THE PURSUIT OF GREEN COFFEE BEAN GREATNESS
Hello – my Name is Eduardo, your friendly neighborhood-green-coffee-bean-supplier. I have just returned home to South Africa from the most spectacular trip to South and Central America to discover, if possible at all, the perfect green coffee bean.
My business partner and I visited 5 countries in 20 days; That meant Fifteen flights, very little sleep, loads of hard work, a little bit of stress, and loads of fun. All in a days work to bring you the best green coffee beans, therefore join me on the journey as we share the nuance and flavour of each country.
The first leg of our journey kicked off in Cape Town. From there we flew out to Sao Paulo where we managed to take a quick shower and grab a bite to eat (and of course a coffee) at the lounge. From there, we headed to Panama (which would soon become our “coffee halfway house”) and then finally to our first destination, Costa Rica. And in my very humble opinion, coffee supplier paradise! Or coffee paradise full stop.
Here, our friend Juan drove us around to meetings with farmers and green coffee bean distributors. We visited these farms for a couple of days, meeting other coffee lovers and cupping coffees non-stop, as one does as a crazy coffee supplier. When I say cupping coffees, I am talking about three to four sessions a day, sometimes till late into the night. Who said drinking coffee is what you do in your lunch break? Somebody has to put their body on the line to source your perfectly balanced double espresso, and in this case, it happens to be me. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Our visit to Costa Rica led us to one of the most amazing coffee plantations we got to see on our trip. It seems the quality, vastness and beauty of these plantations directly influence the experience you get from drinking its coffee. The way they grow the green coffee bean and how they use and overcome environmental issues to develop a beautiful end product for the green coffee bean wholesaler is simply remarkable. Everything from the growing process to collecting and separating the different coffees, whether Geisha or Honey, makes for one of the most beautiful coffees in the world.
Even the volcanoes in Costa Rica plays a big part in enriching the soil for growing coffee. Who would have thought that volcanic soil would have such a unique influence and expression on the humble coffee bean? It is probably one of the many reasons that their coffee is so good! Because of all the microclimates, it is not unusual to have so many different tasting coffees in such a small area. And the Costa Rican farmers have developed a new fermentation process which leads to some fantastic tasting coffees. As a green coffee bean supplier, we look forward to bringing some of this to South Africa very soon.
I want to give a special mention to the Herrera’s, who hosted us during our time in Costa Rica. They made a significant impact on us with their love, kindness, effort, helpfulness and most of all, their beautiful smiles. They are a true testament to the spirit of Costa Rica. And it is no surprise that coffee can taste so good when it is cared for and produced by such great people.
We will remember the Costa Rican farmers and people for their humility and willingness to lend a helping hand. They are indeed a people rich in kindness and humility.
The second leg of our trip took us back to Panama for a shortstop from where we flew out to Guatemala City. Because travelling in these parts is no small task, we had to hire a 4×4 to get us into the areas we were visiting. It was like a replay from Costa Rica as we once again visited farms and had copious amounts of coffee cupping sessions with various coffee suppliers and farmers, as well as meeting with different coffee people. By this time, we had coffee coming through our pours, but we remained determined to find the perfect green coffee bean. Would Guatemala produce the goods?
It was here that we met a non-profit organisation who uses coffee to empower women to support their families. From planting, growing, collecting to selling coffee, all aimed at growing families. We even met with a pastor who helps people with past failures get back on their feet and change their lives through coffee.
In Guatemala, as in Costa Rica, the volcanoes play their part in enriching the soil with a healthy supply of minerals such as Magnesium, which provides for a unique tasting coffee bean.
The Government supports coffee farms in Guatemala, and the locals love the environment and are super protective of it. We also go to see Antigua, which is a beautiful city filled with history. In general, I experienced Guatemala as a dangerous place. People are walking the streets with guns as well as a strong army presence is evident. We were warned by locals to keep a lookout at all times, but fortunately, we did not encounter any of the bad things we were warned against, thank heavens!
So onward we soldiered towards our next stop, wondering if perhaps we are pioneering something special. A journey which many have embarked on, yet believing this time it might be us who strike coffee gold.
Back to Panama again, and then off to Colombia where our pursuit of green coffee bean greatness continued. I am convinced that our repeated rendezvous in Panama was no coincidence as eventually, we could resist her charm no longer. But you will have to wait to see how that all unfolded. Back to our time in Colombia though. Colombia is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is very “caliente” (meaning hot) in Colombia. From the high humidity and altitude to fantastic tasting coffee beans all adding to the “heat”. In essence, it’s a green coffee bean wholesaler’s dream. Colombia is recognised around the world for its fantastic coffees.
Cupping was once again on the cards as one would expect, and we got to try everything from select grade coffees to lower grade ones. We were pleasantly surprised by the lower grade coffees as they were full of fruity flavours and sweet profiles. We also got to taste some nutty and chocolaty flavoured varieties. These flavour profiles make for a unique coffee, suitable for blends as well as a single origin.
We managed to meet with quite a few farmers in Colombia. Here they had co-op facilities where some of the smaller farms and their farmers get together in a central location. The co-ops are for the benefit of all, where they bring their green coffee beans to be separated and packed for local distribution and ultimately to international green coffee bean distributors — an excellent vehicle for honouring Colombian coffee from source to supplier.
