I started my professional life at coffee in February 2012, in what I felt comfortable for knowing how to do it: roasting and cupping it. In August of that year, I began another face for me in this industry: buying & selling it.
In green coffee (raw coffee) when you buy and sell it people know you as a coffee trader. With all due respect for the term and people doing it, I did never feel like a coffee trader and from my first presentation card I did not mark myself as such. Besides that, at Belco from the beginning it was differentiated a buyer from a seller.
One time in Mexico a good friend of mine, when I questioned him where was he buying coffee from, he defined probably at its best what people like me do,: I develop, I do not buy he replied.
And I clearly identified myself on that term. Develop ideas. Develop relations. Develop new qualities of coffees, different in cup yes, but also on other aspects on how it is produced. Bring to the market coffees that are not present in it, are essentially and by definition developed.
Until there it was clear for me.
Then one day in Tanzania, sleeping over in a coffee farm, the farmer said to me: my son is just like you, I am pretty sure he would become a trader when he grows up.
I excused myself saying I was not a trader.
But she said: damn right you are one, you take risks. High risks. Just the fact to be right here right now is a risk. Even if you don’t see it.
And yes, she made me wonder for one time about the term.
I do take risks, that’s for sure. The first specialty coffee I ever contracted (over 10 years ago) was a Brazilian one, and its price was almost the double of a normal Brazilian clean coffee (commodity coffee, not and nothing special about it, but clean after all).
But I think taking risks might probably be more related to my personality. Or that’s what I like to say to myself, to keep developing while I see coffee as an agricultural product instead of just a commodity. I like to “decommodify” coffee as much as I can, so people remember it is actually produced by producers and not just a line of futures in a screen.
PS. Picture taken at the farm in Tanzania where I had this conversation, with the majestic Ngorongoro as background.
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