Have you ever wondered how roasters find their green coffee beans? And how can they evaluate green coffee before it's properly roasted? And where exactly does a green coffee supplier fit in with Direct Trade coffee?
Thankfully, Coffee Collaborative Source, the Norwegian green coffee provider helps us understand these mysteries.
Hey guys! Before we start, what is your preferred brewing method?
Chemex. When brewed well, it produces the cleanest and most complex cup. Getting a correct brew done is another story. I also love the V60, which is much more forgiving than the Chemex and still produces a complex, clean and sweet cup.
I don’t want to cause any fights, but which Coffee Collaborative Source team member brews the best coffee?
Probably Alex. He’s also the 2015 Norwegian Barista Champion…so he’s probably spent more time than most going through brew recipes with a fine tooth comb.
Can you describe the coffee scene in Oslo, Norway?
It deserves the reputation it has of being one of the top coffee cities in the world. I think some of the best roasters in the world are still located here and the water is perfect for coffee brewing. No one has to mess around with special water filtration systems – it’s all just straight up delicious tap water.
On top of that, many other cities in the world have copied and continue to copy the “Scandinavian vibe”, which is unfortunate. As lovely as the aesthetic is, I believe the atmosphere should somehow represent the locality.
That said, the café scene has been a bit static as of late. I’d love to see a unique concept for a coffee bar here. On top of that, many other cities in the world have copied and continue to copy the “Scandinavian vibe”, which is unfortunate. As lovely as the aesthetic is, I believe the atmosphere should somehow represent the locality.
How can you evaluate the quality of coffee before it’s roasted to its final form for taste?
Physical analysis of green coffee is typically colour, uniformity, shape and size. We’re also looking at humidity levels and water activity. With humidity, you’re analyzing the beans’ moisture content, whereas with water activity, you’re looking at comparing the vapour pressure within the coffee vs. the vapour pressure of water. Put over simply: we measure water activity in order to get a sense of how much moisture and volatile aroma compounds a green coffee will retain over time. It’s especially useful for roasters to know this so that they can know how quickly the coffee may age.
Next comes cupping (usually sample roasted and not production roasted which are different) and hopefully brewing. Cupping is primarily how we evaluate coffees for purchase – we’re starting to brew it more often too so that we know how it may present in a coffee bar. But even with cupping, evaluation depends on what part of the season the cupping takes place. Evaluating freshly harvested coffee is completely different than evaluating coffee that is well-rested and has already gone through the shipping to the arrival warehouse.
Sorting the beans
With current climate changes occurring around the world, certain articles have predicted that the world coffee production could fall down to 50%. How can you prepare yourselves against these upcoming challenges?
By working side-by-side with coffee climate change researchers, farmers and exporters on figuring out the best strategies for producing great quality coffee with as little long-term impact to the environment as possible. This is no easy task! What do you say to a farmer who is using chemical inputs because they can’t afford or take the risk of using organic inputs, due to very real diseases that can demolish their entire plantation?
What do you say to a farmer who is using chemical inputs because they can’t afford or take the risk of using organic inputs, due to very real diseases that can demolish their entire plantation?
There needs to be more opportunities for people from throughout the coffee chain to get together and discuss these issues and troubleshoot them together. We’re addressing this through how we communicate about origin and through hosting events that bring together people from all throughout the coffee business.
Who in coffee inspires you?
The Carlson family located in Burundi and their Long Miles Coffee team. This is a country where all the odds are against producers being able to have a decent life standard, let alone produce great coffee (which they do).
The fact that the family chose to uproot themselves from a stable environment in order to build and run washing stations in the communities they work, given the political and economic environment makes them stand out to me.
That they’ve been successful and supply us with some of our most stand out coffees, utterly amazes me.
Mel from Coffee Collaborative in Burundi
Coffee distributors play an important role in what many roasters call Direct Trade. This has become a confusing term for customers as it can imply that roasters are buying directly from farmers. How would you describe Direct Trade?
I’ve moved away from using this term myself, precisely because of how confusing it can be. Instead we talk about partnerships, relationships, transparency, traceability, etc. I think these kinds of words, although prone to being buzzwordy too, can convey more clearly what the concept is behind what we’re doing. Especially when it’s followed up with discussion, whether it’s written, in person or through a photo.
What is meant by the term “direct trade”, I think, is this idea of being connected with as many people in the supply chain as possible, whether it’s directly or with the help of someone like an importer.
What is meant by the term direct trade, I think, is this idea of being connected with as many people in the supply chain as possible, whether it’s directly or with the help of someone like an importer.
Specialty coffee is a people business – it’s very difficult to maintain success if you’re cagey about what you do. Coffee consumers are becoming more educated and picky when it comes to where their money is being spent. This is a great thing that we welcome.
Thank you so much for doing this. Where can people learn more about you guys?
No Discrimination at work sign in Burundi
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