Just as the relationships we have with our customers are important, so, too, are the relationships we have with our suppliers. There is a lot of coffee grown in the world, and not all of it is tasty. Some of it is great. The majority of it is mediocre, and a significant part of it is downright nasty.
Contrary to what some coffee roasters might wish, it is not possible to travel to every region and every farm and taste every available coffee, every year. Because of this, we rely on green coffee importers and brokers with whom we've developed close working relationships over many years of coffee buying. These importers and brokers have networks of exporters, mills, and farmers with whom they have relationships, and who are able to track what great coffees are available in each growing region of the world.
As the various coffee crops become available, these brokers send samples to us for evaluation. We prepare these in a very small coffee roaster called, not surprisingly, a 'sample roaster', and then we taste. And taste. If we have enough of the green sample left, we roast another batch and taste again. And, again. It's all in the cup. We are looking for “clean cup” coffees, with good flavors and no “off” or defective tastes. Because we roast mostly for food service use, where consistency is important, we look for coffee sources that display consistent tastes year-to-year and, when selecting alternatives, we always compare those potential varieties with the coffees we are already using.
Then, after a coffee has been selected, inventoried, and put into production, we pull a small sample from every production batch, and taste that to make sure that what we are sending out to our customers is a great tasting coffee! It is a lot of tasting, but that is what coffee is all about, taste! It's all in the cup!