Weekly Coffee News
November 16, 2015
Ethiopia, ECX Announces New Traceability Platform
Report by AFKinsider
The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) has launched a national traceability system that will make it possible for international buyers to track the footprint of Ethiopian coffee in granular detail.
The new electronic tagging system worth $4.5 million — powered by IBM and Frequenz IRIS technology — encompass over five million smallholder farmers engaged in producing multiple commodities traded at the ECX.
The system is expected to increase exports of high-quality Ethiopian coffee world-wide and enhance market access for specialty coffee from Ethiopia.
“True traceability goes beyond the commodity’s type or origin to tracing where the commodity has been,” CIO East Africa quoted Ermias Eshetu, chief executive ECX, saying.
“We wish to track the footprint of our coffee and where and when it was washed, stored, who sampled and graded it, and when it was shipped. All of these facts will help improve our ability to move commodities traded within the exchange and create premium value for all stakeholders in the value chain.”
The initiative is expected to increase the nation’s coffee exports by allowing buyers to track the commodity’s ‘footprint’ to better ensure its quality and sustainability.
The ECX tagging system will link bags of coffee traded on the platform to one of over 2,500 geo-referenced washing, hulling and cleaning stations located in Ethiopia’s southern, central and western coffee growing regions.
“The traceability system will utilize IBM’s powerful cloud platform, analytics and mobile to provide ECX with continuous real-time data insights that enable the system to learn and predict the quality of Ethiopian coffee based on local growth and processing conditions.” IBM General Manager for East Africa, Nik Nesbitt, said.
“The system will analyze incoming client coffee quality needs and match that with the needs of buyers across the globe.”
Africa, a continent that largely depend on commodities for revenue, only has two commodity exchanges in South Africa and Ethiopia.
According to data from the African Development Bank, there have been plans to create a commodity exchange in at least 28 African countries in the last 25 years, but none of them has moved beyond the concept and studies phase.
Lack of commodity exchanges on the continent has forced many farmers to sell their produce through middlemen at very low prices compared to the true market value. This could be as low as a tenth of the value of the commodity, Mail & Guardian Africa reported.
October 23, 2015
TechMIC Article : Go Cubes
October 12, 2015
Movie Trailer : FILOSOFI KOPI
October 05, 2015
Central America – Record drought, sparse late rains
More than 500,000 families in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have nothing to eat due to a record drought.
On a hot June day, Gerónimo Carrasco makes one of the most difficult decisions of his life. He thought to himself, “the rains won’t come,” so he sold his two cows. “I don’t have water or food to give them. I have to exchange them for food for my family,” said the farmer, who owns a small plot in San Nicolás, Nicaragua.
In Central America the lack of rain is a first-person experience. Like Carrasco, thousands of smallholder farmers have been forced to sell their basic commodities to survive one of the longest droughts in nearly half a century, which has driven 2 million people to the brink of starvation.
Yellow fields, dry leaves and cracked earth. In this desolate landscape, only a miracle could make the beans grow, which is a staple for millions of Central Americans.
More than half a million families are suffering from what experts call “food insecurity,” – in other words, the lack of food – due to agricultural and livestock losses. According to estimates by Central American governments, Oxfam and other international aid agencies, 236,000 families in Guatemala, 120,000 in Honduras, 100,000 in Nicaragua and 96,000 in El Salvador are already facing this situation.
Gerónimo’s story is similar to that of many other families who live in the Dry Corridor, which extends across the four countries. The severe drought resulted from a long period without rain: there were 45 days without precipitation between July and August, the first rainy months of the year.
According to experts, this year’s drought may be associated with El Niño phenomenon. The lack of rain is occurring during the most critical period for corn and bean production, causing significant losses of these crops.
The scenario for the coming months is discouraging. Meteorologists say relief will be delayed since irregular rains are forecast until October.
Guatemala, in the eye of the drought
This devastating situation has had the worst impact on Guatemala, where the drought occurred following two years of poor harvests (2012-2013) and declining employment for day workers resulting from the coffee rust crisis.
