Virtual Caravan Takes Buyers to Colombia from Their Homes

The August event from the Coffee for Peace initiative will allow participants to virtually engage with producers, cup coffees, and more.

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Photos courtesy of Coffee for Peace

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken away many regular occurrences from our industry—interactions with customers at coffee shops, cupping in large groups, and so many more. Another noteworthy subtraction has been our ability to travel, particularly for coffee buyers whose regular visits to coffee-producing communities to purchase coffee are an essential part of their job.

The Virtual Buyers Caravan will give participants the experience of visiting coffee farms in Colombia from the safe environment of their homes.

The Coffee for Peace initiative in Colombia is looking to provide that buyer-to-producer connection with the first-ever Virtual Buyers Caravan, showcasing growers in Cauca and Valle del Cauca on August 11-14. Taking place virtually, the Caravan aims to present an interactive, festive experience that, according to the press release, is “much different from your average Zoom call.” Over four days, coffee buyers will engage in 90-minute virtual visits to four producer organizations in Colombia, take part in interactive cupping sessions, and learn about the culture and practices that make each group unique.

The Coffee for Peace initiative, led by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) and supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), promotes the trade of traceable coffees from historic violent zones in Colombia. Juan Camilo Ramos, chief commercial officer of the FNC, says, “We are very excited about this first ever Virtual Buyers Caravan because it lays out a template for how coffee buyers can continue to develop meaningful relationships with Colombian coffee producers during a time of global crisis.”

The FNC and USAID are partners in Coffee for Peace, the organization behind the Virtual Buyers Caravan that helps grow the coffee trade in historic violent zones in Colombia.

Adds David Pohl of Coffee for Peace, “While there is no substitute for stepping foot on a coffee farm, technology has improved so dramatically in recent years that it really is possible to visit coffee-producing communities, engage with producer groups, and develop long-term relationships without having to board a plane.”

Interested coffee buyers can apply to attend the Virtual Buyers Caravan here; the deadline to register is July 22. They will then receive samples from the four producer groups taking part in the Caravan: The FNC through the Coffee Growers Committee of Cauca; Cencoic in Popayan; Cafinorte in Santander de Quilichao; and Cafioccidente in Restrepo. Buyers will receive samples both as green and roasted coffee for their own cuppings, allowing them to sample-roast to their desired level, but also taste the same roasted coffee as all participants so they’re on the same page when the event holds a conversation about the coffee.

Each producer organization taking part in the Virtual Buyers Caravan will present their coffee and talk to buyers about their community.

Each day of the Caravan will feature a different producer group, with a live Q&A between producers and participating buyers, a video on each group, and a conversation about their coffee. This interaction between producer and buyer is especially important at this time, says KC O’Keefe of Coffee for Peace: “The specialty-coffee business is built upon the coffee roaster’s interaction with growers. Vacant that interaction, specialty coffee becomes a simple high-quality commodity. The Virtual Buyers Caravan attempts to throw a critical interaction lifeline to keep specialty coffee special through COVID-19.”

Participants can watch a video about the Virtual Buyers Caravan here, and register and learn more details at the website here.

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