From the Source: YCFCU Konga -- Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
The YCFCU (Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union) was organized in 2002 in an effort to establish stability amidst fluctuating coffee prices. Recognized under the national labor union, the YCFCU represents 43,794 farmers over 6 districts including Yirgacheffe, Gedeb, Wanago, Dilla Zuria, Bule, and Kochere. Check for YCFCU coffees scheduled for arrival to our US warehouse now!
Lo Mejor de Mexico 2015
Xalapa, Mexico - Capital of Veracruz, namesake of the beloved jalapeño pepper, and home to the 2015 Lo Mejor de Mexico competition. Once a thriving but rural community of coffee farmers, Xalapa has grown to be the second-largest city in its state, and now holds as the seat of many government and university operations. Despite the radical change in character, coffee still holds a prominent place in the city's culture and history.
This year marked the second iteration of the Lo Mejor competition, with some exciting new developments. Similar to the past years, coffees were submitted by producers throughout Mexico, and vetted by national cuppers. From among the numerous options, 27 coffees were chosen to be cupped by our international team over the course of two days. Coffee roasters from coast to coast (quite literally), ventured to the Las Animas mill to act as the jury and subsequent bidding group for the top 10 winning lots.
The live auction and closing ceremony provided a perfect end to the event, with opportunity for the visiting roasters to purchase coffees they had fallen in love with that very day. Lo Mejor de Mexico was the second time that Café Imports organized this type of auction (read about the first here), and we couldn't have been happier with the great results! A few producers from the area were able to attend the final ceremony, meet the jury of roasters, and personally see their coffees sell for well above standard market values.
Top 10 Lo Mejor de Mexico 2015 lots (click for beanologies)
#10 El Escapulario
#8 Fina Chanjul
#5 El Amate
See our current Lo Mejor de Mexico Offerings here.
We're excited to see what next year brings!
-- Matt Brown
Read our posting from the first Lo Mejor de Mexico here.
Scroll down for Matt's photographic play-by-play of the Lo Mejor de Mexico competition trip!
Photos by Matt Brown and Adrienne Blasky.
The 2015 harvest and processing season was completed shortly prior to our arrival, so all of the coffee waiting to be dry-milled was carefully bagged and stacked. The vast majority of coffee in parchment was held in these Super Sacks, each of which can hold upwards of 1,000kg!
The Las Animas Wet Mill provided a perfect setting for our daily cuppings and live auction. Founded in 1891, it is one of three AMSA wet mills currently operating in the state of Veracruz. We were fortunate to spend time here, as this coming harvest may mark the end of its processing tenure.
In similar fashion to the Cup of Excellence competitions, Lo Mejor de Mexico all began with a vetting round of cupping done by the AMSA national team. Over 50 coffees were submitted, with 27 making it to the final tables cupped by our international group
The 2015 jury consisted of 17 roasters from all around the United States. We could not be more grateful to this fantastic group of professionals for their service and support! There was precious little time in the schedule for visiting local producers, but the team took advantage of every moment.
Safety first. After the first round of cupping we took a field trip to the Dos Rios dry mill. Dos Rios can process up to 5,000 bags of coffee in a single day, with multiple quality grades being separated and prepped simultaneously.
Neighbor to Dos Rios was the Embryo Genesis Somatica lab and nursery. Here, there are tests being done every day on existing varieties and the potential for cross-breeding. The H-series hybrid experiments have yielded 6 new breeds that are being planted today. This vast nursery currently holds 400,000 plants, with room to prepare 1.5 million as production increases.
Finca Consolapan took 1st place in last year's competition and had another great showing this season. Cecilia, the farm owner, was gracious enough to provide a tour and discuss some of her production methods.
One piece of Cecelia's 1st place prize was a collection of the most promising hybrid plants to experiment with on her farm. After one year the Mexican H-series varieties are well on their way to full production!
A live auction was the culmination of the Lo Mejor de Mexico event. In traditional fashion, each bidder had their own number that they used to fight for their claim to a favorite coffee off the table.
Post-competition there was one final stop at the Cordova dry mill, where all of the lots from the auction were being held. This mill is well-known for its attention to detail and dedication to quality: coffees are sorted multiple times in a variety of ways (including a recently added optical sorter), and sampled meticulously to ensure the best quality possible.
Regional Select: Mexico
For about five years, we have been trying hard to find the real coffee gems and top producers in Mexico's vast countryside and varied regions.
In a country which has historically produced more standard coffees, we felt that somewhere in the mix of 5 million bags existed great coffees that were just getting blended together, so every year we travel and learn; cup and visit, cup, drive and cup. We offered better prices for top-cupping coffee, we held a quality contest with 10 roasters cupping the best coffees of the year. We attended the first and second CoE, and visited the winners and contenders and were constantly asking where the great coffees are. The contest "Lo Mejor de Mexico," was a success: We found 90-point coffees. CoE was a great vehicle for quality and price discovery, as it has been in many countries over the last 15 years.
