Ask Adam Kelley of Leopard Forest Coffee Company in Travelers Rest why his industry is booming, and his answer is simple: better quality drives higher demand.
Coffee is the most consumed drink in the United States. The National Coffee Association found the number of Americans who say they drink coffee every day has increased by 5% since 2015, Reuters reported. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they drank some type of coffee each day.
The study also found that more Americans are opting for higher quality coffee, a consumer base that coffee roasters are more than happy to accommodate.
Staying involved in the supply chain
The higher demand for better coffee “keeps the roasters and the cafes more accountable for their product,” says Kelley. To help maintain quality, many roasters get involved as much as possible in the supply chain, from farmer to importer to roaster to consumer. Though, as the local coffee roasters note, quality can vary depending on the country they receive the beans from and the unique situation of each farmer and importer.
Ricardo Pereira, co-owner of Due South Coffee Roasters and chief operating officer of coffee importer Ally Coffee, both based in Greenville, says a significant part of his work is forging relationships with producers outside the U.S. “I go down [to South America] and taste the coffees. I analyze the quality. I help the producer understand where they are. And we pick from that,” Pereira says.
Part of forging those relationships is hiring a third party that provides reports assessing the situation for working conditions on the farm. If any issues are found, Pereira and his teams work with the farmers to resolve them.
Not only does this help maintain the rights of the farmers growing and cultivating the coffee, but it helps maintain the quality of the product, says Ryan Hall, director of operations at Due South Coffee Roasters.
This is echoed by Greg Ward, co-owner of Bridge City Coffee, a Greenville cafe and roastery. “We talk to some of the farmers so we know exactly what’s going on,” he says.
Maintaining quality control
Roasting the coffee in-house allows stricter control of the product while cutting overhead, Kelley says.
“When the fresh green coffee comes to us, we control how it tastes all the way until somebody actually drinks it,” Kelley explains. “Not only is it financially smart because you’re cutting overhead, but you have more control over quality. You can offer more consistency.”
Roasting can be a form of engagement as well. The roasting process can allow people to see the culinary art of coffee roasting and the science behind it, says Brandon Seabrook Nelson, a coffee roaster at Bridge City Coffee.
The roasters may also have a retail section on their property. Hall says that while having a wholesale program is in roasters’ “best interests,” retail sales allow for potential business cooperation. Roasters can reach potential wholesale customers by providing a great experience and a good product that wholesalers can sample in a retail setting. “We’re able to then capture that interest and begin a conversation,” Hall says.
Retail sales allow the coffee roasting company to get a feel for what customers want and the types of coffee they are willing to buy. While these roasters might not have their retail areas and cafes open now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, customers can still fill orders online.
Impact closer to home
Besides overseeing their producers’ treatment of farm workers in countries in South America or Africa, there’s also local community impact, especially with Bridge City Coffee. The cafe and roastery implements an impact employment model, helping provide job opportunities to those in need. Bridge City is also looking to diversify the coffee roasting scene says Nelson, who says he’s the first African American coffee roaster in the state. He says anyone can be in the coffee roasting business with determination and hard work.
“I’m going to let my craft speak for itself.”