Picture this: It’s March 5 2020, 8:00am. You are waiting in line at a busy London café feeling annoyed. The guy at the front of the queue can’t make up his mind; the barista is chatting to a pal instead of making drinks; and you are served the dregs of the natural on batch brew.
How things change – we’d happily wait in that line now, guzzle down the batch brew and maybe even join in the chat! Back then, Langdon Coffee Merchants were itching to present coffees from Colombian collective Cedro Alto for the first time in the UK and thrilled to host a live Q&A with the collective’s founder Karl Wienhold.
We all know what happened next.
Whilst we are adapting to our “new normal” and face-to-face cuppings are a distant memory, we still want to share with you the Cedro Alto story and their approach to financial transparency in the supply chain. LCM UK’s Matt Randell jumped on Zoom to chat all thing coffee with Karl.
But first, here’s a little about how Cedro Alto began.
Cedro Alto – The Backstory
Born in the USA, Karl worked for several years as an international trade consultant. Later, he gravitated more toward the agricultural sector in Latin America, pivoting toward rural development economics, a shift solidified by a project in northern Cauca department of Colombia and another creating fruit producer associations throughout Colombia. In both cases Karl was keenly aware of the diminished returns producers were receiving due to high levels of intermediation.
Working in Brazil in 2013 he first envisioned a “direct trade network” of producers connecting directly with end consumers.
Shortly after, Karl met Frank Villada who had been active in the specialty coffee sector in the Eje Cafetero region of Colombia for many years. Frank had a deep network of producers whom he assisted in improving cup quality, but having access only to commodity buyers, was not able to secure a sale price that reflected the true value of the specialty product.
Identifying existing consumer interest in ethical coffee supply chains, the two social entrepreneurs decided to connect some local farmers with roasters and let so-called “direct trade” ensue. Both had other jobs and had no financial interest in the network: for Frank it was something to help out his friends; and for Karl, it would prove his hypothesis as a researcher.
And so the Cedro Alto Collective was born. Find out more about Cedro Alto’s progress in this Zoom chat between Matt Randell and Karl – they talk structure, environmental criteria and its unique level of financial transparency.
A huge thanks to Karl for giving up his time (and video editing skills) to chat with us. Another thank you to all Cedro Alto’s producers: your coffees and myriad of stories are not lost on us. We look forward to finding loving homes for them all.
Get your hands on Cedro Alto
UK roasters, in these troubled times, if you’re looking at your next coffee purchase and you would like to contribute to making small-scale, artisanal coffee farming economically sustainable, then check out Cedro Alto X Langdon Coffee Merchants.
Request your sample here