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Do microlots mater to producers?
The information presented in "Do Microlots Matter to Producers" derives from a study conducted by Counter Culture Coffee and published in March 2012 titled, "The Social Impacts of Microlots: A Coffee Cooperative Case Study in Ihuamaca, Peru." The study aimed to measure the social impacts of microlot selection on members of the CENFROCAFE cooperative in five Peruvian communities where Counter Culture Coffee has purchased coffee over the last five years.
The hypothesis prior to the study was that microlot coffee production may have both positive and negative impacts on communities, with positive impacts including recognition for effort and a return on investment in quality and negative impacts including feelings of envy and competition among fellow community members. The study design aimed to clarify the elements of microlot coffee production that contribute to its success and the areas that need improvement. Data was collected through 13 semi-structured, open-ended, qualitative interviews with microlot-producing and non-microlot-producing members of the cooperative, two interviews with CENFROCAFE staff members who work in these communities, and one facilitated community meeting.
We examined common themes and differences among members, as well as among members and Cenfrocafe representatives. Both microlot-producing members and non-microlot-producing members expressed support for the program and its continuation. Price incentives and pride emerged as the primary motivators for exerting extra effort, and members unanimously feel supportive of the microlot achievement of other community members. At the same time, all members expressed a desire to see the program evolve to address some commonly-cited areas for improvement, including the cupping and scoring system used by CENFROCAFE and Counter Culture Coffee and the on-farm infrastructure required for production of high-quality coffee. CENFROCAFE's staff demonstrated even more positive feelings overall, with a desire to create more, similar opportunities for growers in other communities of members as a top priority.
Limitations of the study include: small sample size, lack of diversity among sample, consideration for cultural congruency of the research design, and the survey instrument. Recommendations for enhancements of the partnership between CENFROCAFE and members as well as for CENFROCAFE and Counter Culture Coffee are addressed. Suggestions for future research are explored with an emphasis on a more participatory approach and an additional focus on economic impact of microlots.
Kim Elena
My first real introduction to Bufcafe was through Coffee Common at TED by Detour, a Canadian Roaster based in Ontario. I spent a week working alongside talented baristas cherry-picked from around the world. We enthusiastically and obsessively brewed coffee. We empathetically served our guests at a dizzying speed, exposing them to a number of different coffees selected for taste and transparency with stories of growth and inspiration.
Now, Counter Culture's Bufcafe is herbaceous and bright with a lip-sticking sweetness. Pair this coffee with a pear tart, apricot glaze, and lavender ice cream? Well, then you have something almost too obscene for words … one might say memorable. But, the question always arises, what exactly makes a cup memorable? What makes a cup of coffee inspiring? It can be argued that it is the flavors in the cup itself, but I believe that flavors and tastes that we remember are ultimately things that we ourselves can internalize or perhaps personalize. Read the full story on facebook.
Allie Caran
Woodberry Kitchen
Note: Our supply of this coffee went much faster than expected, so, thoughtful Allie's reflections on Bufcafe serve as a fond farewell of sorts. Thanks!
POSTED IN: coffee knowledge
Over the years, we have had our eye on Ecuador, and last year we were finally able to establish a relationship with a group of small, organic coffee farmers based in the mountainous province of Loja.
By providing incentives to farmers for improving quality – along with information to help them do so – we can help growers sustain and improve the quality of their lives, the environment, and their coffee. An obvious incentive is to pay more for higher quality coffee. Which, of course, we do, though the process is anything but simple for producers and our home office alike.
Our coffee department identifies microlots – small lots of coffees selected to provide unique, exquisite taste experiences – by cupping many, many small lots which have been hand-separated and catalogued by our grower partners, and selecting the very best, often tiny lots. A microlot may come from one grower within a community or cooperative of small growers, or it may represent a small lot separated from a larger farm's lot.
Last week, we welcomed a special microlot from Palanda, Ecuador. The coffee was the produce of a single organic farmer, 75-year-old Luz del Carmen Alverca.
Over the years, we have had our eye on Ecuador, and last year we were finally able to establish a relationship with a group of small, organic coffee farmers based in the mountainous province of Loja. The name El Gavilán (the hawk) perfectly suits their coffee – independent and courageous – just as the small farmers of Loja province are independent, heroic, and dedicated to quality and organic agriculture. This was our first El Gavilán microlot, and we are excited to have the opportunity to get to know coffees from individual farmers in the region.
This exceptional Luz del Carmen Alverca Microlot wasn't around for long, but the premium paid for its incredible quality will, we hope, have long-term benefits among El Gavilán producers.
POSTED IN: coffee knowledge
See the full set on Flickr for Tim's notes from his trip to Ethiopia in November 2011.
See the full set on Flickr for Tim's notes from his trip to Kenya in November 2011.
Counter Culture's main product – fresh-roasted coffee – is the minimally processed seed of a tree fruit carefully cultivated – most often organically – in rich volcanic soil. Counter Culture Coffee Chicago's venture into vermiculture represents not only a tangible way to achieve real sustainability in the life cycle of our coffee, but also a way for us to connect with and support the gardeners and farmers of greater Chicago, as well as provide an introduction to organic soil building in our training center.
Worm soil, or castings, is among the best natural fertilizers and created entirely from converted waste. The concept is perfect: manage your compostable waste by feeding it to worms, which produce a nutrient-rich fertilizer. We pursued various avenues to make this a reality in our training center and eventually connected with Amber from The Urban Worm Girl, who helped us devise a manageable vermiculture operation that would properly address our waste needs. Amber's operation is fantastic!
Ultimately, the goal is to give our castings to a local urban agriculture project. We've begun conversations with a local group called The Ruby Garden, which give plots to local area families to garden. We've also purchased a bag-resealer, which we'll use to seal fresh worm castings in used coffee bags affixed with newly designed "Worm Compost" labels to avoid any confusion about what's inside.
While it may seem like a long step just to deal with garbage, the worms are really doing most of the work, and vermiculture is truly sustainability in its simplest form. In fact, many of our partnering coffee farms have adopted their own vermiculture operations and use the castings to enrich their soil.
In the end, it's very simple for us. Coffee is an agricultural jewel that flies under most people's radar. Many consume it and never really consider the amount of care and toil the farmers put into providing us with an excellent product. Vermiculture gives us an easy way to take the coffee conversation back to the farm and the importance of organic agriculture.
We're already seeing the educational benefits; our weekly coffee cuppings have included brief introductions to vermiculture and an explanation of sustainability by way of our 5,000 new co-workers.
Best regards,
Josh and Rich
Counter Culture Coffee Chicago
Thanks to Tyler Kaschke for the photos.
See the photo narrative on Flickr for Tim's notes on each photo from his trip to the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea in July 2011.