Our Coffee Sourcing Ethos
What is responsible coffee buying? It’s a highly personal definition, and every buyer and company needs to make their own decisions. For Catalyst Trade, responsible coffee buying has a lot of elements. One of these elements is expanding our purchases beyond simply cherry-picking top lots that might win awards for our roasters.
It’s easy enough to take a trip to origin, cup through a bunch of high-scoring lots, and choose a few to bring home. Kind of like going to a candy store and choosing which caramel you want: the salty burnt-sugar kind that sticks to your gums and sings of long dark nights, or the lush milky kind that goes down like butter. In Ethiopia, there are plenty of sparkly 88+ lots to choose from; in fact, we kind of specialize in helping cultivate those top lots with our producing partners and in curating and sharing them. Both we and our partners invest enormous labor and cost into producing these top quality lots. That’s why these coffees win awards right and left.
But once the twenty-five bags of uber-special coffee have been sold, producers are often left with a hundred bags—or hundreds of bags—of coffee they still have to find a market for. Profitability is often better for those top lots, but they don’t even begin to cover the cost of production for washing stations and farms. For that, many producers look to their quality production in the 84-87 point range. Once the candy buyers have left, they still need to find buyers to ensure they can feed their families and keep the ball rolling with their operations.
Flip the coin, and look at a coffee roaster. Yes, the sparkly lovely unicorns are FUN but for many roasters, they don’t form the backbone of a healthy sourcing program. We are privileged to work with coffee roasters of all kinds. Many of our roasters have customers who want to grab coffee and sip it while finishing a report, or to share with their Great Aunt Catherine instead of her Yuban. These roasters need a consistent and reliably delicious blend component that is equal parts accessible and mind-expanding. They want coffee that’s drinkable and—when purchased from the retail shelf—economical. Everybody’s thrilled to try some fancy candy once in a while, and some roasters have built their businesses on serving up rainbows in fancy packages. For others, the high quality, value-driven coffees fly off the shelves with their drinkability and value.
In response to both our producers and roasters, we have developed a unique multi-faceted buying program, and we are flying that flag proudly. We specialize in bringing you coffees that will make your customers—or judges at the next coffee competition—sip and take notice. AND we source a near-endless supply of stable, value-driven coffees to give both you and our coffee producing partners peace of mind and the ability to plan for the future. By taking this action, together we are able to support the full economy of coffee production. We celebrate the colorful and flamboyant top lots—while paying higher premiums for the tasty and steady plots that would otherwise go randomly to the ECX.