How We Source Our Coffees

 

Bella Vista Coffee processing mill in Antigua, Guatemala


At Kuma Coffee, we are committed to directly sourcing our coffees whenever possible. The relationships we build by directly sourcing our green beans means farmers feel more comfortable making the financial decision to invest in their crops, knowing they will have a buyer for years to come. We also greatly appreciate the opportunities direct sourcing provides to better connect with farmers and their coffee shrubs. We are passionate about roasting and drinking coffee, but what better way to share that than with those who grow the coffee for us.

To ensure continued access to high quality and delicious coffees, not just for us but for the industry as a whole, it is imperative that we pay fair prices so farmers can support themselves and their families. The commodity market, which dictates the price per pound of green coffee, often does not account for costs associated with production. ‘C’ market value, as it is usually referred to, hovers around $1 per pound, with fair trade pricing set between $1.20 and $1.50. We try to pay a premium for our coffees, around three times fair trade pricing, not to make ourselves feel good, but because farmers deserve it. We purchase the best microlots around the globe and producers should be rewarded for their hard work. By paying a fair price, we can ensure the vitality of the coffee industry for years to come.

Without financial burden, these hard working and passionate individuals can focus more on what they love, growing excellent and distinct coffees! It is only through paying a fair price that our industry can continue to move forward. Financial security means investment in new ways of producing coffee whether that be experimenting with new varietals and ways of processing, or looking for ways to continue the livelihood of a farm in an ever changing climate.

Sourcing From Colombia

The vibrancy and variety of flavor profiles in Colombian coffee is unparalleled, and it keeps us excited to return each year. We have been sourcing coffees directly from Colombia for the past 5 years, primarily from the regions of Nariño, Tolima, Huila and Antioquia. 

Although Colombia is famous for its coffee, sourcing it can be quite difficult. Colombia has two harvest seasons, roughly April - July and October - December, depending on location, and is grown all over the western half of the country throughout the Andes mountains. Not only is there so much coffee to choose from, but post processing such as milling and drying is often done on site at the farm or cooperative. Although it is exciting to know farmers and producers are involved in the entirety of the process, rather than visiting a single mill that processes all the coffee from farmers or small producers around the region or the country, a lot more travelling is required to see what is available. 

Colombia has always offered delicious coffees but they were not always easy to find. Thanks to the folks at Azahar, who travel nearly all year in search of the best coffees, we are able to take the time to taste these delicious coffees and meet the farmers but still be roasters too! The Azahar team combs through hundreds of microlots from all coffee-growing regions of Colombia at the municipality level. They sort the lots for cup quality, moisture content and water activity, seeking the perfect match of quality and stability. 

Thanks to the hard work and sourcing efforts facilitated by the Azahar team, it is with all this fresh coffee and collected data that our work begins. We travel from our roastery in Seattle down to Azahar's cupping lab in Armenia, Colombia to begin cupping through these top select lots. We usually spend 2-3 days cupping amongst tables of these excellent coffees, selecting what we think are the top 5-6 coffees. 

From there we head out into the field, flying into Pasto and driving high up into the mountains of Nariño, to visit the farms where these coffees are grown. We meet the farmers who grow these microlots, meet their families, spend the day touring their farms with them, and sharing meals with them. In addition to making this connection, we pay them a premium for their crop. This past harvest we paid an average of $3.54/lb FOB. For context, the global coffee commodity market is $1, and Fair Trade is set between $1.20-1.50/lb. 

We aren't doing charity work by paying this much. The coffees we purchase are amongst the best microlots in all of Colombia, the farmers deserve this premium. They work hard and smart and produce an excellent product in their green coffee. We often purchase a farmer's entire crop for the season, and we don't do so lightly. It is our honor to pay them for it, and then to roast it for you.  

Man in black t-shirt amongst coffee trees in the mountains of Colombia


Sourcing from Ethiopia

Ethiopia is the only origin within our key line-up that we do not source ourselves directly as creating in-roads and following traceability can be quite difficult within the country. Rather than larger scale coffee farms, much of the coffee grown throughout Ethiopia is produced on a family’s property then combined with the cherries of other small producers at the processing mill nearby. 

Although these families can grow some stunning and high quality coffees, with Ethiopian varietals labeled as heirloom and the consolidation process, traceability and sourcing can be difficult. This is not to say sourcing Ethiopian coffees is not worth it! Offering some of the most intriguing profiles in coffee, an Ethiopian coffee is always on our menu. 

Although we prefer to source directly whenever possible, we have been able to build a strong working relationship with Trabocca, a green coffee importing company. We feel confident in their hard work of continuously offering high quality coffees through the creation of lasting relationships with producers that lead to fully traceable coffees. We have been sourcing the majority of our Ethiopian coffees through Trabocca for years now, building a relationship that allows us access to top tier washed coffees. Trabocca visits cooperatives and washing stations throughout the Yirgacheffe region, from classic washing stations like Worka, Reko and Sakaro in the south, to the Adado coops in the North. During this process of harvest and milling, we at Kuma are communicating with the green buyers at Trabocca who share their knowledge and impressions of the coffees they cup. These individuals cup daily at the mills, selecting only the most pristine and vibrant lots. 

