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Mexico 2023 Pre-Harvest Plan

Our 2023 Mexico Pre-Harvest Plan builds on last year’s explorations into lesser-known producing regions of Mexico while doubling down on our historical work with supply chains in Chiapas, Oaxaca and Veracruz. For the first time, we are introducing a quality-incentivized transparent pricing program across the country to encourage early and repeat delivery of parchment from top producers and break out of traditional aggregation models which restrict many producers’ access to the specialty export market.

At the farm of Don Pedro in Oaxaca, a picker walks through a plot of coffee trees during picking


We first started working in Mexico back in 2013, focusing our efforts in lower-lying areas in Central Mexico along the Pacific coast like Colima and Guerrero—places relatively unknown to specialty buyers in the U.S. Back then, we brought in beautiful dry processed coffees (uncommon in Mexico) from a cooperative called Leyva Mancilla in Guerrero and washed coffees in one of the first lots ever exported from Colima. From there, we began exploring the upper ranges and outer environs of Oaxaca, where the ties of community and operational complexity are as palpable as the potential for quality.

Based on its proximity, it would be easy to assume that of everywhere we work, Mexico should be the easiest. Yet, despite sharing a border and deep connections to the U.S., Mexico remains one of the most complex places we work.

First introduced by Spanish colonizers in the 18th century, coffee in Mexico initially grew on large plantations owned by Europeans and worked by Mexican laborers. Following Mexican independence, wealthy landowners wielded “modernization” as a rationale to abolish communal and corporate land rights, stripping indigenous communities of their lands to form large estates. Agrarian land reforms following the Mexican Revolution began a process of redistribution of land from those larger private estates back to smallholders through the ejido system, which established communal land areas dedicated to agricultural production.

In 1973, to promote coffee production on these newly created lands, the Mexican government established The Mexican Coffee Institute (Instituto Mexicano del Café, or INMECAFE), providing technical assistance, equipment, transportation and credit so that coffee producers could deliver their coffee to the international market. By the end of INMECAFE’s first decade, coffee was the largest agricultural export in Mexico, accounting for 35% of all agricultural exports.

As part of his neoliberal policies, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari abolished INMECAFE in 1989, the same year that the International Coffee Agreement collapsed—exposing smallholders to price volatility and leaving them without access to credit or government assistance—and in 1991 ended ejido land reform policies, again forcing smallholders to abandon lands they’d farmed, dispersing many into remote or mountainous areas.

After the ICA collapsed, so too did prices for coffee; the Coordination of Coffee Grower Organizations estimates that as a result of the ensuing coffee crisis, Mexican coffee growers would have lost 65% of their potential revenues since the start of the crisis. As a result, 71% of coffee growers stopped using fertilizers, 40% reduced pruning, and 75% stopped investing in control of pests, leading to lower qualities, yields and resiliency ahead of the coffee leaf rust outbreak in Latin America in 2012.

In response, many of the coffee growers in Mexico—who today number more than 500,000, 85% of whom are indigenous and with 95% growing coffee on fewer than 3 hectares of land—organized into informal cooperatives or otherwise collaborated to mitigate their risk and attempt to access the best price for their coffee.

Mexico offers unique opportunities for quality with many of its farms planted with decades-old root stock of lower-yielding traditional varieties like Bourbon and Typica and an increased interest domestically in specialty coffee, leading to experimentation and innovation in coffee processing and the planting of exotic cultivars. Today, Mexico is the seventh largest coffee exporter in the world—and the largest exporter of organic coffee.

We don’t operate like coffee hunters or coyotes, picking through warehouses, or buying the best cups that come up on coyote-curated blinded tables in Oaxaca City. To overcome our greatest challenges working in Mexico—aggregation of coffee into lots of exportable size and qualities—we remain committed to working through communities, allowing us to build mutual relationships and networks of trust. This is only possible by overcoming communications challenges—linguistic and topographic—returning year after year to re-engage communities, addressing logistics within and between communities, and cultivating quality through training, idea sharing, proactive communication, and incentive programs.

Expectations, at a glance

For the 2023 harvest and import from Mexico, we anticipate that:

  • Import volumes will be slightly higher, with more, smaller, lots, despite a low harvest;
  • Coffee will arrive June through August , with peak bookings in April and May; earlier than last year, despite a delayed harvest;
  • Quality will be higher than last year due to additional programming aimed at lot selection; and
  • Prices will be equal to or somewhat higher than last year for most lots.


Cold and wet conditions across Mexico have delayed harvest and drying by as much as a month compared to previous years, also leading to lower than expected production. However, we have implemented stricter purchasing deadlines to ensure lots are milled and exported earlier in 2023, which will result in earlier and on-time arrivals to the U.S. We will be traveling to Mexico three times prior to the end of harvest and anticipate that booking will be wrapped up by early May.

We introduced a new program that we’re calling Good Coffee Program, designed to create access to and and a pipeline for top lots by appealing to farmers and their communities directly through transparent pricing, immediate payment, and long-term contracts. This farmer-facing program is overseen by our new support team in Mexico, and will deliver higher quality separations and smaller microlots than in previous years.

Domestic prices in Mexico remain high; pricing indicators, particularly across Oaxaca, remain inflated from last year’s peak even though market prices have begun to fall due to competition from commercial buyers. We are maintaining a pricing calculator that we will update every two weeks to transparently translate offer prices from export-ready ‘oro’ in USD / LB, FOB export, to Mexican Pesos / KG in ‘pergamino’ to the farmer. This tool will assist with education and accountability, but most of all, in engaging farmers in a conversation about prices and quality. At the start of harvest, the U.S. Dollar is the weakest it’s been since 2017 against the Mexican Peso, which will buffer export prices even as the market softens; this, along with incentives paid for quality and smaller lot sizes will result in landed prices that are approximately the same or somewhat higher than previous years.


Harvest Milling Export Arrival
Feb–Apr May–Jun Jun–Jul Jul–Aug
Israel Paz, our agent in Mexico and the facilitator of GCP

Challenges & Discussion

We received the final landings of our 2022 imports late into the year, giving them less time to shine before the next crop comes in. These late arrivals resulted from disruptions within Mexico’s export market related to quality, price, and lot aggregation.

Historically, aggregation of coffees has been our greatest challenge in Mexico, with quality and high prices—or more specifically, a mismatch between quality and price—coming close behind.

Over our time working in Mexico, we’ve developed year-over-year supply chains by working with strong, engaged collaborators who have their own relationship and connection to communities of coffee growers. By working through them, we’re able to gain access to communities—most often indigenous, and always of smallholders—who otherwise would not have access to the specialty market. One challenge, however, is that these informal cooperatives are traditional in their structure and outlook; a central collection point for parchment services the entire community with pricing negotiated on an ongoing basis based on market conditions, and without training or support for agronomy or processing, quality is highly variable.

Without collectors and a way to make inroads with these communities of smallholders, the coffee they grow would likely be destined for sale in the domestic or commercial markets by coyotes, or bought by “Coyote Qs” who buy coffee at low prices from farmers by grading it down at the farm and up at the lab in Oaxaca. Domestic prices in Mexico for specialty quality lots are higher than in other producing countries, and with yields also substantially lower, supply pressures force FOB costs higher and logistical challenges increase.

Last year, for our 2022 import, we hired a partner from our early work in Guerrero as a producer-in-residence to motivate producers to engage in the specialty market by providing processing training and experimentation support. Our short-term aim was to create diversified products through existing partnerships and by paying a premium for these lots, ensure they’d make it to export. In conjunction, we established a “diploma” program inclusive of cupping feedback rewarding producers for going through this training. The coffees were produced, but in the end, they never made it to market: with market prices as high as they were, and with the slow payment cycle of exported coffee—up to 6 weeks from delivery of parchment—many producers ended up selling the coffee they’d produced through the Barista in Residence program to the local market, using the diploma we’d given, for faster payment.

