From Aleco Chigounis, Red Fox Co-Founder and Owner.
When I think back to the very beginning of Red Fox I think of Julia and I working out of my apartment until we could afford rent at a small studio (now the dining room of Soba Ichi) in West Oakland. I think about the stresses of decision making—should we buy this coffee? Can we sell this coffee? Will roasters believe in our brand that had just begun to build its market identity? I think about bootstrapping a business to fruition with extremely limited resources and a miniature credit line.
And then I think about the producers in Inzá at Asorcafe and how they quickly became the foundation for our entire business in the early years.
Asorcafe is the longest standing relationship at Red Fox. I’ve been buying from them far longer than we’ve been in business. They trust me to be frank and I’ve always trusted them. So when the time came to start putting coffee on the books in the summer of 2014 I went straight to Pedregal de Inzá, Cauca to pay them a visit. We had the first container milled at Condor in Popayan, still to this day our milling/shipping partner for all Colombian coffees, and off we went. It was hard to sleep those first nights after knowing that it was all on me to sell an entire container of coffee. But we did. I wrote a newsletter and fired it off to the masses (probably 13 of you or so at the time) and the whole thing sold out in a day. My life was forever changed. We could do the damn thing. We had something to build on.
In what has become the most mercurial coffee marketplace that I’ve seen in my lifetime, Colombia finds itself at the heart of the volatility. La Niña level rainfall has been constant. Port stoppages are regular. The NYC coffee market is a rollercoaster ride. Competition for parchment is as fierce as it is in Peru and Mexico if not even greater. As the largest trade actors in our industry scramble to fill shorts we find producers finally reaping the rewards. But this potentially comes at a cost for quality. Farmers across the country are strip picking cherry from their trees in order to deliver wet, unselected parchment at higher price levels than Red Fox paid prior to the pandemic. Selected, properly processed parchment is coming in at levels twice that of what we paid in 2019.
Trust is more critical than it ever has been as our business needs to assuage as much risk as possible with these tremendously expensive coffees. There is no group in the world that we trust more than Asorcafe to deliver the necessary goods. Fabian Viveros and Maria Flores, both based out of Red Fox’s Oaxaca office, spent 5+ weeks in Colombia this summer selecting through offers from both Inzá and Tablon ensuring that the quality was right.
And it is. Quality is as exceptional as we expect it to be this first semester from Asorcafe. Producer ID and Community lots from Agua Blanca have that buoyant white grape/kiwi acidity we love. The Liscano family and greater La Palmera, Belen, and Palmichal lots have that crisp Fuji apple, red plum and brown sugar character that we love to sip come fall. These coffees are right, to put it simply. The relationship remains right all these years later.
In the heart of volatility, trust, built over years of working together, is key.
|Interested in sourcing coffee with us? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about our work, check out our journal and follow us on Instagram @redfoxcoffeemerchants, Twitter @redfoxcoffee, Spotify, and YouTube.|