At Handpicked, sourcing is our speciality. We have over twenty years of experience working directly with coffee farmer organisations and these beautiful, small-lot coffees are our chance to showcase the very best each origin has to offer. We buy directly from origin wherever we can, working closely with the coffee-tasters and farmers themselves to find the most unusual, clean and complex coffees possible. We travel to origin regularly to maintain good relationships and establish new ones, as well as keeping up-to-date with what’s happening on the ground. We speak Spanish, Portuguese and French; so we can pick up the phone at any moment to discuss a sample, a good roast profile or how the weather is affecting the crop.
A lot of companies claim to buy their coffee ‘directly’, but what does that mean? In general, this is understood to mean that an agreement is made between the roaster and the farmer themselves, without using an importer. In some cases, the term can still be used where an importer is used to provide purely logistic assistance, but again, the agreement is made between the roaster and the farmer.
To be able to buy directly, a company must have contacts on the ground at origin, be able to communicate with the exporter in the appropriate language and have an understanding of the dynamics of the coffee market, pricing, contracting and shipping logistics. Most companies are not therefore in a position to buy directly; it’s more costly and time-consuming and many start-ups do not have the resources to travel to origin to find coffees, build relationships and manage the importing of the coffee. In these cases they can buy their coffee through importers who make a selection of coffees to import into a UK or European warehouse. The roaster can then select which coffee they would like to buy from a list of coffees available. The benefit of this method is that it is very straightforward and carries little risk for the roaster. The downside is that it is likely other buyers in the same market will have coffees from the same farms or areas and of course the roaster has no contact with the farmer organisation that grew the coffee itself.
At Handpicked, we buy directly whenever possible, capitalising on our long term relationships with farmer organisations across the world. Sometimes when we would like to offer our subscribers a really unusual coffee from an origin in which we do not currently operate, we will work with trusted importers, relying on their long term relationships to offer us a range of coffees from which we can select our favourites. This way our customers benefit from our relationships at origin to bring in totally unique coffees that no other roaster will have, as well as a wide range of coffees from all sorts of different origins which alone we would not be able to offer. This is a unique position in the industry, of which we are very proud.