Key Suppliers

Supply Chain Strategy or Qualities Updates
La Refleja y Red 5 de Diciembre


La Canada, Mazoteca

Utilize the agronomy extension team (Red 5) to train community partners on quality control and lot separation upon initial collections. Explore separations from other high-altitude, hard to reach member groups in Sierra Norte. La Reflecja (cooperative) hired a new cupper.

C2C Agent is making frequent visits to check on training / lot separation.

Communities are invited to participate in GCP microlot program for 3rd party feedback.

Terra Coffeas Mexico


Mixteca (Caballo Rucio)
Mazoteca (San Mateo Yoloxochitlan)
La Pluma (Juquila)

Build small 20-family community groups within indigenous communities who can focus on producing for specialty. Pair these groups with field workers to provide support through the harvest, a top of the line mill / cupping team to recreate the cooperative model from the ground up. ‘22 was the start of this project, ‘23 is building on that success with more individual farmer separations and overall improvements on community-level processing made possible by good prices and advance contracts.
Ramon Ruiz / Joaquin Santana


La Pluma (Chateno)

Support community leaders (in this case, Joaquin Santana) who devote their houses, hearts and time to hold together informal cooperatives composed of indigenous (mostly non-spanish speaking) households who have delivered their coffee to Joaquin for generations. Continue to reinvest a portion of premiums into supplies (shade nets, drying beds).

Support smaller lot separation through Joaquin’s house (which acts as the group’s bodega) through to the mill in Oaxaca.

Special processing experimentation.

Pride of Puebla

Mazoteca (Puebla, Sierra Negra)

Participate in a grassroots-organized quality auction (‘22) to identify the most motivated producers in an off-the-path part of Puebla so that they can have more access to specialty markets in ‘23. Send a C2C agent to work between NGOS (like Heifer Intl), local agronomists, and community leaders to communicate a clear plan for pricing, quality premiums, and quick cupping feedback through the Good Coffee Program (GCP).


For 2023, we’re taking a different approach to our Mexico sourcing strategy based on the lessons we learned from our work over the last few harvests. This year’s strategy focuses on quality discovery, and appeals directly to producers by providing an impartial lab to provide quick feedback while educating producers on their cup score. This exists on top of our normal purchasing strategy, which aims at economic stability through long-term contracts, and building trust and accountability through adoption of a transparent, widely-communicated pricing model for all of our buying in Mexico.

We brought on staff two local agents, Israel Paz and his wife Joz Cortes, both of whom are skilled, calibrated cuppers with deep connections to producer communities in Mexico. Israel and Joz will work together not only to evaluate quality and turn around feedback more rapidly at their own Arc roaster outfitted lab in Puebla, but also help with discovery of new producer relationships through their networks. Israel will oversee our new quality incentive and transparent pricing program, which we’re calling, aptly, Good Coffee Program (GCP). Good Coffee Program runs during harvest, from March 1st to April 26, 2023.

GCP is built on a few foundational principles:

  • Providing sample analysis and cupping feedback to every producer, as quickly as possible;
  • Transparent pricing calculated based on progressively increasing cup quality incentives on top of a price floating above market price;
  • Timely payment for coffee at our collection centers (~2 weeks);
  • Long-term contracts for selected coffees; and
  • Monitoring and advice on the separation, milling and export of coffees.

By improving the speed of payment and incentivizing quality, we hope to build collections of high-quality coffees. Taking a page out of our strategy from last year, we will run radio broadcasts to communicate pricing in order to overcome the communication challenges posted by Mexico’s topography. The pricing model is fully transparent with premiums assessed based on quality—and a base price that is recalculated every two weeks corresponding to movement in the local market.

While the coffee trade in Mexico operates with a lack of national structure and is often opaque due to difficulty accessing communities of producers directly, GCP aims to create an environment where smallholders are able to receive feedback on their coffee, receive a transparent offer above the local market, and get paid quickly.

GCP will be utilized across all of our supply chains in Mexico; we anticipate that this will result in smaller, high quality lots and don’t anticipate any lots larger than 50 bags.

One of our longest-standing supply chain partners in Mexico, Ramon Ruiz, and the networks of producers he helps us access through Joaquin Santana in Sierre del Sur and Lachao are one area of focus. The lot separation strategies we’ve implemented in the past have shown some success, and our initial trials of using radio broadcasts to promulgate pricing helped to expedite delivery of coffees from these remote regions. In neighboring La Cañada and Eloxochitlán, we’re eager to engage Coro Cooperative and Red 5 de Diciembre and solicit their participation in GCP. The Red 5 de Diciembre network has been a partner of Crop to Cup since 2020 and is the largest organization of producers in the La Cañada—itself made up by 13 first-level organizations to represent 1,300 small indigenous producers. Over the past six years this group has been working to improve selective harvesting, specialty processing, and marketing of these higher value lots while growing membership.

We will be expanding our work with one of our newer supply-chains in Oaxaca—Terra Coffeas—with whom we worked in 2022. The team at Terra Coffeas includes engineers, agronomists, biologists, chemists, cuppers, artists, and coffee lovers united for the common cause of “agroecológico”—loosely translated to mean “the intentional purposing of international standards for quality, productivity and traceability, towards the advancement of local cultural practices, environmental resources, and economic outcomes”. The field team at Terra Coffeas is young, ethics- and quality-calibrated with Crop to Cup. Rather than relying on conventional cooperatives, Terra Coffeas operates by organizing smallholder coffee producers into informal cooperatives of 25-30 families to aggregate lots into exportable volumes, create market access, cultivate quality, and deliver premiums based on that quality.

In Puebla, where Israel Paz and Joz have their lab, we’ll be returning for 2023 after being the only international buyer to participate in 2022’s Pride of Puebla competition and auction. The coffees from this region remain relatively unknown to specialty buyers outside, and we believe that Puebla holds massive potential for quality as well as producers who will be motivated and positioned well to take advantage of the GCP program.

We we will be actively cupping throughout the season and expect to have samples available by May. To get involved or for more information, contact your trader.

We we will be actively cupping throughout the season and expect to have samples available by May.


For our 2022-2023 import, we worked to rebuild our presence and partnerships in Uganda, both of which suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic and continued consolidation of multinational exporters.

Uganda is the country where Crop to Cup began, and its teachings remain at the heart of our sourcing philosophy. Nearly two decades of work has centered around separating and scaling high quality lots to help grow the market for Ugandan specialty coffees. The last five years have been all about promoting young independent producers, and building the network of support they need to get their top lots through to export. Over the past two years exports were frustrated by quarantine, logistics and a lack of operating capital.

Ahead of the 2022-2023 harvest we assisted these partners to secure pre-crop financing, with built-in incentives for greater separation of lots, removing the last hurdle towards this being the year we all get to taste the fruits of their labor.


  1. Timing
  2. Background
  3. Expectations
  4. Key Suppliers
  5. Challenges and Discussion
  6. Sourcing Strategy & Supplier Updates
  7. How to Get Involved

Uganda 2022-2023 import expectations, at a glance

We anticipate that

Import Volume will be significantly higher than the previous year;
Qualities will be higher;
Harvest will be early; and
Prices will be about the same or slightly lower than last year.




Conditions in Brazil set the pace for pricing the world over, but nowhere more than in Brazil itself. Variables such as currency exchange rates and weather forecasts impact both the C-market—against which coffee around the world is traded—as well as our partners in Brazil who experience frosts and devaluations directly. Even within specialty, producers contract a portion of their crop in large futures contracts against the C-market, hedging with an aim of guaranteeing income and economic security for the year. Then, with some certainty that they can cover their costs, they set aside a smaller portion of higher scoring lots to sell through specialty channels. 

