Here at Supreme, we love quality coffee. It tastes great, inspires and connects us. When we go about sourcing coffee, quality is first and foremost in our minds. But quality coffee doesn’t just happen by accident, and it certainly doesn’t just land in our laps. 

We have certain criteria we follow when sourcing our coffees. A great-tasting coffee is, of course, a must, but we need to look a little beyond taste to be fully satisfied it’s the coffee we want. There is an incredible amount of year-round work that is needed to produce quality coffee in a sustainable way. When we buy coffee, we’re looking to build long-term relationships with the producers, so we need to know that their quality is sustainable so we’ll be able to use their coffee year after year.

We value personal connections around here, and let’s face it, long-distance relationships are tough. That’s why we get on a plane and visit the producers who grow our coffee. It’s always nice to put faces to names and look at the whole production chain: from seedling to container ship leaving the port to landing at our roastery.

On the ground, we look for responsible stewardship of the land being used. Among many things, we look for criteria such as the protection of water sources, prevention of soil erosion, regular crop renovation and maintenance, responsible use of agrochemicals, and looking after endangered species. We need to know the producers have a long-term outlook and want to keep their land producing as best it can for generations to come. It's no coincidence that some of our longest-term relationships come from family-owned and operated farms that have passed through several generations.

We look closely at harvest and processing practices. A year’s work can be ruined very quickly if strict protocols around processing aren’t followed. We look to see how facilities are maintained, especially if constant improvement of processes is important to the growers. We look at the social services available to farm staff. It is a common thread amongst the producers we go back to year after year that they have a deep understanding that their fate is closely tied to that of their workers. Access to healthcare, education, adequate housing, daycare for children, and guaranteed personal freedoms are regular features of our producing partners’ workforces. Motivated employees, we have found, are essential to sustainable quality. 

When we’re satisfied that we’re looking at quality in and around the cup—from the ground up. Then we talk about price. You get what you pay for in this game, and we don’t we don’t expect sustainable quality coffee to come cheaply. The reality of today’s market, where climate change and burgeoning new economies are causing demand to outstrip supply, means that to produce the kind of coffee we want to sell the building of long-term relationships and paying sustainable prices is not just a feel-good exercise for us, it’s a commercial necessity. 

This kind of sourcing model has come to be known as direct trade, or relationship coffee. We feel this beats third-party certifications hands down for telling us whether or not a coffee is ‘sustainable’. It feels more genuine to us and is the best way we know to secure a long-term supply of the coffee we want to use. So call it direct trade, call it relationship coffee. This is how we source at Supreme.


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