How to build your coffee assortment

3 Tips to start up your roastery

Starting up a coffee roasting business, as a starting roaster, you might find yourself wrestling to identify a coffee assortment that matches your brand values. It can be overwhelming to select a full bundle of coffees in one go: whether to focus on more than one country of origin, what quality and pricing level, which flavor note to be the lead, so on and so forth.

Taking from insights of a specialty coffee importer, we have put together 3 main tips in this blog as a guideline for starting roasters. What should new roasters watch out for?

#1 Keep an eye on harvest seasons

Typically, the coffee harvest season arrives once per year, varying its moment among countries and altitude. The harvesting period then lasts around 2 to 3 months, followed by processing and exporting preparation. There are exceptions to the rule, Colombia is one of few countries that harvest throughout the year as each region has both a main crop and fly-crop.

Why would it be worthwhile to purchase coffee within harvest seasons? 

In short: Quality. By purchasing green coffee freshly harvested and shipped, you are ensured to be tasting the bean at its best. You might argue that with a fixed assortment list in mind already, there is no need to browse for a new harvest. However, any assortment can get old over time. 

In general, the average “fresh” shelf life of specialty coffee ranges from 10 to 16 months after harvesting. Subtracting months of exporting and shipment (take another quick look at our harvest calendar for estimation), your coffees are usually left with roughly 6 months in the inventory to stay at its peak quality. Once the freshness is reduced, the bean turns stale and develops a distinct papery taste. Specifically for roasters who aim mainly for a light roast, this papery taste can be extremely prominent. 

On the other hand, if your clients are in for the dark roast, the freshness of coffee can be less of a problem since the darker roast takes care of the papery flavor itself. Hence, a piece of honest advice for dark roast selection, you can be flexible in the rush in buying according to the harvest season. Unless there is a specific must-have on your list, consider taking your time and wait for off-season coffee to have your discount!

#2a Build a relationship with your supplier: Importers

A close relationship with coffee importers goes a long way. First and foremost, importers are the key information point, making them a reliable source for seasonality projection. Therefore, you would want to be notified about new arrivals and reserve sufficient volumes for fixed assortment coffees of your pick before competitors do. Moreover, establishing trust can also benefit you in gaining credit terms or exclusivity over some special small lots.
 

Finally, having close communication surely keeps you in the loop for any updates on late orders and logistic issues. Only by getting first-hand information can you take action in advance, such as restocking on some other coffee in the meantime, or notifying your customers about the delay.

Consistent communication between roasters and importers brings thorough understanding of each other’s needs and helps the flow faster. A specialty coffee importer who truly knows your business will know which arriving coffee is your best fit.

#2b Build a relationship with your supplier: Producers

There is no denying that importers are the first contact point to gather information about coffee selection. However, reaching out to producers can be an additional helpful step if you want to have a deeper look into the quality-related matters but also to develop a stronger relationship for future purchases

The connection with the producer also places power in your brand narrative. Although it is unnecessary to build a relationship with every single producer of your selection, finding the farmer whose story aligns with your image is a strong pushing force. 

Therefore, reaching out to your importer and requesting the producer’s contact details can be the place to start.

#3 Find your narrative

Usually, constructing your coffee assortment starts with selecting a preferred flavour profile to narrow down your options. However, why must we emphasize aligning production-side stories with yours? 

It might appear evident, but a good narrative is your competitive edge in this saturated market. What is the story about your brand values? Which values fit the most to your brand? You gain the spotlight by not only identifying your business’s core values but also, selecting the right coffee with a story behind it that matches your brand. 

Usually, constructing your coffee assortment starts with selecting a preferred flavour profile to narrow down your options. However, why must we emphasize aligning production-side stories with yours? 

It might appear evident, but a good narrative is your competitive edge in this saturated market. What is the story about your brand values? Which values fit the most to your brand? You gain the spotlight by not only identifying your business’s core values but also, selecting the right coffee with a story behind it that matches your brand. 

In general, the rule applied is the higher the quality focus, the harder it is to keep working with the same producers. By selecting a more mid-range coffee with consistency you can truly adopt a coffee for the long term. Ask yourself some further questions. For instance: 

  • Do you want to be recognized as the coffee brand with top-notch quality? 
    Keep in mind that not every producer is able to match quality each season. Avoid focusing on one producer as the stories change over time.
  • Which other values from origin countries to align:  Social, environmental, or family values? 
    Select consistent coffee representing the values that you are able to work with.

And the process goes on.

One of our reminders, narratives do not have to be limited within the boundaries of product-related stories. Seek for your own competitive charm, no matter which angle you select, and turn them into your best-selling narrative.

One last small tip

One small tip before we reach the end is to recognize your underperforming aspects. Are you side-tracking? Are you targeting the wrong customers? Are you not finding the key competitive edge of yourself?… It is easy to get caught up in the business momentum in which you are constantly putting effort to maximize revenues and expand your business. However, neglecting to address your limitations can disrupt the business flow in the long run.  

Did this article help answer some of your uncertainty when it comes to selecting coffee assortments? There are indeed countless matters to take into account as you start your roastery. However, picking coffee for your brand is something we at The Coffee Quest can help you with. Get in touch with us!