Join us for a conversation with Laure Jubert, the Art of Coffee consultant at Belco, and a proud partner of Standart Issue 22.
Laure, would you tell us a little about some of the social, environmental and economic projects Belco's work supports?
We have always been committed to more sustainability in the coffee industry. So that we can drink coffee for as long as possible, we have developed a unique direct sourcing method, with purchase prices untethered to the stock market, so that local issues in producing countries take precedence over global issues. We have a very specific definition of specialty coffee that isn't all about a the cup score. We believe that specialty coffee is first and foremost quality coffee, which has been produced and transported in a clean way, and where buyers participate in local projects around their coffee purchases to develop the economy sustainably in line with local production and social conditions.
For example, recently, we have concluded an agreement with TOWT transport à la voile, a French company which invests in the transport of goods by sail. By 2024, 50 per cent of our coffees will be transported on our cargo sailboats, a mode of transport that is more than 90 per cent carbon-free. The cost of this transportation will be six times higher for us than conventional modes, but a financial risk that is coherent with our core values.
Belco has a interesting team structure, sort of decentralized. Would you explain how it works and the advantages it brings?
At Belco, we have always believed that piloting sourcing from a European country does not make much sense given all the local issues in producing countries that this entails. We are convinced that we must have our feet in producing countries 365 days a year and not just during the harvest period or during a two-week visit.
'We have a very specific definition of specialty coffee that isn't all about a the cup score.'
This is why for more than 10 years we have been developing Belco agencies in countries of origin made up of sourcers, agricultural engineers, quality and Q-Grader managers, and also profiles of agroforestry researchers, particularly in Ethiopia. These people make up Belco’s sourcing approach. Guarantors of quality in all its guises, they are the ones who build the long-term relationships on the ground, forming in turn the basis of our sourcing.
We have three structures established: Belco Ethiopia which controls East Africa, Belco El Salvador which drives Central America, and finally Belco Colombia. This spread allows us to be present on the farms, to participate in ultra concrete and local projects, to be cognisant of the reality of local contexts and cultures. We are able to support producers in their continued improvement, for example, by training in honey and natural processes, farm audits, setting up cultivation under shade trees, switching to organic, and more. The French head office, based in Bordeaux, manages our global support activities: quality control, sales, logistics, and marketing.
What is MADE BY PROJECT, how is it different to other equipment awards, and where did the idea come from?
For six years, Art of Coffee, a Belco subsidiary, has imported and distributed coffee gear to roasters and coffee shops all over Europe. The initiative shares the same core values including our sustainable sourcing model. Meaning is at the centre of all our projects, hence our motto: Belco, WHERE SOURCING MAKES SENSE.
'We know our industry is full of creative and passionate people and many amazing ideas.'
The Art of Coffee team tests and evaluates market trends, feedback, and customer expectations with its suppliers. Sharing information is the name of the game! But mostly, we love supporting beautiful projects. Claire, Art of Coffee’s director, and Laure, former barista and our coffee gear guru, decided the brand needed to push its commitment even further in terms of meaning, to deliver Belco’s core values. From this came the idea of actively engaging and supporting the next generation of coffee innovators.
We know our industry is full of creative and passionate people and many amazing ideas—ideas that will serve the entire market. Sometimes, these ideas just need a bit of a push to truly shine. Moreover, we want to support innovators to build in sustainable and clean processes that reflect and support the sustainable supply chain on which the entire future of coffee depends. This is MADE BY PROJECT.
MADE BY starts with a contest to find tomorrow's great coffee gear innovations and inventors. But that’s not all! Its strength resides in a new layer of transparency in coffee gear, as MADE BY will also show the many phases of the creation of a new product—from designing and planning, quality testing, and selecting the right factory partner to developing a marketing and communications strategy and bringing the product to market—finding it a home of the shelves of coffee shops the world over.
This interview was published in proud partnership with Belco.