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We Have the Secret Ingredient: A Day in the Life of a Coffee Buying Expert

More goes into a great tasting cup of coffee than most people realize, and it starts with buying the coffee beans. Mark Howell is Community Coffee Company’s General Manager of Green Coffee and Tea and our coffee buying expert. Mark’s typical day starts by looking at the market. Mark tells us how quickly you realize, working with the market, that it isn’t going to do what you want it to when you want it, which can be unsettling for some. This can be the most challenging and exhilarating part of the job.

Mark also works closely with our Quality Assurance team to cup our coffee. Cupping is the process of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee. This assures that all of our coffee meets the highest standards before we send it out for our customers to enjoy. He also works closely with the logistics team to ensure that the flow of coffee from origin to our plant is running smoothly.

2-23-17_MarkHowell_752x500Before we can purchase the green coffee beans from our farmers, they have to grow it. Farmers spend between two and three years taking care of coffee plants before they are able to produce cherries. These cherries hold our green coffee beans (seeds) within them. Because not all the cherries on a coffee plant ripen at the same time, farmers make several passes on trees, picking them by hand in some areas and by machines in others. Once picked, the cherries go through a milling process to separate the top quality coffee beans from those the rest and then a pulping process to separate the coffee beans from the fruit. The coffee beans are then put through a dry mill process to further classify the beans by size, density and quality and prepared for transport.

Once the green coffee beans arrive at our plant in Port Allen, Mark gets to work ensuring the taste of each cup of Community® coffee is the best it can be. Additionally, he is an integral part of our development team. This team develops unique blends that match the desired profile we are aiming for when creating a new product. Mark and the development team do this by looking at various raw (green) coffee’s they have access to, blending them, roasting them and, through multiple trials, coming up with the final blend that makes it to market. This entails cupping or tasting A LOT of coffee. Much like wine tasters, these team members have fine-tuned taste buds to ensure that the blends they create meet taste standards.

At the end of the day, Mark’s favorite part of his job is interacting with the diverse group2-23-17_MarkHowell_800x422 of people in the coffee industry. From the farmers at origin, local merchants that facilitate trade and the international trade houses that enable international business function, the coffee industry covers a broad spectrum of people all with immense and unique knowledge and experience. Most of all, the people of the industry and their customers come from all walks of life but can come together over a cup of coffee. It is truly an amazing industry, says Mark.