Producers, exporters, and roasters gathered at Montelimar, Nicaragua for the annual “Let’s Talk Coffee” event this past weekend. The theme for this year’s event was “Conectividad” or “connectivity”. This annual event serves as an opportunity to get representatives from each segment of the supply chain together to talk about what is working and what is not. This year was no different.
Batdorf and Bronson® met with our Costa Rica Organic (Cerro del Fuego) producers and our Organic Nicaragua(Isabelia) producers. Unfortunately, the Gonzales family from Finca El Valle in Guatemala was unable to attend. We talked about the current year’s crop and how it was going and also looked forward to the challenges the we all face in the upcoming year. Production costs are up both at source and here at home so we will need to work diligently together to make sure we all benefit from the relationship that we are in. Rains have been light in Central America but the general feeling is that the production will be up over last year (which was a down year in Central American producing countries.)
In addition to the one on one conversations with producers there were several presentations that also addressed different aspects of the coffee world. These ranged from using coffee pulp to grow mushrooms as a protein source in Tanzania to global trends in coffee consumption and how they relate to coffee stocks and commodity pricing. New computer programs were presented to help calibrate cupping standards of producers and roasters and there was the roll-out of a potential new reality TV show involving national barista champions from around the world plopped down in the coffee field left to fend for themselves and follow the path of the bean from seed to cup. All of these presentations ultimately addressed connectivity and how we insert ourselves into the supply chain. They asked the questions, “ what is our role and how do we complete the circle?” An unofficial trend that I noticed among producers was a serious effort to focus a lot more on specific varietals of coffee being grown and maintained. I think we are entering an era where we will benefit from and be expected to identify the varietal or varietals present in any coffee. This is not a new idea, however I believe in order for things to really gain some traction there will need to be commitment at the producer level.
I am seeing considerable effort going into the replacement of current trees with more genetically identifiable and distinct ones. This, and the amount of cross border seed smuggling I am hearing about, leads me to believe this push is well under way and will only get stronger. I think we can expect several new varietals to hit the market in the near future in addition to stronger marketing for the old standbys.