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Sourcing Standards

Putting People First

INVEST IN THE PEOPLE

The goal is to bring home the best coffee. The plan is to find the best people in coffee, then work together to make coffee better. Getting to the best of every harvest is a team effort that involves hundreds of hands working together over thousands of miles.

This starts by picking the most committed growers from the most compelling coffee regions. Around them, we build coalitions of support – teams who help to identify the best lots, then work year-around to make them better. When we get roasters to join the team, we get coffees that elevate what we thought ‘best’ could be.

We have found that the best way to get great coffee is to invest in the people who make coffee great. The success of this approach has validated our view that ‘good coffee comes from good people’.

WHO MAKE COFFEE SPECIAL

Every coffee has a story to tell. It starts with the farmer who translates wind and rain, soil and sun, into a sensational array of sugars and acidity, body and balance. The story continues from the crop to the cup, engaging and celebrating every actor between.

If the story connects, then we get a coffee that energizes your menu, educates your staff and engages your customers. Coffee is just coffee until someone cares about it. Luckily there are a lot of reason and ways to care. That’s why we put intention into every significant step between the berry and the boat. We know who we work with, and are here to help you to connect with the story of your coffee before it gets to you.

We get the most from every cup when we participate in this cycle of story-telling. Passion speaks. Let’s find a coffee that speaks to you.

Frequently asked questions

What is Crop to Cup Coffee Importers?

We are a small green coffee importing company with a big goal: to connect producers and roasters on their journey to better coffee.  It’s best to view us as a sales and marketing team who is here to build brands by building connections throughout the supply-chain.    

  • We sell green coffee by the bag, pallet, and container (smaller quantities can be ordered through Showroom Coffee).  
  • We calibrate with roasters, connecting them to supply-chains that matter to them.
  • We coordinate export and import logistics, including financing and quality controls.  
  • We are hands-on every harvest, visiting long-time suppliers and recruiting promising new ones.
  • We are active in-between every harvest, learning from the last and preparing for the next.
Where do you work?

Our main office is in New York, but we also have staff in Chicago and teams in sourcing locales overseas. Below is a list of countries where we have specialty supply-chains, and the year when we started working there.

  • Uganda – 2004
  • Burundi – 2009
  • Indonesia – 2010
  • Papua New Guinea – 2011
  • Mexico – 2013
  • Tanzania – 2013
  • Ethiopia – 2014
  • Nepal – 2015
  • Kenya – 2016
  • Rwanda – 2017
  • Brazil – 2017
  • Colombia – 2019 
How can I get in touch?

Call us:  +1 347.599.0053

Email us: info@croptocup.com

What is Showroom Coffee?

Showroom Coffee is our sister site that sells a curated selection of split bag specialty green coffee, small coffee roasters, and cupping lab supplies. Start here if you are a boutique roaster or home hobby roaster. You will have access to our best coffees at manageable sizes and convenient shipping rates.

Sourcing & Quality Standards

How do you source?

Sourcing coffee is a team effort where we rely on a coalition of entities (nonprofits, cuppers, auditors, agronomists, academics and other exceptional individuals) to identify and develop promising producers. We concentrate on specific regions where we think we can make an impact. From there we: 

  • solicit samples and provide feedback to producers
  • receive & evaluate offer samples throughout their entire harvest period  (up to a 3 month window)
  • facilitate exporting of selected lots
  • import coffees approved by our quality lab 
  • share samples with roasters who buy spot or need to secure inventory over a fixed period of time (forward contracting) 
  • engage roasters in the producer relationship

Each coffee has a unique sourcing story. It is important to know that this process is highly personal and never one-size-fits-all. It ultimately comes down to good people and genuine, long-term relationships.

What are your quality controls?

