February 12, 2020
3 Minute Read
Anthony AugerAn anecdote I like to share when telling people why I chose to work for Caravela happened while I was still roasting coffee and managing a Quality Assurance lab. At the time I was providing quality analysis on a high-end single producer lots from Caravela. Each new offer from the producer scored really well, but as one would expect from complex day lots, the profiles were all slightly different.
North America Sales Representative
The uniqueness from this single producer wasn’t what convinced me of the value of working with Caravela, it was instead the consistency of their regional brands that won me over. Over the course of a few years I had cupped a half-dozen lots, all of them with the same brand name. Each time I cupped either a pre-shipment or an arrival sample of this coffee, it scored within a half point, with remarkably similar tasting notes.
Prior to working for Caravela and better understanding their model, the only way I could explain this was that Caravela understood quality, and that’s why they were delivering consistency. I now understand just how much hard work goes into developing and maintaining this consistency from harvest to harvest, and I’d like to share this journey with you.
The first step of Caravela’s work in creating consistency happens at the 40-odd purchasing stations that we operate across Latin America. Here, our quality analysts rigorously evaluate each separated lot, regardless of size. The lots are green-graded, checked for screen size distribution, density, moisture content, water activity, and rated under UV light. Each of these categories has strict parameters that the coffee needs to fall within; if they fail even one of the categories, our QC team will reject the coffee regardless of how it scores or tastes. If a lot is rejected, we will then provide a full analysis to the producer regarding why it was rejected. Our PECA team will also visit with the producer to work with them at the farm level to help implement corrective measures and prevent rejected lots in the future.
Upon passing physical analysis, a lot then undergoes sensory analysis. Caravela has developed a cup score grading system that categorizes coffees based on their numerical value. At the time of purchase from a producer, if a lot scores 83.5 – 83.9 points it will be classified as an “RTB grade” lot, while if it scores 84 – 84.9 it will be classified as an “A grade” lot. An 85 – 85.9 point coffee will be classified as an “AA grade” lot, while an 86+ scoring coffee gets labeled an “AAA grade” lot. Graded lots will then be kept separate and re-evaluated multiple times across our supply chain to ensure they were classified correctly.
Additionally, the coffee will be tagged with both the micro-region it was grown in, as well as the flavor profile our trained evaluators were able to detect. This is imperative, as each micro-region can have a drastically different flavor profile to the trained palate. Using this information, we have been able to develop what we call “brands” or "collectivos" for our coffees. Each brand is developed based on what a micro-region consistently tastes like regardless of the size of the region or how many producers contribute to it. For example, in Huila (Colombia) alone, we’ve been able to develop over 20 brands. Each one of these brands comes from a distinct micro-region and possesses a unique flavor profile. For instance, we have “San Sebastian”, which is produced in the municipality of La Plata and has sweet and balanced notes of chocolate, red fruits and nuts. Just an hour away from La Plata, we also work in the municipality of Gigante, where the “Matambo” brand is grown, and has a very different profile with notes of honey, tropical fruits, balanced and floral.
This rigorous physical and sensorial analysis is then fully utilized at our coffee mills, where our team constructs samples of our graded brands for customers. Ultimately, what this means is that our coffees are made to order! All you have to do is tell a sales representative the quality grade and flavor profile you are looking for and, we send a sample from our brands to best fulfill those needs. Our main QC lab in each origin and our respective import office labs would then cup the same sample we send to you to ensure that we are all calibrated and on the same page. Before you even taste a sample, that coffee has been evaluated upwards of eight times by our team!
There’s a tremendous amount of effort that goes into creating a coffee that is consistent from harvest to harvest, but it is important and necessary work. I say this because we’ve all suffered the disappointment of receiving a product that did not meet expectations. At Caravela, we understand the importance of consistency to our roasting partners, and we know that your roasted coffee needs to impress your own customers with each experience. We would love for you to use the strengths of our supply chain to make it easier to accomplish.
Over the past decade he has worked as a barista, roaster, and quality analyst. He now resides as a North American Sales Representative for Caravela where he helps bridge the gap between coffee roasters and coffee producers.