MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2016
Apart from visiting UTZ headquarters, in Amsterdam I also had the opportunity to meet quite a few people involved with the coffee scene and one of them was Lennart Clerkx, from This Side Up, which is a small specialty coffee sourcing company that connects smallholder growers and roasters in a short and fair value chain. Their mission is to make coffee trade transparent and equal, and through open dialogue, constantly increase coffee quality.
It's funny how hard it is to stick to formal questions when interviewing another person that is also enthusiastic about the Coffee World because you end up talking about many other experiences related to the field.
Here are some of the questions I asked him:
What do you think about all the coffee certifications (Fairtrade, Rainforest, etc)?
I think they are a first step. When I start getting involved with a cooperative that is, for example, Rainforest or Organic Certified I know that something is being done. Not that it is the ideal but it is a start. Also, when a coop. is Fairtrade certified they can sell their mainstream coffee for a better price but this is no guarantee for good quality coffee.
Do you consider any of them more related to quality?
Usually when coops are Rainforest and/or organic certified they have better producing methods that can bring quality.
What is your perception of Direct Trade? Is it a way to assure quality and sustainability?
Nowadays, most of the people really involved with Direct Trade are trying to learn and better understand how they can help improve production since for now DT’s focus is on Labor Laws and better price payments, which consequently leads to incentives for producers to improve quality; It is a considerable social impact in farmers livelihoods.
How do you choose producers and intermediaries?
Each of them I met in a different way, nowadays it feels much more like I am visiting friends when I go to the producing countries than I am doing business.
What happens when a producer does not reach your quality standards in a specific crop? How does the relationship work?
I always buy their specialty coffee from them; that is the essence of my business. The producers need to stablish this relationship and have the security that I will buy the coffee from them so they will invest on production and quality improvements. I don’t look at market prices; I talk to the producers to see how much they spent and calculate the fairest price.
What do you consider the most important to increase sustainability in the coffee supply chain?
The incentive to better quality production and the increase of demand for high quality coffees are essential. I also think it is very important to do “branding” with the coffee farms in order to bring recognition for producers and incentivize producing regions to increase quality.
It is also important to find solutions to big environmental problems such as water pollution generated by coffee processing. Aside from water-saving pulpers, an example of a creative solution is the increasing demand for Cascara, but much more needs to be done.
How can you measure impacts?
This is very specific for every region but every year when I come back to a producer farm and see they are investing and upgrading the property that is a sign of improvement.
In general the interview was very cool example of a one of the new private initiatives going on. I hope we can keep exchanging information!
ItCafé began as a Coffee brand and transformed into a forum for sharing research and experiences related to coffee and especially sustainability in the Coffee Supply Chain.