Newsletter: Colombia Harvest Update & Delivery Schedule

Colombia buying got off to a rocky start this season. In July and August, a countrywide truckers strike blocked goods from reaching the ports of Buenaventura, Cartagena, and Santa Marta. We typically get a container or two afloat before Labor Day, but this season our first containers left Colombia in the second half of September.

But the strike ended and the congestion at the ports cleared up, and we have been steadily shipping fresh coffees from Inza, Narino, and Huila to both coasts. The second semester harvest is soon coming to a close, which means we have a flotilla of containers en route and clearing customs, with fresh arrivals available spot in both The Annex & Continental Terminals. Our last containers will ship in early February before we break until next season.

Our regional focus continues to be the same: we work with longstanding relationships in Inza de Cauca and Northern Narino through the first semester, and in Inza and Southern Huila through the second semester.

LOT CONSTRUCTION & OUR OFFERINGS

Before getting into the Inza harvest report, I have something else on my mind that I haven’t articulated well enough yet. ‘Lot Construction’ is what we spend the majority of our time doing, both while on the road and back at the ranch in Berkeley. We cup everything. We construct each and every one of our Colombian lots from the ground up. Often, and this is always the case in Inza, this means cupping every tiny 30kg, 50kg, and 100kg lot that a single farmer delivers, in order to build larger lots, not just by individual producer and their family, but by village and/or greater region as well. This takes tremendous time and effort: between filtering at origin and in our lab in the bay, we cup thousands of lots in a season. We’ll cup a single producer’s lots as many as a dozen times over between summer and mid-winter.

If you’re looking at the Colombia lots on our website offering list, you’ll notice the 9 bags from Eibar Rojas and the 6 bags from Nancy Munoz. You’ll also notice a 14 bag La Milagrosa lot and a 35 bag lot from San Rafael. The same meticulous detail went into the construction of each of these offerings. In some ways, I consider the 10, 20, 30+ bag bulk lots to be the greater masterpieces. Red can be a bold, beautiful color but layering green and yellow with it amplifies the volume. In the same way, a combination of coffees from several neighbors can make for a more nuanced, complex coffee. The sum being greater than its individual parts, you know? 240 kg from Norbey Sancho + 156 kg from Alejandro Oidor + 360 kg from Jose Amir Medina + 256 kg from Luz Mila Mazabuel = 11 bags of the most delicious coffee you’ve dug into all winter. We often combine coffees from these fine folks to make our San Jose offerings. It’s one of my all time favorites.

We think it’s important to share this detail with you. It’s one of the core virtues that makes Red Fox unique. And, honestly, with the sheer volume of work we put in every fall between Colombia and Peru, I’m surprised that neither the sample roaster nor Joel has melted yet. Let’s call it a miracle.

INZA DE CAUCA

Our longest standing relationship of all. Here’s a snippet from last season’s update:

“I’ve spent a good bit of past decade of my coffee sourcing life in Pedregal de Inza, Cauca. I first started collaborating with the Asorcafe group here in 2006, and my relationship with these farmers has been nothing short of a thorough education in coffee buying. A few of these folks have become the examples I reference all over the world, not only as models for how to produce quality coffee, but for how to turn a small farm into a sustainable business as well. In so many ways the coffee producers of Inza were my inspiration and motivation for creating Red Fox.

Inza is a municipality that straddles the border of Huila and Cauca. On clear days, you can see straight up to the Nevado de Huila. It’s a few hours drive from both Popayan and La Plata in either direction, but it’s not easily accessible. The famous Paez river runs east through the valley below, connecting Cauca and Huila. Elevation is phenomenal here, with very little coffee grown below 1750 masl and great portion of it growing at 1900 masl and above. Caturra has held strong as the varietal of choice, with a surprising amount of Bourbon and Typica also found in the area. Castillo and Colombia are found in small doses, but are not major players in the varietal landscape of the region.”

Going into a bit more geographical detail, we buy coffees from three main towns, doubling as counties, within the Inza municipality: Pedregal, San Antonio, and the town of Inza itself. Yes, that would be Inza de Inza. So when you see village lots from us like San Jose, that’s actually San Jose de Pedregal. La Palmera also lies within Pedregal. La Milagrosa de Inza and Alto de Topa de Pedregal are other examples.

Each village is often composed of just a handful of families. And there aren’t more than 20-30 hectares planted with coffee in each village either. These village lots represent something very specific and repeatable. When volume allows, we bulk by family or individual producer.

The 2017 season has been one of the most successful we’ve had in Inza. Competition is fierce for top lots, but Red Fox continues to offer the best price for 86+ scoring coffees. That’s been the case for many years. We’ve also expanded our reach into the neighboring communities around the towns of Pedregal and Inza. Between the first and second semester harvests, we’ve sourced roughly 600 bags of the very best coffee the greater region of Inza has to offer. We culminated the season with our first ever Red Fox Quality Competition, which we held in Pedregal just last month. These coffees will be available in Continental come early March. In the meantime, we have absolutely gorgeous producer-specific and village-specific lots from Inza available in NJ and stripping into CA.

To me there are no more complete coffees in all of Latin America than the top lots from Inza. By complete I mean they don’t lack in any area. Aromatics are heavy, with characters ranging from floral honey and jasmine to ripe peach to dark sugars; acidity is clean, running the gamut from subtle to expansive; mouthfeel is supple and viscous, reminiscent of apple juice with even a honeyed texture; and last but not least, sweetness is supreme. I could write endlessly about the muscovado, raw honey, and kiwi-like tones in these coffees, but you get the drift by now.

