Specialty Coffee: Update

In the world of coffee, there have been many changes since Lockdown.

Quality coffee, the higher grades of coffee in the industry of which Butterworths operate, also known as Specialty Coffee, has seen huge increases in costs.

Shortage of labour, higher wages, rising transport & storage costs and climate change impacting crop yields have all had an impact on the quality of coffee and availability.

This has driven up the price of Speciality Coffee dramatically.

In the last year alone I have noticed a marked increase in the number of coffees being offered by producers, mills, exporters (services in a typical supply chain at coffee origin) that are much lower on the specialty spectrum, contain the maximum number of defects allowed to be categorised as specialty or are actually commercial grade or defective due to errors in the processing. These coffees are now being pitched at prices Specialty would have been the previous year.

This has also led to many coffee roasters buying more Brazil coffees which are generally cheaper due to the highly efficient growing & processing methods adopted by Brazilian farms but with questionable ecological practices.

Butterworths doesn’t purchase any coffee from Brazil.

To obtain quality coffees with minimal defects roasters are now having to pay +50% on UK landed 2021 pricing.

Another factor less reported is that coffee producing countries are becoming vastly more affluent. The large cities throughout Latin America, like Mexico City, are developing fast and wealth is increasing so much throughout society that high quality coffee shops are springing up everywhere. With lower costs than their European counterparts, it’s surprising to see prices almost the same as they are here for a Flat White etc.

As coffee producing countries begin to consume more of their own quality coffee, more and more producers are choosing to supply local markets which are now paying the higher export prices.

For the most part, farms not receiving better prices are facing the reality that although the market has moved up considerably, the real winners in the coffee growing business are the ones who have invested in their land and processing facilities. Invested in their workers by training them in pruning, picking and ground maintenance and by paying higher wages which encourages long-term jobs therefore saving on the time-consuming and costly method of rehiring and training with the reward being higher yields and higher cup quality, in turn higher prices.

In January I visited Finca Chelin in Oaxaca, Mexico to meet with renowned coffee producer, Enrique Lopez.

Enrique has won awards for his coffee, including the much coveted Cup of Excellence.

His focus has been on plant health and farm management, picking & sorting as well as very high attention to detail with coffee cherry processing. He is also  experimenting with more sophisticated processing like hydro-naturals. The attention to detail and hard work on this farm was incredible.

His team is meticulous with quality control, under his guidance, from conception to picking. His Son, Alejandro, helps him manage the farm.

Enrique has chosen to offer single varietal coffee and processes them using artisan techniques such as fermentation, dry and honey to enhance the characteristics of his coffees.

Unlike other naturals, Enrique’s slow, four-week drying cycle is interrupted by an overnight soak in cold water at the end of day three.

I selected an outstanding Pink Bourbon dry processed (natural) coffee which will be available later in the year in Selfridges and within the Exceptional Coffee category on our website.

Photos: 1 Enrique Lopez | 2 Attention to detail on the drying patio | 3 Alejandro  | 4 Pink Bourbon