What makes a cooperative special?
In conversations with roasters and importers, I have often referred to farmer organizations as “special.” The term is spectacularly imprecise, since the sources of “specialness” can be so diverse. It is important for cooperatives to articulate clearly just what makes them so special, however, since roasters are not just searching for quality coffee, but quality coffee with a compelling storyline. These flyers are the results of our inaugural effort to help coops participating in our CAFE Livelihoods project do just that.
Last year, I participated in a coffee marketing workshop here in Guatemala led by our friends from Cooperative Coffees as part of our CAFE Livelihoods project. The event helped me get more clarity on how cooperatives should be introducing themselves to buyers — by talking about what makes them special, NOT the quality of their coffee.
In a few weeks, thousands of farmers will tell buyers at SCAA the same thing: “We have the best coffee in the world.” For coffee buyers, hearing the same thing from every cooperative they meet does not seem particularly helpful, especially since many of the people making the case for the quality of the coffee aren’t themselves credentialed coffee cuppers. Buyers are going to cup each lot several times and will make up their own minds on the issue of coffee quality. Coffee quality is what they know. What they don’t know are the stories behind the cooperatives they meet at events like SCAA.
So we have encouraged the cooperatives we accompany in the field to focus their communications efforts on the stories that only they can tell. Stories about what makes them unique. Stories about what makes them, in other words, “special.”
These flyers are the result of conversations we have had with our cooperative partners in which we invited them to tell their stories and share their treasures with us. (And some brilliant design work by a “special” firm here in Guatemala City.) They include some basic information that is relevant to potential coffee buyers — elevation, production, certifications, etc. — but mostly they reflect what cooperatives themselves think makes them special.
Stop by the our booth at SCAA (#441) and pick up some copies.