BusinessWeek On Specialty Coffee, ECX

Bloomberg is reporting on the current state of the ECX in their September 5th issue of BusinessWeek. The title of the article, “Starbucks Rivals Reject Ethiopian Coffee as Exchange Robs Beans of Cachet”, is very misleading. We here at Sprudge HQ have been enjoying a number of amazing Ethiopian coffees that have landed recently. Bloomberg’s bent seems very anti-direct trade, makes sure to mention direct trade coffee is a trend that accounts for less than 1% of $842 million dollar export in Ethiopia. Bloomberg doesn’t offer any insight on whether or not the trend is growing. Gloomy Bloomberg.

Some interesting tid-bits from the article:

On “anonymous coffee”:

(..) isn’t an issue for mass-market buyers, such as Northfield, Illinois-based Kraft Foods Inc. and J.M. Smucker Co. of Orrville, Ohio. The beans in a can of Kraft’s Maxwell House coffee, for example, are identified on the label as a “South Pacific Blend,” not from a particular farm or even country. Starbucks Corp., the world’s biggest specialty coffee company, buys through the exchange, and its Ethiopia Sidamo blend hails from the country’s sprawling southernmost region.

On companies like Intelligentsia, Stumptown and Discovery:

Gabre-Madhin says she’s focused on boosting the quality and sales of all Ethiopian coffees. While boutique buyers are a tiny fraction of the market, treating them well is “very important from a symbolic standpoint because they make a lot of noise,” she says. The ECX developed a grading system with help from the Specialty Coffee Association of America that allows for certification of coffee as organic, fair trade and rainforest arabica. Gabre-Madhin says Starbucks has been testing a barcoding system developed with the exchange to make bags of beans traceable to individual farms.

In a short video produced for the piece, Sprudgie Award Winner Stephen Vick suggests that while the ECX can produce quality coffee, the premiums paid do not directly impact the producer responsible for the high quality product. Check out the video below:

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