Rumble Coffee Roasters is passionate about creating a sustainable supply chain and giving producers the credit they deserve. To achieve this, Rumble Coffee Roaster Director Joe Molloy believes it’s not just important to educate the barista serving its coffee, but the industry as a whole, from farmer to consumer.
“I don’t think the industry is sustainable the way it is and we need to start talking about these things,” Joe says.
“Coffee is too cheap. The coffee price is the lowest it’s been in decades. You can buy lots of cheap coffee, but it’s not a sustainable move for us [the roaster] or the industry as a whole. We’d like coffee drinkers to be happy to pay more for a cup of coffee [and understand why].”
Earlier this year, the Melbourne-based roaster launched the Transparency Project, an initiative to reveal how much it pays farmers and cooperatives for their coffees.
“When we started [Rumble], we wanted this to be an ethical and sustainable business. The longer that you are in coffee, the more you realise the main thing about sustainability isn’t just what everyone talks about – climate change and things like that – it’s financial sustainability,” Head Roaster Matt Hampton says.
“If you don’t pay the farmer enough money, they won’t grow the coffee. They’re not going to have access to education or knowledge about how to grow better coffee through changing conditions due to climate change.”
Through the Transparency Project, Rumble hopes to teach farmers how much their coffee is actually worth.
“Other growers in the area can see what coffee around them is selling for and see the potential of growing better coffee. Hopefully they can use that to negotiate better prices,” Joe says.
Matt adds that it can assist farmers learn how to improve the quality of their coffee too.
“If you’re a producer in Colombia and all you are producing is below 80-point coffee, the price that you receive is bugger all. You are very beholden to the C market and the people buying your coffee,” he says. “If they start seeing they can get US$3 per pound if they get their coffee up to 84 points, it is a massive drive for them.”
To help consumers understand Rumble’s strategy, it arranges cuppings and other events for its wholesale customers every time it releases a new coffee. The team takes this opportunity to talk with baristas directly about how it sources its coffee. Matt says the challenge, however, is that baristas don’t always have the time to communicate this message to the customer.
“If the café owner takes some interest in it and reminds the baristas to talk about it, that’s how the information will get there,” Matt says.
To make this information more visible to café workers and the public, Rumble includes cards with its coffees containing data on the market price, Fairtrade minimum and the Free on Board (FOB) price it paid for the coffee. FOB is the price paid at origin, not including later costs such as shipping and insurance.
Joe says that while the barista-consumer gap remains an ongoing challenge, he hopes that the Transparency Project, will set a precedent for other roasters to follow.
“The end goal is educating consumers, because we want the coffee drinker to be proud to pay more for coffee and to know why,” Joe says.
“Instead of saying ‘I’m paying $4.50 for this cup of coffee, this is outrageous’ they should be saying ‘I’m paying $5 for this great cup of coffee and know the farmer is getting great money and the staff at the café is getting paid properly’. If we don’t involve the consumer, it is not going to work.”