Rumble’s annual Transparency Report represents our proud commitment to public self-assessment: the offering up of first-hand data on the prices we pay for specialty coffee in the spirit of sharing, evolving, and helping to create a more transparent industry for all.
Of course, 2020 was the year that no-one expected. And yet, in-between all the challenges, curiosities, pitfalls and more, things continued chugging right along here at Rumble HQ. Let’s kick off with some internal news first.
As for the industry more broadly, let’s take a look at how it all went down:
It goes without saying, of course, that COVID had a wide range of effects on our industry as a whole.
Here’s a snapshot.
• Across the world, importers experienced huge delivery delays caused by container shortages in producing countries
• Locally, cafes have been amongst the hardest-hit businesses with repeated lockdowns and general lack of confidence causing many operators to go under
• Many city-based suppliers also did it tough; with CBDs empty, rents high and fewer customers to go around, many struggled
• Producers faced ongoing healthcare struggles due to alleged mismanagement by local governments
• Producing countries faced unprecedented picker shortages due to lockdowns, travel restrictions, and more
As for us:
• It was incredibly tough to see many of our dearly valued customers close for extended periods of time, with some never to reopen
• We’ve had many sad and challenging conversations with our wonderful customers; problem-solving, dreaming and scheming to help each other through some of the toughest times of our lives
And yet, in true Team Rumble fashion, we turned up the dial on community spirit, innovative business practice and a greater-than-ever-before focus on Transparency in order to continue setting the standard for a refined and best-practice industry for all.
In response, we:
• Adopted Whatsapp as a lifeline - most of our producers were able to communicate openly and readily with us via this method, keeping us on top of local conditions and restrictions before they were reported elsewhere
• Facilitated a milling partnership in Guatemala between two producer families in order to generate a better cashflow for both farms
• Brought in free local home delivery during the Melbourne lockdowns which was backed by awesome support from the community
• Provided extended terms on invoices to the entirety of our wholesale family
• Facilitated additional marketing support to our wholesale customers
• Increased communications from Rumble HQ to our partners regarding updates on lockdown rules, Government grants and other shared industry tips
And while our response to something as deeply unprecedented as COVID will never be perfect, we stuck to our guns and prioritised what we always have: Transparency, community and the creation of a better industry for all, one step at a time.
Eventually, of course, we’ve also have to deal with the numbers!
So, in the wake of 2020, how exactly are we doing when it comes to the issue of Transparency?
We began Rumble with a single goal: to improve the industry from the inside out, all the way from producer to consumer. The biggest part of this process for us is publishing and openly discussing the prices we pay for our specialty coffee. In addition, we’re always striving to improve the sustainability of everything we do: from coffee-buying, to liaising with producers, to packaging, networking, and everything in-between.
But why a Transparency Report?
We know first-hand that making these sustainability-based decisions can feel like a huge undertaking for any business, and especially a small one! And yet, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We want to get better. We want a fairer and more sustainable industry for all. And at the end of the day, we know we have the capacity to do it. Producing this report is our way of making sure we do.
Overall, it’s clear to us that Transparency in coffee pricing is the best way to distribute the gains in specialty coffee with the people who matter most: those who grow it. By sharing with producers information on what we buy and how much we pay for coffee, we offer those we work with (as well as prospective producers) the opportunity to realise that selling to C-market is only one, far less viable option amongst a sea of other possibilities.
There’s no way we’re claiming that Transparency is a perfect, end-to-end solution or the only way to improve the situation for growers. There isn’t, however, any doubt at all that it’s a step in the right direction.
Aside from pursuing a better industry for all, we’re often asked about our motivations for running such a Transparency-focused operation. Ultimately, we’d love to see an international certification available that went far beyond the standards currently set for Fair Trade and C-market pricing; a certification that consumers would be proud to see on their coffee, knowing that the product is contributing to a wonderful quality of life for the farmers from which they buy.
Are you with us? Let’s get stuck into it!
