Quality Control: From Farm to Cup
As simple of a concept as it may be, quality control is one of coffee supply chaińs most important components. Over the years, coffee professionals have been working to ensure the best quality controls and standards; not only establishing what is good and what is bad but actually weighing what’s the best option to predict and replicate the best results across the value chain. While great advances have been made over the years, we are continuously looking for new innovative ways to preserve coffee quality from farm to cup and we’re here to tell you a little about how we do things.
We think it’s worth starting off by saying that quality starts at the farm. While we are not producers ourselves, we have extremely close relationships with our producing partners. Of course, being based in Guatemala helps us stay in closer contact, allowing us to truly understand their social, economic, and production contexts. Guatemala is such a diverse country that it’s hard to understand all the variables that play a role in a farm’s operations; so we definitely have the upper hand in that sense! Obviously, geographic convenience paired with amazing partners allows us to provide our roasting partners with full transparency behind our coffees.
From the get-go, our partners at origin have generations of coffee-producing knowledge. The first step to optimize coffee quality requires them to know what varieties and processes are better suited to their microclimatic conditions and terroir. Pair that with day-to-day activities such as shade control, pruning, stumping, etc, and harvest season activities like manual picking for optimal ripeness and close monitoring of coffees during processing, and you’ll end up with an inevitably delicious coffee. Needless to say, while this is a long, crucial and sensitive process, it’s only the first quality control checkpoint in our coffee’s supply chain.
From the fields, coffees head off to be processed, either through the natural method, honey method, washed method, or one of the many experimental methods such as anaerobic fermentation. If production wasn’t enough, coffee requires extra attention during processing and drying to ensure that humidity levels are homogenous, while preventing it from being over-dried, as this will result in more brittle beans subject to damage during milling and roasting. The dry mill is the last stage of the production process and the place where most of the coffee will rest prior to shipping it to your roastery.
What’s in the dry mill?
Once the dried coffee cherries reach the mill, it’s time to haul! Hauling is the process in which all remaining skin or “parchment” is removed from the bean in preparation for export. However, coffee doesn’t go straight from the hauler to the sacks! Between milling and storing your coffee, we have to sort your coffee to ensure you get only the highest quality beans! First comes a group of coffee professionals, often a group of exceptional women with keen eyes, which identifies discolored and defective beans, and manually removes them. Once the manual sorting has been completed, your coffee is now passed through several machines that sort the beans by density and size, removes any residue from drying patios and raised beds, and separates the best beans from the lower quality ones.
Once both the manual and mechanic sorting concludes, we go on to storing. In terms of quality control, storing is probably the stage where we have the least amount of control (on a daily basis, that is!) However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t take every single detail and variable into account before packing and storing your coffee.
How do you control quality during storage?
As you probably already know, as time passes, the quality of green coffee degrades; and there are countless reasons why this may be the case. Is it just coffee getting old? Well, the short answer is yes. But the real answer is a lot more complex. If green coffee is exposed to the elements, it degrades and ages faster, turning from a deep green to a paler hue. This may be due to a few things: humidity, temperature, oxygen, and pests. Let’s remember that green coffee is pretty much a sponge and will absorb everything it’s exposed to, so keeping it protected from the environment is crucial to preserve its original quality.
So, what can we do with so many variables with the potential of degrading the quality of our coffees? Well, having reliable partners both at origin and destination storage facilities is definitely a plus (shout out to Colombian Spirits for their amazing work!) Additionally, we use Ecotact’s multi-layer hermetic storage bags, which prevent exposure to oxygen, odors, and contaminants while maintaining coffee flavors and aromas fresh to optimize longevity!
Quality is more than just a tasty coffee
Up to this point, it’s clear to us that a delicious, flavorful, aromatic coffee is extremely important to us. However, we are firm believers that quality goes beyond sensorial excellence. Meaningful relationships with our producing partners, warehousing partners, and clients are key; a high-quality coffee is one that includes, supports, and unites the entire coffee value chain from farm to cup. High-quality coffee is one that has a low carbon footprint (which is why we switched out all our jute bags for upcycled denim bags. Check out our last blog to learn more.)
Of course, none of that would be possible without our team here at Meet Los Amigos, ensuring that coffee quality remains intact throughout the journey.
Actually, we’re lucky to be celebrating two new members of the Meet Los Amigos Fam: Denise, who will be helping us with all the logistics, and White Flag Coffee and Michael who will be handling all the sales in Europe, so you’ll probably be seeing and hearing a lot from them!
Drop by our Instagram and say hi to them and as always, if you have any questions feel free to reach out!