The market volatility of the last year coupled with lower production this year, though, mean that many producers are left with little coffee to sell as specialty: in order to fulfill their existing futures contracts, they delivered more of their total harvest than expected. Those contracts may have been established when the Brazilian real was high, the C-market was low, and forecasts were strong; the reality left producers exposed. With such volatility, and such low volumes to work with, producers are understandably inclined to “wait and see”, rather than contracting too far in advance of export.

As a result, we entered the harvest aggressively, knowing we’d have to compete for the qualities and volumes that we’d hoped to put together with our partners at Aequitas. Ultimately, this meant that Yuki and the team at Aequitas had to grow their network to build volume for export; thanks to investments she made such as opening an Aequitas cupping lab locally to provide faster feedback to producers and evaluate quality and strengthening communication and relationship with the producers in the Aequitas network, we were able to allay concerns that we initially held about quality potential ahead of the harvest. Here, again, Yuki Minami’s strength as a collaborator helped to navigate the Aequitas family of farmers through this time of market disruption. 
Because of inflationary pressures and costs increasing in Brazil for Aequitas and Aequitas members, pricing will be higher this year. We expect our import volumes will be lower this year.

If there are specific projects or lots you’re interested in, we recommend booking early. 


Peak Harvest
Lot Selection
On the Water
Aug – Sep Sep – Oct Nov – Dec Dec – Jan
Type samples, lot reservations Offer + PSS samples, initial bookings Contract approval + export Arrival samples + spot offers


As with all things in 2022, prices are up over last year. A multitude of factors contributed, but the theme is ‘inflation’ and ‘volatility’.

  • Operating costs increased – from inputs to labor to finance, storage and transportation.
  • Export costs increased – including a 16-24c average increase in shipping alone. 
  • Volumes are down over last year, and over projections from earlier this year – most farms are short on the future contracts they signed to finance operations.
  • The C-market is up 15-20¢ over last year with volatility and speculation creating additional scarcity. 
  • The Brazilian Real weakened significantly against the U.S. Dollar, with even more volatility past that from inflation due to an elongated election season.

In total, inflationary costs will account for about 20-25 cents of increases and market differences account for 15-20 cents per pound of increases before we encounter increases stemming from the global logistics crisis and container shortage—meaning that at the end of the day, we expect that final prices will be, on average, 50-60 cents higher than last year for microlots and top lots. 


Our access in Brazil, and reason for working here, is found in our relationship with Aequitas, led by Yuki Minami and founded on the notion of creating equity through coffee. We’ve bought from Aequitas since their first export in 2018. 

Last year, we bought a battery of microlots that showcased a diverse range of processes and flavor profiles coming from Aequitas members that came from a “recipe book” of postharvest processes we put together with Yuki. Aequitas once again used the recipe this year, targeting processes based on the results of last year, helping to achieve consistency in quality across those unconventional lots.

These efforts in separation and diversification of processing were aided by the new cupping lab and office that Yuki opened in town. Aequitas’ cupping lab used to be on a farm—moving it into town makes it more accessible for other producers and increases the amount of cupping and speed of feedback on coffees submitted.

Yuki also expanded the Aequitas network in search of more affordable 84+ commercial-plus style lots through COOPEDAP, the local cooperative that also warehouses and mills coffee for Aequitas members. This creates an opportunity for more price-sensitive and/or larger scale roasters to buy Aequitas coffee.

Marcelo Assis and Biome Café doubled down on lessons learned from their processing experiments from last year.

Lot Availability Updates

Often overlooked due to its reputation as a commodity producer of Arabica coffee, Brazil’s landmass and diversity of microclimates, regions and cultures results in a remarkable diversity of cup profiles—if you know where to look.

Soraia Guimarares

We’ve partnered with Maria Soraia Guimarares since 2019, two years after her family received their first premium for specialty coffee. Unlike most producers in her region, Soraia’s farm is harvested by hand—a small example of the attention to detail and care Soraia takes in producing coffee, which has garnered recognition through awards from Cup of Excellence, the Minas Gerais State Coffee Quality Awards, Cerrado Mineiro Region Coffee Awards and Florada Contest.

For our 2023 import, Soraia focused purely on microlots—her favorite being Arara Anaerobic, which presents in the cup with notes of blue raspberry, cherry taffy, cotton candy, honey, lemon verbena, melon, and thyme.

Minami Family

Yuki Minami and the Minami Family Farms are our raison d’être in Brazil, and we’ve imported coffee from them since our first year operating in Brazil in 2017. For 2023, they’ve produced a mixture of single batch (~100 bags) and smaller (~10 bag) lots.

Included in these are iterations of the most successful of last year’s more experimental-style lots, like the Minami Anaerobic Fermentation with Pineapple, which has notes of dried peach, black cherry, hibiscus, red licorice and is on the wilder, more adventurous side of the specialty spectrum compared to classics like Fazenda Olhos D’Agua Natural, a quieter, more nuanced coffee with notes of candied orange, dark chocolate, honey, nut, persimmon, and raisin.

Marcelo Assis and Bioma Café

Marcelo Assis, a partner producer of Crop to Cup since 2018, dedicates Bioma Café, the farm he operates in partnership with Flavio Marcio Silva, to specialty production. They approached selecting the site for the farm from a technical lens, evaluating the quality potential of each parcel.

Over the years, Marcelo has proven to be an innovative and collaborative partner, and for 2023, the fruitful collaboration between Marcelo and Rosalina Zamai resulted in a unique natural processed lot with notes of pomegranate, dark plum, marigold, rose, brown sugar, and apple cider. His Paraiso MG2 Anaerobic Fermentation lot is tropical and complex with character of guava, anise, magnolia, strawberry, vermouth and floral schnapps.

How to Book

We have completed our booking for this harvest. Review our Forward Offers to see upcoming availability. Available lots are limited—reach out to your trader to forward book for December/January arrivals.

– The Crop to Cup Sourcing Team

Kinini processing naturals

Peak Harvest, Peak Quality


Where we primarily work in Rwanda, the high elevation mountains of the northern province, the harvest happens late compared to the western and southern provinces. Instead of compensating for this timeline by chasing early harvest volume, we wait for peak harvest samples which pushes our sample approvals & shipments to later in the year but focuses our energy on drilling down to the harvest’s best qualities. This strategy is not just ours, but shared by our partners at Kinini & Nova Coffee, who want their very best qualities differentiated and supported by roasters. Thankfully this strategy was a success this harvest and qualities are hitting their marks with big fruity naturals and incredibly chocolatey, sweet and balanced washed coffees. Volumes of this quality are slightly up over last year, but barely- as we prioritized quality over volume.

The big update for this harvest is a record hike in costs and prices for coffee producers. Both are due to government intervention. The coffee industry in Rwanda is regulated by NAEB (National Agricultural Export Development Board). This year they tripled the tax on coffee that they charge all producers per kilo (rising cost), and also increased the mandatory cherry price for the whole country by 65% (rising prices). This mandatory cherry price is often seen as a govt. “minimum” to washing station managers, and on-the-ground realities of competition are driving prices more than 200% above last year’s cherry prices. While this means prices are up for Rwandan coffee this year on the open market, our long term partnerships have allowed us to keep our prices relatively stable year over year, through these shocks, while continuing to meet their financial goals.

2022 Timing

Peak Harvest Lot Selection On the Water Shipments / Arrivals




Producer Partner Highlights


We started working with Kinini in 2017 just as they were starting to have something close to an exportable volume of coffee, and we remain the sole importer of Kinini’s coffee in the U.S to this day. As in previous harvests, for 2022, Crop to Cup bought both washed and natural process coffees from Kinini village, the area immediately around the washing station itself. This year, we decided to pass on Kinini Village’s early crop as they had another international buyer interested in the fastest possible container. Instead we focused on peak harvest, calibrating with Kinini’s QC lab throughout. Once we reached a container of fully washed top quality coffee, we approved that to ship as quickly as possible and did a 100% washing station take-over to process a lot of naturals all at once- taking advantage of the changing weather conditions to prolong drying in cherry to help the naturals really shine.

