This just kind of fell into my lap amazingly enough but I've recently come by an opportunity to set up a direct trade with Rwandan coffee farmers. A gentleman who visited my cafe is moving from Rwanda to the United States and has approached me regarding this opportunity. He showed me pictures of him on the farms, brought quite a bit of green and roasted coffee with him, and has even offered to take me there to check out the farms. The coffee itself was great, tropical fruit notes and generally a very complex but flavorful cup; I think it has a lot more potential depending on what roast level complements the coffee best, but I didn't have anymore to test it out.

One question: where do I begin with this entire process?

We do roast some coffees here, but the size of our roaster is way too small to roast the quantity that he would be bringing over. I suppose I could sell the green beans, but then I really don't have any experience distributing green beans (I guess I can just learn as I go). I'm trying to figure out how to determine whether or not this is a great opportunity or otherwise a project that needs far more knowledge or experience than I currently possess. If there are ways, I would like to mitigate any risk and turn it into an opportunity. What should I look out for? How do I determine if this is someone I should go into business with, has anybody come across a similar situation, etc. etc.? I appreciate any advice or suggestions.

Scott

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I have two direct trade relationships. One is with a small family farm in El Salvador and One is from a larger family farm in Brazil. Both of the farms have family reps staying in the Southeast and distributing the coffee by the bag to local roasters.

If he does what my farms do in this sense, he'll have to have a holding facility for the bulk of product he brings. How much bulk would he expect you to buy?

also, if it's good, you could sell to other roasters like myself. That way you could split the bags and ship them out to your micro-roasting network.
All I know is, if he tells you that he needs you to give him $1000 because his cousin is the owner of the farm and in negotiations to secure a loan from the local bank that will be returned to you ten-fold, don't do it.
Ha. No, none of that. I'm trying to tread ground carefully.

Karen Claunch said:
All I know is, if he tells you that he needs you to give him $1000 because his cousin is the owner of the farm and in negotiations to secure a loan from the local bank that will be returned to you ten-fold, don't do it.
Hey! Someone responded! In regards to the amount they expect me to buy, I'm not sure, but I made it clear that I'm not in a position to purchase a lot. Just went up to the Minneapolis Coffee Fest feeling out if anybody else is interested in going in on this, or at the very least if anybody has any insight. The response while I was there was slim, but I definitely considered the approach of selling the beans to other roasters as well. There's a couple things to work out with this whole process before I immerse myself too far though. The first is I'll need to get more samples, and the second is finding a way to finance a potential trip over there (provided the samples are good). I've already had some samples roasted here, but the coffee was a bit too fermented which made it difficult to taste anything beyond that initial impression, and I didn't have any more to work with. Despite this, the coffee definitely had a wonderful, fruity sweetness to it and I think enough potential to look further into. An origin trip would be beneficial, but is currently out of my price range because Rwanda is not easy to get to; I'm currently considering finding sponsors for this. Anyways, thanks for the advice, if you have any more please pass it along.

Scott

Sarah Leanne Barnett said:
I have two direct trade relationships. One is with a small family farm in El Salvador and One is from a larger family farm in Brazil. Both of the farms have family reps staying in the Southeast and distributing the coffee by the bag to local roasters.

If he does what my farms do in this sense, he'll have to have a holding facility for the bulk of product he brings. How much bulk would he expect you to buy?

also, if it's good, you could sell to other roasters like myself. That way you could split the bags and ship them out to your micro-roasting network.
Scott,
If you can get your hands on more samples, we could be interested. We just had two of our DT offerings swept out from under us - something we hear is pretty common. We're trying to find other ways to secure supplies of relationship coffee besides the importers we're working with.

We're probably smaller than you are, but could probably handle a few bags if it's good.

Rich
Hey Rich,

Unfortunately, I haven't had much contact with the person who is moving to the states, and I've been unable to move forward with this. Summer is very slow here. I hate summer. You're probably around the same size as us quite frankly and despite my enthusiasm for doing this, I might have to pass this one up. Business is too slow and I couldn't find the people to join in. If anything develops in the future though I'll definitely let you know.

Scott

Rich Westerfield said:
Scott,
If you can get your hands on more samples, we could be interested. We just had two of our DT offerings swept out from under us - something we hear is pretty common. We're trying to find other ways to secure supplies of relationship coffee besides the importers we're working with.

We're probably smaller than you are, but could probably handle a few bags if it's good.

Rich
if you get samples....i might be able to help with using some quantity if it's a good enough coffee.

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