Green Coffee Buying Goes Virtual

 Written by Cody Gallagher, Sparrows' Head of Coffee

Amidst the throes of our first full COVID winter, we’re all in need of some feel-good content. The ever resilient coffee industry has provided us with such, in a unique pivoting of the somewhat standard coffee buyer’s origin trip. Last Summer, our partners at Coffee for Peace organized a first-of-its-kind virtual coffee buying caravan, in lieu of their planned auction in Colombia’s Cauca region. Coffee For Peace is a coalition of coffee growers and market allies created to develop, facilitate, and promote trade of traceable coffees from historic violent zones in Colombia. We highlighted our first in-person trip to the region with them in a past blog, and have since returned as a company several times.

In non-COVID times, buying trips typically see green buyers traveling between farms and cooperatives to meet growers and taste hundreds of coffees from which they ultimately purchase only several. An undertaking if there ever was one, CFP accomplished to unite coffee buyers, growers and importers from across the world for a monolithic week-long Zoom conference in which keynote speakers highlighted new projects within the organization, and buyers conversed about and bid on the coffees available for purchase. Further mind boggling is how CFP managed to coordinate packages containing over 40 samples to all buyers in their global network, from Japan to the Netherlands, to here in Michigan.

While the experience was surreal in itself, there were distinctly profound moments, particularly so in their contrast to a typical coffee auction. A buyer from Japan stayed up into the late hours of the night just to participate in discussion and place initial bids, joining us at 3am their time. A morning was designated for all participants to simultaneously brew the same coffee, and taste it together from our collective home offices. Our faces were displayed on Olympics-esque megatron TVs when we spoke on the call, complimented by Olympian-seeming hosts facilitating the auction. Perhaps the most uncanny, one buyer from the United Arab Emirates joined the caravan from their car while stuck in rush hour traffic (Sparrows cannot condone the safety of this Zoom call methodology). 

Sparrows was excited to participate in CFP’s second virtual buyer’s caravan on February 11, which was condensed into a single day. We bid on a coffee to replace our selection from the previous VBC, which we offer as Colombia Cauca. This time around, we’re inviting you to join in the fun. Following the auction, we’ll be kicking off an interactive experience of our own, in which you can taste and learn to describe a select coffee with our team. Every season we’ll announce a new coffee in advance and host a live tasting that will be uploaded to our blog afterward. We hope this will help those interested increase their palate development. Our first at-home tasting will be early next month, featuring Las Mercedez, our selection from the first Virtual Buyer’s Caravan. Head over to our store to pick up a bag in advance, and stay tuned for more details to come.