There is no question that Colombia is one of the most consistent coffee producers around, in the Americas as well as around the world. The flavour profiles they produce has captivated many roasters. I understand why a green coffee bean supplier would fall in love with Colombian beans because I have too. Sublime is an understatement. I couldn’t help but think that we might have hit the jackpot here.
I want to give a special mention to Jonathan, a vibrant and passionate, young missionary. He is a kind, loving, dedicated and hardworking young man. Jonathan was a great help to us in Colombia, and we are grateful to have had the privilege of meeting him and his mom.
After courting and being wooed by Panama to our proverbial date with destiny, our long overdue love affair had taken off. On the fourth leg, we headed back to Panama. But this time to stay, for a while.
Panama is home to one of the most expensive coffee beans around, the Geisha. Growing these beans require very specific and demanding cultivating conditions. Hence the price tag. Panama is famous for its amazing coffees mainly because of the God-given design of its environment, which is ideally suited for growing exceptional quality green coffee beans.
As per our previous engagements with Lady Panama, we were left wanting once again. We didn’t get to visit the farms as we wished, as Panama was out of coffee season. However, we did establish connections for future relationships which will provide us with opportunities to sample some of their coffees and bring them to our South African shores. Furthermore it is here where we realised the evasiveness of glory and that sometimes the best discoveries require utmost patience.
As we headed into the final stages of our South American journey, we landed in Brazil. Our hearts (and bladders) already filled with so much great coffee and memories. Could there be anything in Brazil that would grip us and force us into submission to its greatness? I am still talking about coffee, of course. Therefore we wasted no time to find out and raced off to the farms of Cerrado and those in the South of Minas Gerais. These farms are enormous, with many varieties of coffee plantations. Most of these plantations are over 100 hectares. A staggering sight, to say the least.
Aaah Brazil! My country of origin and the beginning of my love afair with Coffee. With Our hearts (and bladders) already filled with so much great coffee and memories – could Brazil offer anything more? We wasted no time to find out and raced off to the farms of Cerrado and those in the South of Minas Gerais. These farms are enormous, with many varieties of coffee plantations. Most of these plantations are over 100 hectares. A staggering sight, to say the least.
Here we did cupping of some new coffees, speciality and commercial, that we are looking to acquire for the future. And without question, Brazil knows how to produce coffee. We also visited some of the warehouses where they store, classify and screen the green coffee beans before selling them. In these facilities, they can track the beans from its origin right to its final destination.
Brazil is well known as the largest coffee producer and exporter of coffee beans in the world. They are also very meticulous and concerned about the quality, traceability and certifications of their produce.
Brazilian coffees are mainly known for being low in acidity with a nutty, fruity and chocolate flavour profile. We had the privilege of seeing all the big green coffee bean producers at the International Coffee Week, in Belo Horizonte, where we got to try many of their beautiful coffees, including the speciality Robusta. Coffee in Brazil has improved tremendously over the last few years, and they are consistently producing Cup of Excellence winners. So it goes without saying that you will always find an excellent Brazilian coffee in our lineup to help create your own cup of coffee excellence.
Peru was the surprise package of our journey. As fate had it, we stumbled upon something special. Our time in Colombia introduced us to producers and traders of Peruvian coffees. They were so kind as to invite us for a cupping session where we tasted some of their expensive coffees as well as their more commercial lines. We had a delightful experience here, which delivered some spectacular tasting coffees, and will surely be bringing their coffee to South Africa very soon!
South America has undoubtedly produced the goods, but our journey of discovery is far from over, as this trip has only made us more passionate and excited for what we might find next to indulge in and share with you.
4 THINGS WE CONSIDER WHEN IT COMES TO PROVIDING THE BEST QUALITY COFFEE BEANS TO THE SOUTH AFRICAN MARKET
1 – QUALITY
Knowing that the beans are fresh, from a singular source and of a top grade is vital in getting the best quality coffee beans to our customers.
Although Brazil is the biggest producer and exporter of coffee beans in the region, it often includes lesser grade coffee beans used in creating cheaper blends for mass-produced “supermarket coffee”. However, there is of late a significant movement of speciality coffee beans coming out of Brazil, which is growing and improving rapidly.
2 – FLAVOUR
There is no limit to the diversity and variety of green coffee beans that we source from South and Central America. Flavour profiles that range from fruity pineapple, blueberry and watermelon, all the way through to darker chocolate flavours. Likewise, the personal preference of each South African consumer is as varied as our 11 national languages. We, therefore, take great pleasure in surprising our customers with the most luxurious variety of delightful flavours, hopefully, to broaden their horizons and enhance their coffee drinking experience.
3 – SUSTAINABILITY
As coffee traders, we are very serious about sustainability. By visiting farms directly, we can ensure that we are buying coffees that are above reproach, that our suppliers are satisfied in negotiations, all while showing respect for the environment at all times.
4 – ORIGIN
Origin, traceability and certification are all factors that affect the quality and also improve relationships and trust with our clients. All our coffee beans can be traced back to the farm on which they were grown.
We are changing mindsets about South American coffees by supplying excellent coffee beans according to the demands of our clients.
We want to promote a coffee community concerned with quality products and in turn, be known as a South American coffee supplier who delivers quality to our clients.
We are a 100% Fair Trade company and pay special attention to the traceability of our speciality beans.
We aim to promote a win-win relationship with all of our clients.