The best way to maintain quality controls (standards) is to recruit the right partners and engage them early on in sourcing. With these partners we: 

  • Convey expectations for top-end offers and consistently communicate ideal practices for farming, drying, milling, and cup quality. 
  • Practice lot separation which involves taking samples from as small of a lot as possible–single farm, single day deliveries or the like. Cupping these separately before blending helps us build offers, align incentives, promote learning, identify potential, and problems. Lot separation is the cornerstone of how we add value to farmers and roasters. 
  • Build a chain of custody between the initial offer sample, pre-shipment sample, and the arrival sample. All three samples must match or improve.
  • We use GrainPro or Ecotact bags inside the burlaps, upgrade to faster shipping when possible, and minimize the chances that a coffee degrades in transit. We look out for quality factors such as moisture and water activity. The longer and more evenly a coffee is dried the better the quality will keep in transit and over time. We pay special attention to drying times and use Moisture Activity to get insight on drying curves. 

This is how we get better coffees every year.

What is the best way to calibrate with you?

Calibration is the first step to building a lasting partnership with Crop to Cup! It all starts with requesting samples and sharing feedback with your rep. We want to learn your preferred qualities profiles, and sourcing locations. You can also send us samples of profiles you want to match or improve upon. Your rep can be your best advocate on the cupping table–setting aside coffees just for you!

The same applies if you are a supplier. We can share what profiles are most likely to succeed, then arrange samples. 

If I have a problem with quality, what should I do?

Let us know right away. We want to know if we missed the mark on a recommendation, something happened in transit or you received a bad bag. We will make it right with you. We will also look to resolve the root problem, preventing the issue from happening again. 

What are your standards for moisture?

We are looking for coffees between 10-12% moisture content when they arrive in our lab, with a .2 tolerance +- of that if needed for different supply chains. The science appears to be moving in the direction of allowing a slightly lower moisture content tolerance, but many of our partners aren’t shipping to those specs yet. Moisture content is a number that should always go down along the supply chain (from offers to pre-shipment samples to arrivals), and if we ever notice that number going up it’s a warning that something has gone wrong. We calibrate our moisture content specs with our supply partners; however, these are very straight forward numbers taken at export and import labs. The real standard we have for moisture content is at the processing level. We work with our partners to ensure that moisture content is monitored closely during the drying process. When needed, we provide moisture meters to washing station managers. We have to put our focus there, since once the coffee is dried it’s too late to do anything else. We work with our partners to understand drying issues such as: weather, the number and type of drying beds, supplies, storage and transport prior to export. After that, we ship every bean in GrainPro or Ecotact to safeguard quality.

How do you use water activity?

Our current upper tolerance for water activity coffees is .55, with a .02 tolerance + if needed for unique supply chains. Water activity, like all metrics, is most useful when you have many data points. Some of our suppliers have jumped on board with WA, and are tracking it in-country, which we encourage. On our end, we are doing what we can by tracking water activity on PSS and Arrivals.

What are your standards for defects?

If we are importing a custom lot to a roaster’s specifications, then those standards become our standards for that coffee. If we are importing a coffee for our spot menu then our standards (per 350g sample) are:

  • 0 Primary Defects (with an allowable acceptance of 1 without rejecting)
  • Up to 5 Secondary Defects (with an allowable acceptance of 7 without rejecting)

It is important to say, that sometimes we book PSS and approve coffees that aren’t within these specs, because the small additional amount of secondary defects don’t detract enough from the quality of the coffee to be an issue. Another exception could be that we are working hard with a new producing group or a new dry mill to improve quality year-to-year. Most importantly, we work together with our partners to focus on what can be improved. Green grading coffee for defects is a valuable opportunity to give actionable feedback to our partners. It can also mean adding real costs for them if the situation involves a rejection or quality claim. For that reason, we only use a top-tier sampling services at our warehouses to make sure we are sampling the right bags. To be extra sure we re-sample, re-roast and re-cup if there is ever an issue.

If you are asking a producer to change their practices, you better be sure you are right. Much like moisture content, we also work with our producing partners in-country to make sure that we are all speaking the same language around defects. Its about being able to visually assess your own coffee and know what it is you are sending. The better calibrated we get with suppliers, the less likely we reject their offer samples.

