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It took us over 2 years of searching for sources of organic, fairtrade and sustainable coffee beans that would be good for the planet and good to people who grew and picked them until we finally found our five sources.
We found it in the mountains of Bolivia and Colombia where local farmers had established cooperatives to seek a better price for their crops. We found beans that carried with them a smooth nutty with rich chocolate undertones. We also found beans with a sweet citrus finish that provide a stunning taste explosion.
In Africa our search for the perfect beans took us to Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and to Uganda where again we partnered with cooperatives to make sure that all our coffee is 100% ethically sourced. These beans are a touch lighter in body and gently awaken the senses to deliver a subtle and soft coffee which comes with a delicious mellow acidity.
Our products are only as good as the ingredients they are made from, not just in the way they taste, but also in the way they are produced and the impact they have on people and the environment. That’s why the search for coffee beans isn’t just about flavor. We think that it’s only worth making the perfect coffee if that perfect coffee can be delivered to you in the right way.
It’s a long journey to warm your hands with our coffee. It begins with finding the perfect beans then the next stage is roasting them.
This is the part of the journey where it can all go so easily wrong as roasting requires a skill set somewhere between the art of Leonardo da Vinci and the science skills of Einstein. Coffee roasters are a breed apart. The roaster must have an incredibly strong attention to detail, excellent sensory skills and sensory memory, but most of all, the roaster must love coffee. These traits differentiate between the good roasters and the great ones.
The goal in coffee roasting is to enhance the qualities of the green coffee beans and to develop them to their fullest potential. For example, a roaster might try to tame a coffee's acidity while accentuating its citric flavor or the roaster might try to bring out the mouth feel in a coffee while also enhancing its natural chocolate notes. The process is both challenging and extremely rewarding.
The next stage is to get our roasted beans ready for grinding, but before we do this we have to mix the beans for those coffees which are a mixture of two beans. There are 2 methods that are commonly used in the coffee business - pre-roast blending and post-roast blending. The concepts are different, and each produces an array of flavor combinations that are unique to the palette and are a fresh experience for the coffee lover.
At Velibre we only use post roast blending where our green coffees are roasted individually and then blended after they have been roasted. The color difference between the roasts is very distinct and we believe that this method creates an exceptional flavor profile.
The blended beans are now ready for grinding, which is another critical stage of the journey. The fineness of the grind completely affects how the coffee should be prepared. It’s really complicated.
For example a coarser ground is suitable for coffee which is exposed to water for a long time. If finely ground is used where coarsely ground should have been used then the grind will be exposed to too much surface area to the heated water and it will produce a bitter, harsh, "over-extracted" taste.
For our coffee capsules we need a fine grind because of the short time that our capsules are exposed to water in the capsule machine – often less than 20 seconds. A fine grind allows the most efficient extraction, but there is a danger that coffee ground too finely will slow down the passage of coffee from the capsule to the cup. Grinding is an art that we have become specialists at doing.
There are four methods of grinding coffee for brewing: burr-grinding, chopping, pounding, and roller grinding. At Velibre we just use the last – roller grinding. In a roller grinder, the beans are ground between pairs of corrugated rollers. A roller grinder produces a more even grind size distribution and heats the ground coffee less than other grinding methods.
Within a few hours of being ground our coffee is put into the capsules to maintain the freshness. The ability of coffee to stay fresh is determined by 3 main factors: humidity, temperature and oxygen.
The filled coffee capsules are processed into a packaging area where the capsules are automatically put into bags of 10. The bags are then flushed with nitrogen to push out as much oxygen as possible. The goal is to have less than 1% oxygen. This level will ensure that your coffee will stay fresh for at least 12 months. As part of the Quality Management process the coffee is tested for the above 3 areas to ensure that the highest quality is maintained.
The packaging process is completed by the bags of 10 capsules being automatically put into single boxes of 10 capsules which are date, time and batch numbered stamped. The boxes are then packed into a bigger box of 10 x 10 boxes where a unique sticker is placed on the outside as part of the QM process.
The boxes are loaded onto a pallet which holds approximately 30 000 capsules. They are loaded into a container which can hold almost 1 000 000 capsules and are shipped to Germany. The shipping is from Cape Town to Hamburg or Bremerhaven.
As part of the shipping of organic and fairtrade goods there is an extensive certification chain which must be completed. This is to make sure that products that claim to be organic or fairtrade must be able to show that they are. This is a highly regulated environment.
Once the organic and fairtrade certification process has been completed the capsules are almost ready to be released by German customs.
However, in Germany we have a special ‘coffee tax’ (2.19 Euros per Kilo) and Velibre has to ensure that the tax has been paid before our capsules will be released by the German customs authority. Once this has been done our transport partner will load the container and deliver to Velibre HQ. The whole journey from South Africa to Bremen, including time with customs, usually takes about 24 days.
The container is unloaded at Velibre HQ and our QM process begins. This involves many steps. The first is to audit the pallets to make sure we got what we ordered. The pallets are then loaded into our warehouse where we can store 10 million capsules. Our QM Manager then takes random boxes from the pallets and each box is tested for the oxygen content and for levels of humidity. Once the QM Manager is happy with the results our production partner will be informed that the shipment has been accepted.
The final part of the QM process is that the extensive certification which is necessary to ensure that the organic and fairtrade coffee is checked to make sure that there has been no cross contamination of the beans. This is carried out by our QM Manager with each shipment. It is also carried out annually by the external organic and fairtrade agencies which monitor our compliance. When this part has been completed we can then sell those capsules.