Coffee and Relationship / by Bryan Hibbard

My wife and I sat down this weekend to try to figure out a way to explain our company in a nutshell. Sure, we are your local coffee roaster, but what sets us apart from other companies and why should you spend your money on our bags instead of one the big guys who is cheaper and easier to get. In the end, I synthesized our entire plan into a single phrase. "Better coffee comes from better relationships." This applies to everything we do.

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We have good relationships with our immediate community, partnering with other local businesses to grow our local economy, while expanding the availability of our coffee.

We have good relationships with our repeat customers at the Imperial Farmer's Market in Sugarland. We know them by name and we know what they like. When I source a new coffee, I often have a few of my regular customers in mind who I know will love it.

We work closely with our local Houston green coffee importers to insure we are getting the best coffees we can. In turn, they have developed relationships with farmers and cooperatives around the world, insuring that the best farmers are properly compensated for their hard work. We strive to buy exceptional coffees with direct traceability whenever possible. If I have a name and a picture and I know that this farmer has received the majority of the money I paid for his coffee, that is a win in my book. The coffees we buy are often twice as expensive as commodity-grade coffee (or more) and insure that farmer's receive a livable wage. In the future, we hope to travel to origin and meet these farmers face to face. Other local Houston roasters have had great success working with farmers to have them produce the coffees they want to roast. This is definitely in our future.

Part of our goal as a company is to be a small part of the movement to raise the quality of life for coffee farmers in the developing world. We see this happening by continuing to buy the best coffee we can find. In the rural coffee societies, there is a great sense of community, and there are many stories of farmers who, after receiving a high premium on their coffee harvest, invested in their community by teaching their neighbors the practices they follow to produce their superior coffee. There are entire micro-regions that have greatly raised the average price their receive for their coffee, like the San Agustin region in Huila, Colombia. By buying better coffee, you are indirectly helping to promote this cycle.

I do believe that the lack of relationship is what has allowed the past cycle of poverty in regions that produce a highly sought after product. When we don't know who made the things we buy, it is much easier to justify getting the cheapest thing we can find. But the truth is (in most cases), someone was drastically underpaid so that you could pay that low price. We are all guilty of it, unless we go to extraordinary measures to monitor what we purchase. The reason that paying $12 for a bag of coffee seems high is because companies have figured out how to consistently offer coffee that is $4.99 a bag and still make money. This is mostly because of the economy of scale, but also because they purchase the cheapest coffee they can get.

Better coffee leads to better relationships. I believe this applies not just to Fort Bend Coffee Roasters but our world as a whole.