Interpreting the Info on your Coffee Bag (Part Two - Farm, Coop, Estate, etc.)

March 15, 2019

What does "coop" or "lot" tell me?

This is Part Two in a series about the information on your coffee bag and what the heck it all means.

Farm, Coop, Farmer, Estate, Lot, etc.

In addition to Country + Region, these pieces of information provide more specificity about the producer of a given coffee. The variety of terms arises due to differences in how coffee gets to market. For example, a given coffee may hail from a single Estate or Farm; or multiple small farms may pool their coffees together within a cooperative or at a washing station.

This information is related to the traceability of the coffee supply - that is, what farm or collective of producers grew and processed the coffee beans you are enjoying. The trend in recent years is towards more transparency in the coffee supply chain and greater traceability. Traceability is related to ethically sourcing coffee and promoting higher quality.

Ethically-sourced generally implies giving a fair price to coffee producers for their products, with reasonable amounts of the price being allocated to middlemen such as importers and exporters.

The rationale is that coffee producers being able to keep more of the selling price of the coffee bean incentivizes increasing quality of their product through improved methods in growing, harvesting, processing, storage, and/or transportation. Maintaining a more transparent and traceable coffee supply chain also enables focused investment in producers to help improve quality. Although some larger coffee companies and roasters engage in these partnerships, this practice is more common with coffee importers.

Lot is an interesting identifier. It’s used to denote a specific subset or “small batch” of coffee from a given farm or even coop, separately picked and processed in a way to create a very distinctive and/or high quality batch of coffee beans. Perhaps the beans from a particular variety of plant or area of the farm have a special flavor or interesting characteristic different from the rest of the harvest. A “lot” or “microlot” could be created from this subset of beans, and has the potential to command huge prices at auction or from a dedicated coffee buyer due to rarity and quality.

Farm, Coop, Farmer, Estate, Lot at a glance

What it is: Gives information about the producer of a coffee, to the lowest level that is traceable.

Why you might care: Increased traceability usually implies higher prices were paid to the producer. Greater traceability can also imply higher levels of quality, but not necessarily. A lot is the highest level of traceability, and often commands the highest prices

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