What is a coffee origins traceability? Better yet, what kind of question is that?
It is a more and more popular question among today’s specialty coffee roasters and drinkers alike that are looking to experience coffee from a very specific region, and moreover down to the name of the farm it was grown on. Yes, as more information is out there, more becomes demanded, and with more “conscious” consumers looking for Fair Trade, Shade Grown, Bird Friendly, and Organic coffees, they want to see the name on the bag and who grew it under what conditions.
A coffee origins traceability has to start in the country it is grown in and then the region. From there it can be a matter of whether or not it’s organic, fair trade, etc. But the most used term in this discussion is Single Origin Coffee. Roasters and consumers are looking for coffee from specifically defined growing regions- Ethiopia, Guatemala, Sumatra, Costa Rica, and so on.
A Co-OP Coffee Processor in Kenya
First, it has to be taken into account that coffee grows in countries where economies are depressed and most farmers process through co-ops. What that means is that a coffee farmer will sell his cherries to a co-op for processing along with several other farmers in their region. So it is to say that a Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is in fact Jamaica Blue Mountain Certified as such, but the coffee in any given barrel from a processor may contain coffee from 10-20 different farms. Most of the World’s coffee is processed from several farmers through a single co-op (s) in their particular growing region.
On the other hand, there are instances when a farmer will have enough of their own coffee to approach a local processor, have their coffee processed and be able to say that this coffee is directly from X.Y.Z. Farm. This is the case for Reggie’s Roast Coffee after many years we have been able to accomplish this benchmark achievement in being able to have a small amount of our own coffee processed and imported. In that case, as farmers we can say this Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is directly from our farms. This is a rare occurrence for most coffee farmers, but it can be done.
Mostly as far as a coffee origins traceability is concerned, there is not much available except the markings on the green coffee sacks when they are delivered to the roasters. They will generally have the weight, country of origin, and where it was processed. In some cases, a region may also be noted. For example, when we source Panama Boquete it may come from one or more growing estates. Finca Lareda, Finca Arkapal, and La Gloria are all estates (farms) that grow coffee in the Boquete region. So, we source Panama Boquete, but it may be grown on one or more farms in that region. In this case the coffee origins traceability is fairly clear cut.
It is also subject to the roasters/consumers understanding of the question they are asking by doing some homework on the growing region themselves. For example, coffee is marketed as Ethiopia Sidamo can be sourced as Ethiopia Yirgacheffe since Yirgacheffe is a region located within the Sidamo growing region, and can be called as such. From Wikipedia: ” “Ethiopia Sidamo” is a type of Arabica coffee of single origin grown exclusively in the Sidamo Province of Ethiopia. Like most African coffees, Ethiopia Sidamo features a small and greyish bean, yet is valued for its deep, spice and wine or chocolate-like taste and floral aroma. The most distinctive flavor notes found in all Sidamo coffees are lemon and citrus with bright crisp acidity. Sidamo coffee includes Yirgachefe Coffee and Guji Coffee. Both coffee types are very high quality.”
These are just a few examples of what questions you should ask yourself before looking into a coffee origins traceability. In some regions you may be only to get so many answers for now, but as times progress, more information will be available.
Hope this bit helps, Cheers!