Friday, April 17, 2015

Triangulation Cupping Class - Prep talk and Action

Prep talk from Trish Rothgeb for station instructors with  -- I'm one of them.

IWCA Event: Launch of the new IWCA Research Alliance sub-committee

Kick-off meeting of the IWCA Research Alliance at SCAA 2015 - planning a strategy for reducing the gender data gap in coffee

Top: 8 volunteers from around the world meet to discuss IWCA response to Gender Data Gap (not pictured, Mark Inman and Ruth Ann Church).
Bottom (L to R): Daniele Giovannucci (COSA), Mark Inman (Olam and IWCA board member), Marcus Young (Sustainable Harvest/Bloomberg grant program in Rwanda), Adam Wilson (formerly ThriveSupply), Ruth Ann Church (Artisan Coffee Imports), Julenia Maria Lopes da Silva (Brazilian coffee producer), Blanca Castro (ITC consultant/Damos), not pictured, Dr. Norbert Wilson (Auburn University).

April 17, 2015
On April 10 at the SCAA in Seattle, eight volunteers were able to gather to discuss how IWCA might address the Gender Data Gap in coffee -- specifically to decide whether to address the topic: "how many women are there in coffee?"  As co-chair of the IWCA Research and Education Relations Committee, Ruth Ann Church convened the group with the objective to address this "number of women" question for each country where IWCA has a chapter.

Each representative first shared from their own experience what activities they were involved in related to women in coffee. Then, Daniele Giovannucci, as founder of the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA,, provided invaluable insights that the committee welcomed. COSA has been managing international data collection that has scientific integrity from coffee producers around the world for over 5 years and Daniele brings a career of experience from the United Nations and other multi-lateral organizations.  And yet, even he admits, his data is inadequate to estimate the number of women in coffee in the countries where COSA has worked. This fact alone tells volumes about how challenging this effort is, why it has not been done yet, and why it will take some time to change this situation.

Outcomes from the meeting can be summarized as follows:
1. Estimates not "exact numbers". The experience around the table confirmed that when discussing numbers of coffee households, numbers of men and women in coffee -- every group today is using estimates, and sometimes quite poor ones. So we should not expect to achieve exact numbers for women. Rather, our objective is to determine "credible estimates."

2. An IWCA program - The 1 hour discussion outlined three plausible, but different, directions the committee might go.
A. Ask In-country Institutions - ask the in-country institutions that already collect coffee-related data, such as agricultural extension agencies, universities, research centers, producer associations (like FNC), etc. Ask them for their best estimates of the number of women in coffee in their country.
B. Write Case Studies -- address the issue through case studies on a country-by-country basis. This would be more of a story-telling approach. By outlining the difficulty in understanding the "number of women" in coffee in a particular country, the broader situation and cultural context of women and their role in coffee would also be described.
C. Partner with an NGO - groups like the gender group at the United Nations or a university center, such as the William Davidson Institute were mentioned.

The committee's leadership will review the options and begin moving forward with one. Look for future updates here and on the IWCA website:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Economics of Quality and Price: Analysis of CoE Data

Dr. Norbert Wilson and Adam Wilson deliver an engaging presentation at SCAA Seattle
April 11, 2015
Two researchers with a great "how we met" story discussed their interesting project to dissect Cup of Excellence auction data from 7 countries and 8 years. Dr. Norbert Wilson, an Agribusiness professor at Auburn University and Adam Wilson, a coffee professional who recently moved to Washington state from Alabama, shared the findings from their paper published in the June 2014 issue of Agricultural Economics. This published paper caught my attention so much because of its economics approach to price, without looking to evaluate certification in any way. So I proposed and organized the panel, and then had the great pleasure to lead it!

This duo met at an Auburn cafe named Mama Mocha's while Adam was a barista there. Norbert, being naturally curious, welcomed the conversations he'd have with Adam while ordering his daily cup of  'joe. One thing lead to another until Adam was no longer going to be a math teacher. Instead, he was pursuing a masters degree in agribusiness at Auburn University and delving deep into the statistical complexities of quality and price in coffee.
You can learn a lot from your barista.

Talk to your customers, they may open new opportunities.

Coffee shops are fantastic classrooms.