The drought has affected 70 percent of the country’s landmass and the poorest 54 percent of the population, a segment that accounts for half of all chronic malnutrition among children under age five, according to SESAN (Guatemala’s Food and Nutritional Security Secretariat).
Diego Arias, WB agricultural economist, says that more than 1 million households in Central America, most located in the Dry Corridor – which extends in over 30 percent of this region – are subsistence farmers. “It is in those households where the drought results in malnutrition and fewer opportunities to escape poverty.”
According to the expert, governments should implement a comprehensive risk management strategy for agriculture. This entails preventive activities such as initiatives for increased access to more resistant seeds, improved agricultural practices and investment in irrigation systems. Additionally, governments must better organize disaster response to provide food and income to the most affected households.
Finally, but no less important, catastrophic risk must be spread out to ensure sufficient resources in years of extreme losses. “Agricultural insurance (a type of insurance against weather phenomena) is needed to protect the most vulnerable in the event of severe droughts,” says Arias. “These mechanisms already exist in countries such as Peru, Mexico and Brazil.”
Alternative for the isthmus
Despite the state of emergency, a variety of efforts have been implemented for several years to counteract the impact of climate change on the lives of Central Americans.
In Honduras, the Dry Corridor Alliance, a government proposal that brings together aid agencies, including the World Bank, seeks to train local farmers to diversify their crops and to engage in subsistence activities other than agriculture.
On the otherr hand, Guatemala has launched projects to help more than 1,000 families in the Dry Corridor improve their agricultural productivity through the use of agroforestry and rainwater irrigation systems. This initiative also provides support in the lower-cost production of environmentally-friendly basic grains.
Finally, El Salvador has implemented a project to assist more than 2,000 smallholder farmers in the eastern part of the country to adapt their practices in an effort to mitigate the effects of the drought and food insecurity caused by the volatility of food prices and agricultural inputs (tools, seeds, fertilizers) and energy (fuel and electricity).
September 23, 2015
Groundbreaking Research in the Science of Flavor
by Caitlin McCarthy-Garcia
The coffee industry was built on exploration and discovery. Continuous innovations in coffee lead to advancements in growing, roasting, evaluating and brewing tastier coffee. The boundaries of quality are constantly being tested and pushed. New research in the field of sensory science, presented at the Specialty Coffee Association’s Symposium, will redefine how we describe quality.
This past April, one of the most interesting discussions at Symposium centered on the science of flavor. Flavor is the fundamental decider of quality in specialty coffee. In order to improve communication regarding quality, the industry requires a true standardization of terms. The sensory scientists at Kansas State University and Texas A&M University, some of the most recognized in the world, have partnered with World Coffee Research to develop a lexicon of terms that describe these flavors. The lexicon will complement tools we coffee professionals already use to evaluate taste, including the Flavor Wheel and Le Nez du Café.
Researchers have discovered a total of 108 distinct flavor attributes found in coffee. They’re developing a manual that describes flavor attributes and a set of corresponding chemical references, with instructions on how to prepare them.
The lexicon will be an evolving document that is updated regularly with input from the industry. Coffee cuppers will have the opportunity to send in samples that contain an attribute that they think should be added to the list. A group of trained sensory advisers will then review the suggestion to check on its validity in coffee.
On a side note, both salt and apricot descriptors are not included in the lexicon- the sensory advisers felt these attributes are not truly present in coffee.
At the Roasters Guild Retreat in August, the coffee lexicon was put to the test. A sensory scientist from Texas A&M University led a group of 40 attendees through the process of becoming familiar with eight references, followed by scoring five samples of coffee. We tasted references of varying strengths of flavor attributes including bitter, sour, burnt, roasted and balanced. Then we scored five brewed coffees on a 0-15 point scale of intensity. At first attempt with the lexicon, references were effective and calibration was a successful learning experience.
One of the greatest challenges for the industry at large is to describe quality and have it translate across the supply chain. The purpose of the coffee flavor lexicon is to have a sensory diagnostic tool that quantifies coffee descriptors. The hope is that by developing a common set of flavor descriptors, we can more easily recognize and reward quality, from farmer to consumer. Researchers will publish the lexicon online by end of year.
