Should Producers Follow Roasters’ Recommendations When Choosing the Coffee They Offer?

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
recommendations when choosing the coffee

Feedback plays a pivotal role in the coffee industry, shaping the trajectory and guiding informed decisions about farming practices. In our interconnected world, a coffee farmer on their land can easily engage with a roaster across the globe. This global connection facilitates the exchange of ideas, demands, and crucially, recommendations when choosing the coffee, all without the necessity for physical travel to the coffee’s origin.

Not only are the ways of communicating evolving raso0pidly, consumer trends are increasingly fleeting. Consequently, to maintain certain audiences, it is necessary to constantly innovate.

Although the suggestions may be correct at the time they are given, it may take the producer months or years to respond to this demand, enough time for the coffee achieved to be rejected by the market due to a change in trends.To better understand how producers can address this situation, I spoke with three industry professionals. Keep reading and find out what they told me.

Recommendations when choosing the coffee to grow and process

Santiago López is a Colombian roaster based in Canada. In recent years, he has dedicated himself to opening coffee shops in which he uses beans from his country of origin.

For him, producers must first aim for profitability. Afterwards, they can invest in more risky varietals or processes. Likewise, he recommends not speculating that the majority of the income comes from something experimental .

“I think that a coffee farmer, today, has to look at the expenses he has on the farm and has to manage it not as a farm, but as a business.” 

Andrés Rodríguez is the CEO of FARO Coffee Hub , a Colombian company that through its structure facilitates the marketing and logistics of coffee between producers and exporters or roasters, with a focus on traceability.

“Not all countries behave the same in their consumer culture,” he says. According to him, the producer must understand the way the destination behaves to generate added value. This is achieved by adopting a productive strategy on the farm based on its environment and its potential clientele.

Delmy Regalado is the general manager of the exporter Beneficio San Marcos and is in charge of coffee marketing and coordination between different sectors. She agrees with the idea mentioned above and recommends not being guided solely by fashions. If you want to innovate, she says that it is key to ensure you have the appropriate environment for good development of production that can translate into quality and economic return.

Are market trends decisive in these decisions?

Santiago explains that market trends can be decisive but this consumption is not necessarily replicated in all regions and its demand may be limited or ephemeral.

“Coffee farmers produce these coffees but they are not as profitable. The reality of the matter is that, in order to sell them, they end up offering them for less than they thought because they are coffees that do not have as much of a market.”

He advises, instead, that coffee farmers prioritize the production of quality, profitable and sustainable coffees .

Andrés reaffirms that in recent years market trends have set the tone for decision-making regarding production. We have seen this with the rise of natural coffees with extended fermentations, which were eventually displaced by the demand for infused coffees. In turn, these coffees will be replaced by something else.

Despite this, Andŕes clarifies that a constant is the demand for innovation and the application of new technologies in the coffee industry, but well known in the food industry.

What the market is demanding is what you have to bet on.” Delmy says. Beyond this, he believes that it is necessary to analyze whether the conditions are in place to sustain this production.

For her, it is no use betting on a varietal or a more risky process if you do not have the necessary conditions to achieve a good coffee , which at least allows you to recover the investment. Furthermore, it is possible that by doing this, production volume will be lost and it will end up being sold at a lower price because it does not achieve the coffee profile that was aspired to.

Suggestions and requests from roasters

Santiago explains that many times producers follow the advice of roasters. They invest capital, work and time but at the time of harvesting the coffee, trends have changed and the roaster decides not to buy it.

Faced with this, he promotes the concept of sustainable production, allowing those producers who are better established and with more flexibility to experiment with varietals or processes that do not necessarily ensure production or sale.

For Andrés this usually happens, especially, with those clients who do not have as much experience in the industry. Thus, a decrease in turnover is generated on the farms, leaving the coffee grower with unsold coffee. Consequently, he does not get a return on his investment and work.

On the other hand, Andrés maintains that this risk can be mitigated by developing long-term relationships with buyers and establishing constant communication channels.

Delmy says, from her experience, that she has seen how producers get involved in a project that seemed promising and then are left with the expense and excitement. Also, he highlights other situations where although the quality achieved was not as projected, thanks to the signing of an agreement the buyers completed the operation and paid a competitive price.

Why is it key to be more responsible with these demands?

Santiago emphasizes the ethical responsibility of the roaster as a condition for achieving good development of long-term relationships.

He says that on his uncle’s farm they planted a Geisha with the expectation that it would be in production in two years; However, it took four years and had a performance that only reached half of what they had projected. Santiago committed to buying it from the beginning, regardless of the quality or production volume.

For her part, Delmy says that in the region in which she is located, coffee is the main source of income for many people and sometimes the only one. In this context, it is very important to guarantee a minimum that ensures the sustainability of the farm if coffee farmers are to abandon their usual production to try something new.

Furthermore, the risk of losing all or a large part of the production discourages coffee growers from betting on quality or innovation. Therefore, it is recommended that the price paid increase in relation to the quality obtained to generate an incentive.

What are these recommendations based on?

The three interviewees agree that roasters often rely on market trends to make their orders or suggestions.

Santiago adds that the bad thing about this is that it does not take into account how the decision will impact in the long term. He affirms that despite these recommendations, what sells the most are those coffees that, although they are of quality, do not meet the standards that please the majority of the clientele.

Delmy mentions that, today, many roasters are looking to produce an exclusive coffee with particular characteristics to use in competitions . This can generate important promotion for the producer but must have some financial support to carry out the necessary tests.

Should producers prioritize suggestions from other coffee growers?

According to Santiago, it is more important to analyze the needs of each particular farm to guarantee sustainability. What works for one producer often cannot be transferred to another farm because conditions vary. Consequently, his productive approach will also be different.

Andrés adheres to the idea that it is useless to apply the same methodology if the objectives are different. Likewise, he affirms that it is something that usually happens.

For Delmy, both the opinion of the roaster and the producer is important. She believes that some modifications can be made based on the suggestions but it is not feasible to completely change the productive approach. “The coffee farmer always has to be willing to change but without risking all his assets.”

Being a joint project, it is not only important for the roaster to give recommendations, it is necessary for him to listen to the producer.

Relationship and communication

Santiago highlights the benefits of direct trade compared to the relationships that are built above the fact that roasters can make unwise suggestions. The producer must separate useful feedback from that which he should discard and not be blindly guided by the roaster’s words.

On the other hand, the roaster must be prudent and, in any case, assume a purchase commitment with the coffee grower, regardless of the result. For Andés, the recommendations are very subtle and general because most roasters know what they want but do not know how to achieve it at source.

Santiago advises producers to ask more questions and not get excited about projects that do not consider their long-term well-being.