When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I think of is coffee. I instantly crave it and it’s the quintessential part of my day that I know I will enjoy. For one of the best moments of my day to go to plan, so must every single factor for the person growing my coffee. Coffee farmers must plan for climate change, diseases, and disasters out of their control. Before coming to Costa Rica, I wasn’t aware of how difficult planning, growing, and selling coffee can be. For a farmer to sell their coffee, they have to meet certain qualifications and accept the market price for their crop. It can be very difficult for small farmers to sell the coffee because of all the resources it takes to grow and transport the coffee. Cooperatives help this issue by combining a bunch of farms and selling their coffee and seemingly even the playing field for small and large producers alike by offering the same price to every farm with the same qualifications.
To produce truly incredible coffee, coffee mills must ensure that their processes are being done correctly and are accurate. When processing the coffee, the higher quality beans will float to the bottom of the tank in the wet processing method. The lower quality supermarket beans will float to the top. This means that the more premium beans can be sold for higher amounts over the lower quality, but that doesn’t mean that nobody wants the lower quality ones. In Costa Rica, many Ticos have grown accustomed to lower quality coffee because that’s what they’ve been drinking for years. For farms, they can sell the higher quality beans to rosters in foreign lands and keep the lower quality beans within the country because the locals don’t mind. For me, I have tried the local coffee and believe it’s amazing. It has changed my perception of what I classify as “low grade” coffee.
For roasters, they have the most control of flavor in the coffee within the supply chain. If they receive low quality coffee, they can combine sugar during the roasting process to caramelize on the outside of the bean to add flavor. Selling this coffee can be easier than one would think. They can use the term “black coffee” and that is acceptable for many and doesn’t raise any alarm. They also just don’t market the coffee as 100% arabica. By pairing the drying and processing methods of the coffee mills with the different roasting temperatures and times, roasters can create some truly amazing coffees. Places like Cafe Britt can sell high quality coffee to tourists and locals who are willing to pay a high premium. They not only sell products, but an experience within their stores that create a culture of their own; selling the brand and the products. For me, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Britt. They wanted to be too artsy in their presentation of the coffee cycle and focused too much on how they can take over the world of tourism. For roasters, creating differently-delicious blends and roasts will make or break their sales. They can also ship their items to people’s homes to never end the fan fair for their products.
As I mentioned before, Cafe Britt has their stores that function with mini cultures. This can be fun for toursits and people in foreign lands, but not necessarily for those who are interested in coffee for what it is: a versatile commodity that can be used for nearly any form of consumption. Britt uses their status and size to insert themselves into hotels and restaurants which will get them far, but for places like local cafes, they seek coffee that is authentic and provides excellent flavor. Selling this coffee to locals and tourists isn’t that hard, due to coffee’s aforementioned versatility. I believe that coffee in itself is a culture and anything that tries to add or change it has a very thin line that it can walk on. Places like Cafe Privilegios sell to the local market and use local coffee. This allows people who grow the coffee to taste their work in a final product. I think it’s important for those who spend their lives growing coffee get to taste high quality products created with their coffee.
Coffee wouldn’t be anything without consumers. The demand for this product is what makes it the second most sought after commodity in the world. Consumers want to be sold coffee products but also an experience. Places like Starbucks create an atmosphere of their own where no cafe is alike. Customers love that uniqueness and crave their products because of the shear size of their menu; limitless possibilities. Customers and their constantly changing desires are what keeps coffee interesting. Coffee can be changed to match their preferences and demand for different types of coffee. Before this trip, I wasn’t sure what people thought of passable coffee. After learning more about the supply chain, growing, distribution, and roasting, I now understand why people have desires for certain brands, roasts, and processing types.