Representatives from data donor companies gathered for the annual Transaction Guide meeting in June 2019.
Specialty-coffee people around the world are motivated to make change to our corner of the industry, perhaps now more than ever: More and more we’re engaging in open conversations about the coffee price crisis, evaluating the existing coffee business models, considering our appeal to the consumer marketplace, and looking for potential positive solutions to the historically low C-market price for coffee, and low coffee prices overall.
One of the initiatives that we at Cafe Imports have begun participating in this year is the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide, a research study and a reference guide undertaken by Professor Peter Roberts Ph.D. of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, along with longtime coffee professional and past SCA board member Chad Trewick of Reciprocafé.
The Guide is a project that involves collecting and analyzing green-coffee contracts from data donors including importers like us and our peers, as well as roasters around the world: The contracts are anonymized and used to generate tabular information regarding the relationship between country and region of production alongside cup quality, lot size, and green-coffee price. The resulting data provides context for where the specialty-coffee market values certain coffees, allowing both buyers and sellers to be self-reflective about their own pricing and think critically about what these collective numbers mean in comparison to the posted C-market price (which, as of this writing, is just barely over $1 per pound green, pre-differential). It also arms coffee producers with more contextual knowledge about what drives “value” for certain coffees in the marketplace, which creates a greater opportunity for them to advocate for themselves as they negotiate with buyers.
Cafe Imports is a data donor of several thousand data points, which are slated for inclusion in the latest release of the guide for 2019. The data includes longtime buying relationships and coffees of qualities from 80 points to our highest scores in the 90s, representing a spectrum of growing regions and styles of sourcing. We believe that the more robust this data set is, with more donors participating, the better our opportunities will be to use the Guide’s findings as a self-evaluation tool, allowing the industry to push forward and create pricing expectations that will support rather than burden coffee producers around the world.
The Transaction Guide is available for download in English and Spanish at transactionguide.coffee, and we encourage our customers and peers in the industry to consider becoming data donors or financial supporters to this project in order to create an increasingly meaningful tool for everyone in the specialty sector as we face down the problem of unsustainable prices and insecurity within the industry.
Before Cafe Imports became data donors, our editing manager and director of education, Ever Meister, spent many hours speaking with Chad Trewick about the price crisis and his thoughts about the significance of the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide. She had (and still has, she’ll admit) a lot of questions about other actionable items coffee professionals can make to relieve the pressure on producers, and she has expressed her concerns about the unintended consequences this model of transparency might have.
After one of these conversations, she and Chad realized what they were talking about might be useful for other coffee professionals who might have similar questions, so they decided to take their talk to the radio: They recorded a four-episode podcast miniseries called “A Little Podcast about Coffee Price Transparency,” which Meister published to her personal podcast, The Discomfort Zone.
Click below to listen to that conversation—and know that Meister is always willing to hear your thoughts and questions. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.