Joanne Berry, green been coffee buyer of Nordic Approach lets us peek inside her diary!
Nordic Approach, based in Oslo, Norway, sources some of the best green coffee in the world. Joanne Berry joined the company in January 2015 as a green coffee buyer and now manages all operations related to procurement and incoming coffee. She specialises in coffees from Africa, but is deeply involved in all origins.
Before joining NA, Joanne was a barista at Dose Espresso, one of London’s first speciality cafés. She has also worked for Origin Coffee Roasting in South Africa and was East African green buyer at Mercanta.
We wanted to know what a typical day for Joanne involved, but it turns out there’s no such thing – her job is too varied. So here she takes us through three days: one in the office, one at a cupping at origin and one with the producers.
A day in the office
A typical day in the Oslo office begins around 8am and I’m immediately cupping (tasting coffee samples). I find it much more efficient to cup in the morning when my focus is at its best. Cupping is a huge part of my job, which isn’t a problem because I love it!
I grab half an hour for lunch around 12.30pm and in the afternoon I catch up with emails, responding to suppliers and producers about what we want to purchase.
Most meetings at NA take place in the afternoons. Morten [Wennersgaard, NA’s founder] and I will discuss how we should move forward based on how the coffees are cupping, our overall strategy in that origin and our commitment to each producer.
During the heavy buying season, we may cup coffee all day or have two sessions – in the morning and the afternoon.
A day at origin
When travelling, my schedule very much depends on where I am, the people I’m working with and the coffees involved. But my focus is on getting a good understanding of the coffee season in that country for this particular year. Many of the countries we work in have complex political climates that can hugely affect the access to coffee or the structures through which you buy the beans.
Sometimes I get the opportunity to cup in the field. In such cases, the cupping will involve tables of up to 30 coffees and hundreds of samples. This is my chance to smell the aroma of the beans when dry and wet. We have to give the coffees time to cool down so we can taste them as efficiently as possible. It’s important to allow each coffee the chance to be at its best.
Cupping sessions can take all day. They’ll usually start immediately after breakfast; we’ll stop to grab a quick lunch at about 2pm but will often keep cupping until 6pm. Everyone will then discuss the coffees and collate our results so we can narrow down the selection for recupping. If I have customers travelling with me, this is usually the best time to discuss the coffee and get insights into what they liked.
A day with producers
I spend some days at origin visiting coffee producers – either someone I know well or a new contact. Depending on the country, this can involve a lot of driving – I may only have to travel 45 minutes in Kenya, but eight to 10 hours in Ethiopia. The roads can be rough, but you’re almost always rewarded with captivating scenery.
If I’m visiting a washing station or cooperative, I’ll see where the cherry is delivered, weighed, sorted and processed. This gives me a real insight into the set-up they use for processing – if they’re using water and how much, how and when are they sorting, and how they are fermenting or removing mucilage in the case of washed coffees.
In the case of natural and honey-processed coffees, I can even see how thick the layers of coffee cherries are on the drying beds at the relative stages of drying. I also get to see what systems they have in place for keeping track of what they are processing.
At cooperatives, I’ll often meet the board of the group and a few member farmers. If I’m visiting an existing supplier, I will discuss the feedback I’ve received about the coffees purchased the previous year and ask what challenges they have faced during the current season.
When visiting a coffee farm, I spend a fair amount of time driving or walking around the farm (depending on its size). I’ll see how the trees are looked after, and if there is any particular separation across the production. It’s also a good idea to visit the area where they process the coffee beans and dry the resulting parchment.
In the evening, I’ll usually have dinner with the customers travelling with me. Sometimes we use this as an opportunity to discuss what we have seen during the day. But often we just chill out after a long day of travel and then retire to our rather basic hotel rooms. All the time, I’ll be on the lookout for WiFi to catch up on emails!SUBSCRIBE NOW!