Farmer Power

It is generally agreed that 60% of the cup profile of your coffee is attributed to the green bean, 20% to roasting techniques and equipment, 10% to brewing and 10% to water chemistry. There  are exceptional insights and studies on the latter 40% when a cup of coffee is sold to the consumer, but hardly any real understanding of the former 60%, except for advertising blurbs copy-written by people who haven’t visited a coffee farm.

A coffee farmer who for four or five generations has cultivated and nurtured his crop, by the sheer generational longevity of his focus on a single main crop, has a proven sustainable model of agriculture. He instinctively relies on the preservation of the elements of sustainability, such as, native species of shade trees, wild honey hive nesting, compatible alternate crops, etc.

It is when the consuming market subsumes a major portion of the revenue chain by exaggerating their contribution, paying the farmer 10% of the total revenue for 60% of the cup value, that things start going downhill.

The Coffee Market of the last decade has marginalized the farmer to the extent that he has had to cut costs, resulting in a continuous reduction in volumes of quality coffees. Even large farms are either just breaking even or losing money. A continuation of the same will result in farmers switching to other crops or surrendering their land to the sources of their indebtedness.

 A constriction of production areas may look good as  reduced production will increase coffee prices. However we could loose large swathes of coffee areas with unique terrior and flavour profiles that create the current market landscape. Heirlooms, cultivars and genotypes that have adapted to various regions in the last few centuries could disappear in the coming years if farmers cannot acquire all intermediate revenue from farm to roaster, thereby enabling a profitable agriculture model.

Just as coffees are sold with “bird friendly”, “eco friendly” tags, we need to encourage “farmer friendly” tags. To do this we need to learn and spotlight the true story of the farm, not depend on advertising blurbs.

Back to blog

Author - Gaurav

Is the Lead for Coffee Academy & Flavour Science at Humblebean

He was the Quality assistant manager at Tata Coffee, and Lead production-in-charge for Roast & Ground and Starbucks operations. He holds a Masters in Coffee Economics and Science (University of Trieste, Italy) Scholarship from Ernesto Illy Foundation. Gaurav will help set up Humblebean’s Coffee lab & academy, and expand our blend development initiatives.