Sometimes these calibrations are conversations, sometimes we drop off hand-picked defect kits at washing stations, other times we conduct knowledge sharing sessions with producing partners. Since numbers can be cold, we always photograph our graded PSS and Arrival samples and send them back to suppliers. It makes a world of difference. Seeing is believing.

Pricing & Philosophy

What’s included in my price?

Prices on our offer list are usually quoted Free on Truck (FOT) from the warehouse indicated. This means that the price listed includes fees charged by the warehouse for loading onto an outbound truck, but not the cost of transport to you. GrainPro or Ecotact bag liners are standard for all offers unless requested otherwise.

Do you follow a standard pricing model?

We use cost-plus pricing, which adds a flat 10-45c markup over all of our costs. Costs include the FOB price, shipping, insurance, port charges, warehousing and handling, financing and transaction costs, risk and others.

Our markup is based on timing, starting when a coffee gets contracted. This model allows us to be good teammates, to reward repeat relationships, and to encourage those who like getting involved earlier in the harvest. The earlier you contract a lot with us, the lower our margin is and therefore the lower the price is for you.

Pre-Shipment: Unlisted coffees are available to past customers–those who take part in annual planning or otherwise engage their Crop to Cup rep early in the harvest. Pre-shipment contracts are subject to sample approval; in this case, the pre-shipment sample with a second approval upon arrival.

Pre-Arrival: Once a lot is afloat it gets published on our forward offer list with an ETA. Also known as Forward Offers, these coffees are confirmed with a set price, vetted profile and a scheduled arrival date. You can sign-up for samples upon arrival or reserve with a forward contract subject approval of arrival sample. 

Current Offers: Once a coffee lands and clears customs it moves to our current offer menu. These Spot Offers have been approved upon arrival and are ready to ship to roasters immediately.

How much do you pay for coffee (FOB Export)?

We buy good coffee, and pay for the effort that goes into quality. Over our past 400 purchases (as of Sept ‘19), FOB export prices per pound were: 

Mean (average) $2.91

Mode (most common) $3.25

Median (middle) $2.92

The max price paid in this set was $12.00, the minimum was $1.70, and the most common price was $3.25.

FOB export price doesn’t mean much without proper context. For example, the average NYBOT “C price” in the date range for the above hovered around $1.00. We look at the FOB export price only as an indicator of how competitive a coffee is on the world market. Higher quality and more unique coffees command higher prices over time. But price is only part of the picture. 

How much do you pay for coffee (farm-gate)?

We look at a farmer’s share of export price as an indicator of a suppliers’ efficiency and capacity to occupy more roles within the value chain. Though conditions, costs and other measures change, our baseline goal is to get to 80-90% of every dollar back going to the farmer or farmer group. In most cases, this is working up from the baseline closer to 60%. 

Farm-gate is difficult to determine because daily prices differ by region. Payment schedules are sporadic and phased over time. Mill outturns are variable by the farmer and run. Cost structures are cumbersome, and financing records are fractured across multiple books. At most (smallholder) farms there are few or no books. 

But while specific farm-gate prices are hard to find, a group’s overall share of an export price is something that can be tracked over time.  

For this, we look at the biggest cost–outturn (the % of export-grade coffee that comes from each cherry lot). We can focus on year-over-year income improvement (a measure which includes yield). We work on access to and cost of financing (which allows farmers to hold on to coffee through pricing dips and until later in the export cycle). And, ultimately, we can care about supplier satisfaction (which includes factors such as purchasing power, progress, and recognition). 

None of this changes the FOB export price, just the farmer’s share for their efforts.  Aligning incentives towards moving these metrics is what makes coffee all the more rewarding. 

For more information

There’s a lot to say, but at some point we need to let the coffees speak for themselves. Still, if find yourself looking for something, please reach out.

You can find contact forms and other more specific information on the FAQ pages.

Coffee is a conversation; we looking forward to talking with you.