Founded in Portland by Emily and Michael McIntyre along with Ethiopia-based partner Zelalem “Zele” Girma Bayou, the company has also quietly expanded into Kenya, hiring a full-time coordinator in the historically renowned coffee country.
Emily McIntyre told DCN that plans to launch imports from Peru have been simmering for years based on the McIntyres’ past relationships with numerous Peruvian producers.
“We honestly believe that Peru has barely begun to flex in the world of specialty coffee,” Emily McIntyre told DCN. “Years ago when Michael and I began to work with process control and specialty market-building with our Peruvian friends, we saw a huge untapped opportunity for traceable, high-quality, relationship-driven Peruvian coffee. Interestingly, in the years we’ve been focused on Ethiopia, we’ve continued to observe that many of the unique flavor profiles and distinct regional qualities haven’t ‘hit’ the consuming world yet.”
Emily McIntyre said the group plans to apply the long-term-relationship-driven sourcing ethos to Peru, as it has to Ethiopia over the past five years. Yet this is also the first time the company will be offering custom-sourced “true blender” coffees, according to Emily McIntyre.
The company is also introducing financing to smaller- and medium-sized coffee roasters for purchases of full containers of Peruvian coffees.
“Even roasters who don’t have experience with FOB or full-container purchases can work with us to do their first, because our process is simple and intuitive,” Emily McIntyre said. “83- and 84-point Perus, particularly, sourced from our partners in Peru, can be brought in with a six- to eight-week turnaround.”
As for Catalyst’s Kenya operations, Emily McIntyre said the company entered partly as a “listening partner.”
“[We’ve been] putting in endless hours tracking down factories and directly working with producers who’ve almost never met a buyer, in spite of their pictures showing up on importers’ websites all over the world,” Emily McIntyre said. “Long term, we have aspirations of creating a vertically integrated supply chain [that] has real Kenyan partnership and ownership.”
Along with the increase in coffee offerings, Catalyst has opened a new coffee lab in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, while the company will soon be moving into a new U.S. headquarters in downtown Portland. The new U.S. digs are expected to include offices, a customer-focused cupping room and a separate room for Catalyst’s own coffee cupping and sampling.
“Our plans are not to grow infinitely and swallow the world,” Emily McIntyre said. “We have scaling goals in mind [that] we know will allow us to achieve efficiency of scale to benefit everyone, and to buy the entire production of all our producer partners. We invest a lot into being good employers and respectful humans — and are always learning what that means.”