Has Coffee Been Reduced To Just An Energy Drink?

A couple of months ago, Time dedicated some lines to what the article writer thinks is a younger generation trend: preference of energy drinks over coffee.

She even mentions a research that seems to point to the fact (?) that under-25ers are becoming “coffee-resistant” and it seems that this is mainly due to the coffee bitterness.

The study was conducted by a reputable research firm and we must assume that the population samples and sizes were scientifically determined.

In my modest opinion, the study is biased in the fact that it’s considering coffee an “energy drink”, i.e. something that people must drink simply to stay awake and alert. True, many people drink coffee for this purpose only, in fact the coffee guzzlers only drink coffee as a crutch; however, more people each day are learning to taste coffee, to differentiate origins and to demand better quality.

Ergo, we might –for simplification’s sake- divide the coffee market between the two Gs: Guzzlers vs. Gourmet.

Guzzlers are the drinkers that grab a large paper or plastic cup filled to the brim with a concoction that may contain some coffee of undesignated origin, rush to work and, after a few gulps of the cold, tasteless drink, end up throwing it away. This depiction could be a bit dramatic, but it defines the group. As a matter of fact, Starbucks is now offering a 31-oz cup, which is an exaggeration with the sole purpose of increasing sales volume. Right, this segment demands large volumes of coffee and it is mostly composed of people who already work, so they are above the 25-year limit. In order to sustain the production of standard quality coffee in some countries, this segment is needed and must be pampered by those interested.

Gourmet drinkers, on the other hand, select their coffee and then enjoy sipping and savoring what they deem a delightful experience. These drinkers demand quality, aroma and flavor; they taste different origins, different varietals, exchange opinions. They refuse to drink anything that is poured into paper or plastic cups by the gallon. These customers try a diversity of methods to roast, grind and brew their coffee. They make a lower percentage of the sales volume, but they are the driving force of better quality coffee. Certainly, all the members of the ROASTe community fall into this category of coffee connoisseurs.

Should we, as producers and marketers of selected coffee be worried about the trend enunciated?

Those of us involved in improving quality are totally focused on these facts.

Quality begins in the field by selecting varieties, by hand-harvesting the best beans, by processing the beans with TLC and after that by selecting the very best beans for export.

Then it moves to the roaster, who must also use lots of TLC so the coffee reaches a peak level of body, aroma and flavor. Here, we must leave out the “intense” roasting that some people demand, where intense equals burning the coffee to disguise bad characteristics.

It is up to us marketers to convince more people that coffee is not simply an energy drink, but an enjoyable, pleasurable and satisfying habit. We must devise strategies to entice more people to taste good coffee by removing the jitter connotation and by promoting a coffee culture.

We can compare these coffee drinking habits to wine drinking: sipping and enjoying a good wine vs. getting drunk. Both markets are being served.

By Gazy Kattan | gazy@clearpathcoffee.com  

A Key Differentiating Element in The Clearpath Coffee's Coffee

At Clearpath we offer a great diversity of coffees with the intention of giving our clients the opportunity to compare different “terroirs” (environmental differentiations) that are expressed in a unique way in each of the Colombian coffee growing regions and that lend each coffee tree a unique seal that make it different from any other in the world.

The differences found between coffees from the Andean mountains versus the ones from the Mesoamerican corridor might seem expected and predictable. Or between one from the volcanic regions of Central America like Boquete – Panama versus one from the Yungas region in Bolivia. But is not only the terroir what makes the difference.  

Coffee storage and warehousing have a huge effect on quality, and Clearpath has a unique way of storing beans before shipping.  We use the same warehouse throughout the country...the coffee tree!

The average coffee consumers don’t know the true meaning of fresh coffee, because producing countries haven’t made an effort to deliver a fresh product.

Consumers are used to drinking coffee around 8 to 12 months post-harvest. Why is this the standard? Coffee has traditionally been a commodity market, with quota regulations requiring each producer country to store part of their current harvest to sell the following year. As a result, one year became a time-frame for the coffee to still be considered “fresh,” regardless of taste.

