Coffee is the most prized hot beverage consumed around the world. Every single day, some 3 billion cups are consumed. Today, coffee drinkers are more knowledgeable than ever, insisting on transparency in the coffee market. They demand to be certain of the quality of products they are consuming and are likewise ready to pay higher prices for superior quality. Nonetheless, taste is not the only benchmark for them. As a matter of fact, the whole process involved from bean to cup is equally, if not more important in their eyes.
This shift is making high-quality coffee sourced from fair trade highly valuable. These criteria are even giving rise to upscale markets that are thriving upon this extra segmentation. Transparency in the coffee industry is becoming so crucial that wise coffee retailers are already doing their best to adopt innovative strategies to attract and retain customers. In today’s connected world, it makes sense to align quality and taste with sustainability metrics.
Striking the perfect balance between taste, quality and sustainability
One of the latest innovations is unfolding in California. Bellwether Coffee has just raised $ 10M to bring additional transparency to the coffee industry. The company decided to capitalize on America’s insatiable love for coffee by proposing zero-emissions commercial coffee roasters to grocers, coffee shops and other businesses.
Simultaneously, it allows its customers to have access to its online marketplace featuring some 20 coffee farms. Clients browsing the platform are given precious information: for instance, they can know whether the featured farms are organically certified or woman-owned, and the exact origins of the coffee beans. Retailers, as well as coffee consumers, can tip farmers directly via the platform. This innovation is poised to revolutionize the way coffee farmers earn their revenues as tips can drastically increase their earnings. This aspect is vital as coffee has become one of the most traded agricultural commodities directly influencing the lives of over 25 million families in over 50 coffee producing countries.
The demand for transparency is favouring direct trade
The worldwide coffee market is so dominant that it has the power to influence coffee at the very source. The demand for transparency is encouraging direct trade, which is a plus in itself for the coffee market. Direct trade is eliminating unnecessary points of contact and hurdles, promoting straightforward relationships between coffee farmers, roasters and retailers. The value chain itself is shortened, promoting a much more significant farmer-retailer collaboration and highlighting the human connection between the various points of contact.
Retailers and roasters are taking advantage of this trend, using direct trade to promote single-origin coffee. In other words, coffee sourced from a single producer, crop or region is gaining more value. Both retailers and consumers have complete information regarding the origin of their coffee and are certain of its quality. At the same time, consumers are in a position to know whether the coffee is produced in a sustainable and fair manner. Coffee labels used specify the estate name, specific lot or the paddock where the coffee was grown. In some cases, the labels also provide information on the micro-lot if it is from a specific varietal from a specific farm. This accompanying information describing the source of the beans, the climate, the farm and the processing methods are all helpful in attracting and satisfying consumers.
Single-origin coffee is gaining recognition
As there is greater communication between roasters and farmers, the quest for superior-quality coffee is becoming pressing. Producers are relying on roasters to keep them updated about market trends, and specialty roasters, on their side, are constantly looking for appealing single origins to showcase exceptional products. Today, it is even rare to find a specialty roaster who does not have a firsthand and detailed understanding of the various farming and processing techniques. Origin visits are becoming common and farmers, roasters and buyers are all working side-by-side. This intricate and revamped collaboration can be noted at the consumer end through a demonstration of an enhancement in the sophistication level of coffees available on the market.
The coffee drinkers are themselves playing an active role in promoting single-origin coffee by recognising the superior quality of the product and all the hard work behind its production. This attitude encourages the farmer to do his or her best to deliver an unmatched coffee experience and review their farming methods as well. By doing so, the farmer is also defining the very identity of his or her farm and the coffee products derived from it. With an influx of superior quality coffee on the market, the expectation level of consumers will systematically be raised. This recognition will also ensure that farmers are paid fairly for their products.
Breaking the tradition of coffee blends
The emergence of direct trade and single-origin coffees is also reinventing the coffee experience of today. Before the emergence of single-origin coffee, even the roasting techniques were different from those used today. Generally, roasters would gather and mix coffee beans from multiple locations to create blends. It was even not uncommon to find coffee beans from nine different regions blended together. Obviously, such blends would drastically alter the distinct flavours of the beans in the cup of the consumer.
Today, much emphasis is being laid on the distinct features of the beans and specialty coffee shops are mushrooming ready to respond to the consumer desire for authenticity. Medium and smaller roasters are especially demonstrating more willpower in selling single-origin coffees to differentiate themselves from large brands. They are leveraging the desire for a product-oriented rather than an ambience-oriented experience. Some farmers have consequently become specialty farmers and decided to invest fully in developing and enhancing the finest quality crops to exceed demands. As a result, various processes such as the selection of varietals or cultivars, the growth stage, harvesting techniques and times, as well as milling and processing methods are being reviewed. All these transformations are consolidating the experiential segment, commonly known as the third wave. Favourable conditions for product innovation are also being created.