We found that there is a difference in style and substance between regions and microregions. In Coatapec, producers tend to deliver cherries to the mill, but there are many small producers with micromills and raised beds--where in Chiapas you find small producers depulping by hand and drying wherever they can, to deliver dry parchment to a central repository. Chiapas is also home to cooperatives, both Fair Trade and not. Many organic producers and large estates are entirely self-contained, and efficiently producing their own electricity to run their own wet mills, dry mills, and support their housing.
With this experience, we decided to launch the "Regional Select Mexico" project. This project aims to highlight the specia,l unique profiles we have found inherent in specific regions and microregions within Mexico due to microclimate, processing style, variety, and overall terroir. The regions we will begin by highlighting are Veracruz, Coatapec, and Chiapas.
The vast majority (90%) of Mexico's coffee is produced in four states in the southern half of the country: Chiapas (35%), Oaxaca (13%), Puebla (15%) and Veracruz (25%). Coffee is grown by more than 490,000 farmers, around 70% of whom are smallholders with fewer than 10 hectares of land. Large estates are rare--only 0.06% of farms are larger than 50 hectares. [Source: Amecafé, August 2012]
We are obviously paying a premium for anything above 86, and a lot more for coffees above 90 points, with the idea that quality coffee takes more time and effort and is worth more to all of us.
From the Source: Ethiopia, the Origin of Origins
Full containers of fresh crop Ethiopian offerings have started to breach our warehouse doors!:
With much anticipation, we are excited to share with you some closer looks at where these containers started their journey.
Please enjoy these slice-of-life "From the Source" video renditions from our visit to our producing partners in Yirgacheffe this past December. We have more media from Ethiopia coming, including interviews with our YCFCU partners. Expect to see more when those coffees arrive.
Ethiopia has a highly complex coffee system, unlike that of any other origin. To help streamline the language we use in distinguishing traceability in a seemingly untraceable system, we have put together a couple regional coffee maps to give you some context.
*Please note - these maps are not an "absolute" depiction of Ethiopia's growing regions. Our coffee mapping is a work in progress where-in discussion is encouraged. Our aim is to explore the use of maps as a tool to help refine the context we speak in regarding coffee growing regions vs. political boundaries.
to view recent photos from our trip to Yirgacheffe during peak processing last December, click here.
Introducing "Cafe Imports: From the Source"
There is a unique understanding in the specialty-coffee world that the people and places that foster coffee production are essential to the quality passed along to the cup. Responsible roasters and baristas strive to show respect to their products by getting to know them better. The most passionate coffee professionals emit this value through taking an informed approach to coffee: strategically sourcing, impeccably roasting, and proudly serving something truly special to their clientele.
It is our understanding that, as an importer, we have a monumental role and opportunity to lend a hand in this information chain -- to link our producing partners' stories with the people who roast, brew, and serve their coffee.
In working with coffee producers from all over the globe, we seek to match the quality of their product by supplementing it with as much accurate, traceable, and intriguing information as we possibly can. This concept was the inspiration behind of our ever-expanding Beanology program.
We have recently expanded our coffee information team, and in the coming months, we plan to build out our Beanology library to a state that is more thorough than ever before. On top of that, over the past year, we have been experimenting with incorporating new forms of media, namely videos, into our coffee documentation; as an ever-evolving undertaking, it has slowly and steadily grown to a point where we feel it is officially dialed in.
We would like to introduce our coffee education and documentation video series "Cafe Imports: From the Source".
Our video postings will be unlike that of an established media publication, ranging from frequent to infrequent depending on the season. A quality-over-quantity type of video content flow will be the goal, as sourcing, importing, and information gathering is our first order of business.
Our aim with From the Source is to help contribute educational content to the specialty coffee-drinking world in a visual narrative that does the producers justice, as well as to simply create content that celebrates the beautiful people and places from which the world gets its coffee.
You will find From the Source in the video page of our website's multimedia section, as well as in the header section of relevant beanologies. All videos can be directly downloaded from our vimeo page, and we welcome anyone to use them in their own marketing efforts. In the end, it is coffee that wins, and as lovers of coffee, that makes us all number one.
We are also starting a "producer productions" channel on our video page, an open channel to which our producing partners may submit their own videos. We recently posted one from Colombia COE winner Carmen Cecilia Montaya, and we are excited to see this channel develop.
Today we kick off our From the Source series with an Ethiopia media roll-out. Three videos accompoanied by two regional coffee maps, and a photo album that we published earlier this year.