Luckily this model has changed

Today, a single batch of coffee can have a personal story, a first and last name, a single region and even a specific farm and grower family proud of the quality of their unique product.

It’s sad to discover a coffee in a remote mountain in Colombia, cup it and give a qualification of 90 points, and then after 6 months find very little left of the original taste. Starting around 4 months post-harvest, a coffee starts to rapidly lose its two main virtues: acidity and aroma. These essential qualities, so valued at time of cupping and purchase, are suddenly nowhere to be found.

About 4 to 6 months after the harvest, a series of chemical reactions, set off by the Polifenoxidase enzyme, take place.  The fast deterioration of the grain at this stage and repercussions in the cup are scientifically measurable.

We at Clearpath Coffee know this and that’s why we do not store our harvested coffee!

We negotiate coffee sales directly with the growers while the beans are still in the trees. To guarantee the farmer’s satisfaction and commitment to our contract, we pay the best possible premium based on quality.

The Clearpath coffee warehouse are the coffee trees in each estate. And the warranty that makes this possible is the relatioship we have with the growers and the great price we pay to the farmer!

In order to prevent the loss of shelf life and quality, we at Clearpath suggest to our clients to ship microlots by air. And do all possible to ship our beans about 1 month after harvest. In this way the real potential and freshness of the coffee can explode at your roasting facility and cup.

Clearpath Coffee’s concept is not only based on origins… it is freshness taken to the limit!

Maximize the true personality of each coffee by receiving it at peak freshness. Clearpath offers Panama and Colombia origin Geisha with its characteristic citrus notes, typical Mocha with chocolate notes, low body and softness. From the Huila region we have the caramelized tastes that have won many cupping contests, and from the Nariño origin coffees with jasmine and citrus notes.

Lastly, Clearpath will always have a surprise for you - we’re getting ready to offer a “nanolot” (2 bags) of Tabi variety found in Caqueta Colombia (the Amazonian trapezium) graded with 91 points. To find out more about this producer, and stay up to date our latest unique offerings, check out the Estates section of our website, and subscribe to this blog. We always strive to offer new and unique batches, and freshness is guaranteed.

By: Juan Velez | juan@clearpathcoffee.com 

Colombian Coffee The Human Profiles, El Carmelo

Alicia Murcia is a retired school teacher who, along with her daughter Isaura Bermudez also a retired school teacher, run the family’s estate of FINCA EL CARMELO, founded 72 years ago by their forefathers.

Nine years ago, Alicia and Isaura completed the process of turning the finca to 100% organic processes; after extensive research and experiments they developed their own formulations for the organic mixtures set up their own storage, mixing and composting facilities. Being attached to the land as they are, they have dedicated 1 fourth of their 4 hectare finca to native forests, planted all around the perimeter, in order to set a natural boundary with adjacent farms. Additionally, they use native tree species to shade-grow their coffee, which is totally of the Tabi variety.

The beneficiadero (where coffee is washed and dried) is kept under strict hygienic standards and smoking is prohibited inside the farm.

They constantly host tutorials and courses for the schoolchildren of the neighboring village of Guayabal de Siquima, where they teach the kids about organic agriculture, respect for nature and love for their land. They also train coffee pickers from other regions, provide assistance and skills-training to single mothers, run a neat and efficient coffee production, for which Isaura maintains detailed controls in her laptop, and a complete photographic record of visitors, training and processes, and still find time to brew delicious coffee.

Alicia and Isaura are committed to quality so they personally control each step of the production in order to maintain a high cup grade.

Anecdote: one day, a wounded hawk landed in El Carmelo; Isaura cured it and fed it while it was weak, preparing it for its return to flight. When it was ready, she took the hawk to the forest and let it go. The hawk keeps coming back to El Carmelo to visit.