From here we look through the options of delicious coffees Trabocca worked hard to assemble for us. Looking over all the data Trabocca collects, region, elevation, moisture content and more, we select our favorites and request green beans to sample roast and taste for ourselves. After cupping all of our samples, we purchase the ones we cannot live without, anxiously await for their arrival at our Seattle roastery and carefully roast them so that we may offer them to you all. 


Sourcing from Guatemala

We have been directly sourcing our Guatemalan coffees from the Bella Vista mill in Antigua for 6 years now. Our sourcing trips to Guatemala typically take place in March, towards the end of their harvest season, and begins by flying into Guatemala City. Once in Guatemala city we drive about 25 miles to Antigua, a city flanked by volcanoes. It is this rich volcanic soil that makes Antigua and it’s surrounding areas a prime location for growing coffee. 

Guatemala has a variety of growing regions, all in the southern portion of the country. Each region boasts a unique profile ranging from fruity and floral to sweet and chocolatey. Coffee is often harvested from October to March, though lack of rainfall in recent years has resulted in slightly later harvests. The Guatemalan coffees we purchase are generally from the growing regions of Antigua, Huehuetenango and Cobán, with the most common varietals being Bourbon, Catuai, Cattura and Pache, though other varietals can be found growing across the country. 

Before purchasing these coffees though, we must cup through the distinct options all the regions of Guatemala have to offer. Our days in Antigua often start at the Bella Vista mill where we may cup through as many as 100 coffees in a day. Bella Vista mill processes coffee from 40 farms and over 500 small producers from all over the country making it the premier spot for sourcing Guatemalan coffees. Coffees are always cupped blind but often grouped by farm or growing region. Each cup on the table is thoughtfully tasted, analyzed and scored for quality. The scoring for specialty coffee usually starts at 85 (though some say 80) and goes up to 100. These scores are based on many aspects of the coffee but focus being placed on overall flavor profile, acidity, sweetness, cleanliness of the cup and the presence of defects. When purchasing coffees for Kuma, we like to set our baseline at 86 points. 

Once coffees have been scored and analyzed we look at the data Bella Vista has collected about the green beans -- how they were processed, moisture content and farm. It is at this point that the staff at Bella Vista reveals the origin of the coffee and farm it was grown on; always a fun surprise (or confirmation).  Once we know the data for the green beans, we look for coffees with a stable moisture content to ensure they maintain quality though shipping and roasting. 

After cupping through the current coffee offerings, and selecting our favorites we head out to farms around Antigua to meet the farmers and their plants. The area around Antigua is dense with coffee farms as the volcanic soil and high elevation provides the perfect environment for coffee shrubs. It is a real pleasure to meet the individuals hard at work to produce some of the best coffee Guatemala has to offer; and they are always eager to educate us about their farm and the varietals they are growing. Each farm is unique, from the flatter terrain and neat rows at La Folie to the steep slopes of Buena Vista towering above Antigua, each farm has something special to offer. Each year we look forward to meeting new people, seeing friends and familiar faces, touring new farms and some continued favorites, and as always drinking some delicious coffee.

Yellow Bourbon variety of coffee cherries on a coffee shrub ready to pick


Sourcing from Kenya
man smiling in front of coffee samples at Dorman's lab in Nairobi Kenya
Kenyan coffees were one of the first things Kuma became known for in the early days of the company, just a tiny Seattle roastery putting out some exceptional Kenyan lots that nobody around had tasted anything like. They have since become one of our core coffees in our lineup. We bring them in to the states vacuum packed and boxed, preserved for maximum longevity, and thus we are able to offer them year round. 
Mark Barany, the original founder of Kuma, had spent some years growing up in Nairobi, so in addition to the personal connection, the coffees coming out of the Nyeri region are unlike anything else in the world. Deeply fruited, high acidity flavors in these coffees bring to mind a berry cornucopia, blackberries, raspberries, and no shortage to tropical fruits too. Sweet and bright, you wouldn't be faulted for thinking you were drinking fruit juice when you have a mug of Kenyan coffee. Truly a singular origin. 
Years later as Kuma grew, so did our sourcing methods, and 4 years ago Mark travelled to Kenya himself to purchase coffee lots instead of from coffee importers here in the states. 
That was 4 years ago, and each year since he has traveled to the famed Dorman’s Coffees in Nairobi, the hub of all top tier coffees out of Kenya. It's a whirlwind week of cupping hundreds of lots from coops around the Nyeri region, all previously evaluated down to the very best tasting. In Kenya coffees are sorted by size of the bean (called screen size) and the cuppings are primarily only the largest sizes, AA, AB and the occasional Peaberry. 
This past year, we had Mark return to Dorman’s in Nairobi to source 6 more lots on behalf of Kuma, and we are so excited about what we have brought in. Check out our latest Kenyan coffee here