How local coffee roasters are changing the way we see and drink coffee.
These terms are thrown around nowadays and have become something expected with disregard for the meaning and the efforts gone through to guarantee them. Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world behind oil. We have meetings over it, use it to start our day and even have it in the occasional martini. Coffee has become a staple in the daily routine but most of us don’t question where it comes from, how it go to your local cafe or how much of the price of your flat white makes its way to the farmer. The newest addition to the coffee roasting scene in the Eurobodalla are the guys at Guerrilla Roasters.
Mathew Hatcher and Lewis McKenzie founded Guerrilla Roasters in 2018 with the intention of providing specialty coffee the coast hasn’t seen before. Working with green bean buyers, Project Origin (subsidiary of ONA Coffee), they decided from the outset they would purchase only offers that were 84.5pts+, were fully traceable and were from farms that worked only sustainable practices.
Mathew stated, “it’s important that farmers in third world countries are being paid for what we are enjoying on this end. Coffee quality is the highest it has ever been, yet the farmers are receiving the lowest price ever. The commodity system of purchasing coffee has to change or farmers will continue to suffer and over time there will be a shortage. "It’s important to understand the difference between commodity and specialty though. This is the reason we work with the farmers we do. They are paid a fair price and the price goes higher depending on the grading of the bean. "When you purchase cheap capsules, instant coffee or even a coffee from a cafe that is buying commodity grade roasted coffee, unfortunately you are contributing to the problem. The price they are paid (referred to as the “C” price) is determined by the New York Stock Exchange before the crop is even harvested. Currently the “C” price for coffee is lower than the cost of production. "Farmers are already beginning to chop down their coffee crop to plant higher margin items. As a business only purchasing higher quality green beans, of course it eats into our bottom line more but we have to think about the long term when it comes to our supply and we want everyone along the supply chain to benefit.”
Lewis told The Beagle, “early on I mentioned to Mathew that I wanted to get closer to the source and own a coffee farm one day. About a week later, he came in to the roastery with a big smile saying “We have a farm!” and 6 months later we were on a plane flying to Colombia to visit our farm. What we found there was the same issue facing farmers all over the world: farmers producing a mixed bag of quality and selling to a centralised co-op.
Hand sorting at Finca El Encanto in Manzanares, Colombia. Techniques like this will bring the best out of every harvest. We are working closely with our farm to create better sorting.
"What we set out to do was work direct with the farmer, implement quality standards and offer a much higher price than they are currently getting. We have also created an experimental section on the farm to grow more premium varietals and experiment with fermentation and drying methods. This small crop will be purchased at a rate of 700% higher than the usual rate. "We have secured a coffee laboratory on the ground in Colombia for our farmer to have access to, and support from, year round and an importer who will handle all the logistics of getting the coffee to us. Our first harvest should be arriving early 2020.
Meet Ramiro. He is the owner of Finca El Encanto in Manzanares, Colombia "Going forward we will be using coffee from our farm in all our blends in some percentage. The entire shire can rest assured when buying a coffee made by Guerrilla Roasters beans, the farmer is being looked after.”
The guys at Guerrilla have big plans for expansion as they see the larger they get here, the more of an impact they can have on the ground in Colombia and in other coffee producing nations. They have a trip to Ethiopia planned for February and are returning to their farm in Colombia in late May. Mathew said “each year we hope to take along staff from cafes that stock our beans, as well as any locals truly interested in seeing the process of farm to cup. We have 4 spots available for a 10 day trip so, if anyone is interested please get in contact. You’ll travel along side us to pick, process and dry the coffee in Colombia, then roast and drink the coffee in Australia! We see this as an educational experience where you’ll have the time of your life. Colombia blew us away with its beauty and the way the town of Manzanares opened its arms to us.”
One final thing is the name, Guerrilla Roasters. Mathew explains, “It has nothing to do with Guerilla Bay and the spelling is even slightly different. Our name came from the idea of guerrillas and guerrilla warfare. Lewis and I have been in the industry for over 20 years combined and we had a very good idea of the type of company we wanted to build and the quality that we wanted to bring to the South Coast. "We always knew it would be an uphill battle against big players in the industry, and a struggle to succeed while always sticking to our values. We have been very lucky to work with amazing cafe owners, distributors and customers who see our passion and can taste the quality.”
For any more info on Guerrilla Roasters, the Colombian Project or their coffee, visit their website at www.guerrillaroasters.com or on facebook and instagram @guerrillaroasters.