...for the common good

Roasters United is a collaboration driven by the basic principle of sustainability. It is not the mission of one person or even one company. Rather it is a demonstration that the efforts of many are greater than that of one. With the competitive nature of business set aside, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, Klatch Coffee, and Portola Coffee Lab have joined forces to effect change in coffee growing countries. Quality drives price and improvements rely on both motivation and financial support. Roaster's United is that vehicle for change.

Our mission is to establish sustainable long-term partnerships with coffee farms by instituting incentive- based programs that will increase coffee quality and improve the economic conditions of the farmers based on the following core values:

  • Seeking relationships with specialty coffee farmers who are enthusiastic about improvement and experimentation.
  • Establishing incentive-based, cash reward system that will improve a farm's profitability thus providing more opportunity/potential for farm infrastructure investment.
  • Establishing achievable goals customized to the farmer and upholding our obligations once they are met.
  • Staying up-to-date on best practices in the industry so as to offer ways in which quality can be improved.
  • Supporting the farmers' efforts while mitigating the risks associated with change.
  • Providing opportunity for connecting the U.S. consumer market to the farmers through existing and newly created marketing channels.

Roasters United is part green-sourcing trip and part competition for farmers, so we set up a three-tiered pricing structure. For our inaugural competition in Colombia, our bottom tier blender started above Cup of Excellence cupping scores at 85–86 points paying farm-gate prices 50-percent above Fair Trade. The middle tier, scoring 87–88, was 100-percent over Fair Trade. Our top tier goal was 89+ microlots at two-and-a-half times the Fair Trade price, all based on blind cupping and rewarding the best producers. All payments were farm-gate, which means that on top of the price we paid the growers, we also covered the cost of dry milling and export.

In addition, we paid 3.6 million pesos—about $1,800 USD— in prize money that was divided among the three producers with the top-scoring coffees. The money was earmarked for farm improvements so the producer remains sustainable long-term.

We’ll have opportunities to re-create similar competitions in other countries in 2015, and we can also use Roasters United as a collaborative tool for social change; it is our hope that the entity could be used as a charitable platform in coffee-growing countries. In addition, we may use the entity as a way to improve quality via financial and technical support for individual mills or farming groups in various countries.

Going forward, Roasters United represents an opportunity for us to push sourcing at origin forward in a way that allows us to secure beautiful coffee and to develop sustainable relationships with the people who grow it. We are excited about the opportunity for Roasters United to evolve and grow in the coming years.