Metric Coffee Breaks Down Green Buying for Coffee Drinkers

A closeup of the Source Code Magazine on a blank white canvas.

The roaster’s new magazine Source Code answers simple yet crucial questions about green coffee sourcing.


Photos by Carlos Artalejo courtesy of Metric Coffee

Sustainability, transparency, and traceability are all words that we live and breathe in specialty coffee, but how much of the knowledge behind these concepts is clear to actual coffee drinkers? And how do we communicate it in such a way that doesn’t leave someone more lost than where they started?

Influenced by the work of Azahar Coffee in Colombia, Chicago-based Metric Coffee launched a sustainable buyer and green coffee guide today geared not toward green coffee buyers, but their own clientele—roasted coffee consumers. Titled Source Code and penned by Metric founder Xavier Alexander, the print magazine details everything about green coffee and green coffee buying, from explaining what processing methods are to showcasing pricing transparency through partner and coffee producer Nelson Chavez.

A hand holds the front of Source Code.
Source Code is available today for purchase, and features thoughtful articles and illustrations about green coffee.

Initially, the idea that Xavier had was to simply communicate what an objectively “good price” for coffee is to their customers; Metric designer Lauren Gallagher was the one to suggest a print medium to convey this. So, what started as a month-long project ended up becoming a long, arduous journey to tackle sourcing subjects in easier terms while honoring the truly extensive world of green coffee.

“In the beginning, we discussed doing a PDF or perhaps a newspaper print to make this approachable and possibly a free publication, but after speaking with a few of our friends, we were compelled to explore a magazine format due (to) expressed value if someone pays for the content,” explains Xavier. “If we were to give it away for free, the challenge would be, ‘Is this ending up with someone who is genuinely interested to learn more about sourcing and sustainability in specialty coffee, or will it end up in the dumpster?’”

After several months of rewrites and emails, Xavier approached Azahar content writer Andrea Brito Nuñez to bring the concept to life. The magazine is categorized into three parts of written content, which detail the “A to Z” of green coffee. Source Code even defines the term “specialty coffee,” attributing it to the original famed creator of the phrase Erna Knutsen, and explains the SCA’s grading system. The publication seamlessly transitions from green coffee processing to the logistics of shipping, direct trade, and scoring, all to tie into the definition of sustainability. The final section utilizes the work of Azahar’s own Sustainable Buyer’s Guide, and showcases producer Nelson Chavez’s cost of production data to emphasize to readers how all of this information actually works within Metric’s coffee-buying practices.

Hands flip through pages of Source Code.
What started as a seemingly easy month-long project became a longer journey to showcase the true work behind green coffee.

Notable brands Oatly and Savor Brands sponsored the creation of this print magazine, and other contributors responsible for making Source Code possible are Andrea Brito Nuñez, Benjamin Paz, Colin Frew, and Fabiana Carvalho. Visual contributors include illustrators Nick Vargas and Morgan Garleff, along with photographers Harris Nash and Brandon Thiessen.

When asked what the most rewarding part of creating Source Code was, Xavier says, “Hands down, it was the case study we did on Colombian coffee producer Nelson Chaves Burbano. Nelson’s coffee jumped out at me on my first visit to Azahar in 2015, and Metric has been buying his coffee ever since at a price that is either at the highest end of micro pricing or above. In Source Code, we have Nelson’s cost of production data going back from 2018 all the way to 2020 and earning a more sustainable income.”

The inside of Source Code, a yellow page with a cartoon.
Morgan Garleff and Nick Vargas are responsible for the illustrations inside Source Code.

In exploring every aspect of green coffee possible, Source Code concludes that, “Paying low, unsustainable prices minimizes the coffee producers’ life’s work and directly affects their livelihoods and we believe these exploitative practices should no longer exist within the specialty coffee industry, or any other supply chain for that matter. Never again.”

Although Source Code was initially intended for consumers at the café level, much of the green coffee world remains a mystery to many, and so the guide can be just as useful for folks like baristas and other businesses that sell coffee. Source Code is available today on Metric’s e-commerce site, with options to buy bundles that include merch and Nelson’s coffee.

About Katrina Yentch 221 Articles
Katrina Yentch (she/her) is a freelance writer and Barista Magazine's Online Editor. When she's not writing, you can find her napping, cooking, and drinking whatever's on drip.