25 Years of Mercanta History
As Mercanta gains another year of age, it is not only a monumental year but a year to remember. The past 365 days have been tumultuous, but here at Mercanta, we feel eternally grateful for everyone we work with, our producers, and are looking forward to the future.
Back in 1996, founder Stephen Hurst opened the Mercanta Office in Sunbury on Thames, or simply London for those of you worldwide. It was a small start, with few partners and employees as the company grew each year. Mercanta helped initiate the start of many specialty coffee roasters in the UK and Europe – even lending support towards the wave of specialty coffee in the United States.
Mercanta was working with Guatemala and El Salvador from the start with an office in Guatemala City opening in 1998. Additionally, Mercanta was working with Peru in the late 90s as Brazil came along before 2000. Hurst served on the jury of the Brazilian Cup of Excellence in the late 90s, and helped initiate the start of the Guatemalan Cup of Excellence around the same time. Specifically, at the 2000/2001 Guatemalan Cup of Excellence, Hurst and the other judges deemed a coffee from Finca Las Nubes located on the border between El Salvador and Honduras to be of a high quality. This caused an uproar in Guatemala as ANACAFÉ had not recognized this region as a major coffee-producing area. Mercanta has partnered with this farm for nearly 20 years. Mercanta seeks to find the undiscovered, high quality coffee throughout the world.
Hurst has served on 15 Cup of Excellence juries and was on the Board for the Alliance for eight years, and a Chairman for four years. He has much experience in understanding quality, what understanding quality can do for a producer, and he has seen coffee change over the last quarter of a century.
As the 2000s rolled in, Mercanta began partnerships with Sumatra in Indonesia and India. By the mid-2000s, Mercanta initiated partnerships with Colombia and other Centrals such as Honduras and Nicaragua. Mercanta was also supporting early UK specialty coffee roaster Monmouth’s desire to source Kenyan coffees.
The mid-2000s also brought in Rwandan coffees and the initiation into the African market, with Ethiopia to follow a few years down the line. In the past few years, Mercanta has initiated relationships in Tanzania, Uganda and even the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Hopefully soon, we will expand to other countries such as Malawi.
Now functioning with 23 people in four offices worldwide – Mercanta truly is a global and sustainable enterprise. Our impact grows each year, as we purchase coffees from 23 countries and sell coffee to over 50 countries. Through our work and with the help of our partners – we have supported the livelihoods of many coffee producers across the Coffee Belt, aiding with the support for the future of coffee and betterment of coffee-producing communities.
After partnering with ECOM in 2013, Mercanta now has secured a stable future and works with an extraordinary team of agronomists and partners whereby producers are educated about how to improve yield and quality of their coffee, and we are able to provide market access.
Over time, Mercanta has seen the transition as more producers became aware of improving the quality of their coffee. “There is no specialty seed,” mentions Hurst, “but the hard work, the terroir, and a number of other factors that go into making a coffee high quality.” There is so much great quality coffee out there, and if there was the demand for specialty, Mercanta would buy more of it. Hurst notes that his team has been buying coffee at $1.80/lb for well over 7 years even before the company began to advertise it.
25 is just a number, and it is a strange time, indeed. But we must reflect on the impact we have had on the coffee-producing world, and what we can still achieve in the years to come. It has been a great journey, but it is far from over.
We surely will have another 25 great years, and within that time, we aim to work with more producers, spread awareness for specialty coffee, and make a difference within these communities. “The future for coffee is limitless,” notes Hurst, and we here at Mercanta hope to buy more coffee and sell more; educating the millions of consumers along the way about where the coffee comes from and why it is important to recognize the hard work of our coffee producers.
Thank you to everyone who has supported Mercanta along the way. Let’s keep making a difference in the world.