In June 2019, Rumble was honored to attend the first-ever Transparency Colloquium hosted by Transparent Trade Coffee. This was a two-part meeting of coffee professionals from around the world with the common theme of discussion as - you guessed it - Transparency!The first day was run exclusively for data donors to the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide (SCTG). Spearheaded by Peter Roberts of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, the SCTG collects voluntarily submitted data from contracts detailing prices paid for coffee - and from all over the world, too. While the Colloquium was severely limited in scope this year due to the effects of COVID, we are pleased to report that data donors to the Transaction Guide have increased from 57 to 81. As a result, approximately 18,000 additional contracts (detailing prices paid for specialty coffee) have been collected in 2020 taking the total number of contracts collected to just over 50,000. Want to know if any of the coffee you’ve bought recently has been fairly acquired? We highly recommend downloading the Guide and having a read.
What’s the one thing that helps in times of crisis, aside from a level head?Relationships. And luckily for us, great relationships are the basis of everything we are (and do) at Rumble. Our relationships with our producers, for example, helped us all through some of the most difficult times we’ve ever faced. Back in March of 2020, we’d come to believe that the possibility of Rumble surviving the pandemic was incredibly low - therefore, many of our purchasing plans changed, by necessity. Luckily, our incredible producer partners understood and we banded together to form a plan. What else have we learned? That awesome communication is key. We now have incredible translation and messaging apps that better facilitate our communications. We love them! Of course, 2020 was a year when visiting producers was absolutely impossible. The future for this type of relationship, one in which we’re able to move back and forth to origin, also remains unsure. Matt did, for example, have trips booked to visit Rumble’s producers in Guatemala, Honduras and Columbia and had been invited to give a talk in Honduras - hosted by Perfect Daily Grind - about the importance of disclosing FOB price. Since January of last year, the strength of our global relationships has really been put to the test! While Transparency has become incredibly important to us, there’s no hiding the fact that ensuring it isn’t always easy. Keeping close contact with producers and ensuring good, consistent communication takes a lot of time, effort and resources in order to be effective and productive (and especially in this environment). Of course, this is especially so because of the different conditions, interests and needs of each region. As always, Rumble aims to work with only as many countries as is reasonably manageable.
What’s the one thing that Brazil is the largest coffee-growing region in the world. A majority of Brazil’s coffee is produced very cheaply by large farms with mechanical picking operations which ensures these farms play a big part in dictating C-market global trade. Some might argue that part is too big!We source coffee from two producers in Brazil.
The first is Pedro Gabarra who runs three large farms in Campos das Vertentes. In 2019, the wonderful Pedro was very proud to win the award for Brazil's Most Sustainable Farm (Globo Rural Magazine’s 6th Sustainable Farm Awards). Pedro also runs a program that helps rescued birds and other animals that have been saved for illegal trade, getting them ready for release back into nature. This commitment to restoring balance in nature and community runs true to everything Pedro is and stands for.What’s more, in early 2021, Pedro was granted an exciting “Carbon Positive” certification in Brazil - see here for further detail. Excitingly, a ‘carbon positive’ or ‘free carbon’ certification means the farm removes more CO2 from the atmosphere than it creates. A huge congratulations to Pedro on this incredible achievement! We’re also proud to work with Kleumon Silva of Sitio Canaa.Before beginning his own operation, Kleumon had been learning alongside Antonio Rigno for almost ten years, thus working with one of the most awarded and well-respected producers in Brazil. Kleumon’s coffee is all hand-picked and he uses some wonderfully interesting methods to get the best from his crop. Way back in 2019, we bought one of Kleumon’s very first lots from the farm. In 2020, we were graced with two lots - incredibly exciting for all of us here at Rumble. Check out more information here.
Colombia is home to a majority smallholder farmers that grow and process their own coffee The country has, in recent years, led the way in the development of exciting, new processing methods and the establishment of microlots.The bulk of our Colombian coffee is from the brilliant co-op, Ubaque Union (close to the capital city of Bogota) with whom we have a very special relationship. Co-ops don’t always function to produce the best outcomes for producers but with what we've seen (and tasted) first-hand in Ubaque, this group has it sorted. We’re really proud to work with them. Our other lots from Colombia have been sourced through our export/import partner, Cofinet. Facilitated via our close relationship, we’ve been allowed access to unrivaled information about the money paid to the producer: we’re proud to say that almost all our Colombian producers were paid at over double the daily rate set by the government-run coffee board.