August 21, 2015
Central America – Severe Drought effects Coffee Communities
SAN SALVADOR, Aug 20 (Reuters) – Central American and Caribbean governments on Thursday issued an official alert as severe drought in the region damages the crops of some 1.6 million people.
As part of the step, governments from the farming-dependent region pledged to help afflicted families and coordinate international relief efforts to deal with the drought, the cost of which is still being calculated.
“Agreement has been reached to declare an agricultural alert across all of Central America and the Caribbean, not just to … take preventive steps for what follows, but also raise international awareness and seek cooperation,” Orestes Ortez, El Salvador’s Agriculture Minister, told reporters.
Officials from Central American governments and the Dominican Republic took part in a meeting on the drought in El Salvador.
Last week, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said nearly 1 million people in Guatemala alone are struggling to feed themselves due to drought and poor harvests.
Central American coffee farmers have already been hit hard by a deadly fungus known as roya in the past two seasons.
July 20, 2015
Economist Article – CBB and resistance to caffeine
THE coffee-berry borer is a pesky beetle. It is thought to destroy $500m-worth of unpicked coffee beans a year, thus diminishing the incomes of some 20m farmers. The borer spends most of its life as a larva, buried inside a coffee berry, feeding on the beans within. To do so, it has to defy the toxic effects of caffeine. This is a substance which, though pleasing to people, is fatal to insects—except, for reasons hitherto unknown, to the coffee-berry borer. But those reasons are unknown no longer. A team of researchers led by Eoin Brodie of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Fernando Vega of the United States Department of Agriculture had a suspicion the answer lay not with the beetle itself, but with the bacteria in its gut. As they outline in Nature Communications, that suspicion has proved correct.
The team’s hypothesis was that the borer’s gut bacteria are shielding it by eating any caffeine it has ingested before the poison can be absorbed through the insect’s gut wall. Experiments on a laboratory-reared strain of the borer suggested this hypothesis was probably true. Initially, the larvae’s droppings were caffeine-free. When the lab-reared insects were dosed with antibiotics, this and Dr Vega turned to wild beetles. They collected samples from seven coffee-growing countries and combed through the insects’ gut floras, looking for features in common. By constructing what was, in effect, a Venn diagram of microbes from these populations, and also those from their lab-bred strain, they were able to focus on the bacterial species found in all of them.
They tried growing each of these on a medium whose only source of carbon and nitrogen for metabolism was caffeine. Some of the bugs were able to survive on this diet, others were not. Of the survivors, the most abundant in beetle guts was Pseudomonas fulva. This species, a genetic analysis showed, is blessed with an enzyme called caffeine demethylase, which converts caffeine into something that can be dealt with by normal metabolic enzymes.
Kill P. fulva, then, and you would probably kill the borer. But that is easier said than done. Even if spraying coffee plantations with antibiotics were feasible and would do the job (by no means certain, for the larvae would have to ingest sufficient antibiotic for the purpose), it would be undesirable. The profligate use of antibiotics encourages resistance, thus making them less effective for saving human lives.
There might, though, be another way of getting at P. fulva. This would be to craft a type of virus, known as a bacteriophage, specific to the bug—an approach already being investigated for the treatment of human illness caused by a different species ofPseudomonas.
In practice, more than one type of phage would probably be needed, for if P. fulva were knocked out, another caffeine-consuming bacterium in the beetle’s gut might end up replacing it. But, regardless of the details, this study has introduced a novel way of thinking about pest control. Many plants use poisons to protect themselves from insects. Sometimes, such plants are crops. Being able to circumvent these natural insecticides is an important part of becoming abundant enough to constitute a pest. It is possible other agronomists who have been seeking to understand how critters do this have been looking in the wrong place—ie, at the critters themselves, rather than among the bacteria in their guts.
July 14, 2015
ECOM Costa Rica – Juan Gabriel Cespedes – World Cup Tasters Champ 2015 !
ECOM’s own Juan Gabriel Cespedes won the World Championship Cup Tasters competition last month in Sweden.
He’s the first winner hailing from Latin American to win the competition, and he won by a clear majority, perfect score of 8/8 sets
June 26, 2015
Coffee Grounds in your Garden…
… in case your Tomatoes need a boost !
