Traffik-Free Christmas // Bailies Coffee Roasters
Tell us a bit about yourself
So my name is Scott Hamilton, and I am a coffee roaster for Bailies Coffee Roasters. I’m 3 years married to my wonderful wife Tammy – living the dream! Obviously I work in the coffee industry, but it’s also a passion of mine. I love sharing coffee with others and educating people when I can. I go to CFC (Christian Fellowship Church) on the Belmont road, and support the greatest team of all time, Manchester United of course!
Can you give us a glimpse into the story behind Bailies Coffee?
Bailies was started around 20 years ago by Russell Bailie. We have grown now to a professional coffee roasters, and with every step we strive to learn more and develop lasting relationships with everybody we deal with. Our desire is to craft world-class coffee experiences that honour the skilled labour of our farming partners across the globe with dignity and fairness.
What is the general process involved in producing coffee?
I’ll try to keep this as short as I can as it’s actually quite a complex process! The whole process really starts out with sourcing the best beans as possible. Similar to cooking I guess, the better ingredients you have, (hopefully) the better your meal will taste.
Sourcing beans can be done in various ways, from buying through a broker, or travelling to a specific farm and buying directly from the farmer. The beans go through quite a process themselves before you buy them.
Coffee beans are the seed of a fruit, or cherry. For high quality, specialty (or microlot) coffee these coffee plants would generally be grown in high altitude, hot areas; places like Kenya, Ethiopia, Brazil to name a few. Care is taken to grow these plants in the best conditions as possible, so they produce excellent fruit. Once the coffee cherries are ripe, they are often hand picked. You generally get 2 coffee beans from one cherry, so you can see how long and tiring this would be for the workers to walk around a coffee farm, picking only the ripe cherries. Once the cherries are picked the fruit of the cherry needs to be removed so only the bean is left.
This is called processing. You have 3 main ways of processing; the natural process, the washed process, and the honeyed (or pulp-natural) process.
Again without going into too much detail, I’ll describe these for you!
Washed: The skin and fruit is removed from the bean, leaving a sticky layer (called mucilage and parchment). The beans are then put into large vats of water to remove this sticky layer. After this the beans are then laid out to dry in the sun for 10-12 days.
Natural: Cherries are picked and then laid out on drying beds with the fruit still on the bean. This allows for sugar migration from the fruit to the cherry as they dry in the sun. Once they have completely dried, the fruit is easily removed from the bean.
Honeyed/Pulped Natural: This is a bit of a mix between the washed and natural process. Cherries are passed through mechanical de-pulpers which remove some of the fruit but leave some on the bean. The beans are then laid out to dry in the sun on drying patios or raised beds. The beans must be rotated frequently and carefully to prevent any mould or defects occurring.
So as you can see, a LOT of work goes into the farming and processing of the coffee cherries/beans before we even get our hands on them. This is why sourcing great quality coffee is so important.
After we receive our green coffee beans (unroasted coffee is green, not brown!) we then go about roasting them. We usually start out by doing a few sample/test roasts to see how the beans react. Taking into account where the coffee is from, and how it has been processed (as all coffee reacts differently when roasting), we have an idea about how to roast it to get the best out of the beans. And that is really our goal; to roast the coffee as best we can to showcase the care, and attention that the farmers have invested in growing the coffee for us.
After we roast it – it is passed on to baristas who work their magic on it in various cafes., or coffee enthusiasts who love to brew at home.
So as you can see, that one cup of coffee isn’t just as simple as adding hot water!
What is direct trade? Is it an ethical way to source coffee?
I guess the name kind of gives it away – Direct Trade is about trading directly with the farmer who produces the coffee. However there is a little bit of a grey area as to what exactly that looks like. Unlike Fairtrade products, which have to meet certain criteria to be classed as Fairtrade, Direct Trade has no “checkboxes” that need to be ticked. What Direct Trade means for one company, might look totally different for another.
At Bailies we’re built on Direct Trade. It’s not about going to origin and getting a nice picture with the farmer, we want to make lasting links with farmers and invest in not only their farms, but in the people themselves. We negotiate a price directly with the producer, making sure that it is above the Fairtrade minimum price. We make sure the farm complies with Ethical Trading Initiative’s Base Code and that Good Agricultural Practises are being used in the farm. We also need to agree that the farm can be audited or checked by us, or a nominated third party, without any prior notice.
We put these things in place so that we can be completely transparent about where our coffee comes from and how it has been sourced. It also allows us to work with farmers to improve their farms if they do not meet our high standards, not only to grow better quality coffee, but also to be ethical in how they do it. If farmers meet this criteria and produce high quality, ethically produced coffee it is reflected in the price we pay – so everybody wins!
Is ethical sourcing and transparency important to Bailies?
It is extremely important to us. We want to be as transparent as possible regardless of whether it’ll have a financial impact on us. We’re not in the business of keeping secrets, or saying we know the farmer just because we have a picture with them – with all of our Direct Trade coffees there is a legitimate story and relationship behind them.
We love to have coffee from all over the world. However in some places that can be extremely difficult.
Our green coffee buyer and head of quality control, Jan, recently went to Ethiopia to see first hand the difficulties of obtaining coffee with traceability and transparency from Ethiopia. In order to be completely transparent about how traceability is difficult we published a blog post here: https://www.bailiescoffee.com/blogs/news/ecx. In this post Jan shares how our new microlot Ethiopian coffees are not traceable to the washing station or the farmer. It would have been easy for us to spin a story about where they came from and who the farmer was – but that just is not possible, so we don’t do it!
As I said before, we aim to be as transparent as possible regardless of whether it’ll have a financial impact on us, so this year we will have some beautiful coffees from Ethiopia but the traceability will be limited only to a region, not a single washing station.
These coffees were grown by thousands of smallholders in Ethiopia, processed by many washing stations and with the help of our Ethiopian exporter we picked some of the best lots and carefully processed them. None of these coffees will have a Direct Trade label because it’s simply not possible due to the Ethiopian government.
What would be your one word of advice to someone wishing to shop or source ethically this Christmas?
Research, and ask questions. Just because a product is labeled Fairtrade, doesn’t exactly mean that it is Fair. A company may say their product is Direct Trade – but what does that mean for that company?
Now that we know more about Bailies Coffee, how can go about getting our hands on some this Christmas?
I’m glad you asked! You can follow us on all the usual social media sites (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram) via @BailiesCoffee. We also have a website www.bailiescoffee.com where you can read more about who we are and what we do – as well as buy some delicious coffee!