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Working Towards Transparency: The Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide

October 25, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

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If you care about being able to buy a diversified range of specialty coffees from unique origins, you need to care about how much coffee costs.

Specifically, you need to care about what the people who grow and pick it are able to earn. Without a dramatic restructuring of the way coffee is priced worldwide, the supply we rely on will look increasingly homogenous, as mass-production and mechanical harvesting becomes the only tenable path. The industry has recently reawakened to these realities and a movement is afoot to better understand what buyers are truly willing to pay for quality. One such initiative – and perhaps you’ve heard of it – is the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide. Join Max Nicholas-Fulmer, Jeri Idso, Mayra Orellana-Powell, Peter W. Roberts, Luiz Saldanha, and Chad Trewick for an in-depth discussion of what the Guide is, what it isn’t, what it aims to accomplish, and what promises it doesn’t make.

About the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide:

As the New York ‘C’ price continues to fluctuate near $1 per green pound, many people are talking about the need to buffer the women and men who grow specialty coffees from price references that come from the commodity market. This requires another set of benchmarks more relevant for the people who grow, sell, and buy specialty coffee. The Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide relies on an expanding group of Data Donors – roasters, importers, exporters, and producers – who donate contract data covering specialty coffee transactions from recent harvests. Researchers at Emory University use this information to prepare and distribute annual Transaction Guides that report on the distributions of green specialty coffee prices from recent harvests. These annual reports provide relevant information from the anonymized contract data provided by Data Donors. A revised version of the 2018 Guide was recently released offering new insights to the market. http://www.transactionguide.coffee


We also recently released a podcast all about Price Transparency and the way forward which is a great primer to this event. You can listen to it here, on Apple Podcasts. In this episode, Richard Sandlin sits with Katie Cargulio, Max Nicholas-Fulmer, & Chris Kornman to discuss The Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide, The Pledge, and more. This is a continuation of our blog and the larger discussion on making the trade more equitable for producers.


About the Presenters

Chad Trewick:

After more than two decades working on the roaster side in the Specialty Coffee industry as a director of coffee, Trewick formed Reciprocafé, LLC a consultancy prioritizing mutual benefit in coffee value stream support. Trewick has also spent time gaining a deeper understanding of the financial side of the coffee market. Chad’s goal is to broaden industry understanding of supply end challenges. His focus is to maintain access to green coffee as a raw material while strengthening the entire value chain encouraging scalable mutually beneficial relationships thereby ending the one-sidedness of the value generation too often seen in the coffee value stream. The Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide, a leading source of information about prices being paid for specialty coffees, is one of his current projects. Chad is a long time volunteer at SCA, and a past board member. He drives the industry toward transparency and underscores, as a threat to specialty coffee’s existence, financial challenges in countries where coffee is grown.

Peter W. Roberts:

Peter is Professor of Organization & Management at Emory University and founding Academic Director of Social Enterprise at Goizueta. His research interests relate to how the behavior and performance of organizations evolve over time. Recently, he directs his interests in entrepreneurship and organizational performance toward topics in the field of social enterprise. His current projects focus on social entrepreneurs and accelerators, on micro-business development, and on the global specialty coffee industry. Over the past decade, he has also been spearheading Social Enterprise at Goizueta, which focuses on making markets work for more people, in more places, in more ways. This led to the establishment of the global Entrepreneurship Database Program, the Start:ME accelerator program, and the Transparent Trade Coffee and Grounds for Empowerment programs.

Luiz Saldanha:

Luiz Saldanha’s grandfather was the cupper of the famous Lageado Farm in the Botucatu region of Brazil. He dedicated himself to hard work, but never dreamed of having a grandson dedicate his life to the coffee chain. In 2004 Luiz inherited from his godfather (Dr Paulo Saldanha) the challenge to rebuild the reputation of a century-old coffee farm, matching its rich history to a future of quality and sustainability. Dr Paulo was a great entrepreneur and taught the necessity of “always making things better”.

In 2015, with the dream of developing the specialty relationship coffee chain, Luiz had the privilege to Co-found Capricornio. Since the beginning, Luiz embraced the mantra of “thinking differently” about Brazilian coffee. Capricornio continues to drive a paradigm shift related to perspectives about Brazilian coffee, and what it can be worth to the farmers who produce it. An intimate knowledge of their network of supplying farms and the qualities they can offer supports Capricornio’s ability to pay producers more than they would receive for business as usual. Their extensive knowledge about processing and blending ensure consistency at volume when required by the client, while celebrating all that is unique and different to offer as exotic micro lots.

After 15 years of hard work, using a holistic vision for agricultural practices and value chain development, Fazenda California is part of the select group of CoE International Winner farms, and Norte Pioneiro do Paraná region achieved its Geographical Indication. The state that used to be the biggest coffee producer in the World before the Frost of 1975 can highlight the coffee industry once again.

