For as much as coffee roasters would like to stay in close contact with the source, doing so on a regular basis remains impractical for most.
Not so for 16-year-old Portland Roasting and its owner Mark Stell, who was recently profiled in a series on artisanal food producers in Oregon Live. In an exclusive piece written by Hanna Neuschwander, author of the recently released coffee book Left Coast Roast, Stell discusses how his company partnered on a purchase of a 99-year-lease for a 1,000-acre coffee farm in Tanzania. Writes Neuschwander:
“We bought a really old, rundown farm,” says Stell. “The house was unlivable. The mill was defunct. And there were elephants and buffalo roaming around, destroying coffee.” He started with basic infrastructure — fencing and water storage. Then he set about figuring out how to grow more and better coffee on the land, which had been poorly managed for decades. To break even on the farm, Stell must produce 80,000 pounds of coffee. The first year, he grew only a quarter of that amount, and for five years the farm lost money. But with improved irrigation, soil management and equipment, last year he turned a profit.
Read the full story here.