April 2003 - Steve Aronson
Coffee prices on the worldwide commodity markets are extremely low. In fact, we are seeing the lowest levels in real terms since World War II! The simplest reason is that too much coffee is being grown, but most explanations are never that simple.
The surplus of coffee that we are currently experiencing is being created by overabundant new production in Vietnam. Last year alone, Vietnam produced over 10% of the world’s coffee - surpassing Colombia as the number two producer. In addition, Brazil had a record crop this year and has been expanding its production yearly.
This oversupply of coffee is particularly significant because it’s flooding the marketplace with cheaper, lower quality coffee. The coffee being grown in Vietnam is primarily Robusta coffee, which is substantially less expensive due to less labor-intensive growing requirements and lower elevations. Robusta coffee beans are, by definition, a much lower grade than fine Arabica beans, which are grown at higher altitudes and more carefully harvested and processed. This surplus of less expensive coffee has tempted some roasters to lower their quality standards by increasing the quantity of Robusta coffee in their blends, thereby lowering their overall costs.
A fine coffee’s quality is very obvious in the cup, which is increasing the demand for pure Arabica coffee. Unfortunately, though, production is decreasing. While Café Britt customers remain loyal to our excellent, carefully produced coffees, we at Café Britt have been doing our best to support the growers who work with us to deliver our fine Arabica coffee.
Besides our own production, we buy from co-ops and independent grower-millers. By signing three-year contracts with our growers at good prices (substantially above present market), we are able to help them maintain their production of fine coffees and, at the same time, pay fair wages to their workers. The fact that we’re in Costa Rica and have direct, long standing relationships with these growers makes our coffee purchasing much more efficient than the normal channels. We’re able to pay better prices directly to the growers, because the coffee does not have to pass through so many different middlemen. The result of all this is more income for the growers and reasonable prices for the excellent Café Britt coffee you purchase.
At Café Britt we feel we are part of a family, which creates a strong bond with our growers and you, our Coffee Lover. We are committed to supplying the finest coffee to you at the best price possible, while assuring that our suppliers are well compensated for their efforts in producing the exceptional product that we are proud to call Café Britt.
On behalf of the Costa Rican growers, thank you for helping change the way the world drinks coffee.