NEWS & STORIES
What Mercanta is all about.
Filed under News and Stories
This article was sent to me by one of the team members at Mercanta, and I thought it was a very good summation of what Mercanta is all about.
'Since its foundation in 1996, Mercanta The Coffee Hunters has believed in the relationship model of coffee sourcing. Our objective is not to 'make poverty history'. Our objective is empowerment of coffee growers who lack market access by supplying fine coffee – and the tools to appreciate it – to a growing audience of discerning buyers. This approach requires an entirely different understanding of coffee as a unique agricultural product, and not as a commodity. In this respect we have invested heavily in education and training for growers, roasters, and end users alike.
The path to market is complex. Coffee is not grown by one type of producer; farms can be tiny or large; growers may be grouped together as an association or co-op; the grower my own his own mill or rely upon a private mill or producer/exporter. One size does not fit all. Provenance is crucial but the path from farm to port is different in almost every coffee growing country.
Once coffee is appreciated for its unique character and attributes, it becomes 'de-commoditised'. Remuneration to growers must be linked to the quality they produce or the continuing cycle of over-production of bulk commodity grade coffee will continue indefinitely.
Our philosophy is enduring, and has been in place long before trade, aid, provenance and sustainability became fashionable buzzwords. Our philosophy also works in all market conditions. Many worthy causes focus on one part of the coffee supply chain (price to growers, environment, flora and fauna, social justice, children's welfare, etc.) but Mercanta's approach starts with the coffee itself. We have a world class laboratory and training centre located in Greater London. Once a fine coffee has been identified then we should sensibly pay the producer/grower a premium price to secure this and possibly future production. We are not a charity – growers of any product would much prefer a price agreed for the inherent quality of that product and not a hand out – but we seek to pay sustainable and/or premium prices.
In each case, quality, consistency, reliability, price to grower and provenance are intrinsically linked.
At Mercanta, we aim to provide a better alternative price than is often available in the internal or external markets. This price, however, must reflect the quality of the coffee itself.
You can only do this if you 'cup' (or taste) coffees every day as we do, and further train hundreds of people in producing and importing countries to do the same. The jute sack and green/unroasted beans often look the same so without these skills growers and consumers are at the mercy of the latest trend or claim. Some coffee roasters are doing excellent work, others quite simply are not. Stand in any (UK) supermarket aisle and watch a shopper in front of the coffee section – rarely is an informed choice made. Given coffee's generic popularity growth, those roasters who are doing exceptional work are sometimes indistinguishable from those who don't care. The consumer must be the arbiter. Badges and labels do not offer a long-term solution to better coffee policy, but insisting your coffee supplier is fully equipped with comprehensive coffee knowledge will go a long way to creating a better understanding together with a virtuous circle of better-off coffee growers and better served discerning coffee drinkers.
Our philosophy will never fit onto the back of a package or be compressed into a 30 second sound-bite. Professional coffee sourcing is too complex to be dumbed down. However, as each day passes a growing band of discerning coffee drinkers and quality coffee growers are becoming more informed and better advised.
This will provide the momentum for the Quiet Revolution in the coffee business that, in turn, will assist coffee growers and their communities who focus on quality and path to market. Mercanta's holistic approach seeks to help growers help themselves. There are thousands of bags of fine coffee currently being sold anonymously in internal markets because nobody has the means or interest to sort the wheat from the chaff. Supply is not the problem – demand, education, information, partnership, transparency and path to market are the issues.
Be more demanding – ask more of your supplier. Yes, it is only coffee, but it does matter. Growers do not want charity – they want people to pay more for quality produce and to leave the rubbish unsold. This does not happen now – why go to the extra effort if your neighbour gets the same price for adding no value?
Mercanta The Coffee Hunters is a professional, ethical sourcing operation run by experts. We are a conduit, a mechanism to get these fine coffees to market. We stock an immense array of some of the finest coffees in the world in the UK (and export worldwide). There is a difference – your customers will be able to tell. Buy better coffee and your sales will grow faster than those who don't.'
Mercanta The Coffee Hunters
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