By Gazy Kattan | gazy@clearpathcoffee.com 

6 Reasons Why Traveling To Origin Is a Must

Going to origin is about access to unique - exclusive coffee.

There are easier ways to buy coffee than to make a trip to origin to source green beans. The reason for travel comes down to finding great coffee. 

In the 2012 Roasters Magazine industry survey the responses to the question "How often do you travel to origin?" showed that 61% of the survey participants NEVER do it.  Here are some reasons why you should include a trip to origin in your schedule asap: 

1. Coffee is a deep - complex product and going to origin is the ultimate learning-experience.

The complexity of coffee starts at the place where it was grown. One can read a million articles on coffee, get a barista or roaster certification, but you will never know coffee until you visit a coffee-growing country during harvest, meet the people growing the coffee, meet the people working in the mill, eat the food that they eat, drink what they drink, listen to the music they listen to, and try to experience what they experience as they grow, harvest, process, and ship coffee.

2. Access to Exclusive Coffee.

The coffee business is a competitive one. Everyone is trying to get the best coffee, roast it and brew it better than the next guy.  A roaster that sources her own coffee has competitive advantage on this goal.

3. Building and Strengthening Relationships.

Face to face meeting with the farmers and partners at origin are critical, meeting personally your supplier will help to build a trust in both sides.  Also will give you the a more clear picture of the farmer strengths and struggles a critical starting point to build meaningful collaboration and give feedback.  

Traveling to origin is crucial if you are interested in developing links in a chain that can help your business sustain and grow in the years to come.

4. Direct sourcing is not complete unless you have visited the farm at least once.

Traveling to the origin is right in the core of Direct Trade definition: “The roaster has a personal relationship with the producer, she has transparency into the financial transaction, have visited the farm, and the coffee quality meets exceptionally high standards.”

If you are serious about partnering with growers and develop direct source relationships it’s critical to know the details at the logistic chain at origin ranging from milling to warehousing to shipping so that if a problem happens, you can locate the cause and help finding a solution.

5. Transparency.

When you personally meet the grower and get to know their family and farm there is no overselling possible. You get to see the degree of which people care about fair trade practices, environmentally friendly processes and the efforts they do every day to produce their beans.

And it also gives you the possibility to back the efforts you make in those areas with vivid proof, traceability and transparency to share them with your customers.    

6. Provide more information to your customers. Marketing and social media material.

Share your stories, people appreciate being given a chance to make thoughtful choices.

It’s empowering for both coffee drinkers and producers to be able to have an idea of one another to “see,” and be more connected to the other end.

The exclusivity and promotion of direct sourcing and single origin coffees can help set you apart from your competitors. And your photos on the origin experience create great marketing material for websites, and social media.

Invitation:  Clearpath Coffee has over 30 years of experience helping roasters and green coffee buyers making their sourcing visits to Colombia safe, productive and enjoyable. Contact Vicente Mejia at info@clearpathcoffee.com to learn more about how we can help you in your sourcing trips to Colombia.

Direct Sourcing & Direct Trade Coffee

Some plain talk about a simple business that often is misunderstood

By Vicente Mejia.

Why I’m writing this post?

With the popularity of direct coffee sourcing model and the fair trade and sustainability concepts almost every company is using them in the marketing messages, but in reality few really understand it and do it.  

There are also various grey points in the methodologies used and on how to do it. The purpose of this article is to clear those points and give a fairly good idea on how direct sourcing should be done.

What is direct sourcing?

Is a coffee buying model, in which the importer/roaster has personal relationship with the producer, has a transparent financial transaction, and ideally have visited or are planning to visit the farm.

Why direct sourcing have became so popular?

It offers competitive advantages in the buying and selling side for the coffee roasters (more on this later) and help to connect them and the final consumer to the coffee source. It also has a social impact in at origin (mostly developing countries) that gives an extra meaning to the business.

What are the buying advantages direct sourcing offers?