The following information was developed for Sunset by Soil and Plant Laboratory Inc., Bellevue, WA.
Summary: Use of xxxxxxx coffee grounds in amending mineral soils up to 35 percent by volume coffee grounds will improve soil structure over the short-term and over the long-term. Use of the coffee grounds at the specified incorporation rates (rototilled into a 6- to 8-inch depth) will substantially improve availabilities of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper and will probably negate the need for chemical sources of these plant essential elements.
The nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium “guaranteed analyses” would be as follows for the coffee grounds:
Nitrogen: 2.28 percent
Phosphorus: 0.06 percent
Potassium: 0.6 percent
Available nutrient levels: The pH or reaction of the coffee grounds is considered slightly acidic and in a favorable range at 6.2 on the pH scale.
Salinity (ECe) is a measurement of total soluble salts and is considered slightly elevated at 3.7 dS/m. The primary water-soluble salts in this product are potassium, magnesium, sodium and chloride. The potentially problematic ions in sodium and chloride are each sufficiently low as to be inconsequential in terms of creating problems for plants.
The availabilities of nitrogen, calcium, zinc, manganese and iron are quite low and in some cases deficient. Thus, the coffee grounds will not supply appreciable amounts of these essential plant elements when used as a mineral soil amendment.
However, the availabilities of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper are each sufficiently high that there will be a very positive impact on improving availabilities of these elements where the coffee grounds are used as a mineral soil amendment. The coffee grounds will negate the need for additional sources of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper when blended with mineral soils.
In summary, the available plant essential elements which will be substantially improved where the coffee grounds are used as a soil amendment, include phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper.
Total nutrient levels: Each cubic yard of these coffee grounds contains a total of 10.31 lbs. nitrogen, of which 0.01 lb. (0.09%) are available. Thus, even though available nitrogen is considered deficient in this product, there still remains over 10 lbs. of total nitrogen per cubic yard of coffee grounds. Thus, nitrogen is primarily bound in the organic fraction and is unavailable to plants until soil microorganisms degrade the organic fraction. Through this process, the nitrogen is converted to plant available forms. Over the long term the coffee grounds will act like a slow release fertilizer providing long-term nitrogen input which can then be utilized by plants.
Nearly all potassium and all magnesium are in the available forms. This means that immediate availability improvements for these two elements will take place when the coffee grounds are blended with mineral soils. About half of the copper and calcium are in their immediately available forms.
All other plant essential elements are primarily bound in the organic fraction and will thus be subject to slow release over time as soil microbes continue to degrade the organic fraction.
Physical properties: Virtually all particles passed the 1 millimeter (mm) screen resulting in a product which is very fine textured. Each cubic yard of the coffee grounds will supply an excellent amount of organic matter, measured at 442 lbs. organic matter per cubic yard. At the use rates indicated in this report, the input of organic matter will be substantial and will result in considerable short-term and long-term improvement of mineral soil structure.
Carbon/nitrogen ratio: On the basis of dry matter bulk density (452 lbs. per cubic yard), organic matter content (97.7%) and total nitrogen (2.28%), the estimated carbon/nitrogen ratio is about 24:1. This means that there is more than sufficient nitrogen present in the coffee grounds to provide for the nitrogen demand of the soil microorganisms as they degrade the organic fraction.
Use rate: Based on the overall chemistry and physical properties of the coffee grounds, they can be utilized at rates similar to other organic amendments when used in amending mineral soils. These data indicate that 25-35 percent by volume coffee grounds can be blended with mineral soils of any type to improve structure of those soils.
June 03, 2015
Colombia Coffee sees labor shortages
JARDIN, COLOMBIA | BY PETER MURPHY
As Colombia cheers a return to its biggest coffee harvest in eight years
after beating off a disease epidemic, farmers are running into a
potentially more serious problem: a shortage of workers to gather swelling
volumes of arabica beans.
