Lucia Solis, Coffee Fermentation Designer, Luxia Coffee
Company: Luxia Coffee
Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA & wherever coffee grows
Sector: Coffee Processing Systems
tLBCC: What makes you choose to work with one coffee farmer or client over another? What do they do or can they do to earn your trust?
Lucia Solis: One thing that stands out is when a client talks to me about all the previous trials and experiments they have already done. In many cases clients have been experimenting for years before they reach out to me. I like to see the commitment they have to learning and it makes our work together more effective because I can eliminate what has already proven to be unsuccessful and build on what has worked.
The most common issue my clients tell me is some version of “we tried XYZ and it turned out really well but we did it again and can’t get that flavor result again.” Or worse, they tried the same thing that gave them the initial great results and it turned out badly and the coffee batch was ruined. Often having “good coffee” is more a matter of luck and the good grace of mother nature than a coffee producers technique. I trust my clients to have a good baseline of experimentation and they trust me to bring them consistent results.
tLBCC: What steps do you take to build trust with your clients? How do you ensure that they can rely on you and the unconventional processes you are implementing?
Lucia Solis: There’s few things that build trust quite like being able to taste the coffee yourself and decided if it’s a direction you want to pursue. I am making more of an effort this year to have coffee samples available to potential clients so they can taste the work for themselves.
Trust also begins with transparency. I have seen significant quality improvements in a single batch but I try to remind my clients that it takes a long time to implement big changes and to see the results of those changes in cup quality. I think it helps my clients trust me when I can be honest that we are starting a long road together but that I will continue to be available to them after the visit is over. After the initial site visit where we process coffee together, my clients have unlimited access to me for additional support. I make an effort to continue to be available through email and WhatsApp where clients send me pictures and messages as the coffee is drying.
tLBCC: Do you have any other thoughts on building trust along the coffee supply chain?
Lucia Solis: I think that the way we communicate new science can sometimes be misleading and be counterproductive to building trust. I see complex new research on topics like agriculture, genetics or biochemistry reduced to a single headline or a few sentences and lose all nuance. I hear people repeat incorrect information because they only read the headline and not the full journal article. Sometimes they act on that information and have poor results and it creates a mistrust of science or lets people dig their heels more deeply in previous beliefs.
I currently have mixed feelings about the popularity of microbes like specific yeast and bacteria for coffee fermentation because it’s a complex topic that is being reduced to a trend. In the past few decades microbes were ignored, but now I see the influence of microbes being oversold. Several producers have bought and tried a certain yeast expecting an explosion of flavor and been disappointed, the risk is they throw the baby out with the bathwater and progress stalls.