Portugal Roasters Camp
Ben’s first trip abroad representing Mercanta (we were one of the green coffee sponsors) without a doubt, caused mild apprehension, considering the roasting prowess of the attendees. Wet behind the ears with little to no specialty roasting experience, there was much to learn over the course of the four days. Here’s a quick rundown of Ben’s top 5 highlights from the Camp:
- Equal Playing Field
To his surprise, the Roasters Camp attracted a broad range of skill sets and capabilities. Coffee roasters, importers, app and equipment representatives, exporters, and branding specialists joined forces to share their knowledge. Machines were trialled, profiles analysed, coffees slurped, and opinions voiced. Whether you were literally about to put your first beans in the roasters or you had been at the trier for 20 odd years, no judgement was passed and advice was at hand to anyone who wished to learn. Newbies gained an understanding of the variety of roasting techniques, as well as strategies for getting a business off the ground. Legends of the game shared new tricks of the trade, exploring new equipment or discovering new markets. For Ben, christened ‘Green Boy’ by Team 14, it was about understanding what was expected of him as a green coffee importer.
Lesson 1: turns out that’s quite a lot……but the critical question that a green coffee importer constantly needs to be asking him/herself, is what information does the roaster need or want to know? This will constantly change as time progresses, and the importer needs to be ahead of the game.
- Challenges of Small Business
Starting a roastery is no easy task (obvious statement). Once you’ve navigated your way through building a business plan and fund raising, found a spot to set-up shop, purchased your very first roaster, and finally ordered the first few bags of the finest beans on the market, there isn’t much room for error regarding cash flow. On top of this, you’re probably managing the whole show on your ones, from building a team, to roasting, to packaging, to sourcing, to sales. The list is endless. So how do you manage that? One of the most insightful discussions during the week took place during a Business Strategy Panel that addressed this question, a panel where those at the top of their game shared and discussed past experiences with those who had just started out. Not only was this extremely insightful, but also highlighted the mutual respect of the roasting community and the willingness to help others.
Lesson 2: Calibrate your thoughts of success with your team – where do you, your staff, and the company want to be 10 years down the line.
- Direct Trade
The ‘how do we go direct’ question dominated a significant proportion of the private and group discussions over the course of the 4 days. Having read numerous articles upon returning to the Mercanta HQ, the article below written by a member of an established coffee roaster and customer of Mercanta summarises the process and complications of going direct in detail:
Lesson 3: Read and Memorise the above article…..
- Roasting Diversity
Friends, family, and John down the local, when hearing about the Roasters Camp enquire as to whether I’ve enjoyed my time bathing in beard oil with a group of tattooed hipsters. This initial reaction, or assumption, that all coffee roasters are your typical hipster couldn’t be further from the truth. Individuals from all walks of life and from every corner of Europe, with such varying trajectories into the world of coffee, meant that every panel discussion hosted and every question posed was born out of an experience that tended to be entirely unique. You can argue as to whether this is for the better or for the worse. Can you compare experiences in varying markets with varying consumer patterns? What do we – I – as a green coffee importer need to know when approaching roasters in Bulgaria versus approaching roasters in London?
Lesson 4: Tailoring discussion, sales pitches, knowledge to different markets is essential. There’s no generic formula to advising and selling coffee to coffee roasters
- Teaming up with Morten Münchow
The final full day of the roasters camp concluded with a barbecue by the pool followed by a quiz hosted by Caravela. One simple lesson: be on a team with Morten. You may end up in the pool shirtless, but it’s worth it for the win….