While we grow every year with Kinini as partners, the international demand for their coffee has grown as well, leading to financial security for the group, allowing them to pay off almost all of their start-up loans, and enabling reinvestment in quality operations and training. This year, ahead of the harvest, we worked with Jacquie and Malcolm to pre-contract the volumes and differentiated processes of coffee we needed while calibrating between our lab and Kinini’s QC lab through the season, using their Arc S sample roaster. Here are a few more updates:


  • Currently transitional organic, expecting to be fully organic for the 2023 harvest
  • Patrick, who was hired last year as roaster/cupper (in addition to his other contributions), calibrated with our QC lab and continued the open-door tastings with farmers that began last year to help assess quality and define parameters for separation and aggregation of coffee. These sessions also include tasting flavors found in coffee such as chocolate (which was a first for many farmers) and acidity using local reference fruits such as banana and tree tomatoes. They are also using raw potato as a sensory experience to be able to better understand potato defect.
  • Floating cherries at the cherry collection sites themselves, not just at the washing station, ensuring better incentives for better picking.
  • Continued use and distribution of red wristbands to pickers to guide cherry selection
  • New bonus structure. They raised the bonus payment to 15% per kilo for all farmers no matter what, and an additional 5% per kilo for good quality producers. For context they moved from a volume-based incentive of 5% per kilo in 2019 that only the biggest farmers qualified for, to a flat bonus of 10% per kilo across the board to all farmers in 2020. Every year is an opportunity to try and incentivize and support in the right way.
  • The vermiculture project is now thriving—allowing for soil amendment using organic methods and reducing reliance on expensive inputs from elsewhere. Vermiculture projects have grown and expanded to individual farm level.
  • Growing 30,000 seedlings at 3 different seedlings nurseries in an attempt to double volume by 2023. Instead of buying seedlings, they are developing their own seedlings selected from the most productive and healthy plants from each of the 3 areas. Each nursery will only supply their surrounding areas since the trees will be ones that have proven to be the most healthy and productive in that particular micro-climate.
  • In July, in pursuit of financial independence, paid off one of the two large bank loans they received instead of immediately building a dry mill (bank rates in Rwanda are an average of 16% interest). The second loan should be paid off next year, meaning that Kinini will be debt-free.
  • Reinvested by building staff quarters to improve ability to manage and host visitors and buyers
  • Continue to send 10% of all Kinini profits to charity.

Nova Coffee

We started working with Agnes and Nova Coffee in 2017 , and continue to be their sole importer into the US to this day. While we don’t try and exclusively buy natural process coffees from Nova, it does seem to be what shines the best every harvest. While there are three different cooperatives that deliver their cherries to the Nova Washing Station, we focus on coffees grown by the 80-member women’s group called Dukorere Kawa Bukure Women’s Cooperative. We target peak harvest collections and cup through intensive lot separation to choose the best natural process coffees over the course of the entire harvest season. We calibrate with their partner cuppers in Kigali and lot-plan together throughout the harvest, putting the very best lots together to make up the Dukorere Kawa Bukere lot, which always packs a fun fruity punch.  


  • Certified organic for 2022
  • Over 700 Nova farmers are currently in an organic composting training program
  • As part of the 2020 govt. supported community healthcare initiative called “Mutuelle de Santé” through Babylon Health, a % of Nova’s Profits from 2020 paid for health insurance for the 100 poorest farmers in their community
  • Expanded plantings with seedlings coming from NAEB (National Agriculture Development Board)
  • Assisted in organizing a 2nd women’s farmer group in the area  


Rwandan lot selections are complete and slated to arrive beginning in November and we are actively booking lots. Keep an eye on our Forward Offers for arrival updates! If you’d like to learn more, or reserve a lot SAS NANS, get in touch with a trader to discuss availability and anticipated qualities/profiles.

– The Crop to Cup Sourcing Team


Progress Tastes Good

From the south to the north, Tanzania coffees are on the rise, and on their way to the US.

Tanzania’s coffee harvest starts in the south, where farms in Mbeya and Songwe bloom months before they do in the north around Mt. Kilimanjaro and Arusha. This year the seasons bled into one another, both benefitting from a heavy harvest in a high market. Read on to hear what producer partners old and new are doing with their recently rekindled interest in specialty.

Harvest in the South

The harvest has wrapped up Southern Tanzania (Mbeya and Songwe districts), with a container already on the water with an early February ETA.

This year, the news in Iyenga (Songwe) was all about prices. The increases seem to validate the group’s investment in quality, for example, the recent purchase of a new Penagos pulper. This was their first harvest using it, and the washing station manager could not have been happier. Nor could we—their coffee was more vibrant than before.

In Mwalyego (Mbeya), life is good. Leadership remains popular and steady. Members describe their group as well organized and in a good position to make the most of the opportunities that come their way. The result is another solid crop with each lot earning double distinction on sweetness (e.g., brown sugar and melon).

You’ll be hearing about two new producer groups and their coffees taste as good as they sound. The first is Shimilangwada Estate, from Songwe in the South. This group has been known for years on our QC cupping table. It’s a young estate dedicated to using cutting-edge coffee seedlings. We secured a small PB lot this time but will work towards more in the years to come. The second new name is Shishton Mill, from the Arusha region in the North. They have been punching up the traditional Tanzanian profile with a more semi-washed process. We have an excellent AA from them this year, and are hoping to add on one of their larger AB lot as well.


Peak Harvest On the Water Shipments / Arrivals
Nov – Dec

Dec – Jan

Feb – Mar



A partner since 2017, this group of 193 members is on a roll, winning awards at the country’s Taste of Harvest Competition every year since 2019.

Iyenga AB | 86.5 pts | Honey, lemon, passionfruit, chocolate, flan, yogurt

Iyenga PB | 87.25 pts | Dried pineapple, honey, floral, plum raisin, cocoa, brown sugar


With 8 years under our belt, Mwalyego is our longest-standing partnership in Tanzania. The group led the way in respect to quality and premium payments. We have enjoyed watching this group scale as it maintains high-scoring lots year over year.

Mwalyego PB | 85.25 pts | Orange bitters, black tea with lemon, melon, brown sugar, malt cocoa


This will be our first year purchasing coffee from the young estate, but we have been watching this group for several years. We’re excited at the beginning of a this new partnership in Southern Tanzania.

Shimilangwada PB | 86 pts. | Brown sugar, lemon-limeade, caipirinha, caramel


Southern Tanzania bookings are complete and slated to arrive in mid-February. Keep an eye on our Forward Offers for arrival updates! Reach out to your trader if you’d like to reserve bags now based on our PSS cupping results (above).

coffee trees at mwalyego

Mwalyego drying beds

Harvest in the North

As the container closed on coffees from the south, we turned our attention to the north, where the higher altitudes of Mt. Kilimanjaro are having an equally heavy harvest. Despite this good production, smallholder coffees from Kilimanjaro will again account for only 20% of Tanazania’s Arabica, whereas it used to be over half.

A revitalization program is underway, aimed at engaging the next generation of smallholders on Kilimanjaro, and in doing so, preserving the heirloom practices, varietals & profiles that first made Tanzania famous in coffee. The first focus was a coalition of six AMCOSs where they started distributing seedlings, training youth coffee teams, and investing in organic certification. Part of this group is one of our favorite producers in the region, Uru Shimbwe, whose coffee is now organic, and available for the first time to bring into the US.

Our principal partners in this area are members of Mwika North AMCOS. You may remember their recent project of rebuilding a Central Pulping Unit (CPU) complete with washing channels, floatation tanks, raised drying beds, and shade nets. This accomplishment allowed them to start collecting cherry for the first time over the 2020-2021 harvest. The coffee processed by CPU earned a much-deserved premium which in turn went back into the washing station.

