We all want to know where our coffee comes from. And the latest step in this trend is Apasionado Coffee, where you can adopt your very own coffee tree on Las Tacanas Finca in Bolivia.
In fact, you can’t can’t even purchase any of the coffee from this farm unless you’ve adopted the tree it came from.
For Apasionado Coffee, this represents the ideal way to do business. It’s transparent, it’s direct trade, it allows the consumer to feel more connected to the coffee, and – most importantly – they believe it provides a solution to the complicated coffee supply chain. So does it?
Adopting a tree gets you a certificate, a photo, and a bag of coffee. Credit: Erica of The Coffee Nomad
How Does the Programme Work?
Customers or “members” can adopt a tree online from Las Tacanas Finca, where Typica and Red Catuai grow at 1,500-1,700 m.a.s.l. before being wet processed. In return for adopting a tree, they receive a certificate of adoption complete with a photo of their tree and one bag of coffee. After that, they can go online and order as much as they wish. The coffee is roasted to the customer’s specifications, even if the order is as small as one bag, by a local partner roaster of Apasionado Coffee’s in Bolivia, and then shipped.
In other words, this is micro-lot coffee taken to the extreme. And in the third wave, where people care about the origin of their coffee, the farming and processing methods, and how the beans are roasted, there are some who might say it’s the perfect product.
These green cherries will stay on the branch until they’re also ripe. Credit: Apasionado Coffee
How Adopting Trees Changes the Supply Chain
Apasionado argue that it’s not just something that consumers will want. It’s also, they say, a benefit for the farmers. A traditional coffee supply chain can be as complicated as this:
Farm → Private trader → Processing plant → Local exporter → Importer → Roastery → Retailer → Consumer
In short, pretty complex. Cooperatives and roasters who purchase from origin can shorten it dramatically, but it will still look like this:
Farm → Cooperative → Roaster → Retailer → Consumer
Apasionado’s supply chain, however, looks like this:
Farm → Apasionado → Roaster → Consumer
For them, this structure makes their coffee more transparent and more sustainable. By having less steps in the supply chain, a larger percentage of the consumer’s money goes directly to the farm. They also hope to expand to working with more farms in the future.
For producers in Bolivia, coca (which is used for cocaine, altitude sickness medicine, and – historically, if not currently – Coca Cola) is often a more profitable crop. Skewing the supply chain towards the farmer, Apasionado argues, makes coffee a viable alternative.
What’s more, consumers can be aware of more about the supply chain that brings this particular coffee to their doorstep – and, with their own coffee tree, they not only know more about the farm but also feel more attached to it.
Processing the ripe cherries after the harvest on Las Tacanas Finca. Credit: Apasionado Coffee
Las Tacanas Finca is a polyculture: coffee grows among other plants, such as bananas, papayas, mandarins, avocados, flowers, and other shade trees. For every tree that is adopted, they also pledge to plant a second tree – thereby not only bringing long-term economic sustainability to the farm but also improving the biodiversity of the forest.
Those who adopt trees are also invited to visit the farm in Bolivia. In this way, Apasionado state that they are educating and connecting the consumer.
The Apasionado Coffee certificate of adoption. Credit: Apasionado Coffee
Is This For Everyone?
Apasionado Coffee state that this model allows them to provide farmers with better wages and customers with a better coffee experience. Their beans have received high cupping scores, and it’s certainly true that there’s a thirst for insight into origin.
It may not be everyone’s cup of coffee, but it’s an interesting approach to the problem of overly complex supply chains. For it to succeed, it requires consumers to be willing to invest in the coffee itself; it will be interesting to see how many do.
Written by A. Kobler.
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