Some regions have turned to town criers and loudspeaker bus-station
announcements to find candidates for the arduous, cash-in-hand work, but
the meager response means more and more farmers are leaving some of their
The labor shortages are a side effect of economic growth that has cut
unemployment to historic lows. Experts say it will be tough for the world’s
top grower of mild arabica to expand far beyond Colombia million 60-kg bags a
year now. They say that will eventually push Colombian coffee prices
“There is talk of reaching 15, 18 million bags but the big question is who
will pick it? I think we’re approaching the ceiling,” said Marcelo Salazar,
head of the central Caldas branch of the farmer-funded National Coffee
In Colombia a key turn-off for coffee pickers, beyond exposure to the
elements and the physical challenge of working on steep inclines, is the
job’s informality. Growers say they cannot afford to pay for pensions or
other fringe benefits.
“Gathering coffee is for crazy people. It’s a very hard job. I’m waiting to
get into the army,” said picker Alejandro Hernandez, 17, walking home in
rubber boots on a wet Saturday in Fredonia, Antioquia, a collection bucket
slung over his shoulder.
He currently earns 200,000 pesos (around $80) a week, about a quarter more
than the minimum wage. Colombia’s construction boom and $24 billion highway
building program are soaking up labor on top of a steady rural exodus
shifting workers to cities.
Poorer areas like the southwest can still expand coffee output a little
with land and hands to spare. But experts say Colombia, which has seen its
global market slide to an 8 percent share, will be unable to claw back the
15 percent it enjoyed two decades ago.
The labor squeeze will likely raise Colombian prices in the longer term
once steadily growing demand for its high-end beans exhausts production
capacity. This could spur Central American rivals to boost output in
Fewer hands to carry out farm maintenance would also heighten the threat
from coffee-eating berry borer pests. Infestations can decimate crops
unless kept in check by scrupulous sweeping up of infected fruit.
The worker shortage is part of a broader human resource problem. The
average age of coffee farmers is now 55, and their offspring are turning
away from a business where financial volatility is one of the few
Colombia has about 600,000 coffee pickers. The coffee federation estimates
that the biggest coffee areas need 20 to 40 percent more pickers to ensure
quality by picking each berry when it is at its ripest.
QUANTITY VS QUALITY
Colombia’s high altitudes that enhance flavor allow the country to produce
large quantities of quality coffee. Traders and analysts said that with no
other origin able to match these conditions, Colombia’s coffee will
eventually get more expensive. Central America, prestigious but lacking
high altitudes, is the best alternative, they say.
“Colombia is considered top shelf and cream of the crop … Buyers will
have to pay higher premiums for Central American and Colombian coffee to
get what they want,” said Florida-based coffee analyst Shawn Hackett.
Beans from Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala would be options for
roasters seeking to replace Colombian, although fungal roya disease has
decimated crops in those countries, where it will take years for new trees
to start producing.
Hackett said growth in the high-end coffee segment could increase
competition for Colombian beans in as soon as three years.
When similar factors caused shortages of pickers in Brazil in the last five
years, the world’s top grower mechanized. But Colombia’s mountainside
farms, tricky to access on foot let alone with machines, rule out that
Farmer-funded coffee researcher Cenicafe has studied everything from
mechanization and alternative varieties of trees to hand-held gadgets that
can strip beans from branches faster to boost productivity, but none have
Growers say cutting corners on quality is the only way volumes can be
increased, by stripping all the fruit in one labor-saving sweep and
separating ripe from unripe afterward.
Some large farms, now forced to do that, have to discard unripe beans or
sell them locally since they fall short of Colombia’s export standards.
“It’s a critical situation now. All the boys are going to the city. They
don’t want to work the land. There are no incentives,” said farmer Conrado
Antonio Marin, in Jardin, a town in Antioquia province, one of the biggest
He has hiked wages more than 50 percent in three years but to little avail.
He can find only two pickers and must join in himself to harvest his own
It’s a familiar story for Fredonia coffee buyer Juan Saul Parra, 32.
“There are people with trees to produce 1,000 arrobas (11.5 tonnes), who
harvest only 800 because they don’t have anyone to pick it all,” he said,
sifting through a bean sample while a farmer awaited a price.
“As the years go by, this will get worse and worse.”
(Reporting by Peter Murphy; Editing by Helen Murphy and David Gregorio)