Additional upgrades came this year, like a new paint job—complete with wall markings and logos which displays the amount of pride the group put into the project. They also tiled the tanks which makes it easier to produce clean coffees and keep them maintained. Finally, they built new staff bathrooms making all the spent at the washing station a little more pleasant (pictured below).

Progress was such that the leadership spent a lot of time hosting other groups from around the country. In December, a program sponsored by the International Trade Center called MARKUP brought 24 groups for a 4-day on-site workshop on washing station management.

The previous chairman who led the group through these investments has retired to become a member of the board, and a new chairperson is in the process of being elected. Their focus, and ours as well, for 2022 will be investing in the next generation of Mwika North which includes plans for youth engagement and a seedling nursery to refresh the fields.


Peak Harvest On the Water Shipments / Arrivals
Jan – Feb


April – May

The Mwika North leadership group inspects red cherry during a regular training.


Mwika North AMCOS

Up north on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mwika North has been leading the region in specialty production for over 10 years. Our partnership with them began in 2015 and we have only improved with one another each and every year.

PB Mwika North HP | 86.25 pts. | Dry lemon, grapefruit, honeysuckle

AB Mwika North HP | 86 pts. | Black tea, chocolate on the break, melon, lemon

AA Mwika North HP | 85.25 pts. | Lemon, melon, honey


This will be our first year purchasing coffee from this promising AMCOS, but we like what we’re seeing so far.

Shishton AA | 86.5 pts. | Cola, dark honey, plum, lime, juicy and complex.

Uru Shimbwe AMCOS

Uru Shimbwe has long been on our list of preferred suppliers. Each year their coffees trade positions as #1 or #2 with our partners at Mwika North (right next door), and they truly do represent a last stand for smallholder specialty in the area.

Uru Shimbwe Organic | 85 pts. | Floral, sweet, green apple, caramel


The Northern Tanzania booking season is just over halfway through. We’ve approved a mixed container from groups above like Mwika North, but are looking to add on later harvest organics from Uru Shimbwe and other members of a ‘Kilimanjaro Revival Project’. These will hit our Forward Offers menu by mid-February, and arrive in the US by May/June. If you’d like to learn more, or reserve a lot SAS NANS, get in touch with a trader to discuss availability and anticipated qualities/profiles.

– The Crop to Cup Sourcing Team



New Collines Hit the Menu

Drying bed full of naturals

Burundi struggles with coffee production in many ways including poor soil quality and a less than ideal farming landscape. Smallholders produce such small volumes of coffee that sometimes a farmer can make more money from a dairy cow in one day than on coffee in a year!



With our newest Burundi lots en route from Bujumbura, it’s time to check-in at the farm level and in the coffee industry offices in the capital. Overall, it was another tough coffee year for this small country that relies heavily on coffee exports to keep its economy afloat. The 2021 harvest delivered only about 25% of its normal volume, hampered by changing rain patterns – a now frustratingly common issue we see across the coffee-producing world.

Changes & Industry Challenges

Even though volumes were down, we didn’t see too much deterioration in quality, and we expanded our sourcing to a new area of “collines” (hills) around the Nkaka Washing Station. The real challenge this year was securing lots; it is becoming more difficult each year. The decreased harvest volumes have played a small role, but a greater culprit is ODECA, the recently centralized coffee marketing board. They’ve made our work in Burundi more difficult now that they require that almost all communication and export approvals must flow through them. We touched on this in prior years’ harvest updates, but control has tightened as the country scrambles to secure USD in order to import necessary goods. (Read more about the formation of ODECA in the 2020 HU.)

Sogestals, the semi-private, semi-cooperative washing stations, were dissolved around the time of our last harvest update [Sept 2020]. Now, the country only allows FOT contracts. This means buyers must buy locally in Burundi then float the finance/risk from Bujumbura to Dar es Salaam, a two-day journey (31 hour drive plus border delays).

To work within this new buying environment, we’ve leaned on the local partners we’ve worked with for many years. They excel at navigating the ODECA system through their decades-old personal relationships. This helps us to secure lots and get them milled, approved and shipped to Dar es Salaam quickly.

A Positive Shift

While we find ODECA’s cumbersome nationalized, inflexible structure frustrating, it’s critical that we have a level of respect for the new system and the Burundians who work within it. We need to recognize that the actors we deal with are just doing their jobs and the organization itself is working towards strong USD generation. In theory, this upcoming generation should support this ever-struggling economy.

A recent positive change from the ODECA governance is increased and consistent cherry prices—all stations must pay the same minimum price to farmers. This year, the farmgate cherry price saw a 27% increase over the prior year. Additionally, ODECA mandates that farmers receive a same-month cash payment–no more buying cherry on credit with false promises to top up the farmer payment upon a successful export many months later. While this brings some much-needed cash flow assistance to smallholders, the low harvest volume severely dampens this benefit.


Usually, rains come in February or early March. This year they stopped before the end of January, leading to a quick ripening of any nodes that had flowered early.

Peak Harvest On the Water Shipments / Arrivals
May – July

Sept – Nov

Dec – Jan

Producers transport bags of cherry on their backs to one of three Buhorwa Washing Stations collection stations.

Producing Partner Highlights

Buhorwa Washing Station | Bukeye Commune

Crop to Cup’s origin story begins in Uganda as their first successful coffee import. In 2009, the team imported coffee from Burundi, more specifically, Buhorwa Washing Station. We’ve enjoyed a long relationship with this group–navigating the ups and downs of agriculture and government influences. For a complete history of our work in Burundi read the full collection of Sourcing Updates & Initiatives in our sourcing Journal.

Buhorwa | 86pts | Bright lemon acidity with notes of cocoa, brown sugar, malt, cranberry apple with a creamy body and clean aftertaste.

Gikingo, Nkaka Washing Station | Mwumba Commune

Nkaka Washing Station near Gikingo (north of the large regional town, Ngozi and just south of the Rwanda border) is a longstanding washing station, having been built in 1979. It collects from roughly 2,400 smallholder farmers in the surrounding area.

Gikingo | 86.5 pts. | Clean, bright, and juicy with notes of black tea, blood orange, vanilla


These lots are slated to land in January 2022. Lot sizes are modest (100, 120), making this the best time to contract lots. If you see something of interest, reach out to your trader or reply directly to secure bags and get the best price.

– The Crop to Cup Sourcing Team


PNG Producing Partners

PNG Forward Offers

Selling Strategy Overhaul Benefits Producers

Drying bed full of naturals

AAK Cooperative producers sell their milled coffee to the Exporter’s warehouse directly. This radically new strategy has resulted in increased volumes (with higher quality) and producers get paid quicker.



Late summer always brings the lab incredibly unique cups from our partners in Papua New Guinea. More importantly, this is a season of increased communications and ever-deepening relationships with producer groups like AAK, a cooperative with operations across Western, Central and Eastern Highlands, as well as Roteps Washing Station, a wet mill near Hagen in the Western Highlands. This year brings us exciting improvements of a new farmer-empowered selling system and many more beautiful lots to choose from on the cupping table.

A System Overhaul Pays Off

The overall coffee-growing industry in PNG has once again struggled with increasing volume similar to the last few years. During these years of low production, the AAK Cooperative has struggled to convince its members to deliver their coffee to the coop instead of selling to local traders who offer a quicker transaction, but for less cash.

But this year AAK adopted a radical selling strategy that proved to be effective in collecting volume. Here’s how it works: Cluster groups deliver their coffee to a local dry mill where it is milled down into green bean form. The clusters then sell the green beans directly to our exporter’s final mill where we cup and clean/sort the coffees for export. With this change, producers are able to get paid much quicker, addressing the primary complaint of the members. Additionally, this change reduces their need to sell cherry or parchment to cash-ready middlemen that previously impacted AAK’s collection volume.

You’ve likely heard us mention AAK leaders Brian Kuglame and Regina Lusaro in the past. Their expertise and charismatic leadership will always play a role in driving the success of this wide-reaching farmer group, but the change in their selling structure is the main factor leading to increased qualities and volumes this year.