There are no interviews in the videos we are releasing today; instead, they are simple, slice-of-life renditions from our visit this past December. We have more media from Ethiopia coming, including interviews with our YCFCU partners. Expect to see more when those coffees arrive.
From the Source will be a program which, if nothing else, can offer another a visual dynamic to your coffee knowledge.
Ultimately, it's value is for you to decide, afterall, art is subjective -- did I mention that the life surrounding coffee is straight-up artwork? Remind me to tell you about it later.
Thank you and please, Enjoy!
-- Andy Reiland
Andy is Cafe Imports' Media Pro.
Community Coffees of Costa Rica
A few years ago we started a program with a number of coffee farmers in the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica and the Co-op they belonged to called Coopetarrazu.
This is a program that blossomed out of our efforts to know where specific coffees come from, to know the people that are growing them and to create a relationship with those farmers that benefits both of us, or all of us.
Most farmers in this part of Costa Rica tend to deliver ripe cherries to a big mill or a cooperative, like Coopetarrazu, where it typically gets blended together during the wet milling process. So to keep the traceability of one farmer's coffee is very difficult or nearly impossible in a large wet mill like theirs because it is unreasonable to shut it down and clean it out between small batches'.
Coopetarrazu was trying to find a way to support their members and at the same time, encourage top coffee production. Their idea was to separate the coffee of a specific community so that there was specificity of cup or final product and then the top coffees could fetch a higher price. We offered to pay a 20 cent premium for high quality coffees, coffees over 86 points, if they could trace the coffees back to a specific group of farmers or community. They just have to all show up on the same day with trucks full of perfectly ripe cherries; not a small feat. We offered to pay this premium directly to the community so that they could use the funds for social programs or to support their communities in ways that they get to decide. The San Pedro community last year for instance decided to build a roof over the schools playground to serve as shade during hot days and keep the rain off during the rainy season. This worked to provide a place for local children to play in a healthy environment and keep them from walking around our playing futbol in the road.
This program has allowed us to separate lots from specific communities that score over 86 points and pay a quality premium that the individual communities get to receive and decide as a group how the money will be used to improve their coffee production and their livelihood. We have seen the premiums used to build roads, build large water tanks to store fresh water for the community or like the example above, to build roofs for the children's schools. This is our fourth year of this project and it has been a wonderful success story for the producers in this regions and Coopetarrazu as well. Last year they integrated agricultural workshops in to the system where they brought agronomists in to the field to work with producers.
In 2014 they had 40 workshops which benefited 1800 people. In 2015 they've had 20 workshops with 1300 people attending. They hope to reach 2500 members this year with workshops.
The intent of Coopetarrazu is to continue to expand the program to benefit farmers in the greater Tarrazu community with educational workshops such as these:
- Water quality for foliar application
- Foliar nutrition for coffee
- Fertilizer quality
- Calibration of agricultural equipment
- Pest control (rust, eye of rooster, antracnosis)
- Weather forecast
- Root system health
- Tree Donation: Native trees, such as vetiver, are being donated to prevent soil erosion at the farm-level.
This Community Coffee program has made a real impact on the communities that deliver cherry to this mill. Coopetarrazu has made a commitment to help to improve the lives of their members and offer them the opportunity of gaining higher quality premiums for their best coffees. This program has motivated these producers to keep improving their quality and their lives. We are proud to be their partner and very excited to see this year's harvest coming in; the quality has been impressive.
- Andrew Miller
View all of our current Coopetarrazu offerings here
View our afloat Coopetarrazu offerings here
Welcome to our new Website!
We are proud to announce this milestone project that we've been working on - a new website that we feel truly encompasses the culture and driving principles of our company.
Our internet vehicle for providing you the world's finest specialty coffees is more equipped than ever before! (Just in time for SCAA - as if we didn't have anything else going on, right??).
We believe our new website is an incredible resource for buying green coffee efficiently, for finding rich coffee media (including beautiful coffee photos and videos) and now more than ever, for access to Coffee Education.
Education is at the core of everything we do. It is truly one of our guiding principles, and we live it. This new site is the result of the collaboration between all of our specialists and partners, both here and abroad.
We are students and teachers in every facet of the chain of coffee, from the producer level to the barista level and we believe that paying forward experiences and lessons is the key to our industry progressing as a whole. For this reason, we have created a new education section to the website.
Our Education Section Includes:
As well as freshly updated information, the origin pages are home to our new "World Coffee Maps" project, with the first batch of Regional Coffee Maps debuting for Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador (more coming soon!)
Courses Available for Download Now: "Seed to Cup" "Intro to Sample Roasting" and "Intro to Cupping"
When searching for your coffee on our Offerings Page, the new website easily allows you to sort through our offerings by country, coffee type, or even search by flavor profile!