Heading into the first semester 2017 harvest, we will be offering the opportunity for roasters to establish relationships with specific villages and producing families in Inza. Stay tuned for more information on that come spring. Don’t hesitate to reach out now if this is of interest to you. Purchasing from the 2016 harvest puts you in pole position for the coming season.

DELIVERY SCHEDULE

The first Inza container has landed and stripped into Continental Terminals (NJ). These coffees were delivered to our export partner’s warehouse in Pitalito before being moved to Armenia for dry milling and packaging. As always, all coffees are packaged in GrainPro-lined jute bags.

Inza lots will be available in The Annex (CA) before month’s end. Both coasts will have reinforcements stripping into the warehouses next month, and again in March for a final time.

Please make sure to copy Adam, Joel, Julia and Chloe (info@redfoxcoffeemerchants.com) with your interest and sample requests. I’m in Ethiopia for the remainder of the month and may be unreachable at times.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Aleco

Newsletter: Red Fox Secure Source

Forward Booking Coffee with Red Fox

Starting in 2017, we’d like to offer more of our roaster clients the opportunity to secure the best possible coffees by booking forward. We will be available to meet via phone or skype to review the annual harvest cycle and help interested roasters get a clear picture of what to expect. Planning ahead like this will ensure our roasters access to top-tier quality and leverage their relationship with Red Fox to streamline their buying. We call this Secure Source.

Why do this?

Here are a few of the benefits to booking forward with Red Fox:

More security in accessing the freshest, best quality coffees
Access to better pricing based on an estimated annual volume
Advanced single origin menu and blend component planning
More exclusivity in your market
Potential travel to origin to meet producers in the Red Fox supply chain
A clear perspective on harvest and shipment timing throughout the year
Here at Red Fox, we have been sourcing top quality green coffee for a long time. Our investment and experience at origin is bar none, and our quality control standards are as strict as you’ll find.

We believe Red Fox can be a strong partner to your roasting business, and we want to get to know you better. Working together, we hope to support and grow the strength and capacity your business, as well as the quality of the coffees you buy. It’s unlikely we’ll ever be a one-stop shop for all your green coffee needs. We don’t work in every origin or region, but we are committed to finding the best coffees in the handful of origins we do operate in. We remained focused on specific regions and communities that are underrepresented in the marketplace. And we seek to work in places that have the highest potential to produce extraordinary quality. We use our collective years of experience and our relationships at origin to get lots separated, milled, and shipped quickly and in optimal condition. Delivering these coffees from origin to our customers takes the majority of our time, investment, and planning. This is Red Fox’s role and where we feel we add the most value — we deliver some of the world’s finest coffees to you, in top condition, so you don’t have to worry about it.

Our spot offerings will continue to be top-shelf, showcasing single-producer coffees, separated washing station outturns, and bulk lots in their peak quality from the best regions we work in. Those coffees will be there for you when you need them. But going deeper and planning together has many advantages. Knowing three, six, nine, or even twelve months in advance about the origins you’ll be buying green coffee from helps us dial in quality and pricing to customize our sourcing efforts to your roasting needs. The Red Fox trading team has decades of collective experience planning and forecasting green coffee needs and setting menus for roasting operations, so we are well equipped to bring some ideas to the table.

How does it work?

First, we will schedule time to meet with you, either in person or over the phone, to go over your usage and needs, so that we can create an initial plan of action and framework for contracts. Ideally, we cup coffees together to calibrate our quality expectations. We can do this at our Berkeley lab, or Red Fox can come to you.
Using Red Fox’s harvest calendar for specific harvest/shipment/delivery timelines, we set a target plan for one or multiple origins. Forward booking with Red Fox will give you better pricing and access to coffees before they become available as spot offerings.
Together we come up with an agreed upon “spread,” or drawdown of coffee, over a specific period of time. This initial agreement or “target source plan” is non-binding and will set only price parameters.
A second conversation will be scheduled in which we will draft up forward contracts. Lot specifics and pricing will be finalized at the time of booking, usually 2 to 4 months ahead of coffee delivery.
Pre-ship samples are then forwarded directly to you for your approval. We can also send arrival samples upon request, although contracts will be subject to pre-shipment approval in most cases.
Starting in January, what origins can we book forward for the year ahead?

In order of harvest and delivery timeline:

Ethiopia >> Kenya >> Guatemala >> Colombia >> Rwanda >> Peru

EAST AFRICA
Ethiopia
harvest: Nov-Jan
shipment: Feb/Mar-Jun
delivery/menu usage: Apr/May-Dec

Kenya
harvest: Oct-Jan
shipment: Feb/Mar – May
delivery/menu usage: May-Dec

Rwanda
harvest: Mar-Jul
shipment: Aug-Oct
delivery/menu usage: Nov-Apr

SOUTH AMERICA
Colombia
harvest: May-Jan
shipment: Jul-Feb
delivery/menu usage: Sep-Jun

Ecuador
harvest: May-Sep
shipment: Oct-Nov
delivery/menu usage: Dec-May

Peru
harvest: May-Oct
shipment: Sep-Dec
delivery/menu usage: Nov-May

Bolivia
harvest: May-Sep
shipment: Sep-Nov
delivery/menu usage: Nov-May

NORTH & CENTRAL AMERICA
Mexico
harvest: Dec-Feb
shipment: Mar-May
delivery/menu usage: May-Nov

Guatemala
harvest: Dec-Mar
shipment: Mar-Jun
delivery/menu usage: May-Dec

If you have interest in continuing the conversation with us about forward booking, please get in touch at info@redfoxcoffeemerchants.com

Cheers and Happy New Year,

Red Fox Coffee Merchants