Wilson and Wilson created a hedonic model to predict coffee price -- a practice well established in the wine industry, and already applied to analyze coffee using CoE auction data three prior papers. The model's structure is basically:

Price = X0 + X1Quality + X2Reputation+ X2Buyer
To me, the most interesting question this model answers is "how much more will a buyer pay for an additional point of the CoE quality score?"  Wilson and Wilson were able to re-confirm the earlier research that showed a strongly statistically significant relationship between quality and price. Their work even corrected for a technical error in previous work. Wilson and Wilson used a statistical technique that accounts for the fact that CoE scores are actually truncated at 87 - the CoE competition eliminates all coffees with scores < 87.

We also learned that 
  • North American buyers, more than Asians or Nordic buyers, on average pay higher prices for high quality coffees.  
  • Reputation variables like the region of origin and the rank in the CoE competition also significantly impact price.
  • Reputation of variety, however, is not found to be significant in this data set. A shocking "non-result" in the minds of many coffee connoisseurs. There were re-assuring explanations, however, such as the fact that these coffees are already considered an elite group of coffees when the coffees are scored.
The sensory quality of the coffee determines price. 

Increases in the quality increase price.

The effect of quality on price is buyer-region specific.

The single greatest impact on price comes from winning first place in the competition.

The price of a winning coffee varies by the buyer’s country.

Recommendations for further research – more quantitative work on price; non CoE datasets.

Ruth Ann Church (blog author and panel moderator), Adam Wilson, Norbert Wilson
There was a good sized and actively interested audience -- just not in the front seats.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Back in Detroit - with fine Spartans billboard

April 13, 2015:
Back in Detroit after red-eye flight from Seattle. Ironically, this is the billboard on the skybridge from terminal to parking structure (see photo). MSU ad featuring my advisor, Dan Clay, in Rwanda. (See YouTube video: "Rwanda rebirth" for more of the story)

At SCAA, the new Roast Magazine issue was distributed with my feature article on Rwanda and Burundi, "A New Focus on Farm-Level Economics" which uses the same great photo from Jim Peck, Michigan State University.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sustainability in Practice Panels at SCAA2015

Parting sustainability shots:

Kim Ionescu, Counter Culture: "You're never too small."

Tracy Ging, S&D Coffee: "There's more than one way up the mountain."

Kelly Goodejohn, Starbucks: "Understand motivations - head or heart."

Shauna Mohr, Volcafe: "Nourish your optimism."

Sarah Beaubien, Farmer Brothers: "You can only manage what you measure."

Mark Stell: "Going to the extreme - measuring how employees get to work and business travel. Measuring waste and becoming waste neutral in the next 5 years is the goal."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Seattle Decaf Cafe Crawl

Stumptown 616 East Pine Street

Apr. 9, 2015 - Seattle decaf cafe crawl  - ordered decaf macchiato at 4 of Seattle's finest

1st stop: Stumptown at 616 Pine st.  - As soon as I stepped it it felt like "welcome to Seattle." There were eclectic young people behind the counter and at the tables - noticeably few with laptops. I love the back-to-the-future turntable behind the bar pumping out the tunes. (Can't remember if the Portland store had that. I know Four Barrell in San Fran, does.) Loved the floor-to-ceiling art and coffee beans behind the counter.

Barista staff was welcoming and generous (threw in a decaf macciato no cost after chatting enough to learn I was in town for the SCAA.) But alas, what a disappointment the decaf was. The taste was there -- I give them that -- a touch of berry, sweetness, and really lovely. But especially at Stumptown and especially in Seattle during SCAA -- I would have guessed they would have some transparency on the origin. But no - zippo, zero. All the barista knew is that it's from Trappers Creek (so Stumptown doesn't roast their decaf??) and it's "probably a Latin American blend."

Stumptown 616 East Pine Street

Value chain data points at Stumptown: Rwandan Huye Mountain, $17.50; decaf "Trappers Creek" $15.50.

