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Why you can't find your favorite coffee

by Josh Lindstrom on

A Commonly Asked Question

A while back I received a great question from a Friend of Fika who subscribes to our coffee online. I want to address this friend’s comments and questions here, as this is a very common one that we get.  I’m going to share part of the email here, because it’s packed full of good little nuggets I want to point out.

Thank you for the note. I received my order, and thank you for including the Burundi at no charge, we look forward to trying it. It is easy to be a friend to Fika, and easy to support a business with a quality product and great service.
I am always interested in learning, but I won't pretend to know anything about the coffee business, but as an avid consumer of the stuff, I am always curious and appreciate knowing more. Change is scary sometimes, though inevitable, but it is still hard when you find something you really like, only to lose it again. "If it is not broken, don't fix it."
We love the Villaure, even more than the Espresso 61, and we like that more than the North Shore Blend. The flavor profile of the Villaure really seems to connect with our taste. Of course this is splitting hairs, as we feel all of the Fika bean we have tried are superior to competitive offerings. 
With that said, why the change in beans? Change in supplier, lack of supply, or an intentional choice to move in a new direction? I am guessing a new blog post is somewhere in the offing in all of this…

 

My response

Alright, I’m going to break this down paragraph by paragraph.

 

Paragraph 1

It’s always encouraging to get emails from customers, whether they are positive or maybe even negative (thankfully for us most of them are positive). This customer says it’s “easy to support a business that has a quality product and great service.”  For us this is not only encouraging but also a challenge to keep on doing the good and hard work to create not only a quality product but also provide great service.

 

Paragraph 2

“I’m always interested in learning” WOW, this is great and we could all just soak that in and end right there. Remaining teachable is a very important characteristic to keep and grow as we move forward in life. This is also telling me that this customer is open to an answer, to hearing what I have to say. So, we are talking about coffee here and not politics, I get that. But still the challenge is here for us all, to remain open in our preferences, this does not mean that we have to let go of them or even mean that we have to adopt something new, all it means is that we should be open. Open to hearing, to listing, to tasting, to visiting, I think you get the point. Let’s be teachable in the little things like coffee which in turn will help us to be teachable in other more complex issues.

 

Paragraph 3: The meat of the email

This friend loves the Villaure coffee. The Villaure was a lot of coffee from our producer friends/partners in Guatemala, the Villatoro family. You can read more about them here and here. This particular lot of coffee with the name Villaure comes from Rodin Villatoro. Rodin is one of the few “next generation coffee producers” that make up part of Finca La Esperanza. This is what Colin wrote last spring, about Rodin and this particular coffee Villaure.

Just as the awe of the moment was turning inward with encroaching nightfall, Rodin, the son of Aurelio (one of the the 12 siblings who own and run the farm) appeared on the staircase rounding the corner of the home carrying two cups of coffee. He approached Josh and myself handing us each one, and encouraging us to drink. I didn't hesitate. First sip - my tastebuds were rocked by the vibrancy and juiciness of the cup. My mouth watered for more, and my head tingled just slightly as the pleasant arrival of a complex sensory experience uncovered new curiosity. After a second sip, I turned to Rodin and asked what we were drinking. He pointed to an adjacent ridgeline and said “this is a natural processed coffee from my lot right over there.” He briefly explained how they had selected it to be a lot for that method of processing only after several years of experimentations and comparisons.

(Read the entire post here)

A Special Bean

This is what Rodin wrote to us about his Natural Villaure:

"I feel glad knowing this memories comes to your minds when you guys drink my natural process. In fact, it's my natural; from 'Villaure'. Actually, I prepared this micro lot for special customers like you (I did just 5 bags in total).”

Finca la Esperanza, Home to the Villatoros

 

Now it's Gone

Ok, so I just made my case about why this coffee is so awesome, delicious and special. Going back to our friend, they really liked this particular coffee. They had found a coffee they liked, they tried other coffees too, they even tried a blend that had this particular coffee in the blend. But still came back to Villuare and now it’s all gone.

 

Paragraph 4: So Why the Change?

In closing our friend asks, “so why the change” and in the opening paragraph makes the comment “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. So I'm going to attempt now to answer this question the best I can and give a couple of reasons that may influence change in supply. I becoming to believe that most of the reasons come from the first reason which is “Agriculture Reality”.

Agriculture Reality

Coffee is not Coke Cola. Coke Cola for the most part is consistent, a cold can of Coke tastes like a cold can of coke and you can count on that. Some fairly large brands of coffee also want you to think that the taste of coffee is consistent in taste. Essentially they have homogenized the taste of a coffee. Some of these coffee players are so large that when they buy coffee from Colombia they BUY COFFEE FROM COLOMBIA. Colombia has 15 distinct coffee producing regions, when said fairly large brand goes to Colombia to buy coffee they buy coffee most likely from all 15 regions, blend them all together and voila! you have a homogenized coffee from Colombia. In doing this you completely rule out most if not all variables that come to making a coffee unique and distinct in flavor and story. Some of those variables that will make coffee distinct are its region, micro climate, processing methods, terroir, and variety of coffee plant. When we hone down on these particulars we by nature create more diversity in options but we also increase our awareness to the reality that the agriculture process is always in a state of flux.

Seasonality

When I started Fika, I wanted to educate myself and my customers about coffee and the whole process that it goes through. One way I was intentional about doing that, although not always perfect, is to create a seasonal offering of coffee, like our current organic coffee from the Entre Rios Coop in Guatemala. In doing this I was hoping to slowly start to show that each coffee producing region has its own growing and harvest season.

If I wanted to I could pretty easy create an offering list that does not change. In creating a set stable list of coffees year round, I believe that it takes tremendous value away from coffee which in turns takes value away from the producers and all involved in the process. But reality is that in an economic sense, coffee is a commodity and treated with no regard to who produced it. So my hope was and is that when I have a seasonality of coffee, I can add the value it deserves, educate us all and we can all look forward to that time of year when our favorite coffee comes into season. Plus, eating fruit in season tastes better too.

The Big Boys

So, yes the change of beans is due to a lot of what our friend already had a hunch of. There was a limited supply, a very limited supply, Rodin produced a special lot just for us, that no one else had in the world. It also is an intentional choice on our behalf too, on hunting down delicious seasonal coffees, I would argue you will never find anything like it from the big boys of commodity coffee.

So, there it is. I may have cleared things up for some and muddied the water for others. As always please leave a comment, question or concern below. We love hearing from you.


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3 comments


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  • Wonderful in-depth explanation of the origin and process for your coffee bean selection. I had no idea just how special the Villaure was, and I look forward to new selections and flavor experiences.

    Paul on

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