Quality Corner

If you’re wondering how this earlier milling down to green bean form may affect long-term quality, we’ve been testing these lots next to others that have sat longer in parchment. We cup, measure moisture content and water activity and have found no reduction or movement outside of our strict quality specs.

In a normal year, AAK might have one or two lots (20-80 bags each) reaching into the 86-87 point range with the majority of lots falling between 83-84 points. This year, our cupping table has exploded with dozens of PNG options in the 85-87 range. Lots are in the milling/bagging stage right now. We expect these coffees to arrive just before the end of the year.


Peak Harvest Lot Selection On the Water Arrival






AAK Cooperative

In a country that is highly decentralized and culturally separated from valley to valley with different languages, networks and customs, the new selling approach is genius. There are several hundred small cluster groups within the AAK Coop. For each cluster, the new strategy fosters greater ownership over the supply chain and selling decisions. This, in theory, leads to a greater pride in the product and the improved quality that comes with it. AAK is now growing its member base (after a few years of declines). It and is a resource to advise member clusters in subjects like transportation and pricing guidance. Having the clusters in the driver’s seat has already proven to be a success. Crop to Cup is proud to be AAK’s principal buyer since 2014.

AAK Cooperative | 84.5 – 86.5 Cherry, pomegranate, lemon, cocoa, cola, cilantro, apricot, squash

Training with an AAK cluster group.

Hand sorting at a dry mill.

One of the 64 cluster groups that comprises AAK gathered at a collection point.

Roteps Washing Station

Another favorite supplier of ours is back—Roteps Washing Station! Last year, super low volumes meant we couldn’t get our hands on lots from this washing station. Volumes are up and the coffees we are tasting have shown up with head-turning quality. We are excited to be bringing in several lots including a PB lot from Roteps, not only to broaden our offers from this washing station but also to pick back up on last year’s super tasty PNG peaberry. Last year’s PB success was from a larger regional blend, so it’s nice to see the improvement over the year prior as we drill down to more traceable peaberries. Paul, pictured below, owns the washing station which is located in Kuli, not far from Hagen in the Western Highlands.

Paul, owner of Roteps, with producers weighing cherry

Roteps WS 2021 | 85.5 Green apple, tarragon, caramel, lemon, milk chocolate, green pepper

Roteps Peaberry 2021 | 87 Chocolate ganache, malt cocoa break, pomegranate lemon nougat, juicy finish

How to Book:

It’s been an exciting sourcing season, and we’re thrilled to share this year’s spot offers with you. We’ve also been busy booking custom lots for roasters that won’t be hitting our spot list. For these, we’ve been looking to AAK’s commercial-quality volumes, lesser-known coffee provinces like Morobe, and some nice organic-certified lots.

Now is the time to book SAS NANS contracts and request PSS of lots from AAK & Roteps. Coffees will be arriving around the New Year—perfect timing to bring in something fresh.

– The Crop to Cup Sourcing Team





Hold on a Little Longer, Mexico Coffees are Coming

Sometimes coffee is a dance. Other times, it’s more like a rodeo. This year’s coffee season in Mexico was a bit of both – two steps forward with some cooperatives, one step back with other associations, and then a whole lot of holding on through to export.

This is a preview of Mexico’s 2021 harvest, with a focus on Oaxaca. It’s a top-level overview of what we’re bringing in, when to expect it, who we work with, how we work with them, and why we approach sourcing in this way. But, of course, coffee is more fun as a conversation – so contact your rep to learn more.



The 2021 Mexico coffee season ran long, from January to July. On their way to port, coffees had to overcome quarantine and get through a bloody election on June 6th, the run-up to which saw 90 politicians murdered. Some of our friends in Oaxaca spent most of the harvest in the hospital, while others in Guerrero had to flee their farms as new gangs moved to the mountain.

On the other hand, quarantine meant fewer buyers in more remote places, which prompted many farmers to drink their own coffee; the past two years have seen the start of many rural cafes and roasteries. Interest in specialty is at an all-time high. At the same time, stronger markets and qualities continue to drive up farm-gate prices. And in response to recent stresses, indigenous farmer organizations are getting even more political.

Changes & Industry Challenges

In the 90s smallholder coffee from Mexico came through cooperatives. Then came coffee rust, where farmers lost more than their crops. They lost their customers, their contracts, and the business that bound them together as a group.

Most cooperatives in Oaxaca today are shells of the organizations they once were. Without cash they can’t buy. Without a reason to meet, they don’t meet. Others have pared operations down to a single warehouse. Others exist in name only. In their place grew informal networks to connect farmers to local markets and local markets to the export market in Oaxaca City.

It is through these networks, now, that coffee gets to Oaxaca City where one can find the mills, cupping labs, cuppers, warehouses, and financing needed to separate specialty for export. But these are farmers who live hours away from the closest local market – and for this, only deliver their coffee once a year.

It’s expensive to bring coffee down mountain. Even more expensive is trucking it Oaxaca for storage at a third-party warehouse and having it cupped. It’s nearly impossible for an average farmer to know what is specialty, and what that’s worth. It can take months to turn parchment into payment. This is where middle-men or coyotes come in. They take advantage of farmers by obscuring their sources and prices. They can also withhold full payments or information.

Specialty is on the rise throughout rural Mexico and farmers are more and more aware they can get premiums for selective picking. Also on the rise, however, is the term ‘Coyote-Q’, referring to Q-cuppers who use their knowledge to buy low at the farm and sell high in Oaxaca.

In this context, trust is difficult. Neighbors are watching one another to see what prices they can get. It becomes more of a competition than a cooperative.

In general, the chief challenge to sourcing specialty in Mexico is aggregation and in especially in Oaxaca. This is the process by which coffees get bulked at the bodega level or for transport to Oaxaca City. It’s a process that requires lots of trust, coordination, communication, and planning within a community and throughout the network that connects them to export.

And when it comes to how we work together, to building capacity, and building trust, we get to an area where Crop to Cup can truly contribute.

Our Approach

The easiest way to find quality is to cup across lots in warehouse in Oaxaca. This means buying from the network, agent, or more often the coyote who brought the coffee there.

Instead, we look for ways to aggregate at the community level. In some areas, this is through an agent whose house turns into a makeshift bodega during the harvest season.

Households like those of Guzman Feria in La Cañada, Joaquin Santana in Sierra Sur, and Jose Vasquez in Sierra Mixteca have inherited the trust of families further up the mountain. Many of these families do not speak Spanish and most of them only deliver coffee once per year.

Where we can, we look to work through existing cooperatives even if they are not active or no longer active in coffee. This is especially important in the region of La Cañada where cooperatives play a larger role in the community, but not through coffee as of yet.

In all cases, we look to build coalitions between communities, collectors, and cuppers. We work with Root Capital and other local banks to provide financing. We move between export mills like UNTAO and Galguera Gomez in Oaxaca based on what’s best for warehousing, milling, and export services. Prices are always transparent, as are the costs between farm and export. Farmers must sign off on these numbers while delivering their coffee, and again when receiving a second payment after export.

The ideal next step is to start a radio program that broadcasts coffee information in indigenous languages. In every form, the idea is to push information to farming families so that they can help in verification.


Harvests generally move from the south and east to the north, meaning that Chiapas and Veracruz can start collections a full month before farms in Sierra Sur, Oaxaca, and two months from higher altitudes in La Cañada Oaxaca. Overall, however, we start to see quality samples come in starting in March and continuing through June.

Exports have historically ranged from June – August. This is a little late and a little longer of a period than we’d like, but every year there seems to be a new and valid reason for delay. This year, for example, a few exports were about a month late due to the difficulty of operating during Covid-19 and because of tense elections in June.

