Ever wonder if coffee roasters pay more for really great green coffee than great coffee? Let’s see if we can figure it out.
Counter Culture coffee is a leader in the specialty coffee industry by selling great coffee, working closely with farmers, and striving to push sustainability and transparency. The recent Counter Culture Coffee report on sustainability details their carbon footprint and efforts to reduce emissions and offset use. They are a leader when it comes to lifting the veil on the coffee supply chain. Another recent report they released includes what they paid for each single origin coffee purchased in 2014 and their cupping scores for those coffees.
Counter Culture reports that they paid on average $3.37 per pound of coffee while the commodities market was priced at $2.03. According the the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), coffee loses about 18% in roasting. Accordingly, the Counter Culture average price would be $4.11 vs $2.37.
I wanted to see if there was a correlation between price and cupping score. For all coffees the correlation was low but when we remove all the off-menu purchases and the coffees purchased in low volume (less than 300 pounds), a trend of increasing price with increasing cupping score can be seen. Applying a linear fit to these 55 coffee prices and cupping scores indicates that every extra dollar in price gives about 2 cupping points (as you can see there is still large variation with R^2 0.18).
Transparent Trade Coffee provided a more statistical analysis separating the contribution from cupping score (3.7 points per dollar), purchase quantity ($0.03 discount per 1,000 pounds), and how long Counter Culture had purchased from the farm ($0.12 more per year). Their analysis ignored the differences between regions (Africa, Central America…).
Out of curiosity, I looked at the average score by country. Ethiopia had 13 coffees that had an average cupping score of 91.4 and an average price of $3.51 while Kenya had 5 coffees with an average cupping score of 91.6 and an average price of $4.57. The maximum score for coffees from any other country was below the average given to either Kenyan or Ethiopian coffees. Third was Congo with 2 coffees and an average score of 89.
Did Counter Culture just purchase really good coffees from Ethiopia and Kenya in 2014?
or maybe Is the definition of a good coffee set by the flavors and aromas in Ethiopian and Kenyan coffee?
When I plotted the average cupping scores by country, Ethiopian coffees sure look like the best value.
We should add a caveat to this analysis by saying that all of these coffees are likely great and as everyday consumers we probably couldn’t tell the difference between a few points. Hopefully we can test this out in the future? Stay tuned!
Overall take away — Higher scoring coffees did, on balance, cost Counter Culture a bit more, but there was large variation between countries. Next we will take a look to see if this impacts retail price.
- Counter Culture transparency report https://counterculturecoffee.com/sustain/transparency-report
- Coffee association explanation of prices http://www.scaa.org/chronicle/2014/09/15/the-cost-of-a-cup-of-coffee-where-does-the-money-go-2/
- Transparent Trade Coffee analysis of Counter Culture coffee, published 11/16/2015. http://transparenttradecoffee.org/insights/deeper-market-insights-from-counter-culture-s-transparency-reports
- Way too much info on the coffee commodity market https://www.theice.com/publicdocs/ICE_Coffee_Brochure.pdf