Over the last couple of decades, steadily increasing demand for outstanding specialty coffee has benefited many farmers around the world. Those farmers have come to count on buyers consistently paying prices that exceed their cost of production and allow them to have profitable livelihoods. The same farmers often invest a great deal in labor and inputs in their farms months before the harvest, and depend on earning premiums to recoup those high costs after their coffees have shipped.
In our role as importers heavily invested in relationship-based transactions, we are constantly working to satisfy both our suppliers’ and our clients’ needs. The impact of COVID-19 on consumers’ ability to patronize retail cafes and even afford higher-priced micro-lot coffees has been extreme. Many roasters have had to significantly scale back their buying programs, and the higher-priced coffees have generally been the first to go due to reduced consumer demand. This means that many producers of micro-lots have had to sell their harvest to be bulked as a standard grade, earning an average market price but not the premiums needed to cover their cost of producing exceptional quality.
Normally, Atlas facilitates five micro-lot competitions in coffee-growing countries each year, with the goal of incentivizing growers and introducing roasters to farming communities. While COVID-19 has shut down both our ability to travel and consumers’ ability to pay high prices, we want to continue to honor our farmer relationships and are working with them on creative ways to offer limited micro-lots along with traceable blends at a more economical price point for roasters.
2020 would have been our 13th annual “Te Van a Conocer, Compa!” micro-lot competition at COCAFCAL cooperative in Las Capucas, Copan, Honduras. While our visit in March was canceled just weeks before the event was scheduled to take place, the COCAFCAL staff were able to overcome various in-country logistical challenges related to the pandemic and send samples of the competition lots to Atlas in Seattle. We cupped through the submissions, selected the top 5 best coffees and purchased 5 bags of each lot at our usual competition prices, including premiums for their incredible work.
Fun coincidence, the 2nd Place winner Misael Alvarado and 3rd Place winner Iris Alvarado are siblings, and Iris happens to also be an outstanding roaster and cupper as well as a farmer! These lots are certified fair trade and organic, and are available now on our offer list. The limited supply and exceptional quality of these lots would make them perfect for a special holiday offering or seasonal feature.
In addition to the micro-lots, we developed two small exclusive blends from high-scoring competition lots at a premium to the standard price for FTO SHG EP. “Hermanas Alvarado” is comprised of coffees from three sisters who are farmer members of COCAFCAL: Iris, Lourdes and Ana Isabel. Included in the price of this blend is a 20 cent/lb premium to benefit a womens’ organization within Las Capucas called "Flor del Campo." We also prepared a small blend called “Las Capucas Especial,” made up of the remaining volumes available from the top 5 farmers of 2020. These two blends are priced between our standard FTO SHG EP and micro-lots, so are exceptional values considering their quality and traceability.
All of these lots were harvested from some of the highest elevations around Las Capucas so were among the last to be delivered to the coop. The pandemic has caused some logistical delays but we expect these lots to arrive in Seattle in top shape by early October. Please reach out to your rep for more information or samples!