Most coffee in Ethiopia is produced by families in their personal home gardens and harvested alongside beautiful vegetables and grains. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and therefore has far more genetic crop diversity than other origins - in fact, many varieties haven’t yet been fully researched!And still, this beautiful country is one of the hardest countries to source transparent coffee from. Why? Because there’s a huge range of stakeholders between us (buyers), the producers, and the government. The government also plays a big part in how coffee is priced, and it’s very hard to ascertain how the effects of this flow on to smallholders. Sourcing coffee from Ethiopia will always have a special place in our hearts - however, it’s for these reasons that buying becomes just that little bit more difficult every year.
Guatemala has over eight very different growing regions. At Rumble, we’ve focused our sourcing on Huehuetenango. For us, Huehue is home to the most interesting profiles. With extremely high altitudes and many micro climates to choose from, we get everything we need!Rumble is proud to work with two families in Huehue. The first is the Vides family. Since 1958 the family has been producing amazing coffees. In 2002 they placed second overall in the Cup of Excellence; an incredible achievement. Importantly, the Vides family have worked hard to build a school and a daycare facility (aimed at stopping child labour) for the children of workers. The second is the Del Valle family.We started working with the Del Valles after Marlon Del Valle took over management of the family farm. Marlon, 26, finished his studies in agronomy and was able to make some great improvements on the family operations, seeking out more opportunities for direct trade of their coffee. Once we heard the Del Valle story and tasted the coffee, we knew these wonderful humans would be a great fit for Rumble. Marlon also works for a not-for-profit organisation helping other farmers improve their own operations. Interestingly, Marlon has also banded together with some friends to run a program helping schools capture and provide clean drinking water. To put it simply, Marlon is a champion and we can’t wait to nurture a long-and-lasting relationship with him and his family.
We bought two lots from Kenya in 2020 - the first, from beautiful Kabumbu.
Kabumbu is a small five-acre estate in the Kiambu county, owned and managed by a single farmer: Joseph Mugo Karaba. Joseph independently processes and sells his own coffee. With support from marketing agent, Sucastainability, he’s also able to sell coffee directly to the buyer ensuring better traceability and Transparency for all.
Importantly, this method of sale/purchase also means that any premiums paid for the coffee are given directly back to the producer.
In 2020, we also purchased a wonderful lot from Kiama Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Society which services over 2,100 producers of Kenya’s Central Highlands - a huge win!
We believe in helping our neighbours. With PNG as one of our closest, the decision to ramp up our support of growers in PNG was a clear one.
While many PNG growers produce amazing coffee, they generally don’t have the resources to do so sustainably. Most growers are small holders growing coffee in their backyard alongside other edible crops.
Our partner here is the legendary Jerry Kapka, a local man who’s done amazing things in his community. We continued to pay Jerry a premium in 2019 for his foundation to help keep up its important community-based projects. Our plan for 2020 is to buy a new, very special lot for our Shadow Boxer blend, so keep your eyes peeled!
At the start of 2020, we were also lucky enough to buy our first lot from Kepai Village, something we’d been talking about with Jerry for almost two years. The most awesome thing about this was that our choice to buy directly from the Village meant farmers received higher prices and and, in turn, will invest more into their crops. We were so happy with the coffee that we showcased it as a single origin for the month of July (when it was tasting its best, of course!).
Keep an eye out for this in 2021, and beyond!
And finally, in 2020, Rumble was lucky enough to purchase our first lot from Peru. This incredible coffee was sourced from a new importer who approached us with some amazing lots they were keen to showcase from a Transparency and quality perspective.
To put it simply, these coffees were so incredibly delicious that we tried to purchase them again, only to find out the important was no longer working with those specific farmers in Peru. We’ve now found a new import partner, and can’t wait to see what this relationship holds for the future.
Like every human on this planet, we understand that data has the potential to be confusing and sometimes even a little meaningless to those less familiar with it. Still, with the production of our annual Transparency Report, we hope in some small way to change this. If we can help facilitate the data literacy of even a small number of people, we’re doing exactly as we intended.
We hope that over time, with more people taking part and showing interest, that Transparency and what it offers the industry as a whole become a prerequisite for consumer awareness. So, watch this space. If one thing’s for certain, it’s that we’re hard at it!
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