Mayra Orellana-Powell:

Mayra Orellana-Powell founded Catracha Coffee Company in 2010 to connect her coffee growing community with roasters. Nearly ten years later, Catracha Coffee has gained momentum with more than 80 producers and 20 roasters working together on sustainable relationships and a profit-sharing model, which has consistently paid at least $2.00 per pound directly to producers. Mayra started working for Royal Coffee as the marketing and outreach director in 2012. Her primary task at Royal is to gather information from origin and create marketing content for the coffees that Royal purchases. She has worked remotely from Honduras since 2016 where she experiences daily life of producers and their families. She has also traveled extensively throughout the growing regions of the Americas. Her passion is to tell the story of every producer in a dignified way that reflects the true value of their coffee.

Jeri Idso

Jeri Idso is a Senior Trader and Sales Team leader for Royal Coffee in Emeryville, CA. She was born and raised near the town of Milford, in Northwest Iowa, where her family had been in farming since emigrating from various parts of Germany and Scandinavia. Jeri has been working in specialty coffee since 1995, when she worked as a Barista and was a member of the HTC Collective in Minneapolis MN. She relocated to Oakland in 1999, and has worked for Royal for just under 20 years. In addition to coffee, Jeri is obsessed with ecology, urban gardening, permaculture, and environmental issues related to small scale food production. She currently lives in West Oakland with her Chihuahua, June. Jeri attended University Of Minnesota at Mankato. When she’s not trading coffee you can find Jeri hiking with the dogs, gardening in her backyard, and exploring Oakland.

Max Nicholas-Fulmer:

Max Fulmer has coffee in his blood. His father, grandfather, and multiple cousins have all been in the industry in various capacities. Max grew up traveling to source, taking trips to Kenya at age 5, Ethiopia and Yemen at 7, and making yearly pilgrimages with his parents Bob and Helen to Oaxaca, Mexico. From age 14, he spent summers working at Royal Coffee’s Oakland warehouse unloading coffee containers and delivering coffee to Royal’s Bay Area customers with Jesse Herrera, who runs the warehouse today.

Later, Max worked as a barista at what was Royal’s Oakland café, and is now Cole Coffee. Around 2001, Max apprenticed under master roaster Patrick Kennedy doing sample roasting, cupping, and QC. Patrick has run Royal’s Quality Control department and has done sample roasting for the lab’s twice-daily cuppings since 1994. In 2005, Max worked at Copia Trading on the floor of the NY Board of Trade, in the open outcry ring where coffee futures and options were traded.

After graduating college with a degree in International Relations in 2006, he moved back to Oakland and began working at Royal Coffee full time in green coffee sales. Max has expanded Royal’s presence, adding warehouse spaces in Seattle, Madison, Houston, and Shanghai. Since 2016 he has been Royal’s CEO. As a buyer, Max focuses primarily on the coffees of East Africa, Colombia, and Indonesia, with a special emphasis on his first love: Ethiopia. Max has helped pioneer several sourcing projects in East Africa including Royal’s Red Cherry program with the Shilcho and Othaya communities in Sidama, Ethiopia and Nyeri, Kenya respectively. He continues to speak to his roaster clients large and small and cups coffee every single day. In March 2019, under Max’s leadership, Royal opened perhaps its most ambitious project to date: The Crown: Royal Coffee Lab & Tasting Room.

About Capricornio Coffee:

Since 2014 Capricornio has embraced a mantra of “thinking differently” about Brazilian coffee. They continue to drive toward a paradigm shift related to perspectives about Brazilian coffee and what it can be worth to the farmers who produce it. An intimate knowledge of their network of supplying farms and the qualities they can offer supports Capricornio’s ability to pay producers more than they would receive for business as usual. And their extensive quality knowledge about processing and blending ensure consistency at volume when required by the client as well as the celebration of all that is unique and different that can be offered to the market as exotic micro lots.

About Grounds for Health:

Since 1996, Grounds for Health has worked in Latin America and Africa to address one of the most significant disparities in women’s health globally. Cervical cancer is a nearly 100% treatable disease, and yet in the next 15 years it is expected to kill six million women – 90% of whom will live in developing countries. We specialize in working in communities that represent the base of global supply chains such as coffee, tea, cut flowers and cocoa. We are a mission-driven, international non-profit organization, born out of and with enduring ties to the coffee industry, and focused on increasing coverage of cervical cancer prevention services.

Visiting the Crown:

We cannot wait to host you in our Tasting Room, at the Cupping Table or for a Coffee Course. One of the special things about The Crown is that we are located in the heart of Uptown Oakland – a veritable paradise for coffee lovers & foodies alike. However, parking is limited in the area, and we highly encourage public transportation or ride sharing. Below are some resources to help you plan your visit. For more information on visiting The Crown, please click here: https://royalcoffee.com/visiting-the-crown/



The Crown: Royal Coffee Lab & Tasting Room
2523 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612 United States
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