We are proud to source many of our coffees through our amazing importing partner, Raw Material. Raw Material is registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in the UK. This means it exists to benefit the community as opposed to private shareholders. 100% of its profits are allocated for the benefit of the smallholder farmers it works with, either directly through payments for coffee, or through investment in community-level projects, such as the building of coffee processing facilities and community hubs for the purpose of knowledge sharing and education.
With the interests of the communities that it serves being hardwired into Raw Material’s DNA, we can be confident that we are sourcing coffee in accordance with our own guiding principles. The longer we work with Raw Material, the more intertwined and involved with these communities we become ourselves, and we look forward to sharing more and more of their coffees and stories with you.
Raw Material currently operates in Colombia, Rwanda, Burundi, Timor-Leste and Mexico.
In Colombia, Raw Material operates directly with the communities that it buys from. These currently include El Carmen (Huila), Villamaría (Caldas), Santuario (Risaralda), and El Aguila (Valle de Cauca), a network that has become known as the Red Associations. El Carmen was the first of the Red Associations established in 2017 following a meeting between Raw Material and the producer members of the Asociación Agropecuaria El Carmen de Acevedo.
At this meeting Raw Material heard that despite good levels of production, income from coffee had dropped to unsustainable levels over the previous few years, and the smallholder families were faced with the prospect of having to find alternative income outside of coffee. On the back of this meeting Raw Material came up with a model to provide the producers with a far greater and more stable income, and to invest in the infrastructure and systems necessary to raise the quality of the coffee that they grow. Once seen to be successful, the model (which you can read more about here) was able to be replicated in the other communities mentioned above.
In addition to the Red Associations, Raw Material has also established its own community wet mill, El Fenix, in Quindío. The goal of El Fenix is to connect more farmers in the region to the speciality coffee market, by allowing them much greater control over their coffee quality and income. The mill is staffed by local producers, and roasters from overseas, providing a meeting point of people from both ends of the value chain, and an invaluable feedback loop of each others’ challenges and requirements.
In other countries, Raw Material has adopted a different model, working with local partners that share similar values to themselves in terms of working for the benefit of the communities that they support. In Rwanda, for example, they have partnered with Muraho Trading Company (MTC).
MTC is the brainchild of Gaudam and Karthick Anbalagan, two Kiwi brothers who were raised to call Rwanda home. They are motivated by showing the world not only the very best that Rwandan speciality coffee has to offer, but also the people and the country that they feel have given them so much.
Since building their first washing station, Kilimbi, in March 2016, they have gone on to establish five more stations in Rwanda - Rugali (April 2016), Shyira (January 2017), Bumbogo (January 2017), Gisheke (April 2018), and Vunga (March 2019).
Aside from their focus on quality, it is MTC’s youthfulness, vibrancy, and commitment to bringing positive change to the communities that they serve that make us proud to represent their coffee. We believe that engaging youth, and showcasing the farmers that produce such wonderful coffee is key to the long term sustainability of the speciality coffee industry and the livelihood of the communities that support it.
It is stories and initiatives such as these that make us proud to source coffee through Raw Material, and to share these wonderful stories and coffees with you.