We take care to buy the good stuff, it's expensive, but it's a fair deal. We get good green coffee, producers get good money, and you get to drink the best coffee in town. Sourcing coffee with this amount of care keeps our team busy throughout the year communicating with producers, visiting them at their farm or mill, and of course, share a delicious coffee together. We put in the hard yards to secure Supreme coffee, but it’s worth it.
Heading up Green Coffee Procurement at Coffee Supreme is Fraser Lovell. Having spent 18 years in Supreme’s Roasting Dept., it's safe to say, Fraser knows a thing or two about sourcing and roasting delicious coffee. Recently returning from his first trip to Rwanda, we caught Fraser in between brews to hear all about it.
Q. Hey Fraser, what’s your official job title at Supreme?
Head of Green Coffee Procurement.
Q. And, what do you really get up to?
Buying beans, sniffing n' slurping brews, checking in with suppliers and forecasting.
Q. You recently visited Rwanda, tell us about the purpose of this trip. Were you sourcing or meeting with new or existing suppliers?
This trip had a few purposes behind it: to source fresh coffees from this year's harvest and check in with our suppliers. Being my first time in Rwanda, it was a great opportunity to see firsthand how things work there, as every country has its unique way of doing things and set of challenges that go along with it.
Q. Why are these trips important to you?
Visiting our suppliers and seeing farms firsthand is an invaluable part of what we do, it allows us to have a much deeper understanding of how our coffee is produced. It allows us to verify the measures we look for when selecting suppliers, such as agricultural practices, environmental management, and labour conditions. Being able to talk face to face and understand the challenges is much more effective in person.
Q. What are you looking for when you’re tasting coffee at the origin? And are there particular characteristics you have in mind when visiting Rwanda?
When tasting coffee at origin, there are various things to consider depending on its intended use. For instance, Rwanda has a lot of Bourbon variety coffee trees, which tend to have a sweet yet complex profile.
Q. It’s a tonne of hard work and we’re proud to have you on the Supreme team. Are you able to break down your process and the timeline — from sourcing green beans to customers drinking at home or in a cafe?
From selecting the beans to brewing them at home, it usually takes four to five months, depending on where they have come from. For this trip to Rwanda, the coffee I selected in early June won’t land in the roastery until December.
Harvesting → processing → milling → exportation → shipping → clearance & quality control → roasting.
Q. Rwanda Shangi has been a crowd favourite this year, can we expect some similar coffees on the horizon?
Indeed you can expect some fine coffees again from Rwanda! One in particular that stood out came from the Vunga Washing Station in the Nyabihu District of northwestern Rwanda (near the misted mountains that are home to Rwanda's famous gorillas).
Q. With your deep knowledge and love of music, how does this come into play? Is there any relation between sourcing green beans and sourcing new music?
Curation and selection are where I see the most similarities between the two. How will a coffee fit/mix into the menu, and what role will it play. As most music these days is consumed digitally, it has lost some of the intentional thought used to go into selection and curation. As coffee is still very much analog, that moment of intention it requires is something to be savoured just as much as the coffee itself.
Q. Outside of coffee-related activities, what else did you get up to in Rwanda?
I didn’t have too much downtime on this trip, but I did visit the Genocide Museum, which was quite a confronting experience, but it gave me a much deeper understanding of how the conflict arose and the atrocities that took place. Rwanda has been reborn out of this conflict into one of the most successful economies in Africa.
While on these trips, I always make an effort to try the local cuisine, and in Rwanda’s case, Nyama Choma is one of the national dishes. It consists of spiced rubbed goat grilled over coals and served with a spicy tomato and onion salsa. Needless to say, it was delicious.
Q. It goes without saying, a journey of this magnitude requires music. Can you share your Rwanda playlist with us?
I mostly listened to the soothing sounds of Gigi Masin’s Talk to the Sea on this trip. It was the perfect salve for the chaos travelling across continents can bring.
Read next: Tales of Rwanda with Heath Cater