Running a company that operates 12 months/year and 7 days/week makes it hard to measure time. Not in that I’m confused what month it is (though, honestly, that’s often the case). But rather in, how do we measure a year in Summit time? For Andrew, our newly promoted COO, it may be in a fiscal calendar. For Matt, our Director of Wholesale, it may be in visits to customers.
In my constantly changing, never predictable job, I like to use the coffee harvest calendar as my device to measure a trip around the sun. Coffee, as most of you probably know, is an agricultural product. It grows inside of a cherry, which grows on a tree, and which ripens for a small window of time each year, depending on where in the world it grows.
So this week we said hello to a fresh crop from our friends at Rutas del Inca, a cooperative in Querocoto, Peru, and I’m feeling all sorts of nostalgia. When we decided to start roasting in the spring of 2015, the first coffee we purchased was the 2014 harvest from this little cooperative in northern Peru. Alongside Tim (my brother and longtime visionary of Summit) and Evan (our fresh-out-of-the-box roaster who’s now our Director of Coffee), I fell in love with this little coffee that could from Rutas del Inca. I love the cup quality, for sure, but also for what it represents.
That 2014 harvest was the very first that Rutas exported to the U.S., and thus our paths have been in alignment since both of us were rookies. And as Rutas del Inca has grown — from 81 farmers to 254 — so, too, has Summit. We ordered 6 bags (about 900 pounds) that first year, and this year we ordered 40 (6,000 pounds). The 2014 crop Rutas exported to the U.S. scored 84 points (a solid, if not spectacular, specialty coffee), while this 2017 crop scored 88 points (one of the highest-scoring coffees we source from South America).
I’m sitting at my desk in a bustling roasting business — six employees scurry about, all busy and productive — while we roast more than 1,200 pounds of coffee this week. I’m reminiscing about sitting at this same desk in 2015, alone and wondering what in the world we needed this big warehouse for. (Check out this picture above for a glimpse at how raw our offices were). But as time has passed for Rutas del Inca, for the farmers and their families, for the crops and their cherries, time also has passed for Summit, for our staff and families, for our beans and cups of coffee.
This fall, I plan to visit Rutas del Inca in person for the first time. I intend to meet with the individual producers and, with good fortune, start direct trade relationships with single farms to find the best coffees that contribute to the cooperative. As Rutas and its farmers have given life to our roasting business, we want to provide an avenue to greater success and fortune for some of them. I’ll bring them Summit shirts and mugs, let them taste (for the first time!) how we roast their coffee, the literal fruits of their labor.
It’s a wild ride, this coffee business, and there is not a sign of it slowing down. So when you buy a bag of Rutas, or grab a cup in our cafe, or see it on the shelves of one of our wholesale partners, know that you are playing a part in celebrating another year of Summit’s roasting business.
Here’s to a fourth harvest of Rutas del Inca, and to a fourth harvest of us.