I went to Bella Vista to organize with the farmers for next year's harvest. They have been anxious about getting paid more, and what I have told them is that the only way we can pay them more is if their quality improves.
So, I held a coffee tasting. We tried:
Bella Vista of mixed quality from last year.
Bella Vista of only ripe fruit from this year.
Think Blend with only coffees from other countries.
Think Blend with coffees from other countries and the ripe coffee from Bella Vista.
The 13 producers, some of their kids and wives, and personnel from the exporting organization CASFA made the trek down from the mountains to the Beneficio to taste their own coffee the way you and I drink it every day.
I held the tasting in the same way we do at our stores: a clever dripper of each coffee, made the same way each time. As we went through the tasting, I would ask questions about what the farmers were tasting and feeling in their mouths. For the most part, their responses were simple and accurate. They said things like "sweeter" or "drier," "smoother," "more body." they kept asking for more of the coffees that they liked the best.
In the end, without any persuasion on my part, the coffee that all 13 producers liked the best was Think Blend with their coffee in it. They basically felt that their coffee on its own was too intense, and they noticed how the Blend without their coffee was too acidic and fruity. Think Blend with Bella Vista was a thick, sweet, fruity, well-balanced cup of coffee. After the tasting, when I offered to give them coffee to take home , I ended up giving all 13 socios bags of Think Blend Bella Vista edition.
After that, the socios really understood why I have been pushing them to pick only ripe coffee. Just as we spend a lot of time learning about the origins of our coffee, these farmers now have a template from which they can understand where their coffee goes, how people like you drink it and why you like it the way it is.
We organized a contract for next year in which the producers will receive a 33% raise to pick only the ripest fruit off the tree. They were not resistant as they were the first time I told them we needed ripe fruit, they made no mention of how it will be harder work. They see the results of their harder work. Now, instead of selling coffee to an invisible market, the compañeros of Bella Vista know exactly what their coffee is like in the end - and they are excited to be businessmen who truly care about their product.