Interview with: Florent Gout of Cooperative Coffees

Written by nema on Nov 9, 2011 in BLOG |
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Florent Gout, Americus, 2011

Florent Gout during his Sept. 2011 trip to Americus

In an effort to better explain and understand Cooperative Coffees, our importing cooperative of 24 roasters in the U.S. and Canada, I’ve decided to do a series of interviews with Cooperative Coffees’ staff.  What can Cooperative Coffees’ staff tell me and customers about why the way we source coffee is so unique?  And who are all of these interesting people who work in two separate offices- one in Americus and one in Montreal?  First interview?  Florent Gout, Cooperative Coffees’ coffee buyer.  It’s timely, too, as Florent left Cooperative Coffees’ Montreal office on Nov. 4 to work from home-  France (deep sigh).  Below are excerpts from my interview with Florent during his September 2011 visit to Americus.

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Name: Florent Gout
Job: Coffee Buyer
Current Office: Paris, France

What do you do at Cooperative Coffees? 
Buy coffee.  Basically, I try to be a bridge between the roasters and the trading partners.  My main role is to buy the coffee that we need, which includes a lot of math, but I also work to maintain the relationship between both the roasters and the producer cooperatives to make sure that information flows back and forth.  For example, when there is a specific demand from a producer group for us to change the buying price of their coffee, or if they want us to bring in a transitional coffee, I’m going to receive this request and forward it in a very efficient way to the roasters.  I try to create a discussion that will get a response back to the farmer co-ops as quickly as possible.

How long have you worked with Coop Coffees? 
3 years and 3 months

What coffee producing countries have you visited with Coop Coffees? 
Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Sumatra (Indonesia), Ethiopia and El Salvador

Why do you think cooperatives are important to coffee farmers? 
Often the co-op will set up minimum services for its members, standing in where there may be little or no local government services.  They also help to manage risk for farmers, providing security for them when coffee market prices drop.  They also serve as a mechanism for farmers to meet the buyers of their coffee.  This is not an economic advantage, but I think it’s good to build a relationship with the buyer, because if at some point, something’s not working in the relationship, you can sit down at the table and explain what is going on…

Do you have any thoughts on how co-ops have been affected by this year’s record high coffee prices?  Co-op managers are in the worst position right now, because they have to get their farmers to sell their coffee to their cooperatives [rather than selling their coffee outside of the co-op to middlemen for immediate cash at unusually high market prices].  They need us to go on the ground with them to show the farmers that we are there to support them and their cooperatives- in high markets and in low ones.

Why do you think Cooperative Coffees is special in the world of coffee? 
Nobody’s doing what we do.  I think this is because on both sides of the chain we are organized in the same way, and we really do a lot of work to understand each others’ issues.   And we share in the risk of the coffee business to make sure that the relationship is sustainable for both parties.

Any goals for the coffee biz ?
Je reve d’etre torrefacteur.

Who’s your favorite roaster in Coop Coffees?
I love all of the roasters, but if I had to choose one, it would be Just Coffee for their [business] model and their “craziness.”

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