Peak Harvest Lot Planning Shipments / Arrivals
March – May

June – August

July – Septemeber

We travel to Mexico before the harvest between October – November and again in early harvest between March-April. We rely on our in-country staff to execute on the plan set at each of our visits.

Producing Partner Highlights

Our dedicated facilitator in Oaxaca is Ramon Ruiz. He comes with decades of experience and relationships built on trust throughout specific stretches of Sierra Sur, Sierra Mixteca, and La Cañada. This year, in addition to achieving financing, Ramon is going to receive the assistance of a younger cupping team to speed up the lot separation process. This will also speed up the feedback loop with farmers. One of these cuppers will be dedicated to the lot separation; the other will focus on farmer feedback.

The three main supply chains that Ramon manages for us include:

Jose Vasquez – Huerta del Rio, Sierra Mixteca. Jose fell ill this year, and so missed most of the harvest. Without his leadership collection standards slipped. They had decent coffee and they’ve worked hard to build their brand. We decided to wait a year to bring up qualities.

Joaquin Santana – Lachao, Sierra Sur

Of our partners, Joaquin is the most proactive. Once the head of the now defunct UNECAFE cooperative, Joaquin now collects coffee in his house, which serves as both the bodega and meeting center for this now informal association of farmers. He also travels 4-8 hours at a stretch to visit some of the further out farmers, and an equal distance to Oaxaca as he follows their coffee through to export.

Guzman Feria – Sochiapam, La Cañada.

Sr. Feria had another excellent year, scaling up quality collections way up from last year’s 40 bags. He has proven to distribute premiums throughout his network, which has voted to reinvest a portion towards drying beds and shade nets.

In addition, we work with the cupping and logistics team at Ensembles de Cafe to support relationships with cooperatives:

Red 5 de Diciembre – Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, La Cañada.

An agricultural extension arm of the Oaxaca-based CORO Cooperative, Red 5 de Diciembre is a group of 7 agronomists who provide services to communities who agree to share storage. One region they serve is deep in the mountains of La Cañada, centered around a town called Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón.

This is a beautiful area and a tight-knit community. They are far off the highway and rely on the Red 5 network to access information, transportation, and storage in Oaxaca. The challenge here is not engagement or access, but to separate micro lots for higher premiums, as opposed to blending premiums across container-sized lots, in a culture based more on equality than equity.

CAFECO – La Concordia, Chiapas

Outside of Oaxaca- especially in Chiapas- we find formidable cooperatives who effectively purchase and market coffees on their members’ behalf. The challenges here are similar; container-loads are easy, but anything like a micro-lot runs into a few challenges. The first being that of ethos, as mentioned above, many cooperatives are incentivized to provide equal payment to all members over more performance-based systems of payment. Next, these groups don’t have the cupping capacity, or space, to separate lots. And lastly, customers are few and far between – most roasters go a few kilometers south to Guatemala for these qualities.


These coffees were booked when NY was between 130 – 150c. We practice flat-pricing, meaning that these coffees are at least 25c below their replacement costs. For this, and their qualities, we expect them to move quickly. If you are interested contact your trader about samples and consider putting in a SAS-NANS contract (subject to arrival sample, no approval, no sale) to ensure first right of refusal.


– The Crop to Cup Sourcing Team


Plan for the Best, Get the Best 

As we entered the 2020/2021 Kenyan harvest everyone was talking about low volumes and high prices. Low volumes, in a country that already exports less coffee every year. High prices, in a country that already commands the highest premium. All of this, at a time when roasters are struggling through quarantine. “Who would be looking for tasty, but pricey micro-lots at a time like this?” we thought. We hoped for the best and planned for the worst.

The harvest came in and what we got was more than we had hoped for! Come along as we recap the 2021 harvest and take a look at the communities that we will be representing. Coffees are setting sail now, with containers arriving throughout June and July.



Early rains made for an early harvest and a short off-season in Kenya. The off-season seemed even shorter with limited activity during quarantine. We have not been able to visit since January of 2020; so we dug deep into our partnership network to solicit samples from all corners of the country.

Samples came through estates, coops, marketing agents, exporters, and a diverse team of cuppers. And they were good. While we expected to only maintain this year, our 2021 imports actually built off of last year in a few meaningful ways.

First, we love seeing success in our older relationships. It was these long-term partners who won this year in terms of both quality and price. We were able to scale up last year’s initial work in Bungoma, the Western Rift Valley. We are bringing to market new suppliers some of which are new to specialty, but all of whom we’ve been wanting to work with for years. Check out our 2020 Harvest Update for more background on our approach and partnerships in Kenya.

Changes at the Auction

Normal harvests yield ~15 bags green/hectare of cultivated coffee. This year, the yield is coming in at about half of that.  Prices have risen 30-40c on average over last year due to the short supply. But that doesn’t paint the full picture.

Normally, AA grades enjoy a healthy premium over AB grades by about 25%. But high prices have moved some buyers from AAs to ABs. This has increased the demand for ABs and narrowed the premium gap to about 2.5%. It also left many AAs unsold week over week.

Moreover, coffees from the Central Highlands typically enjoy a premium over Western Rift Valley and Eastern Provinces. This is mostly due to name recognition and aggregate quality. Those price differences disappeared this year. And because of that, we will be seeing a lot more coffee from outside of the Central Highlands and much more incentive for investment in those areas going into the next harvest.

Growers had extra time between quarantine and a short season. Some used this to pursue processing experiments which is not something you see much of in Kenya but it seems to be growing more and more each year. For example, naturals are called ‘buni’ and are traditionally the very worst quality. Buni is what’s left after the proper picking has been done. In the past, attempts at floated, selective naturals have failed to match the qualities of their washed counterparts. This year we received a few scalable experiments (20+ bags) that showed potential for a good natural-processed Kenyan.


In Bungoma, we revisited past partners Chwele and Kimama, and with the team at Kahawa Bora, put together a “best of” blend to showcase the unique profile that is possible from this region. While these coffees are safe to score as a solid 86, 86.5, they are distinct and deserving of merit attention beyond their number.

Giakanja separated their crop into three deliveries–as opposed to 6 last year. The first of these came in week 10. This represented the first pickings of the season where expectations on quality are usually lower. We were pleasantly surprised to see it cupped above 87 with the pleasantly popping grapefruit – peach – sugar – yuzu notes that we’ve come to love. After this feedback, the group separated out another delivery on week 13, which matches this and built on the body with notes of creamy honey and cantaloupe.

In addition to these highlights, long-time listeners will see other names they recognize. For example, Kanake is back tasting like currant cola. Gicherori is also back with its unique tamarind twist. And finally, Kiandu whose cupping notes read like the recipe for peach crumble.

New communities we’re excited to introduce include the following:

– Ciumenene Estate, a group we hope to grow with. They are making their debut with a small lot that cups up like honey jasmine and white grape.

– New to us, is a group from Ndundu-ini, who is allowing us to spike our offer list with notes of ‘blackberry jam’ and ‘candied lavender’.

Factory staff at Chwele FCS- photo taken just after they learned their coffee won a Good Food Award!


2021 exports are coming through three different supply-chains, with most arrivals June – July. Contact your Crop to Cup representative to put in a reserve and sign-up for samples.


Micro-lots make it through an uncertain harvest

“If a producer goes after quality coffee they will always go after quality coffees – no matter – it’s a mindset.” – Yuki Minami, Aequitas.

Here, the term ‘no-matter’ actually refers to the many matters that add up to incredible uncertainty for Brazilian coffee farmers this year. Matters that include climate, politics, pandemic, warehouse shortages, as well as local currency and international commodity markets.

With so much unknown, farmers are seeking assurance from customers, and are looking to specialty for price stability. In a year where most farmers in Brazil find it hard to invest in quality, Aequitas top producers are communicating often and continuing their commitment to quality, pushing up again the limit of what is possible for premiums out of Brazil.