On the buying side a principal advantage of direct sourcing is the opportunity to develop a strong connection with the suppliers (cooperatives and producers) which affords roasters the opportunity to secure exclusive coffees which quality meets exceptionally high standards, to control pricing variance, and potentially the unique opportunity to experiment with processing and varietal variation.

What are the selling advantages direct sourcing offers?

On the selling side the personal relationships and regular farm visits create a story that roasters/importers can use as unique selling points. The exclusivity and promotion of direct sourcing and single origin coffees can help set a roaster apart from his competitors. And buyers photos on the origin experience create great marketing material for websites, and social media.

Who is involved in a direct business transaction?

Direct business doesn’t mean that producers export the coffee on their own or that the roasters import the coffee on their own. Most roasters regularly engage exporters and importers in direct-trade relationships.

I. Grower. Is the responsible of producing a specialty coffee.

II. Coffee mill and exporter. Responsible of milling and move it out of the origin country.

III. Coffee importer. Is in charge of helping the roaster with the financing as this kind of business usually requires an upfront payment to the grower and importing and logistics to the final destination.

IV. Coffee roaster. Must be involved in the whole process.

What is the relation between direct sourcing and specialty coffee?

For a sustainable direct sourcing relationship coffee quality must be exceptional. Roasters and importers have to do a significant extra work in order to direct source their coffees because of the competitive advantage this means for them in the market place, but the coffee really needs to be great so the extra work pays off.

Why farmers-growers like direct sourcing?

A producer with a loyal buyer is often guaranteed a market for their coffee each year and, likely, at a good price regardless of external market pricing.

In some cases, this guaranteed market also comes with willingness to pre-finance farmers. This cash flow allows producers to care for their families and also to invest farm with the hope of producing even better coffee each year.

Who can use direct sourcing?

Any passionate importer or roaster interested in finding great coffee. Direct sourcing is about access to unique, exclusive coffee. It is about developing links in a chain that can help your business sustain and grow over the long term.

How the coffee gets priced?

Price decisions flow from the quality of coffee in the cup, the quantity available and the negotiation or arrangement the farmer has with the importer and or roaster. In Clearpath Coffee we use the C Market as a reference and then add a premium that fluctuates usually between +75 to +150 cts/lb.

What are the challenges of direct sourcing?

I. Finding an exceptional coffee at origin. Finding a good coffee supplier at origin involves a good amount of research and most of times travelling to origin. Coffee conferences and international coffee auctions are good ways to be introduced to great farmers.

II. The need of experience and resources to bring in the coffee. The negotiation at origin with a producer can be challenging mainly if they don’t have past experience in this business model. Usually upfront payments are needed and the participation of a coffee mill, coffee exporter and coffee importer are needed in most of the cases. These links should be in the picture after the coffee is bought from the farmer.

III. Exports and Imports logistics. When the quantity of coffee is less than a full container load (37.500 to 43.000 pounds), the roaster or importer will have to find a bigger importer who can consolidate the shipment with others they are moving out of the same country and area inside the country in order to save on shipping costs. This process can often take several weeks.  

IV. Securing coffee quality. In the traditional green coffee business model the importer is responsible to delivering an agreed quality to a final client or roaster. The importer is then accountable for arrival quality problems, which may mean discounting poor-quality arrival coffee, replacing it, or even simply canceling the contract. None of these is an option in a direct-buying scenario. This s one of the most potentially devastating issues in direct business and reinforces the need of finding good partners at origin who have experience in coffee quality and coffee exports.


Clearpath Coffee and it team has developed during the course of 30 years of work on the specialty coffee field a network of over 100 great coffee farmers and 20 cooperatives carefully selected for their commitment to the final quality of their product, healthy environmental practices and responsible community practices.

We are not only continuously seeking the best coffee available in Colombia, we have established partnerships who allow us mill the coffee and to move it out of the country.

