Happy Holidays! Can you believe that it is already nearly 2020? I definitely can’t! As Sustainable Sourcing Manager at Union, my role is always busy and 2019 has been no exception. I couldn’t possibly write down everything I’ve got up to this year, but I’ve broken it down for you to give you a snapshot of my year…
The year in numbers
· 14 countries – number of countries we’ve worked with and sourced coffee from
· 7 countries visited. Yes, seven! This includes: Guatemala El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Colombia, Ethiopia
· 45+ producers worked with to bring you that delicious Union coffee
· $2.16 per pound average price (35% above the Fairtrade minimum price (USD 1.60)
· 54% of our coffee came from producers with relations over 5 years
· 3 Social Audits and 10 on-site risk assessments on farms/estates we work with
Favourite coffee moment of the year
This year have been full of amazing moments! A particularly special moment was receiving the SCA 2019 Sustainability Award, for our work with coffee-growing communities in the Yayu region of Ethiopia to help preserve its important biodiversity. We travelled to Boston, USA, to receive the award at the largest coffee expo in the USA: Specialty Coffee Expo. The expo itself is a celebration of coffee and all things new (machines, packaging – you name it!). For us, it’s also a little Union Family Reunion as many of the producers we work with attend the event. Notably, Dulce Bararra (Head of quality control at La Candelaria, Guatemala long-standing Union partner) participated in the World Cup Tasters Championship finals this year. It was exciting to be cheering for a female finalist, from a producer country, from a farm we work with!
A smaller more-European focused Coffee Expo was held in Berlin, Germany this year – this little Union family reunion is definitely one of my favourite moments of the year.
Most exiting origin trips
It’s hard to name just one! However, I have also been very impressed with the impact of the relation between Union and La Revancha in Nicaragua. La Revancha Estate gives 5 cents of every pound of coffee they sold to us to a farmworkers committee. This is a committee-led initiative, meaning members are in full control on where the money flows. Together, the committee identifies beneficiaries from the people in their community, including community members who aren’t employed by the farm on a regular basis. Through this initiative, they have invested in roofing, kitchens and sanitary facilities. This is an incredibly special and inspiring model that works well and benefits the whole community.
Favourite coffee this year
This summer, I loved drinking our Sparkling Black cold brew - so refreshing! I find it particularly special as it's brewed using one of my all-time favourite coffees: Liberacion. I started my coffee journey with the members of the Esquipulas co-operative, Guatemala (where Liberacion coffee is grown) so this coffee brings back lots of great memories! With winter festivities being in full swing, I've been enjoying the extra-special Geisha from Los Lajones in Panama - yum!
The biggest challenge of the year
The ongoing coffee price crisis, which is absolutely devastating for farmers. On a positive note, during my travels, I’ve seen that farmers who have produced high-quality coffee year-on-year have a much better-negotiating position when selling their coffee. With the price of coffee being low, buyers will try and negotiate a lower price - but more often than not farmers are in the position to not accept these prices. The demand for speciality coffee has risen in the world, not just the UK. In this global world, farmers are now able to contact buyers from different parts of the globe who are appreciative of the high quality of coffee and are willing to pay for it. It will be interesting to see the results of the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide an initiative to which Union donated data from all of our contracts since 2016.
What will 2020 bring?
I hope lots of health, happiness and love for all. To more happy conversations around a cup of your favourite coffee! For me, 2020 will bring lots of excitement and more travel. My next trip is already planned for Costa Rica, in mid-January. Keep your eyes peeled on our social media to see what I’m up to…
Written by Pascale Schuit, Sustainable Sourcing Manager