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How We Buy Green Coffee
Hey I’m Tim, green coffee buyer for Wood St Coffee Roastery.
My career in coffee started in 2015, when I landed a job at Gareth and Clare’s café that had been operating for around a year at Blackhorse Workshop. They were looking for an all-rounder to help with their growing business and I had really got a craving for their flat whites as a street food trader nearby. I had worked in restaurants and pubs that serve coffee but hadn’t yet been introduced to what makes a good one.
Gareth taught me the ropes and instilled in me the importance of a recipe, consistency, and frequent tasting; a kind of coffee geekiness. This led me down a rabbit hole for the next 6 years where I worked at a number of roasteries and managed quality control at a green coffee importer. Since July 2021, I now focus all of my efforts on sourcing green coffee for our roastery.
How do we buy green coffee?
We like to list all of our importing partners to be more transparent about where our coffee comes from; we don’t do direct trade with producers. The majority of roasters purchase green coffee with the help of an importer or exporter who can source, transport, and finance a roaster’s requirements from coffee producing countries around the world.
Green coffee is generally sold and traded in 60kg units or bags. There are some exceptions where the unit size can be either smaller (often 30-35kg) or bigger (69kg or 70kg), depending on the origin of export and the lot size/quality. Before committing to a purchase, we need to roast and cup/taste the coffee to ensure that the quality matches our expectations. These assessments are often made from a 100 gram green sample, which importers will provide free of charge. If the sample tastes good, a contract is made by the importer and signed by the roaster, as an agreement to purchase the coffee.
Why do we sample roast?
When we first started roasting for the cafe, we couldn’t afford a sample roaster and would either rely on the tasting notes of the importer or request samples to be roasted for us. This meant that many of our decisions on coffees we bought were completely dependent on the importer’s ability to accurately describe coffees or roast samples well, which we found to be quite unreliable. We didn’t feel comfortable committing to coffees with varying sample roast quality and looked to find a solution as soon as possible.
IKAWA, a London-based company, came highly recommended to us for their portable and digital sample roaster. We were super impressed with the ease-of-use and repeatability of roast profiles, which can all be controlled from your phone. The Ikawa V3 is well priced, removes human error, and allows for two roasts from one 100gram green coffee sample. It’s also very conveniently portable and takes up no more space than a toaster on your counter space - a no-brainer really.
Roasting samples ourselves has enabled us to consistently repeat a roast profile (recipe) between samples and better compare coffees before committing to buy them. Since we invested in a sample roaster, we have been able to confidently find coffees that we are happy to put our name to.
If you would like to learn more about green coffee, sample roasting, and cupping, we will be holding public cuppings at the roastery soon so keep your eyes peeled for dates.