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Beyond Green Coffee, Importers Brought Some Fresh News in 2018


Most importers bring exciting news each month about what seasonal green coffees they have to offer. Yet importing companies themselves are also occasionally the focus of the news, whether by expanding their footprint at home or at origin, launching new specialized divisions or boutique brands, or by committing to sustainability efforts designed to ensure a healthier long-term supply of fresh greens.

We’ve already mentioned some import companies in our 2018 year in reviews of sustainability news and the global coffee trade, but here are some of the year’s top headlines in which importers are the primary subject.

The biggest story of the year may be the loss of specialty coffee trailblazer Erna Knutsen, who became the first woman ever to run a coffee importing company. Let’s start there:


Erna Knutsen. Roast Magazine photo.

Remembering Specialty Coffee Legend Erna Knutsen

Erna Knutsen, the woman credited with coining the term “specialty coffee,” passed away last month at the age of 96. Born in Norway, Knutsen eventually moved with her family to New York, where she became a secretary at a Wall Street firm before joining a coffee, tea and spice trading house in the Bay Area, where she was one of the first women ever to sell green coffee.

Seattle’s Atlas Coffee Importers Joins the Neumann Kaffee Gruppe

Atlas joins nearly 50 companies in some 27 countries as part of Neumann’s coffee group, which has a stake in coffee companies operating throughout the supply chain, but primarily in cultivation, processing, exports and imports. The group’s other major U.S. partner company is importer InterAmerican Coffee.


Ally Coffee’s new global specialty coffee headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina. Photo by Tony Abbott, courtesy of Ally Coffee.

Importer Ally Coffee Unveils Global Specialty Coffee HQ in Greenville, SC

Green coffee importer Ally Coffee has opened a new global headquarters for its specialty coffee operations. Officially opened last month in a revitalized business district in Greenville, South Carolina, the more than 7,000-square-foot facility will serve as Ally’s home for specialty purchasing, sales and education, while offering ample space for training, coffee community events and educational programming.

Importer Nordic Approach Launches New Sourcing Company, Tropiq

At the recent inaugural Origin Approach event in Costa Rica, Norwegian green coffee importer Nordic Approach made the official in-country debut of its new sister company, Tropiq. With the same ownership and crossover with the Nordic Approach team in Oslo and abroad, Tropiq is essentially designed to deepen sourcing efforts in several coffee countries where existing relationships can be leveraged.

Portland Green Coffee Warehouser Costa Oro Expands Into Seattle

Portland, Oregon-based green coffee warehousing specialist provider Costa Oro has taken the trip up I-5 to one of the country’s other coffee capitals, Seattle, opening a warehouse there this Spring. It’s the first major opening outside the Portland market for Costa Oro, which has been providing a range of green coffee logistics services since 2002.


Importer Cooperative Coffees is Raising the Floor Price for Certified Coffees to $2.20/lb

By specialty coffee standards, $2.20 is still a modest number, yet the group said it is intended to provide a base price at which all the producers in the Coop Coffees network can maintain operations no matter which way the coffee market may be swinging at a given moment. The number itself comes from the Símbolo de Pequeños Productores/Small Producers’ Symbol (SPP), a certification scheme in which small producer groups define their own minimum price standards.

Ethiopia Auction Led by Importer Trabocca Returning Nearly $100K to Producers

Meanwhile, Trabocca is pledging to pay anything above $7.50 per pound directly back to the producers during field visits this year. The $7.50 mark was derived from a $5 price minimum that was paid when Trabocca initially purchased the coffees, plus $2.50 for logistics and fees associated with the auction itself. In total, Trabocca said it is returning an additional $96,292 directly to the Ethiopian producers whose coffees were part of the auction.


Tatiana Virviescas Mendoza of IDB announcing the program at Let’s Talk Coffee 2018. Daily Coffee News photo.

Sustainable Harvest and IDB Announce Three-Year Mexico Coffee Revival Project

At its 15th Let’s Talk Coffee global event today in Cartagena, Colombia, green coffee importer Sustainable Harvest announced the launch of a three-year program worth $2 million designed to assist thousands of farmers throughout Southern Mexico. The program is a result of a partnership between the Portland, Oregon-based importer — which has been deeply involved in sourcing Mexican coffees since its inception in 1997 — and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which is devoting $1.2 million, according to Sustainable Harvest.


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