Relationship Coffee is a term used frequently throughout the new third wave of coffee. The definition of this term is ambiguous at best, and one we’ve approached hesitantly. We hate to be boxed in by definitions and even more, would hate to misrepresent ourselves or what we do in the coffee world. But the term has an underlying point that is interesting because of what it is intended to represent.
One of the great things that have resulted from the so-called Third Wave coffee movement is that smaller companies have gained a place in the massive trade of coffee that for so long was dominated by the commodity market. (Coffee is second only to the oil/gas industry in terms of global trade.)
As smaller companies have stepped in paying a premium for smaller lots of higher quality coffee, farmers have been increasingly able to focus in more on quality coffees and know that they will have an outlet for them other than the commodity market. So for small farmers and coops, this has resulted in the ability to increase profits even when the yield is sometimes reduced. And in this new marketplace which operates on a much smaller, more localized scale, real relationships begin to gain traction and take hold, erasing the unknown and impersonal trade so widely accepted in large-scale globalization.
For Black Coffee, building relationships is just a natural part of our business. Our business began and has settled in Missoula based on the relationships we hold with our peers throughout the Missoula and growing regional marketplace. As we have grown, we slowly began to get to know our importers beyond just a simple name basis, and now in recent years we’ve begun getting to know the people that produce our coffees. Relationship Coffee is not just a term used when you see a picture of where it is grown; it is something that always has room for growth, evolution, and we are excited to be able to increasingly get to know not just the areas where our coffee is produced, but the people at various stages of the production.
We by no means pretend that this extends to every coffee we bring in, but we are building our relationships, with the help of some really terrific importers and friends, and slowly growing our knowledge of what life looks like on the other end of this fascinating chain of magic beans. Coffee holds importance to the lives of people at every step of the production, and not just from a financial point of view. Everyone we’ve met, from the growers to the exporter/importers, down to the truck drivers, everyone holds coffee as near and dear to their hearts.
We love getting to know people at every step. And with this in mind, we are very excited to be offering our newest coffee from ASOPEP in Colombia under our new DRIFT seasonal coffee. We’ve been working with this coop for a couple years now, and have visited farms in country as well as met additional farmers when they have visited the States. Colombia is a terrifically fascinating place with regards to coffee. The country’s economy is built around its production, and as a nation there is great pride taken in the coffee produced there, and rightfully so. Because of the overall government support for coffee, farmers at all scales receive great assistance in making their product great, and there are incredible systems in place to ensure that quality standards meet the expectations of buyers.
In addition to coffee farms in Peru and Nicaragua, next month we are traveling to Ethiopia to visit several farms we also work with, including our current offerings of Limma Kossa under the Shop Line label, and Wotonna Bultuma, single origin coffee.
These visits are a privilege in not only getting to know the people and places that our coffees originate, but also from a sheer educational perspective. Coffee production varies place to place based on available infrastructure and resources, and we are excited to get to the know the specifics of yet another region where coffee is approached with utter dedication.
For more of the story of our next journey in coffee follow along with us on Instagram @blackcoffee.mt & @ourblackcoffee.
As we continue growing further in this world of coffee, building relationships as we go, we are grateful to all of you, our customers, who support us in sourcing, roasting, and serving the great coffees of the world. Thanks for being part of our community, and please reach out any time to know more or just to get to know us.