Brooklyn-via-Bogotá-based roastery and retailer Devoción is leveraging its vertical integration to launch a new wholesale program that allows retailers exclusive access to coffees from individual farms in Colombia.
The company says it plans to work with wholesale clients to identify quality needs, then help facilitate relationships with individual smallholder farms throughout its network of approximately 400 producer partners throughout the country’s coffee growing regions. Once the exclusive relationship is established between operator and farmer, Devoción plans to track the individual lots through its Bogotá mill, from which the coffees will be flown to New York to Devoción’s U.S. roastery where they will be roasted to specs, packaged and shipped to wholesale clients.
The company says the wholesale program is in part designed to allow retailers to capitalize on the trends toward source transparency that have touched virtually all corners of the food world. “At a time when transparency is key, when people want to know the origins of what they consume… having an exclusive partnership with a specific Colombian coffee farm is a valuable distinguishing element for an establishment,” the company said in an announcement yesterday.
Through the wholesale program, the depth and nature of the relationship between retail operator and farmer is flexible, with Devoción able to facilitate trips to the farm, farm-level support, custom packaging, and all kinds of marketing and social media support.
“The relationship between the operator and the farmer can be as close as the former would like,” said Steven Sutton, who founded Devoción in Bogotá in 2006 and led the company’s first international expansion with a rather stunning Williamsburg roastery and retail flagship last year. “We can facilitate ongoing direct communication between them and make arrangements for an operator or senior management to spend time at ‘their’ farm to get to know the farmer and his family — a very special experience that can be shared through various social media platforms.”
A big part of Devoción’s pitch since entering the U.S. market — one delivered to consumers and to wholesale clients alike — is unprecedented green coffee freshness from the harvest to the roasting stage. The company boldly bucks industry norms in this regard. “Devoción roasts beans at their most intensely rich flavor profile prime at only 10 to 30 days out-of-their-natural-parchment young, as opposed to the industry norm of four months to a year old,” Devoción said in yesterday’s announcement, adding that the logistics for this are made possible through an arrangement with FedEx.
As for how retailers might connect with specific farms, that question will first be addressed by Sutton and the Devoción coffee team.
“It will begin with Sutton conducting tastings to determine what flavor characteristics would best define a proprietary coffee for an the operator’s brand and to ascertain the monthly quantity required, so he can identify the best farm pairing,” the company said, adding that minimum quantities for wholesale relationships are flexible, but a low of 25 pounds per week is a general benchmark.