Our Sourcing Model
Mercanta The Coffee Hunters
Our Green Coffee Sourcing Model
Written by Stephen Hurst
Since our foundation in 1996, Mercanta The Coffee Hunters has believed in the relationship model of coffee sourcing.
Our aim is the empowerment of coffee growers who lack market access by supplying fine coffee – and the tools to appreciate it – to a growing audience of discerning buyers. This approach requires a unique understanding of coffee as a distinctive agricultural product and not as a commodity. To this end, we have invested heavily in education and training for growers, roasters, and end users alike.
The path to market is complex. Coffee is not grown by one single type of producer, and one size does not fit all. Provenance is crucial but the path from farm to port is different in almost every coffee growing country.
Once coffee is appreciated for its unique character and attributes, it becomes ‘de-commoditised’. Remuneration to growers must be linked to the quality they produce or the continuing cycle of over-production of bulk commodity grade coffee will continue indefinitely.
Our philosophy is enduring, and has been in place long before trade, aid, traceability and sustainability became fashionable buzzwords. Our philosophy also works in all market conditions. Many worthy causes focus on one part of the coffee supply chain (guaranteed price to growers, environment, flora and fauna, social justice, children’s welfare, etc.) but Mercanta’s approach starts with the coffee itself. We have a dedicated laboratory and training centre located at our offices in Kingston upon Thames (London, UK). Once we have identified a fine coffee, then we should sensibly pay the producer/grower a premium price to secure this and possibly future production. We are not a charity – growers of any product would much prefer a price agreed for the inherent quality of that product and not receive a hand out. We seek to pay sustainable and premium prices. In each case, quality, consistency, reliability, price to grower and provenance are intrinsically linked.
At Mercanta, we aim to provide a better alternative price than is often available in the internal or external markets. This price, however, must reflect the quality of the coffee itself.
This approach is only possible if you ‘cup’ (or taste) coffees every day as we do, and further train hundreds of people in producing and importing countries to do the same. The jute sack and green unroasted beans often look the same so without these skills growers and consumers are at the mercy of the latest trend or claim. Some coffee roasters are doing excellent work – others quite simply are not. Stand in any UK supermarket aisle and watch a shopper in front of the coffee section – rarely is an informed choice made. Given the tremendous growth in popularity of coffee in general, those roasters who are doing exceptional work are sometimes indistinguishable from those who don’t care. The consumer must be the arbiter. Badges and labels do not offer a long-term solution to better coffee policy, but insisting your coffee supplier is fully equipped with comprehensive coffee knowledge will go a long way to creating a better understanding together with a virtuous circle of better-off coffee growers and better served discerning coffee drinkers.
Professional coffee sourcing done the right way is too complex to be dumbed down or compressed into a 30 second sound-bite. However, as each day passes a growing band of discerning coffee drinkers and quality coffee growers are becoming more informed and better advised.
This will provide the momentum for the Quiet Revolution in the coffee business that, in turn, will assist coffee growers and their communities who focus on quality and path to market. Mercanta’s holistic approach seeks to help growers to help themselves. There are thousands of bags of fine coffee currently being sold anonymously in internal markets because nobody has the means or interest to sort the wheat from the chaff. Supply is not the problem – demand, education, information, partnership, transparency and path to market are the issues.
Coffee professionals, Roasters, be more demanding – ask more of your supplier. Yes, it is only coffee, but it does matter. Growers do not want charity – they want people to pay a better price in return for superior quality.
Mercanta The Coffee Hunters is a professional, ethical sourcing operation run by experts. We are a conduit, a mechanism to get these fine coffees to market. We stock an immense array of some of the finest coffees in the world at our warehouses in the UK, Germany, USA, Dubai, and Singapore. From these facilities, we export to specialty coffee roasters worldwide.
There is a difference – your customers will be able to tell. Buy better coffee and your sales will grow faster than those roasters who don’t.
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