Lots of Cajuelas

On our third day in Costa Rica, we continued our study of the coffee industry with visits to Doka and Café Britt. As I will discuss, both of these companies are very successful despite playing different roles in the coffee industry. Doka is involved in the planting and harvesting of the coffee fruit, while Café Britt is more concerned with the marketing and selling of the finished coffee product.

Surprisingly, Ticos do not consume very much Britt coffee. In my opinion, despite the coffee being some of the best, I believe that Britt specifically advertises to tourists and this may turn locals away. Besides, Café Britt is a travel retail company more than it is a coffee company nowadays.

As a matter of fact, coffee isn’t even Café Britt’s most popular product. They do sell coffee, but they also sell chocolate and are heavily involved in the tourist retail industry. To illustrate this, Café Britt changed its name to simply Britt so that they could more easily sell retail products. Coffee is not Britt’s most popular product in part because they do not grow their own coffee beans. Instead, they purchase beans from a grower – like Doka, for example – and they roast, package, advertise, and sell it. A lot of the efforts of Britt go into marketing and figuring out how to convince people to buy their products in different countries, not just coffee. As opposed to a multinational company such as McDonalds that brings mainly its same products to different countries, Britt tailors its products to the country or city that it is located in, meaning its products vary from store to store. I like this approach must better because it feels less imposing on the other countries’ cultures. Instead, it gives tourist what they want in gifts and souvenirs while also providing them with gourmet Costa Rican coffee and chocolates.

There are several factors that contribute to Café Britt’s success and the concept of being a multi-local is just one of them. When selecting locations for their stores, Britt makes sure to select locations that may not have well established chains already. This is why they do not have any locations in the United States anymore. Airports were filled with brands that we are already happy with, like Starbucks. Instead, they find openings in airports that just starting to allow private companies to have stores, allowing Britt to be competitive from the start. These countries include Argentina and Brazil. Another practice of Britt’s is to send employees to live near a prospective location and get to know the culture to better tailor products to the culture. For example, the store in Peru is heavily influenced by the red and white colors of the Peruvian flag, but this is obviously not the case in Mexico where the shelves of the store draw inspiration from the great pyramids. Selling the brand is just as important as selling the product. While I love that Café Britt tailors its products to each country, I still am not a fan of all of the tourist shops that I inevitably run into. I enjoy an authentic store much more. That being said, each and every product in Britt stores is exclusive and their merchandise is definitely higher quality than any tourist shop I have ever been in.

As mentioned, Doka is different than Britt because they are mainly a coffee plantation where coffee is planted, harvested, and prepared to be shipped out as a bean, not sold as a finished product. Because of this, Doka must manage thousands of workers during the harvesting season and is responsible for designing a sustainable farming system. Additionally, Doka takes it upon themselves to research new hybrids that could produce better coffee in the future because they have the resources to do so. Another key difference between the two coffee companies is the way they pay their workers. Doka only pays their workers two dollars per cajuela – the unit of coffee measurement which equates to about 28 pounds of beans. This amount can typically be picked from 2 coffee plants. In an average day during harvest season, around 20 dollars is made by each employee, but it depends on how fast they pick. This amount is less than the three dollars per cajuela that Britt pays their pickers, but Britt does not provide housing. This is a significant difference in management, but still both companies are extremely successful, and hundreds of workers return year after year at both companies.

Another difference between the companies is their shipping system. Doka uses a service similar to FedEx with which they request crates and trucks for a specific day and use this equipment for a particular shipment, then return it. Britt, on the other hand, is able to control some of its own shipping. It has turned its old Miami store into a warehouse for shipping to the United States where it can ship coffee anywhere within two days of an online order. Neither method is better in my opinion but is simply a product of the resources available by each company. It would not be smart for Doka to have its own shipping if it cannot afford it.

My experiences at both of these companies has exposed me to what goes on behind the scenes of any large-scale operation. It has showed me that there are several important decisions that must be made, and there is not a universal system for every company to follow when managing employees and shipping materials. The coffee-making process is very tiresome, and Costa Ricans focus on getting only the best beans which means even more work. Sorry, mom, but it looks like I’m becoming a coffee snob.





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