heart transparency report
Abana, Ethiopia (Photo Neil Dacosta)
2019 was a challenging year in relation to coffee prices, company transitions and focusing on our vision with how we’d like to operate. We’re hopeful that this can be a window into how we work, giving customers, friends and other roasters some understanding with how we’re always looking to improve as a business. As we reflect on another year of roasting, selling, and serving coffee, we’re excited to share with you all the 2019 transparency report for heart roasters!
This year saw an even lower average in the C market. Considering the fact that $1.24 in 2018 was well below what we see as sustainable pricing, the value in long term and mutually beneficial relationships show their value time and time again. Although our total roasted amount was less than the previous year, our focus on our partners and slimming our spot purchasing allowed us to continue to support farmers with consistent payments and comparable volumes.
This past year we have been reevaluating how we think about purchasing (price, quality, relationship, etc). This includes prioritizing how we can learn more from our partners’ practices at the farm level. Continued conversations with producers about the cost of production.
We have made learning more from our partners practices at the farm level a priority. By continued conversations with producers, we’re starting to see similarities and themes running between the places cultivating the coffee we buy. Much of this comes down to biodiversity, cultivars and climate. Across origins we’re typically buying similar varietals, from similar elevations in cooler climates. We’re also seeing the type of processing prevailing consistently lot to lot in what we purchase. Because parts of the process require more labor and attention from the producers, we consider this in regards to payment.
Leonel Martinez & his son, Hector Martinez (Photo Wille Yli-Luoma)
We arrive at these payments through viewing the farmer’s Cost of production(COP), Yield(Y), and Cost of Living(COL) in each region/country and taking those all into account(COP+COL➗ Y= Price per LB). This allows for a farmer’s selling price prior to any agents or exporters/importers to be a fair and sustainable wage.
Ephraim Mwangi Gachuiro, factory manager, Kenya (Photo Neil Dacosta)
Throughout 2019, we also spent time looking at who we work with in terms of importing our producer partners’ coffee. It’s important for these agencies to understand our values and even better to share them in some capacity. Our findings showed a need to diversify our network to better serve some of our origin partners, in regards to support at mills, expedience in payment, and better relationships between some exporters and importers. Although some of this has been more work upfront, it’s allowed more transparency and communication on the ground.This makes our continued relationships with farmers easier in the future.
Women sorting parchment at Abana, Ethiopia (Photo Neil Dacosta)
We’re already seeing the benefits of this in Ethiopia and Kenya, especially. The estates and cooperatives we’ve partnered with have been of utmost importance on our roster. Making sure we’re nimble in those countries has been key to maintaining our standing with those farms. It also allows us to continue our exploration of newer origins like Brazil, Mexico, and Peru as we look at fostering new relationships.
Athonus Nyaga, Nyawira estate, Kenya (Photo Neil Dacosta)
2019 has seen our roastery putting more emphasis on reducing our carbon footprint. Due to the fact that we’ve not found a compostable bag alternative that equally ensures quality and freshness, we’ve decided to participate in a bag recycling program our vendor offers in an effort to curb waste. We collect & recycle bags that have been returned to our cafés, along with the used bulk bags the cafés go through. Although only affecting a small portion of our total bags used, we’re committed to looking for more sustainable packaging alternatives when our current run of bags concludes.
Neuhaus Neotec 30kg at heart hq (Photo Wille Yli-Luoma)
This year also saw a new line of coffee being introduced to our customers in the shape of the Phono seasonal offering. This label was created in response to a growing demand for an alternative to Stereo Blend that was more approachable and focused. Being another volume heavy drip/espresso offering, Phono has allowed us to expand our purchasing in Latin countries as well as serve customers who may find Stereo to be fruity or bright.
We also saw another massive change in 2019 at our roastery that we also refer to as our turning point. We decided to replace our antique probat roasters with more modern Neuhaus Neotec air roasters. This change came after much deliberation and many conversations about what our values are in terms of roast philosophy and how to best achieve that. We’ve seen that despite our best efforts with Probat roasters, we were never quite able to achieve the amount of convective heat transfer that we were looking for without being hindered by the conductive energy of the drum. Our customers will be pleased with the amount of consistency, clarity & sweetness our coffees possess now.
Custom Mary Carroll mug (Photo Wille Yli-Luoma)
Heart’s retail operations were an area of focus in 2019. In addition to new coffee offerings, we put energy into partnering with local artists and companies to create special merchandise for our supporters. We continued to feature ceramics from local purveyors Pigeon Toe & Mary Carroll, screen printed soft goods from local printer OSI. A series of totes and sweatshirts with art by Megan Ladd and lapel pins made by Ways and Means. Our custom heart hats continue to be produced by Pacific Northwest based Coal headwear as well.
The landscape of our own Portland cafés changed this year as well. Our downtown cafe relocated to a larger, brighter space that can better serve the volume of customers generally seen in that part of town.
We also limited our options from full service kitchen offerings back down to pastries and pre-made take away food. This has allowed us to bring the focus of our retail environment back to coffee and serve more customers daily than before.
Lastly, as we enter into an age of more home coffee consumption and home brewing exploration we here at heart felt it a good idea to reexamine our online retail structure. 2019 saw an expansion of our subscription services to better serve customers ordering direct to home and more malleable payment/frequency options.
Home brewers now have more options for subscriptions as well as more competitive shipping rates than we’ve ever offered before. After all, we want as many people to enjoy our fine coffees as possible!
Although 2019 has presented its own challenges, we’ve been able to continue a refinement of our company and manage growth in a healthier, more organic way. Through focusing our coffee purchasing, wholesale program structure and retail offerings, we’ve been able to spend more time on sourcing, roasting and brewing delicious coffees for people to enjoy. As we look ahead to 2020, we hope to keep engaging with hard questions about what we do, why we do it and how we can do it better. We appreciate you all for coming along for the ride as Heart turns 10 and we think it’s been our best year yet.
Written by Drew Fitchette in collaboration of Rebekah & Wille Yli-Luoma