June 2019 Newsletter
Green coffee prices are at a 12 year low, following a bumper crop
year for Brazil, which is of course the world's biggest coffee
producer. The flow-on effect of this is severe problems for the
other coffee producing countries around the world. In simple terms,
coffee farmers outside Brazil are producing at a loss.
The reason Brazilian farmers can produce so much at such a low cost
is their high level of automation. Their plantations are designed
for mechanical processing from the subsoil up. Irrigation, soil
conditioning and crop spacing are all in place before a tree is
planted, and this whole approach flows through to cultivation,
picking, processing and shipping.
The 25,000,000 coffee farmers outside Brazil are mostly
smallholders, with a few hectares of crop. They are more or less at
the mercy of the commodity coffee market. Which is another problem
in itself. ALL of the "glut" of coffee is commodity coffee, low to
medium quality beans with cupping scores between 70 to 80 points.
This market is at the mercy of Futures Traders operating on the New
York Board of Trade, speculators who determine world prices without
ever touching a green bean.
A small farmer with a crop that is predominantly commodity coffee
may choose to just stop growing coffee and convert to another crop,
or walk off the farm altogether. Throw in the effects of climate
change on crop yields and the extra expenses for fungicides,
pesticides and fertilizers and it's a wonder how many persist.
Farmers who have had the intelligence and resources to enter the
specialty coffee market are generally doing much better. Outside of
Brazil specialty prices have trended upwards rather than falling, as
more roasters try to make an impact with better quality coffees.
Coffees at the high end of the specialty range, 85 points and up,
are getting both more expensive and harder to find as competition
for them increases.
Happily for us the lower prices inside Brazil have spread to some of
the specialty coffees produced outside the mechanised system.
Getting hold of the very best Brazilian coffees is normally an
expensive proposition, not least because of the Cup of Excellence
auctions pushing up the prices. This month's special is a mutant
typica bean first identified in the late 19th century. Its mutant
super powers include a particular smooth, rich favour profile, and a
super large size. It is, of course
My tasting notes read: "Baking cake aroma, absolutely smooth, full
bodied flavour with low to medium acidity, clean, sweet finish."
Maragogype coffee was first discovered near the town of the same
name in the Bahia region of Brazil, and that is where this coffee
comes from. I've been aware of it for over 30 years but have never
been able to get hold of any, until now. After the discovery the
varietal was cultivated in Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatemala and
Mexico, but with the coffee rust epidemic in 2014 all those sources
appear to gone.
This is in fact the first time I've been able to buy a decent
maragogype at any price since early 2015, and once the current price
drop is over, I doubt I'll see it again.
Until next month