Stop #2: Bauhaus Coffee & Books, 414 East Pine St.
Bauhaus 414 East Pine Street
Stop #3: Starbucks Reserve & Roastery
Starbucks Reserve Roastery 1124 Pike Street

My experience here truly blew me away. Hats off, Starbucks. If anyone in this industry was asked to create a "no expense spared -- all out the best you can do -- coffee experience place" this is probably what they would build. Claire took my order on a mobile device and introduced me to Coulter Smith, General Manager of the reserve location. Coulter has been with Starbucks 12 years and seemed justifiably delighted with the success of the operation he was managing. My decaf macchiato was served beautifully to me on a personal tray by Aaron. Tasted lovely, with the citrus high notes I would expect from a Costa Rica. Unbelievably -- Starbucks ends up taking the prize for the most transparency on their decaf!! Of the four cafes I visited that morning, only Starbucks served a single-origin decaf where they were proud to share the cooperative name. You've come a long way, baby. Seems like yesterday I was writing complaints about Starbucks baristas on the Ohio turnpike telling me they don't serve decaf after noon -- and with a "by the way don't come back" kind of attitude.

Pipes bring the coffee from see-through silos to the roaster. Just like the Roasting Plant in downtown Detroit - which by the way was the brainchild of an ex-Starbucks exec. Guess he DID show them - and now they've copied him in a big way.

At the "scooping bar" (same concept as a deli counter), I order 1 bag (12 oz) of the Bella Corte Costa Rica Decaf beans and James writes out the label for my freshly packaged Starbucks Reserve. He tells me that since it was roasted on 4/6 and today is 4/9 he recommends waiting a few more days before brewing. He tells customers 5 -7 days off roast is the ideal degassing. Amazing -- Starbucks advising customers on the freshness of the roast. And no -- the beans were not burnt.
Caffe Vita 1005 East Pike Street
Stop #4: Caffe Vita - 1005 East Pike St.

Decaf macchiato photo shows it a little 'past prime' because I got distracted by the 2 Ochoa brewers they have behind the counter for cold brew called "Kyoto". It takes 12 hours to brew. Barista kindly gave me a free taste. Colombian with bright citrus notes and smooth nutty finish. The decaf macchiato was also delicious. Nutty with sweet dark chocolate notes.

I got a sneak peek in the back at the roastery where the roaster was giving a talk to some guests -- possibly an SCAA tour? There were at least three roasters in sight -- each one a different size.

Caffe Vita appears to be a beloved favorite in Seattle. I ended up going on the recommendation of my brother who lives in Snohomish, about 20 miles north. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

See you in Seattle - Artisan at SCAA

Looking forward to the great gathering of passionate, innovative, game-changer coffee people in Seattle next week! 
If you will be there, too, I hope we cross paths. Here are a few things to look for:

Learn new stuff! Attend one of the two panel lectures I am moderating:
Cost to Produce vs. Price: Producers Narrow Margins
Saturday, Apr. 11, 9:00 - 10:15am
The Conference Center (adjacent to the expo hall bldg.) - Room 304
  • Presenter 1: Mark Lundy, International Center for Tropical Agriculture, CIAT
  • Presenter 2: Saurin Nanavati, COSA (Committee on Sustainability Assessment)
  • Presenter 3: Ben Carlson, Long Miles Coffee
  • Moderator: Ruth Ann Church, Artisan Coffee Imports
Economics of Quality & Price: Insights From CoE Auction Data
Saturday, Apr. 11, 10:30 - 11:45am
The Conference Center (adjacent to the expo hall bldg.) - Room 202
  • Presenter 1: Norbert Wilson, Auburn University
  • Presenter 2: Adam Wilson, Thrive Supply
  • Moderator: Ruth Ann Church, Artisan Coffee Imports
Roast Magazine -- Early Release of the May/June edition
Pg. 25, you'll find an article I wrote: "A New Focus on Farm-Level Economics" which reviews Rwanda and Burundi and research related to potato taste defect in those countries.

IWCA Breakfast - Saturday, April 11, 7:30 - 9:00am

With the theme: Inspiring Change: Make it Happen, this breakfast event will recognize, acknowledge, and celebrate the work and achievements of women in all aspects of the supply chain within the coffee industry. (Ticketed - $60)
I have just joined as a volunteer board member and co-chair of the Research & Education Relations committee, so I'm "all in"!

Roasters Guild Party
Saturday, Apr. 11, 7pm - 1am -- Gameworks (World Sports Grille), 1511 7th Avenue
If you haven't been before, go! This is a great mixer and fun way to finish off the conference. I will look for you.

Hope to see you in Seattle!