with the aim of giving growers the opportunity to raise the quality of their coffee, not spend money on certs but raise the cup profile and taste of their coffees, and in turn get much better money for much better coffees.

We had a lot of information on this Coop and Structure after being so impressed with the coffee  profile, but there were some inconsistencies last year, so visit became as much a necessity as a desire, and yielded results that we could only have dreamed of. This partnership is showing great hope for incredibly positive relationships and results in the future.

This trip was a massive learning curve and lead to some very hard lessons and heart choices. 

It’s very easy for us in our developed countries to believe that our money is always doing wonderful things. As a roastery we’ve always pushed to pay high prices and this has lead us to believe that everything is hunky dory back at origin. 

This trip to Peru really challenged that perception as what we encountered was often deep poverty and very real sadness in the lives of producers we get coffee from, BUT this is very early on in what’s looking like a tangibly improving community.

There were other producers who were ahead of this, living much healthier and vibrant lives, but were also associated with other Coops. The knee jerk reaction was to look into buying through these coops instead until it was explained to us that these producers and coops are about 10 years ahead of us and our Coop, they neither need our business nor have a desire to negatively effect the growth and progress of a younger coop like Aromas del Valle.

The reality is that Aroma De Valle and it’s producers are incredibly grass roots, early days, and are 100 times better off this year than they were last year due to us and companies like us believing in them and using their coffee, which are delicious by the way! Seeing the passion these producers are developing alone was really exciting and knowing that they’re getting rewarded for this passion is such lovely thing to be apart of.

We’ve since become friends with the owners of another coop who have had massive success in raising the standards, quality and lifestyles of producers and they have agreed to take on the owners of Aroma De Valle to mentor them and their producers in Business, Equality and Community Development. They knew this was important to us and they offered their help!

This is a massive win for us and the producers we’re buying from and it’s very very exciting to see how this will effect the lives and businesses of those we commit to buy from over the coming years.

This kind of connection and helpfulness is pretty amazing but it was also quite eye opening to see and hear the reputation and respect Roasted Brown has in such far flung places. As a small business it’s been so encouraging to see how far our dedication to values and transparency have travelled.

We’re now in a very unique position where we’ll see first hand, year on year, the improvement our coffee buying is having on a community of farmers and the business of a young coop.

Brazil - it's all gone nuts!

As you’re already are aware, we’ve been working with The Croce family and Garcia Family supporting the FAF and Jaguara cooperative ever since we started roasting. FAF coffees have played a huge role in our own development as a small roastery who wanted to be solely Single Origin.

Choosing single origin has meant we always have to pay for better coffees as we don’t use blending to raise the cup score of cheaper coffees. The guys in FAF worked with us at a very early stage to give us very solid and consistent high scoring coffees at a price we could be competitive with back in Ireland. As a result we’ve increased our buying trough FAF fourfold since we started using them in 2016.

We’ve seen the six valleys that make up the coops thrive in organics and agricultural replenishment and we’ve seen the kids of producers grow up and become college students and lead coffee experts in Brazil, it’s been an incredible journey for them and for us.

What a lot of people don’t now is that last October, right before harvest, Brazil experienced a frost and in some regions even snow. They’ve never see this before and the bad news is, it’s looking like it’s happening again in some parts this year. This is climate change effecting our businesses in a very tangible way.

This frost wiped out approx 60 percent of crop for some producers which lead to a massive supply issue across Brazil in general. This of course lead to a price increase as producers needed to try make more money for less coffee and had the extra expense of having to re-plant and wait 3 - 6 years for new trees to bear fruit.

This had an a very significant impact on the C-Market (Coffee in the stock exchange) price per pound which in turn had another price increase knock for the buyer and not only for Brazilian coffee but all across the board.

What this means for this year is prices for Brazilian coffee is through the roof and because of the on-going frost ,crops aren’t able to develop properly and producers are in a position where a lot of crop isn’t developing beyond under-ripe and selections are being bulked up with under-ripes (quakers/pale beans) out of necessity. 

For Roasted Brown, the options are -

1. Buy cheaper coffee to maintain margin,

2. Stop buying Brazilian Coffee,

or 3. Commit to the relationships that we’ve benefitted from since day one.

Obviously option 3 is where we’re going to go and this is what it looks like…

a. We pay what’s needed for our producers to feel assured and can work to get through this storm. 

b. We pay for extra sorting at the mill so that under-ripes are reduced in our selections and your coffee is still at a very high standard. This is a further price increase again but the hope is that it wins out in the end.

c. FAF and many other Brazilian producers have experienced a mass exodus of buyers which is only adding fuel to the fire. For us, we believe that although we lose margin, we achieve great coffee in a very tough season, we protect our brand and values by sticking to quality even when it hurts, and we protect your business by not cutting corners and keep providing you with a product with real values and quality.

We’re delighted to have 3 containers of Brazilian coffee landing this month and between us and FAF, The Garcia Family and Croce Family we’ve all worked incredibly hard to get them at such a high standard especially considering the obstacles. 

If you’re using our Brazilian coffee on the bar we really hope this insight helps you appreciate the coffee more and gives you some insight that you can pass on through your staff and to your own customers.