John Faiber Castillo is a very special coffee for us. No-one else, anywhere, will be roasting and selling this particular coffee. It is very much a Carvetii exclusive and is the result of many months of negotiation between the producer, John Faiber, the exporter, Pergamino, the importer, Mercanta, and ourselves.
It isn’t easy to buy the whole harvest from a farm! Specific microlots yes, but to buy the whole harvest we needed to work with a farm of a moderate size. Larger farms produce more coffee than we need, small and moderate size farms are often associated with a cooperative as they are not large enough to market their product on their own.
Jhon Faiber fits into the latter group. He is a member of the Inzá Cauca cooperative of farmers and up until this year his coffee has been sold under the umbrella of the group. With Jhon’s help we wanted to explore the concept of working uniquely with a single farm over a long term period, exploring ways of perhaps adding value to both sides of the supply chain.
By selling to us Jhon’s coffee and farm is now being recognised in its own right and we decided to pay him more than he would have received as part of the cooperative. It is an initial 5 years agreement to buy the coffee across two harvests, the main crop and the fly crop, so it it likely that Jhon’s coffee will be available more often than some of our other seasonal offerings.
This year we are using Jhon’s coffee in our Solitude Espresso, though in later years it might feature in one of our other blends, or even as a filter option. Agreeing to buy the coffee over the long term is going to expose us to different aspects of the supply chain which our coffee broker generally protects us from. One of these is the seasonal fluctuation in quality which can happen from time to time.
We buy our coffee based on an agreed quality level, and Mercanta protect us from any variations which can happen from time to time. We plan our coffee buying months in advance and before the coffee lands in the UK. Some of our buying decisions are based on historical patterns as we like to reuse farms year on year, while others are based on samples received before the coffee ships. Because we buy from Mercanta, and not the farm, our agreements are based on the quality when it lands in the UK, and this can sometimes be very different to what is expected. We’ve been buying coffee from Finca El Carmen for a couple of years but in 2020 the landed quality was below what was expected, and because the coffee was to be used in our flagship Latitude Espresso, we were not obliged to buy it. In fact Mercanta stepped in and found an alternative coffee of the quality and quantity needed. Essentially Mercanta act as our insurance policy when it comes to quality.
That will not be the case with Jhon Faiber. Our commitment to buy coffee for the next five years is exactly that, a commitment to buy coffee. Any seasonal variations, which are often due to the weather and are out of control of the producer, will likely influence the final quality and flavour of the coffee. This season the coffee has a distinct chocolate profile with a creamy, almond finish. It has an overall smooth character and therefore is the perfect fit for our Solitude Espresso. In future years the coffee might tend towards a fruitier tone, in which case it might well find its way as a component in our Latitude Espresso.
This is as close to buying direct as we have ever come, and it could be argued that it is essentially direct trade as we are the only roaster purchasing from Jhon Faiber; we just use importers and exporters to undertake the negotiations and logistics. It is going to be really exciting to see how this relationship develops over the five years, what we can learn from Jhon and what we can offer in return.
About Jhon Faiber
Jhon Faiber has been surrounded by coffee his whole life. A second-generation coffee farmer, Jhon inherited his farm, Casa Loma, from his parents at a young age, becoming a role model for younger growers across the region. Today, Jhon manages his family farm along with his wife, whilst his young children still attend primary school. To this day, Jhon continues to be a leader in the community around San Jose, encouraging other producers to engage in specialty coffee programs in the region.
As well as managing his farm, Jhon has been key in the implementation of Pergamino’s new sourcing model in the region of Inzá, Cauca, which enables more families than ever before to access higher prices by placing coffee on the specialty market.
Jhon’s farm Casa Loma is situated in the municipality of Inzá which itself is located in the corner of the Department of Cauca, bordering with Tolima and Huila and looking out to the west over the Pacific Ocean. Situated on the “Macizo Colombiano” (the Colombian Plateau), which surrounds the high peaks of Tolima and Huila, the region is an important source of water and wildlife, in addition to being prime coffee growing land.