The diligence of consumer purchasing persistently increases and how people select their coffee continues to endure change. The perception of coffee diverges from the long standing, large-scale commodity, to one with an emphasis on quality, sustainability and traceability. While a significant amount of today’s coffee still locates itself into supermarkets through mass-market supply chains, coffee consumers are increasingly hunting for beans that have followed a less travelled path.
Where there’s good, there’s bad. Light and dark. That’s not to imply Fairtrade remains the darkness or bad within the global coffee market by any stretch of the imagination. Nevertheless, where there’s an unstoppable force, an immovable object waits in the wings – Direct Trade. It’s been claimed to have been born out of frustration with an inability to locate exceptional quality consistently. Direct Trade was conceived as a method allowing coffee buyers (such as ourselves) to build a reliable supply chain, with greater emphasis on traceability, sustainability and quality. Its an opportunity for roasters like Big Dog, to grow and share a journey with farmers essentially sharing the same risks inherent with trading coffee.
In a nutshell, when a coffee roaster purchases straight from a producer, its regarded as direct trade. Mitigating intermediaries between roaster and producer permits room for a relationship, allowing quality and fair pricing to become paramount. For roasters, it’s an opportunity to develop a personal relationship, harness quality expectations and plan for future crops. As for the producer, they have commitment, trust and security to invest and improve infrastructure and processes. All of which having a subsequent positive affect on immediate family and communities.
Direct negotiations promote both transparency and traceability, ultimately ensuring a maintained quality of cup within the consumer market. Buyers are more inclined to pay price premiums, in turn, investing in the local community and its respective projects.
Third wave culture has been built upon an understanding of a coffee’s origin and it’s impact on the cup. Direct trade provides consumers with ease of access to communication concerning developments within the producer’s environment. The producers’ voice must be heard.
Direct trade does not come without it’s limitations. There are risks of contracts falling through, inaccurate information being provided by both parties, miscommunication and rouge traders. Business is typically unregulated which means for a ‘high risk, high reward’ trading environment. The risk of poor quality remains prevalent despite the direct relationship. One or both parties could potentially fall victim to shortcomings during the negotiation period, often instigated by quality issues.
Like any relationship, trust is the life blood. No trade model remains free of imperfections, there’s no ‘best’ fit – relationships are not finite. The responsibility lies entirely with the individuals involved, to facilitate trustworthy communication and understanding.
The final piece in the supply chain jigsaw is the consumer. Full transparency, solid relationships and exposure to the producers’ story bids to honor the third wave culture of coffee drinkers. From producer to cup, it’s a roasters responsibility to convey the journey, continuously develop and deliver all-round quality.
Our purchasing philosophy has been constructed to convey the story of the respective producer. Its our aim to continuously develop, tell a story and grow our focus on direct trade. The persistence, perseverance and determination of the respective producers must be conveyed by us and subsequently through the quality in the cup.