‘Our aim is to improve together.’

ANDREAS FELSEN (46) is a direct importer of coffee and coffee roaster at Quijote Kaffee in Hamburg.

ANDREAS FELSEN (46) ist Kaffeedirektimporteur und Röster  von Quijote Kaffee in Hamburg.‘I arrived in the Río Napo region in June 2010 with the aim of finding producers of high-quality robusta coffee. A coffee importer in Hamburg had told me that it was grown there. So I went in search of it and my attention was drawn to the Jatary cooperative in the provincial town of Tena. This was a stroke of luck for me because the robusta produced by the sixty or so farmers, most of them women, is of excellent quality. Jatary has been supplying us since 2011, and as we pay regular visits to our partners we get to know a lot of people – including from GIZ. It was through these personal links with GIZ that we also came into contact with the Waylla Kuri cooperative in 2013.

Today, both cooperatives supply us with increasing quantities of robusta coffee of ever better quality. This fits in well with the philosophy of Quijote Kaffee: to improve together. It all starts with choosing the right beans, then drying them and selecting the dried beans. All of these steps are labour-intensive, but the hard work is worth it – for both sides. The minimum price we pay for one American pound, or 454 grams, of robusta is USD 2.80, but we do expect excellent quality for that. We only accept beans that reach a very high level on the Specialty Coffee Association scale. In exchange for this we pay much more than the global market price for robusta (USD 0.71 per pound as of August 2019). With us, therefore, a significantly higher percentage of the final consumer price goes back to the cooperatives, which is what we want. We believe in a partnership of equals, which also includes providing training and advice on the ground, whether about cultivation or about developing their own roasting profiles to sell their own coffee locally. In addition, we pre-finance the harvest, paying for 60 per cent of the ordered quantity, interest-free. In that way we take our share of the risk – after all, the farmers have the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, in the form of harvest failure, loss of quality due to climate impacts such as rainy seasons at entirely the wrong time, and financing risks. This isn’t fair and we are doing things differently.’  —

Interview by Knut Henkel

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published in akzente 3/19