Ben Kelloway's Trip to Brazil August 2023

This year was a big one for Ben Kelloway as he headed up the launch of Circles, a new single farm coffee that we launched last month. The Circles coffee comes from Family Garcia, an estate made up of 3 farms owned by Natalia Brito & Andre Luiz Garcia who also have an export company called Jaguara that exports coffee for a total of 6 farms (including their own 3). We asked Ben a few questions about his trip, what he learned and why he’s excited about working with Natalia and Andre.

Minas Gerais - Brazil

So this is your fist sourcing trip?  When did you start working in coffee?

Yes! First sourcing trip and in terms of when I started working in coffee it depends what you count as coffee because my first job was in Starbucks in 2012, I feel like starting there 11 years ago up to where I am now in my career I’ve seen a lot of the industry, good and bad. It gives me a good overview of the industry.

Did you find going to visit a coffee farm changed how you view coffee in any way?

I think I needed that trip, having worked in coffee for such a long time, when we’re constantly getting new coffees at the roastery and releasing them, you read the farm information but after so many coffees you start slightly glossing over things and start to disengage a bit. Also some of the terminology about processing, while I understood the definitions it was all a bit academic and removed. Now that I’ve met and connected with the people we’re buying these coffees from, finding out why they do certain things a certain way, what their motivation is. It also really showed me what the value of these trips is for roasters and farmers, there was another roaster over visiting and he’s been visiting Natalia for the last seven years, every year they try different fermentation methods and because he’s committed to the working relationship he’ll buy all of the coffees that come out of those experiments. So for him he benefits from unique coffees that he’s been involved in processing and for her she’s able to experiment and try new things without taking risks. Beyond that there’s also things that come out of collaborating in this way that are just so helpful, for example at the farm they’ve always put cherries in barrels and stored them upright to ferment, he suggested putting them on their side and rolling them every few hours, to keep the cherries in water and keep everything consistent and keep everything wet. It’s a simple method borrowed from racking in wine but that simple tip is probably going to change how Natalia ferments everything. People lending tips and working together can really change and improve things.

Was there anything that really stood out to you on their farms?

They’ve got rows of coffee trees with rows of banana trees for shade in between, the biodiversity is really good. They plant lots of different things around the farm not just for shade but also to support wildlife in general. They’re working towards being entirely self-sufficient in producing their own fertiliser but currently are still using 10% of bought fertiliser, which is already a low percentage for a fairly large scale coffee producer in Brazil.

Conversations over cherries

A lot of your time is spent working with wholesale customers, has it felt different selling these coffees now that you’ve visited the farm?

I had a meeting with some potential customers and made them a flat white with the Circles coffee that we sourced from Jaguar and when they said it was their favourite coffee they’d had from any of the roasters they’d visited and it just made me so happy. Because I can connect that with the people who had shown me so much love when I was over there, they’d really looked after me and you know that coffee is always going to mean so much more to me now.

Why are these close relationships important?

Our buying model with the help of Nordic Approach in particular is really structured around buying from key farmer partners year on year, which I think is really illustrated by all the blog posts and newsletters we put out there but in particular by our annual transparency report (that we’ll publish in Feb).

It was really cool for me and a big moment of progression in my career that this particular relationship was established by me going and making those connections. I’m excited for next year's visit and to be working with Natalia and Andre.