In our recent interview with Molly Laverty, Manager of Sustainable Green Coffee Supply & Procurement for Coffee Bean International, Specialty Coffee by Farmer Brothers, she spoke about the power of getting to know coffee growers and sharing their stories with the marketplace. We wanted to hear more about the idea of telling coffee’s story and to find out how building understanding of the coffee trade is affecting both our customers and the people who grow our coffee, so we went back to Molly for more great insights into Farmer Brothers’ coffee sourcing.
Both within the coffee industry and for our customers, what have you found to be the most effective way to communicate the importance of responsible coffee sourcing?
Telling the story behind coffee, showing the reality of coffee farming and what it means to be a part of those communities, has been one of the best ways to help people – Farmer Brothers customers and in turn the customers that they serve – understand what their purchases mean. Coffee can be mysterious. So many of the sources are far away that even life long coffee drinkers never have to really think about where their coffee comes from. We look to share the story of our growers to help their understanding grow and in turn help build a better and sustainable income for our outstanding growers by fostering that appreciation.
What is at the core of that story?
Our entire team is deeply trained in the technical aspects of coffee. We cup together regularly and spend a lot of time focusing on the quantifiable factors that lead to a great coffee blend. That’s important, so we try to help our customers understand that piece of the picture without getting lost in too much complexity, but equally important is the emotional side of the story. There are real people out there producing your coffee, it’s what they do and often what generations of their community have done. They’re investing in their farms and communities, working to be good stewards of their environment, because for them coffee is their reality and they know how important it is to preserve that. Helping customers access that emotional aspect of the coffee story has been really powerful in building connections and directing coffee premiums to these individuals who are committed to making the lives of their communities better.
How does this storytelling approach compare to more traditional certifications programs for coffee?
Certifications for coffee have had an enormous impact for the industry and continue to provide a great starting point for customers who want additional options for offering sustainable coffee. These programs have set out clear goals and, just like we do, have made it their mission to create economic incentives for farmers to achieve these goals. But while the end result is similar to what we do with our relationship coffee portfolio, for us it’s about a greater level of depth, taking supply chain transparency all the way back to the source. Larger programs don’t always have the resources to go beyond the measures they’ve set out and the conventional coffee supply chain didn’t develop over the years with transparency in mind. When we know the full story behind our coffees – and that’s something that comes directly from our relationship coffee program – we can speak with authority about every aspect of that coffee supply chain. More and more we’re finding that to be the kind of information that our customers want to know.
How has that transparency affected Farmer Brothers relationship to growers?
The perspective we gain from dealing directly with growers in our relationship coffee portfolio lets us impact the coffees we sell all the way from the source. Transparency in the supply chain helps us to identify opportunities to make these coffees even better on their journey to our customers and also gives us a better understanding of how we can give back and help the long term health of our coffee growing communities. Then that same transparency helps us showcase these improvements and investments for our customers, and the entire process creates a really positive feedback loop that has had a really exciting impact on our coffee supply chain.