What Happened at The Producer & Roaster Forum 2019? | Perfect Daily Grind

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What happens when you bring together over 300 international coffee producers and roasters in one of the most established coffee-producing countries in the world? An energetic two days of meaningful discussions, new connections, and lots of coffee.

On May 23rd and 24th, the Producer & Roaster Forum took place é at Anacafé’s headquarters in Guatemala City. The event was rebranded from the PDG Micro Coffee Festival due to its growth, and also to better reflect its focus on connecting producers and roasters.

Coffee professionals from around the world came together to discuss the state of the industry and what actions are needed for a sustainable future. Read on to learn more about the Producer & Roaster forum.

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International guests visit Finca Vizcaya in Jalapa with the Dinamica Specialty team. Credit: Fernando Pocasangre

Farm Visits Before The Main Event

For some attendees, the Producer & Roaster Forum was more than a two-day event. Many international visitors stayed on coffee farms throughout Guatemala’s eight producing regions. Hosts prepared individualised programmes for their guests, showing them around the plantations and educating them on the processes behind their coffees.

The six host farms were: San Miguel Single Origin Coffees, Dinamica Specialty, El Platanillo, Cafe Herrera, Truth Trading Company, and Vides 58.

Each offered its guests a unique experience. Guatemala boasts over 360 microclimates, so the conditions on each farm vary wildly. Factors as seemingly small as the way sunlight falls on the plantations are significant enough to affect final cup quality. Farms also differ in how they are structured and in crop diversity. Some producers grow macadamia, chia, and bananas, as well as coffee. Others produce coffee blossom honey. This diversity helps producers minimise risk and provided a fascinating and varied experience for the farm guests.

Jan Cort Hoban (left) and Oscar (right), the manager of Finca Vizcaya, during a farm visit with the Dynamica Specialty team. Credit: Fernando Pocasangre

Lectures & Discussions

Following the farm visits, attendees gathered at Anacafé’s headquarters for the real action: two days of talks, panel discussions, and cuppings.

Notable events on the first day of the forum included a lecture on crop diversification from Mayorga Organics’ Martin Mayorga and a panel discussion about the Australasian perspective on third wave coffee by Tercio Borba (3Brothers Coffee), Alejandro Cadena (Caravela Coffee), and Benji Salim (The Q Coffee Trading).

Highlights of the second day were a panel discussion on the European specialty market with four expert guests and a talk about developing specialty consumption in emerging markets by Kostas Konstantinopoulos from Coffee Island.

There were also events about the emerging third wave market in the Middle East and the shift to specialty in Asia. These talks were often followed by lively Q&A sessions among panelists, speakers, and audience members.

Pero Romero from the Capucas Cooperative in Honduras on stage during a discussion of crop diversity. Credit: Fernando Pocasangre

Cuppings & Stands

Taking place alongside the talks were numerous cuppings, which were open to all attendees. A number of companies, including Caravela and green coffee bean importer Onyx, highlighted coffees from the producers they work with, some of whom they brought to the event.

Onyx’s offerings included an award-winning natural-processed coffee produced by Aurelio Villatoro and championed at the event by his sons, Rodin and Denis Villatoro.

Over cuppings, attendees discussed the state of the coffee industry. Particular attention was given to Guatemala and what actions are needed to make coffee a sustainable and profitable industry here. Conversations turned to low coffee prices, the difficulty in achieving sustainability, the realities of marketing, and profit margins.

Cupping the 21 coffees included in the Blockchain auction. Credit: Fernando Pocasangre

The World’s First Blockchain Coffee Auction

The Producer & Roaster Forum also hosted the world’s first blockchain coffee auction. Blockchain technology is increasingly being used in agriculture and other industries to improve traceability and transparency. Yave hosted the auction and used the event to launch their blockchain-driven product, which provides an online secure framework for the coffee industry to share ledgers and transactions.

“I think it was quite special to have 300 people who are interested in promoting better prices for coffee and are focused on quality,” says Stephane Cuchet, the founder of Soluagro, a manufacturer of jute and hermetic coffee bags. “We’re finally using technology for these causes… The C-market is hitting low-bottom, and something like this brings a lot of hope.”

Tyler Dougherty works in sales for Onyx. He tells me, “Some of the same [producer] families that we’ve worked with year-over-year committed to those coffees [in the auction].

“We have a really tight focus here at Onyx, in order to grow sustainably with the producers who we have a relationship with. We’re happy to bid on coffees especially if they’re from families that we know and have worked with before.”

Learn more in What Does Blockchain Really Offer Coffee Roasters?

Coffee samples prepared for cupping. Credit: Fernando Pocasangre

An Opportunity to Meet Local Producers

One recurring sentiment throughout the event was that attendees appreciated the intimacy and intentionality of the Producer & Roaster Forum. The schedule of events and inclusion of local producers helped create a collaborative environment in which new friendships and professional relationships were forged.

Attendees reported being happy with the efficiency of communication. Samples were traded, contacts made, and business agreed.

Recipients of the Mayorga scholarship and some members of the PDG team. Credit: Fernando Pocasangre

“We really like this kind of event,” says Alejandro Cadena, Co-Founder and CEO of Caravela, which sponsored seven small-scale producers attendance of the event. “One of the things that I don’t like about the coffee industry in general is that it’s rooted in colonialism… unfortunately, it’s the way that coffee trading has always been done. The buyer comes in, selects and picks the best. They have all the market power. Producers are very powerless.

“When you find an event that isn’t just producer-oriented but designed to close that gap between producers and roasters… [We decided to] invite seven producers who we felt could represent their communities and could go back to their communities and talk about what they learned here.”

Adam Cox, who works in sales for Onyx, was happy to see local producers at the event. “One of the most exciting things for me was actually seeing some of our own producers here at this event, representing the coffees that we bring to the world,” he says. “It was really great to engage with them and see their excitement at more attention being brought to Guatemala.”

International attendees learn about the benefits of shade-grown coffees at Finca La Labor, in the heart of Guatemala City. Credit: Fernando Pocasangre

The Producer & Roaster Forum brought together people from across the coffee industry and provided an opportunity for sales and networking. By reducing the information gap and bureaucracy often present in large industry events, the event hopes to help encourage transparency and traceability throughout the supply chain.

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