Bean Counter: Local Coffee Roaster Juggles Supply, Price

Last month, when local coffee roaster Batdorf & Bronson ran out of its seasonal Guatemala Antigua Finca El Valle coffee blend, it took weeks before they could replenish their shelves.

But that didn’t last long, either.

Thanks to rising demand internationally and limited supply from their Antigua-based growing partners, an all-organic, third-generation family farm they’ve partnered with for 14 years, the company is again waiting on another shipment of the unique seasonal blend.

And even though the relationship takes work to maintain, sometimes requiring the company to send workers to help out the farm when they can, the company remains dedicated to developing strong personal relationships with their growers, according to Jason Dominy, Batdorf & Bronson’s local wholesale support and outreach coordinator.

“We believe in selling what we call ‘relationship coffees,’” he says. “Because happy farmers make happy coffee.”

Based in Olympia, Wash., the company’s Atlanta facility boasts one of their largest roasteries, which services wholesalers, coffee shops, restaurants and other customers along the East Coast.

The coffee roaster also maintains several coffee shops of its own, including the Dancing Goats Coffee Bar in downtown Decatur, GA.

But the coffee market has changed significantly in recent years, in due in part both to natural causes, such as droughts, temperature changes and labor issues, in addition to massive speculation by investors, which has significantly influenced how the business has operated, according to Mr. Dominy.

“So if you think about it, supply and demand really runs the show, but we have this added element of speculators, which is very much exactly what happens in oil,” Mr. Dominy said.

Although Mr. Dominy says the coffee industry is presently in a down pricing period, confirmed by the fact that coffee futures hit 21-month lows on the market May 23, he said the industry is subject to sudden price swings.

“Last year, coffee prices went up 100 percent in a year and that was a huge challenge for roasters like us.”

However, coffee roasters can’t mark their product up by the same amount to wholesalers, so roasters fluctuate between periods of loss and gain depending on the market, much like investors.

“[So] we make a little money and we lose a little money and at the end of the year [we] hope it all levels out,” he continued.

Despite the uncertain coffee market, Batdorf & Bronson hosts many local events and maintains significant partnerships with international aid organizations, including the family-focused groups Coffee Kids and Grounds for Health.

Just last month, the company hosted an Ethiopian coffee culture night, the proceeds of which benefited Action 4 Words, a non-profit dedicated to building classrooms and providing textbooks in schools across Ethiopia, mainly in coffee growing areas.

Mr. Dominy also says the company is planning an event to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank in coming weeks.

He says the company does these programs because it fits the general ethos of the company.

“We do a lot of unique things out of here, and I feel like it matches our personality,” Mr. Dominy says.


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