Sourcing--that’s what we call it.
But for something that gives us such a buzz, this coffee community buzzword is kind of zzz-inducing.
Source--what does that even mean?
Source, the way we use it, means “to procure,” “to go get,” “to bring back a few burlap sacks full of the good stuff.”
And that’s where the word sort of falls flat.
For us at CREMA (and for many others in specialty coffee), coffee is about so much more than that. Our origin trips are not Viking-style invasions of coffee-producing countries. The entirety of our coffee-buying process is driven by relationships.
Our relationships are long-distance ones, by necessity. Nashville, as it turns out, is a terrible place to grow coffee. It has something to do with us not being a rainforest. (We’ve got Jack White and the Titans and all these awesome restaurants though can’t you people be happy?!)
So, for us, sourcing means to go to the source--the homes and farms and families of our friends and partners in this grand coffee experiment. It means getting to know Rigoberto and his family in Colombia. It means journeying to Costa Rica and El Salvador, eager to build new relationships.
To truly source coffee--to get to the source of things--you have to walk the soil, the nutrient-soaked ground from which the coffee trees spring up. You have to shake the hands of the farmers who planted these crops, perhaps share a meal together, passing plates with friends whose entire life’s work is to care for these wild and unique little fruit-beans.
Coffee is such a delicate crop. Any number of things could derail a coffee plant’s path to your cup: weather patterns (like rainfall or wind), geological factors (richness of soil), or human handling (like washing, shipping, roasting, or brewing). Because of coffee’s intricacy, farmers take great pains to nurture and develop their prized fruit. Our farmers live and work at their farms, harvesting, sorting, and cupping their hard-earned crops by hand.
This week, CREMA is going to the source of things. Co-owner Ben Lehman will accompany Winston Harrison and Sean Stewart, our heads of Roasting and Green Buying, to partnering farms in Costa Rica and El Salvador. The group will be visiting friends new and old, as well as meeting and developing new relationships with farmers in the two countries. The mission of this adventure is to continue to personally invest in the act of relational-buying, and to explore, taste, and, well, source a fresh round of amazing coffees for the new year.
Source, then, is a word that needs some context. By itself, its just more coffee jargon. In the hill-farms of Costa Rica and El Salvador, it’s what’s CREMA is all about.
Be on the lookout for more in-depth education on coffee sourcing (perhaps we’ll even come up with a better word for it), including a deep dive into our own specific method of coffee sourcing.