In 2015, technology was the name of the green coffee trading and import game, with several existing traders and new startups attempting to realize the goal of an efficient, widespread, real-time online coffee trade that provides exponentially more information related to quality and availability to a more connected and demanding specialty green coffee consumer base.
While we’ve seen additional technical improvements and new developments in 2016, the year has seen even more attempts to speak directly to potential buyers, whether online, through in-person events, hosted trips to origin, or through more robust online marketing communications involving data-sharing such as roast logs and green coffee analyses.
With this opening up of information about available green offerings, sellers have also made clear attempts this year to speak to more specific specialty audiences, be they roasters within a given region, small-quantity buyers, cause-focused buyers, seekers of the utmost quality, or home roasters. We’ve even seen importers speaking directly to consumers in 2016, as the specialty coffee zeitgeist leans increasingly toward the concept of directness.
Here we share a number of our top importer/trading-focused stories of 2016:
Datamyne, a Miami-based company that provides searchable databases of import and export data from more than 50 countries, launched a new coffee-focused service called Coffee Import Weekly.
Bay Area green coffee importer and trader Royal Coffee introduced Crown Jewels, 22-pound boxes of green coffee of which the Royal team is especially proud. The line launched with 15 coffees, available in the 22-pound shipments online or through traditional green trade channels.
Green coffee trader Caravela Coffee (formerly Virmax) recently established its first European Office, which will be led by longtime trader and certified Q Grader Joanna Lawson in Central London’s (UK) Shoreditch district.
The Oslo-based high-end green coffee importer and seller Nordic Approach partnered with the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based shared roasting facility The Pulley Collective to being shipping NA-sourced green coffees directly from origin to the United States.
The research in this case is being conducted by PhD candidate Tadesse Benti of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), who is investigating genetic diversity in coffee varieties between and within three different regions of Ethiopia
Olam Coffee parent company Olam International Limited acquired the full interest in longtime East African-focused UK coffee company Schluter S.A., valued at approximately $7.5 million USD, according to the companies.
The company, which imports, roasts and sells coffees exclusively grown by Thai hill tribe farmers, has benefitted since its reclassification from the guidance of new president, CEO and co-owner Bryan Feil, who comes to the company not with coffee expertise per se, but with substantial experience in social enterprise.
As curation is to coffee and its service, disruption is to technology. A tech startup focused on connecting buyers with green coffee sellers is defying both these concepts with a kayak.com-like web app that neither disrupts nor curates, but culls existing data from the web and presents it in an easy-to-process format for coffee roasters seeking to know what coffees are available now, and from whom.
Global Coffee Trading, a new coffee importing and consulting business, was putting the finishing touches on its San Diego headquarters, which, when fully furnished, will include a green coffee trading floor, quality control and training labs, a roastery, a cold brewery, and a consumer-facing retail bar.
Cropster Hub — the online trading platform recently unveiled by roasting software provider Cropster — launched its new framework called “Shops” that brings green coffee buyers and sellers together.
At its U.S.-Africa Business Forum, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $10 million grant to the Relationship Coffee Institute, established to help improve the livelihoods of women coffee farmers in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo through training and market access.
Once a coffee cherry is picked from the branch, every step it takes until it’s brewed is a desperate act of preservation, a struggle against the entropy that will inevitably degrade the dying seed. In a perfect world, short distances travelled in stable environments would contribute to that preservation — but the coffee-drinking world isn’t confined to the tropical climes in which the tree thrives.
Green coffee importer Sustainable Harvest announced the hire of Liam Brody as president, effective in the new year. Brody will work alongside Sustainable Harvest founder and current president David Griswold.
Volcafe’s Genuine Origin Coffee Project held what may be the first in a series of roasting competitions, offering the winner an all-expense-paid trip to origin, among other prizes.
They first crossed the threshold from behind-the-scenes importing and roasting to front-and-center serving and educating the public in June of 2015 when opening their first full-on retail coffee bar with views of their roastery and warehouse. Earlier this year came a second café in Anaheim Hills, and now the company has announced that two more will open within the first quarter of 2017.