French Truck's Bobby Winston and Shane Hennessy have been working in coffee for 3-4 years and began traveling to source coffee a couple years ago. Initially traveling to coffee-sourcing havens like Nicaragua and Colombia, they've now travelled to numerous countries through the Friends of French Truck program in an effort to provide an honest and traceable account of who they buy their coffee from.
What are your goals for the Friends of French Truck program?
Bobby: We want to highlight the farmers that are producing the Coffee. Often times consumers aren’t seeing all the links of the chain, and we want to change that. We want to show people, that this is exactly where your coffee comes from. Being a committed buyer to that farmer, year after year provides them with the financial stability that is needed to continue to improve and elevate their farm.
Last year, we purchased twenty 75kg bags. There were a lot of growing pains and frustrations and the coffee took 6 months to get to New Orleans. This year, Bobby and I knew what quality of coffee to expect, how we want to sell it whether it is blended or sold as a Single Origin and how much we wanted to buy. We also had a local importer, Zephyr Coffee, set to get the coffee out of the country and into New Orleans.
After two days with the Lovos, visiting the farms and cupping the coffee, we negotiated a price and agreed upon a higher price than what we paid last year and ended up contracting sixty 75kg bags. Luis was paid quickly and the coffee arrived into the United States in just a few weeks.
There are infinite reasons why companies should work with a good importer. They have the most qualified people on the ground searching for great coffee and most importers are extremely transparent.
A lot of them offer origin trips that are basically a guided tour with the agreement that you, the roaster, are going to buy something because of the trip. It is a great way for companies to meet farmers and experience coffee in its purest form, and it is something we have done a few times.
Ultimately, we are not big enough to cut out an importer so we still need to rely on someone to get the coffee to us but our time in Nicaragua gives us the opportunity to grow with the Lovo family, learn more of the business and hopefully get to the point where we can buy a container of coffee and ship it straight to New Orleans.
For some countries, what we are doing would be extremely difficult and not worth it but thankfully we had a lead with some great award winning farmers and made the experience a lot easier.