If you would like to know more about our services, how we can help you with the direct sourcing of Colombian specialty coffee and have access to our monthly reports with information of available coffees write to Vicente Mejia at info@clearpathcoffee.com mentioning your company name and activity and you will be automatically included in them.

Vicente Mejia.             

What everybody ought to know about the Colombian Coffee

During 30 years Juan Velez CEO of Clearpath Coffee has been working in the Colombian coffee industry, helping hundreds of growers at their farms and consulting with over 20 different international companies to help them establish their business in Colombia. This experience has taught us how important is to understand the coffee origin and its people when doing business.

 Many of the facts that follow will seem obvious. Yet day after day we see business people making mistakes that could be easily avoided if these basic points where observed.  Here is a summary of the main 12 points to keep in mind.  

1.       Colombian Coffee is 100% Washed Arabica. All coffee plantations in Colombia are of Arabica plants. And the coffee grower’s federation in its attempt to secure the quality of all the Colombian coffee has determined that only washed coffee can be exported.

2.       Café de Colombia is a Protected Geographical indication. The formal recognition of Café de Colombia as a Protected Geographical Indication under the EU system became official in September 2007. And it was the first time that a non-EU origin product was recognized.

3.       Why the origin matters. Since 1960 Colombia has been campaigning to encourage pruduction of high quality coffee beans and established the labels 100% Café de Colombia and Juan Valdez. These effors led to worldwide recognition of Colombia as the origin of the finest coffee beans.

4.       100% Handpicked.  In Colombia coffee is a high altitude crop (1000 to 1600 masl on average), frequently grown on very steep slopes and farming plots barely average 1.6 hectares each, which makes it a predominantly a small scale artisanal family business. Handpicking guarantees the selection of ripe beans, a characteristic that plays an important role in the quality of the final product.

5.       Strictly high grown coffee classification is not used in Colombia. Due to the latitude variation and the existence of 86 differentiated microclimates between production areas in the south and north of Colombia, the strictly high grown coffee description is not enough and other parameters as temperature and growing location must be observed.

6.       Fresh coffee all year round. Colombia grows coffee all year round depending upon regionality and essentially we can supply freshly harvested coffee at any time of the year. Still the main harvest is from October to March, with a mitaca fly crop from April to June. The months where the largest volume of coffee is available are December, January, February, May and June.  

7.       Climatic diversity. The latitudes where coffee is grown vary from 1° North to 11° North. This range of 10 degrees represent the same distance as from San Jose in Costa Rica to the coffee growing areas of southern Mexico. Therefore Colombian diversity in coffees is comparable to the range of diversity in all Central American countries put together.

8.       Production zones. Colombian coffee territory has been divided in 3 main areas that share climatic and ecological conditions, here is a brief description of them:  

I. Southern  Region: (0° 58’ 56’’ - 2° 46’ 56’’ Latitude North) most of the coffee farms are at 1500 and 1700 masl. Includes Nariño, Huila, south of Tolima  and Cauca. Its main harvest time is during the first half of the year.  Some characteristics of coffee from this area are: Increased acidity, medium body, smooth flavor with citric and sweet notes.

II. Central Region:  (4° 34’ 56’’ - 6° 22’ 56’’ Latitude North) most of the coffee farms are at 1500 and 1600 masl. This is a broad area known as Eje Cafetero (Caldas, Quindío, Risaralda, Norte del Valle, Antioquia, Cundinamarca and Norte del Tolima).

Presence of constant rainfalls allows the harvest of coffee all year round. The main harvest is between September and December. And between April and June a secondary one called mitaca.  Coffee from this area is balanced with fruity and herbal notes.

III. Northern Region: (9° 58’ 56’’ - 11° 16’ 00’’ Latitude North) most of the coffee farms are between 1100 and 1200 masl. Includes the departments of Magdalena, Casanare, Cesar, Norte de Santander and Santander. Main crop is during the second half of the year.

