How we work with people

The thing we cherish most about our sourcing program at 49th is that we work with many of the same producers each year. There have been spectacular harvests from our producer partners, and some not as spectacular, but still tasty. That’s totally ok, it’s just reality.

While there are many ways to cultivate a strong supply chain as a specialty roaster, what we’ve embraced is facilitating positive changes in a producer’s quality by listening, providing feedback, then coming up with solutions together. Being there as a buyer, rather than outright telling them what to do, is a nicer way to work for everyone, and frankly, there is more opportunity for us to pay a better price for more and more of their harvest.  

Other than the obvious (telling someone what to do isn’t polite), this way of measuring quality, and discovering how to change together, creates more lasting positive change, and solidifies partnerships we have around the world with growers.

Martir Fernandez is a producer we’ve been working with for over 5 years. He’s one of the hardest working people I know anywhere, and strives for higher and higher quality of his crop each year. He also produces some of the largest summer squash I’ve seen in my life. Ratatouille will be on the agenda next year. 

The video above documents a change we undertook together. 49th pre-financed an additional dryer this past February for this upcoming harvest of 2015. Martir and I also measured moisture and water activity for an entire drying cycle last year during the harvest of 2014. Martir and I noticed while measuring the status quo last year, the temperature in the drier from 11am-3pm climbed to an inferno of 63 degrees celsius, while the evening would bring temperatures as low as 10 degrees. This disparity, coupled with the relative humidity swings, encouraged condensation in the mornings. This sort of thing, in our experience, is likely to mean a shorter shelf life. After seeing this data through measuring an entire drying cycle, we ultimately decided on a solution that wouldn't mean an upheaval of what Martir had already invested in. The dryers stayed built as is, but we added a nylon mesh cover that would block out some of the sun. The effect that this had, especially during the hottest part of the day, was astounding. The temperatures now read at most 29 degrees celsius. That, coupled, with keeping the doors open during the day, has meant for nicer drying conditions for the coffee, and frankly, for the people working inside the dryer as well.  This process allowed both of us to be on the same page with the importance of shade and normalizing temperatures between the hot sun, and the cool nights.

This particular lot will be arriving in a container with the rest of our early harvest Honduras lots in July. 

Thanks Martir :)

-Laura