This is the argument for relationship-focused sourcing.  Despite the grim intro, and everything that follows, we will be bringing in more, higher scoring specialty micro-lots from Brazil than ever before. Read on to learn more.



Brazil’s 2020 harvest came on 2-3 weeks later than last year, but it came on in force with an estimated production of 61.6 million bags, according to CONAB* (National Company of Supplying, an organization from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock). This is Brazil’s second largest harvest ever! This also means that it’s the highest production for any country ever. Uniform rains during the flowering period (September to October) and fruit formation (November to April) led to a uniform harvest and higher qualities this year.

On the export side, CECAFE* (Brazilian Coffee Exporters Council) report of August 2020 shows that there was a 3% fall in Arabica green coffee exports compared to August 2019, even though harvest yields are 25% up in relation to last year. Comparing the accrued data from January to August 2020 and 2019, the decrease of Arabica green exports is of 5.2%. From the producer perspective, this means more marketing for their specialty coffees, selling specialty at commodity prices and downgrading investment in top-end micro-lots.

In August, a bubble in prices led to a rush on commodity buying, which filled up local warehouses early so that now, in peak harvest, producers are having to agree with traders to keep their sold coffee longer in co-op and private warehouses. Traders then have a hard time finding space to store or containers for export. With these factors in motion, producers are compelled to sell quickly for less than they expected.

By the time September rolls in, temperatures reach above the average time of year and a severe drought due to La Niña occurs in most of the producing areas. This comes at a time when rains are needed to trigger flowering for next season’s harvest.

Peak Harvest Shipments Arrivals
June – August October – November December



Overall, quality is up within Aequitas. The producer engagement was high from last year’s harvest and the momentum continued through the off-season into high-quality deliveries so far this season. These factors make for a tight export window and a more efficient way to evaluate more high-quality samples. And this is only possible because of Aequitas’ off-season investments in planning, producer outreach, training, and QC staff. Cherries started arriving the first and second week of August through end of September.

Pre-harvest planning includes a flavor mapping exercise, which take samples from throughout the farm to establish ‘flavor zones’. These zones are used to inform harvest scheduling, processing, lot separation and processing. This, combined with improved traceability within individual farms, allow lot tracking from the farm to warehouse and through each stage of post-harvest processing. More data gives producers more options for separating lots, conducting experiments and learning. The result has been more differentiated lots from within each individual farm—not to mention sharing best practices within the Aequitas network.

For example, old friends Marcelo Assis and Maria Soraia just learned that their coffees are finalists for the Cerrado Minero regional quality competition. Both farmers focus purely on coffee – with a fully dedicated coffee team – and are planting new varietals; Marcelo is planting Paraiso, and Maria is cultivating Arara, both of which are receiving recognition for their cup quality. This has encouraged other members of Aequitas to dedicate more of their team to coffee, and more of their coffee fields to these new varietals.

We see the promise of the Aequitas network. As individuals experiment and improve upon quality their lessons are shared within the network. Every small success is leveraged for larger, more informed efforts year over year.


Covid hit Brazil a lot later than the rest of the world. Lock-down came on March 18th , before the first death on March 24th. However, responses were localized; lock-downs impacted major cities, but those like Sao Gortardo (pop. 30,500) never saw mandatory quarantine, even though the city has logged over 1,100 Covid cases (of which over 200 are active right now).

Or so it is thought. Information is not good. Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro is widely considered to be even more divisive than Trump. During the pandemic, he fired the Health Minister, and prohibited the publication of Covid cases or related deaths. Without official statistics, the country is relying on local news source and don’t know when the next lock-down will come.

From drought to market uncertainty to Covid – Yuki and hers are avoiding the news. They’ve chosen to focus, instead, on their farms. And on a few tasty experiments.


Many Aequitas farmers are participating in a fermentation project called Artisans, sponsored by NuCoffee, an unconventional buyer who trades coffee for agricultural inputs. Farmers sell them commercial coffees to finance their farm inputs. In addition to the coffee, NuCoffee gets data – farmers are given bonuses for submitting details on farm management. This year NuCoffee is trialing a program to encourage experimentation in anaerobic fermentation.

Farmers were supplied with 10L of yeast – the same yeast, so as to act as a control.  They were also given an overview on fermentation and training (via zoom) by a federal university. Farmers were then asked to buy the barrels and contribute 10 bags of coffee to the experiment; 9 of which they could sell themselves, 1 of which could go back to the university for evaluation. The Aequitas team heard from the Artisans technical assistant that Nucoffee cupped a dozen of these experiments from members, and found some of the lower-scoring lots (below 80) improved on score (to 83, for example) with a different profile (more, and more complex fruits). However, among Aequitas partner producers where coffees come in 83 and above normally saw little change from their controls (those which did not undergo fermentation). As with many fermentation experiments, the results were inconclusive. It tended to teach that fermentation can bring up the bottom of a bad tasting coffee but isn’t as impactful on raising the ceiling for those which are already scoring well. Over 400 producers participated and results are expected to be shared prior to next year’s harvest.

Fruit Trials

Independently, Yuki and some of her colleagues decided to have their own fun with fruity fermentation. That’s literally combining coffee cherry with macerated fruit for 48 hours of anaerobic fermentation.


1-Flavor mapping was used to identify areas that produce higher quality coffees.

2-These areas were scheduled for hand-picking instead of mechanical harvest.

3-Cherries were floated to remove debris and lighter beans.

4-Cherries were then soaked in cold water (15C, anaerobic) for 48 hours.

5-After 48 hours, next came the fruit mixture: intensively prepared by slicing fruit, blending, and adding a little water. This they did with two different concoctions (which were in turn put next to a control).

– Citrus: 50KG of lemon-orange fruit mix put across 10 barrels (5KG per barrel, each of which contains 200L of coffee).

– Pineapple: 30 KG of pineapple pulp put across 5 barrel, (6KG per200L of coffee cherry)

– A control was established using 5 barrels of the same coffee, undergoing the same process except without the fruit mixtures.

6- After 72 hours they opened the barrels, cherries were then placed on raised beds and they washed the coffee with a water solution used in food  sanitization to stop the fermentation process.

7-Cherries were then left to dry as a natural. First round, full sun, two weeks. Second round, partial shade, 30 days.

It’s a lot of fruit, a lot of work. And it burned out a blender. But the results were fun on the tongue. The citrus batch gave off big spicy lemon-mint gingerbread aromatics which held through in the cup, and cooled tropical. The pineapple experiment tasted like, surprise, pineapple wine with watermelon / green apple schnapps on the aroma, a sweet brown bread body, and some mint on the finish.

Lot are listed on offers, but have not yet been milled – so availability for this year is uncertain. However, experiments will be replicated in the off-season so that they are ready to scale come next harvest.


If last year was about information, education and experimentation – then next year is about outreach. Most coffee in Cerrado comes from larger farms. For reference, Aequitas member farms range from 40 – 250 hectares (averaging closer to 150 hectares per). Large farms are 1000+ hectares, but there are smaller farms in the area as well. These small producers don’t have information, infrastructure or technical assistance.

While most of Brazil’s coffee comes from larger farms, most of Brazil’s coffee farmers are small – an estimated 88% grown on less than 50 hectares, according to the IBGE* – Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. Without capital or storage, these farmers have to immediately sell. Their lots will likely get blended into large stock lots without them ever knowing what kind of quality they are producing.

For next year, Aequitas plans on reaching out to these small producers in Cerrado. The plan is to solicit samples and provide free feedback as an entry to trainings on post-harvest processing.

In 2021 we can expect a new lineup of micro-lots as well as a few smallholder blends.

One of which is a producer named Maria Soraia who was new to the Aequitas network in 2019. Experimentation since then led to one of the most unique collections of the harvest; one lot is described as ‘chai milk-tea with figs, ginger and cardamom’.

To us, this demonstrates the diversity that can be found even within the same region and has us looking forward to all that’s to come.