Shade grown coffee is common in this area. Some of its flavor characteristics are: Medium acidity, Nutty and chocolaty notes, Good body

9. Colombian coffee grading and classification. Only high quality coffee is allowed to be exported and the FNC has strict control over every shipment. The commercial grades are:

I.  Supremo 18: characterized by large grains, flat and smooth which are properly selected over the screen 18, with 10% flexibility under this mesh, but retained by the # 17 screen.

II. Supremo 17/18: Large, even and flat grains retained above the screen # 17/18 with a 5% flexibility under this mesh but retained by screen #14.

III.  Excelso EP 10% and 5%:  Flat beans, of sizes between large, medium and small which are retained above the screen # 15 with a flexibility of 10% or 5% of the beans that are collected on screen # 14/12

IV. U.Q.G: "Usual Good Quality": max 1.5% under screen 14 but over screen 12

V. Specialty: If you want the best Colombian coffee, size doesn’t matter. For specialty Colombian, it makes little economic sense to ask only for big beans. At Clearpath Coffee we source beans with different certifications and cupping results above 80-85 points.

10.  Price calculation.  Colombian coffee price is based on the daily NY coffee exchange settlement price, which reflects supply and demand balance of the washed Arabica coffees. To this basic price a premium is added; this premium is the additional price that the market recognizes for the superior quality and differentiation attributes present in Colombian coffee. Specialty coffees also use the NY price and add a premium that varies from +75 to +150 cts/lb, depending on cupping results.

11.   Internal logistics. There are 4 maritime ports actively used to ship coffee. Buenaventura is the most frequently used and the only one on the Pacific Ocean. Handling about 58% of the coffee export volume, this port is used by most central and southern region producers. The second one is Cartagena with 21% of export volume, followed by Santa Marta 18% and Barranquilla 2%.

12.   Coffee growers federation. FNC Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros is the official body that regulates the entire coffee industry in Colombia. They set a daily price reference and guarantee the purchases to all the growers, give agricultural advice, do research and perform quality control in the ports on every single bag that leaves the country, including the coffee exported by private shippers. It is also the owner of Café de Colombia and Juan Valdez trademarks among several others.

At Clearpath coffee we are specialists in specialty Colombian coffee and over 30 years developed a network of growers and partners that allow us to facilitate doing business in Colombia for small and medium coffee buyers. If you would like to know more about what we can offer please write to info@clearpathcoffee.com

Why Colombia Is Unique As An Origin For Coffee Importers And Roasters To Find Specialty Beans

Quality and diversity are two closely linked elements of Colombian coffee. 

Grown across the country in over 20 departments, coffee is planted and cultivated in the mountainous regions at an altitude ranging between 400 and 2500 meters above sea level and within 86 distinct microclimates. 

Artisanal Processed And Rich Cultural Value 

Colombian coffee is usually a high altitude crop, frequently grown on very steep slopes, making mechanization difficult. This seeming limitation has actually become an advantage. With farming plots barely averaging 1.6 hectares, growing coffee in Colombia is usually a family business that, over the decades, has grown into a coffee culture strongly linked to traditional, manual processes.  100% hand picking guarantees the selection of ripe beans and the participation of over 500,000 grower families creates cultural value for this industry.

Climatic Diversity  + Different regions = Different Cup Profiles

Colombia's microclimates are influenced by the Andes and Sierra Nevada mountains, the Amazon Forest,  Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, and proximity of the Ecuator. As a result of the different flowering and ripening cycles in these regions, Colombia has the unique ability to supply fresh coffee year-round, and the variety of growing conditions result in a wide diversity of cup profiles.

The Latitude Issue, 2500 Km Between Coffee Growing Regions

The latitudes where coffee is grown vary from 1° North to 11° North. This range of 10 degrees represent the same distance from San Jose in Costa Rica to the coffee growing areas of southern Mexico. Therefore Colombian diversity in coffees is comparable to the range of diversity in all Central American countries put together.

If you have any questions or comments please share them in the comments below, I will be personally reading them. 

Vicente Mejia