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Why did we open our own Central Washing Station?

2022 was a year of exciting firsts for us! We’ve always been passionate about taking Indian specialty coffee to new heights. Our latest endeavour is fueled by our vision to bring small-scale Indian coffee farmers into the fold of specialty coffee. As the first step in this direction, we have successfully set up our own Central Washing Station (CWS) in Tamil Nadu.

Almost all Indian specialty coffee comes from large-scale coffee plantations that have the resources to invest in the infrastructure required to produce and process specialty-grade coffee. However, there’s a large number of small-scale farmers who are unable to enter the specialty coffee market due to their lack of resources and infrastructure. Instead, they sell coffee cherries at nominal rates to large bulk buyers who will then use these lots to make bulk lots for the commercial coffee market. 

Our Central Washing Station in Pulney Hills, Tamil Nadu

Coffee cherries laid out on drying beds

This is where a washing station comes in. How it works: small coffee producers send their coffee cherries to washing stations where their lots are mixed with other nano lots to produce larger and consistent processed lots. 

Unlike India and South American countries, where large, family-owned plantations are common, things are a little different in African countries. Here, the coffee farmers rely on washing stations to process their coffees, and they are typically run by cooperative societies in which the growers are members. 

 

The lush estate in Pulney Hills, Tamil Nadu

We wanted to use a similar model for small land-holding coffee producers in India, to enable access to better prices for their coffees. Although India isn’t new to washing stations, our CWS in the Western Ghats makes us the first specialty coffee roaster from India to experiment with processing coffee through a central washing station at the farm level.

Our co-founder, Matt Chitharanjan explains the motivation behind this step, “Helping growers get better realisations from coffee is going to ultimately be better for the industry as a whole. This is a good step for us to start bringing the benefits of specialty coffee and stable pricing to a wider set of smaller coffee growers.” 

A farm worker inspects the dried beans

Small-scale growers in India don’t dabble in growing and producing specialty coffee because they lack proper infrastructure, resources and workforce. As harvest season approaches, factors like increased rates of fertilizers, labour costs, transportation and bad weather mean they look to sell their cherries as quickly as possible, typically to local traders who pay the prevailing commodity rate.  

The long journey to setting up our CWS started with a broad outreach campaign to small-scale farmers in the region followed by short-training programs on the world of specialty coffee. We held coffee-tasting sessions and facilitated skill-building workshops to share the best growing and harvesting practices. 

Asif Salim played a key role to coordinate everything at the farm

To make sure each step was undertaken with the utmost care, our Head of Green Beans Procurement and Senior Roaster, Asif Salim, was present at the farm for 3 months. We undertook the proper steps needed to produce a quality cup and preserve traceability for each lot. To process them, we used the natural method to enhance the natural fruitiness of the beans and also to save water.

“Initially, it was challenging to convince the growers of the long-term benefits of undertaking this exercise. I had to assure them that processing their cherries at our CWS would improve the quality of their coffee, get them a better premium and more recognition for their hard work.” says Asif. 

5 delicious medium roasts!

We eventually received 46 lots of coffees from the farmers, which we then sorted and processed at the station. From these 46 lots, we’ve chosen to roast 5 of our favourites and share them with you for you to brew and enjoy.

We’re extremely delighted to have been able to pilot this project and work with some amazing farmers. You can check out our CWS offerings as a pack of 3 or try all of them as a pack of 5.


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