REUNITING WITH OLD FRIENDS
Estelle MacGilp, Head of Coffee Sourcing
Sowing the Seeds of our producer relationships
At Matthew Algie we often talk about the importance of building strong relationships within our supply chains and with the recent challenges facing the world of coffee sourcing, the benefits of sustaining these pays dividends.
Coffee is traded on the futures market and in recent years the forward pricing has become increasingly volatile. The impact of Covid on supply chains has caused significant shipping challenges and coffee farmers are facing more and more issues around climate change.
Understanding how challenges like these impact on all involved in the supply chain is paramount to the longevity of a successful business.
During the pandemic, we were all compelled to work remotely, meeting our partners through on-line meetings, leading to new ways of working, which for many of us has continued despite the lifting of restrictions. There are of course benefits to this but there are some aspects of remote working that will never replace the benefits of meeting in person. Meeting in person is not so difficult when your key partners are within easy reach but when they are thousands of miles away and in very remote locations as in the case of our coffee producers then this becomes very different.
Travelling to visit our producers, however, has always been central to our sourcing policy at Matthew Algie and despite a long period where this was not possible, we were very keen to get back out there.
Celebrating 15 years of partnering with Sol Y Cafe
One of the key origins that we source from is Peru and in August this year we were very excited to be setting off to reunite with some of our long-term coffee friends, this time focussing in the Northern area of Peru. A producer who we have now had a relationship with for 15 years, Sol y Café based in the San Ignacio region was on our priority list.
When visiting producer groups, the visit will typically include a meeting with their General Manager and other key members of the board to discuss the output of current and future harvest, certification status, forward pricing and general quality and logistics. We will then join the quality team to ‘cup’ (industry term for tasting) and evaluate a range of their coffees together which often leads to interesting and useful discussions around processing and flavour profiles.
If time allows, we will always try to include a visit to the exporter too. And then arguably, one of the best bits of the trip and one that can never be replaced through remote working is to go into the heart of where coffee is produced with a visit to the coffee farms.
Our visit to Sol y Café was no exception and after travelling several hours along muddy tracks in our 4 x 4 with the most spectacular scenery distracting us from the bumpy ride and significant drops at the side of the road, we finally arrived at the farm of Andres Guevara Ruiz.
On arrival at the farm, set amongst coffee trees laden with coffee cherries, the magical feeling of being at the beginning of the long coffee journey was all too familiar. Andres is one of the founders of Sol y café cooperative who produce high quality arabica coffee with Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and organic certifications and has been a member for 20 years.
We were accompanied to the farm with Javier Dominguez, the General Manager and Lenin Gomez, the Export Manager from Sol y Café and whilst on the farm they took the opportunity to present us with a plaque marking our 15-year relationship together.
On presenting the plaque Javier said, "Thank you to all of you who motivated us to get better and for our producers to feel motivated to grow more coffee, because they know there’s a market for it.
"This is the main reason for us to be able to improve our daily lives. It is also because of you that we initiated our organic and Rainforest alliance certifications. Certifications for us are a way for producers to improve their day to day, years ago we used to see it as a necessity.
"Producers are happy with this relationship, and we hope it will continue for many years to come. Therefore, we want to give you this gift which has a very special meaning to us and a lot of affection. It resembles water drop to represent nature and the link between us as producer and you Matthew Algie."
These coffee relationships go beyond purely business, they have direct impact on people’s lives, and this is what makes the relationship so important. Through our commitment to the group, we can offer long term contracts which allow the producers to gain invaluable pre-financing. And when production is lower it is us that Sol and Café will remember and offer the best of their crop.
We feel privileged to have these producer relationships and the invaluable time spent in person with their colleagues and on farms has only helped to ensure that these relationships continue to go from strength to strength.
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Head of Coffee Sourcing at Matthew Algie
Estelle sources and selects all of our amazing coffees. She is a certified Q-grader with more than 20 years of experience in coffee sourcing. She has cupped thousands of coffees from all over the world and enjoyed many a trip to origin.
Estelle understands the full supply chain: the importance of each and every step along the way, and what this brings to the final cup. There isn't much Estelle doesn't know or love about coffee!