When it comes to the price paid for green beans, most roasters’ lips are sealed, but not Rumble Coffee Roasters. The Melbourne-based roaster has launched a new Transparency Project that will release the price paid to the farmer or co-operative for each of its coffees.
Rumble Coffee Roasters’ Director Joe Molloy says the new sourcing model leaves nowhere for the roaster to hide, and for good reason.
“We want to tell our customers what we paid the farmer for a particular coffee. It’s about improving transparency, and educating consumers on the true value of specialty coffee,” Joe says.
“Roasters are often discreet about the price they paid farmers, but sharing this information with consumers is important. You can’t underestimate how smart they are. We have to educate consumers on the difference between one coffee versus another, the bean to cup process, and why we pay what we do. It’s a conversation we need to have now, and keep going if we’re to continue drinking delicious coffee.”
Rumble Coffee Roasters will display the price paid to the farmer, or free on board (FOB) price, the price of the coffee when it reaches ports for export.
Head Roaster Matt Hampton says sometimes farmers produce and process their coffee all the way to export ready (bags loaded in to a container), sometimes they take freshly picked cherries to a wet mill, and sometimes they deliver processed parchment coffee to a dry mill.
“The price the farmer receives depends on how far down the process they are able to go, therefore disclosing the FOB price is the most universally consistent,” he says.
The inspiration for the transparency model was taken from a similar model Coffee Collective in Denmark and Counter Culture in the United States use. Similar to Coffee Collective, Rumble Coffee Roasters will also release a transparency report at the end of each financial year to show all the coffees it bought, and what it paid for them. The first coffee under the model is the Victor Herrera from Colombia, but the Transparency Project will apply to each of Rumble Roasters’ single origin and blends going forward.
For importers and brokers, Rumble Coffee Roasters provides a buying guide explaining their sourcing model. It requires transparency of finances from its trade partners, including prices paid to the farmer or cooperative, which must be at least 25 per cent higher than Fairtrade.
Joe expects his decision to polarise some companies, but for the most part it will help strengthen their relationship with producers and brokers that share the same values.
“We want to work with the same farmers and groups year after year. We’re proud of the coffees we buy. Let’s tell the stories of those producers who work so hard to grow them,” Joe says.
To do that, on each bag of coffee, Rumble Coffee Roasters will produce a folding card with information on the farmer or cooperative the coffee is sourced from.
“There are lots of different terms used to explain direct trade relationships and specialty coffee, but no-one is being held accountable when it comes to coffee prices,” Joe says. “It is a complex situation. Every origin and farm is different, therefore the price we pay will differ, but the bottom line is that farmers aren’t receiving what they need to produce great coffee and we want to do our bit to make that happen.”
Joe says while sustainability in coffee often refers to environmental effects, such as excessive rain and drought that impacts harvest yields, to them, it also means economic sustainability.
“Sometimes the market price of coffee can be lower than what it takes to produce the coffee,” Joe says. “As a café owner, you typically want the best product at the lowest price, but we have to acknowledge that without coffee in the first place, we’d have nothing to offer consumers. We have to look after the welfare of the producers.”
Rumble Coffee has been roasting coffee since 2014. Joe says it will continue to only source beans from great importers with strong relationships at origin, and hopes its Transparency Project model will be one further step to changing the buying culture of coffee – for good, not profit.
“People should be happy to pay good money for a delicious coffee. We’re so lucky. Coffee has never been so good and we want it to get better,” Joe says. “We’re excited for people to see our Transparency Model, and hopefully it will inspire other businesses to do the same thing.”
For more information, visit www.rumblecoffee.com.au
For information on Rumble Coffee and its Transparent Project campaigns, visit www.instagram.com/rumblecoffee/