Phil has just returned from his first sourcing trip for Yallah and it’s a welcome sight to see him beaming ear to ear about the trip. Chatting things through, sipping on coffee at the roastery is a nice way to catch up, and he seems particularly excited by the films in his pocket and the samples he’s just about to roast.
The trip was a big one for us; It was an opportunity to feed back to the producers with our thoughts about last year's crop, and of course what we hope to achieve moving forwards. Here’s what we found out.
So was this your first trip sourcing for Yallah?
Yeh it was the first time for Yallah. We weren’t sure whether or not it was going to be possible this year due to various things, small business etc, but we decided it had to so we just made it happen.
What is the Divinolandia and why did you go there?
They’re actually called APROD and it stands for ‘The Associated Producers of Divinolandia’. They’re basically a group of farmers that are working together to get recognition of the Divinovlandia coffee as a sort of appellation d'origine contrôlée. Basically, they're trying to get recognised as a region for producing outstanding coffees and you can really tell when you get to taste the coffee and meet the people.
Was this the first time you’ve been? How long have we been working with them?
It was actually the fifth time I’ve been, I started working with one producer from the group who has a small farm producing around 150 bags a year. It was a change for me as my previous trips to Brazil had always been to see farms with hundreds of acres. I always felt like the farms were much bigger than the businesses I was working for.
This farmer was picking his own fields with just the help of his family at home. 8 people lived on the farm and they picked the coffee together, as a family. I visited the farm on a picking day and it was literally the mum, dad, brother and son picking the fields, couldn’t have been any more family made than that.
I bought his coffee for a few years and then one time on another visit I found out he was part of a group of like-minded producers. That group is APROD.
What are they doing there that is different from the rest of coffee farming in Brazil?
I feel like, because they’re small they pay more attention to the quality of their produce. It has so much more value to them. They’re professional coffee growers whose living depends on it, they’re all doing their best to improve quality.
Most coffee farms in Brazil are huge. Like I said before, they’re so big they swamp you, make you feel like you’re a tiny tiny part of the enormous commodity coffee culture. These guys are hand picking coffee on a small scale, with the help from friends and family when it comes to harvest time. Previously they sold all of their coffee to Fairtrade and didn’t have a route to the speciality market, to buyers that would pay a premium for the quality of their coffee.
Fairtrade has been great for them for many reasons. It’s enabled them to build a milling facility that will improve the quality of their coffee next year - that’s fantastic. In fact they’re still selling most of their coffee to Fairtrade but what we’re doing is cherry picking their best coffee and paying a higher price for it. It incentivises them to produce better quality coffee year after year and now they know we’ll always be committed to buying it.
What did we hope to achieve from the trip?
We wanted to explain our goals and aims to the group. We’re hoping to develop a relationship with the group based on mutual benefits and quality and they have to trust us that we’re true to our word.
We want to be more connected with the group and be a partner with them for years to come. If they spend more time and money on an experimental lot we’re guaranteeing we’ll pay the premium for that.
How many coffees did you taste? What got booked?
I probably tasted over 150 coffees on the trip. We cupped 3 tables on each farm you visit and also at the exporters. We booked coffees from 7 different producers which should be arriving early next year.
There are rumours of coffee being of poor quality when you drink a cup in Brazil - is this true? Is it getting better?
It general it is actually is true. They drink Cafe Zinho which is 80% sugar and 20% the worst coffee you’ve ever drank. That is probably the most common coffee in Brazil, but more so in the rural areas.
I think it’s getting better though, The producers of Divinolandia always keep a lot of their best coffee to drink and I actually met a girl who was running a brew bar on a coffee bike in Sao Paulo brewing delicious coffee. She had a v60 and was brewing well roasted coffee with a massive smile on her face. We’ve just got in touch with her and will be doing an interview soon to find out what they’re up to.
What do you think the future holds for this Co-Op?
I’m confident good things are happening for them. You get that feeling when you see good people working together for a common goal.
I hope, by working with us we’ll grow together, then hopefully we can raise the quality of the coffee and help them grow the reputation of coffee from that region.
Next year we’ll book the coffees in may before it’s even been grown, because we’ve developed a trust and it lets them know 100% that we’ve growing coffee from that year. They can then separate our coffee knowing it’s the sort of thing we want.
What are you going to do with your lovely films photos?
First port of call is this blog I guess but we’re also just editing some to see if they’ll make some nice prints. I’ve never had much success with that camera so I’m buzzing about them.