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July 02, 2020      3 Minute Read


 

 

Grade Expectations: Finding Versatility and Value in A and AA Coffees

Look around your warehouse and count how many different coffees you see. If you operate like many roasters, you’ll likely have a handful of coffees you blend with, another handful that are for single origin features, and maybe even a lower price point single origin for wholesale. Do any of your coffees serve a dual purpose? Could any of your blenders serve as a single origin, or are they just not interesting enough on their own? This is where the versatility of Caravela A and AA grade coffees can be of assistance, as they are made to serve multiple purposes.

“A” grades are blends comprised of single producer day lots that score between 84 and 84.9 when we purchase them. At a lower price point, “A” grades have a mild nuttiness and acidity to them. Body and sweetness will generally be the most salient features, along with pronounced notes of chocolate. This makes for a great base component in a blend. Where it serves as a dual purpose is that this type of coffee works well as a regional single origin for wholesale. You could even develop the “A” grade to work as a balanced single origin espresso; stretch the roast further into second crack and you’d get a nicely balanced French Roast that focuses more on a rich body.

“AA” grades are comprised of single producer day lots that score between 85 and 85.9 at purchase. This higher grade is where you start experiencing defined fruit notes, with a slicker body, an elevated sweetness, and a more pronounced acidity. These attributes mean “AA”s excel as the primary component in a blend. They also make for the perfect crowd-pleasing single origin coffee, as “AA” grades are both flavorful and balanced. Stretch out the Maillard Reaction in a “AA” and you’ll get a delicious, light-roasted single origin espresso.

Purchasing both grades from coffee producers is also critical for the supply chain, and Caravela provides some of the highest premiums at origin for these quality grades. This is instrumental for a coffee producer, as most of their harvest will usually be classified as “A” or “AA” grade. This results in the majority of a producer’s harvest receiving some of the best premiums for the relative cup score.  Should most of the producer’s harvest fall below “A” or “AA” grade, our PECA team will work with them so they can achieve higher scores.

For the producers we have relationships with, Caravela agrees to purchase all of their harvest that scores within our quality grades. By not only buying the top-scoring lots, we can make a bigger impact as we are able to buy a big proportion of their harvest, and we can provide roasters with a wide range of qualities and prices that suits all their needs. Since we work primarily with small-scale producers across Latin America, we found that there needed to be a way of featuring these coffees in a consistent manner. The result was creating micro-region “Colectivos” where the culmination of hardworking producers’ efforts can be blended to create a remarkably consistent flavor profile. Like all grades, these coffees will also need a home, and this is where the roaster comes in.

For the roaster, with just one “A” grade and/or one “AA” grade, you could easily replace a handful of coffees you are purchasing. During this uncertain time brought on by the COVID-19 virus, a more streamlined inventory could be an advantage. When cashflow is tightening and roasting volumes are down, it makes sense to order just two coffees that can wear a few different hats, so to speak, rather than a handful of coffees, each with one purpose. If it sounds a little intimidating as how it would all work, I’ll give you a quick example.

You could source an “A” grade from Central America for the summer and fall months, then from South America to feature in the winter and spring months. Your “AA” grade could rotate between regions in Colombia all year round, taking advantage of the country’s rolling harvests and ability to ship eleven months out of the year; one arrangement would be Huila during the summer and fall months and Nariño in the winter and spring months. These are just suggestions, but if you are interested in building a seasonal line up like this, reach out to your representative at Caravela to discuss what would work best for your company.

“A” and “AA” grades, while not as illustrious as their higher-scoring relatives, are nonetheless valuable across the supply chain, as they provide high premiums to producers, an outlet for mid-grades for the exporter/importer, and a versatile yet reliable product for the roaster. This makes for a fantastic relationship-building product between producer and roaster. It can be a great way to start a relationship with a group of producers where you will eventually be able to prospect a single producer to work with. Finding a compromise like this is a win-win for everyone.

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