The geographic location in the top tab allows you to sort by warehouse. You can also see future offerings by clicking on "Afloat". Here you will see all coffees on the water in route to us, and to which warehouse it is going! Clicking on "Open" will show you all coffees contracted but not yet shipped.
We set out with the goal of building the best possible tool for our customers to fulfill their green coffee needs, both in terms of inventory and personal education. This site is our way of supporting you as our customers, friends, and most importantly, partners in finding homes for some of the world's finest specialty coffees.
We hope you enjoy and, as always, welcome any feedback over the coming months on how this can be improved even more for your needs.
The Cafe Imports Team
The Jamaican Coffee Farmers Association
Watch the video above for a full run-down of a program we've initiated with a young band of Jamaican coffee farmers called the "Jamaican Coffee Farmers Association"
Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is mainly produced by the Wallenford, Mavis Bank, Moy Hall, and Old Tavern Estates. It is consistently the highest priced coffee in the world. A typical Jamaican farmer will pick their own "cherry-berry" and drop them off to these estates for processing and to get paid. For the 15-20 years that we have been buying Jamaican coffee, we have not been able to work or communicate with the producers or farmers. In 2014, Cafe Imports President, Andrew Miller met a young Jamaican coffee farmer who is a member of the Jamaican Coffee Farmers Association, a group of about 250 small producers in Jamaica that are trying to band together, process their own coffee, and bypass the big estates' processing services. Since meeting and visting their farms in Jamaica, Cafe Imports has pre-financed Arthur and the Jamaican Coffee Farmers Associaton so that they can produce their own coffee.
We are very excited to be working with the JCFA, and we cannot wait to see where our relationship might take us.
Visit the Beanology here
The 2015 US barista Championships have officially kicked off today in Long Beach California, and we couldnt be more excited. Once again we are proud to be contributing to the competition by providing top notch competition coffees sourced in partnership with an elite cast of Barista and Brewing competitors.
Here is a run down of competitors/coffees that will provoke judges to have animated eyebrows this weekend at the USBC:
Nora Brady: Blueprint Coffee - Saint Louis, MO. Coffee: Ecuador Finca Maputo. Instagram & Twitter @snackpackbrady, @BlueprintCoffee
"Nora is a lazer beam of focus, and a heart full of passion for what she does. Her drive toward pure excellence creates a wake which is full of people who strive after her example. When Nora has a goal, she will reach it. We are so excited to be partnering with her again this year in striving toward what many of us think is impossible, but she thinks is attainable, that perfect coffee experience." -Joe Marrocco
(click here to watch our interview with Nora From last years USBC)
David Bueher: Greenway Coffee - Houston, TX. Coffee: Ecuador Finca Maputo. Instagram & Twitter @greenwaybarista
"David is one of those people that you want to bring home to meet the folks. He is a genuine, honest, food loving, pho slurping man. It is impossible to not have fun with David. People dream about driving around with this guy to eat food...I know I do. Thank you for your partnership, you will kill it!" - Noah Namowicz
Michael Butterworth: Quills Coffee - Louisville, KY. Coffee: Colombia ACES Alexander Cortes - Instagram: @mjbutterworth
"Michael is a severly dedicated competitor, his passion for coffee and service shows in every presentation. I couldn't be more excited to see him representing on the national level for the second time, his place there is well deserved. He looks good doing it too...which doesn't hurt." - Matt Brown
(click here to watch our interview with Michael From last years USBC)
"I first met Michael in Brasil on the first ever Barista Origin Trip after he won his region. Michael is honestly probably the sweetest person I know I aside from my Grandma. It is really neat for me to see how these trips build lifelong friendships. I consider Michael a great friend. He is an extremely dedicated coffee professional, and it has been amazing to see his coffee journey take him now to a new part of the country. Best of luck Michael!" -Noah Namowicz
Cole McBride: PublicUs - Las Vegas, NV. Coffee: Arnulfo Leguizamo, Colombia. Instagram & Twitter @cole_coffee
"Cole McBride is that guy that you see at every major coffee event. He has been a leader within the barista community both in his service and his excellence. We are proud to partner with Cole and Arnulfo Leguizamo to bring one of the top producers and top baristas together in one of the most prestigous coffee events in the world. Thank you Cole!" -Joe Marrocco
Jonathan Miller: MadCap Coffee - Grand Rapids, MI. Coffee: Ecuador Finca Maputo
"Jonathan Miller has been at this for some time. He is a flavor focused madcap scientist who will draw out every drop of character his coffee has to offer. Technical abilities in drves, but hidden under a slight-of-hand execution. Put Jonathan and a special coffee like the Typica from Finca Maputo....Watch Out." -Joe Marrocco
Kyle Ramage - Mahlkonig. Coffee: Colombia Best of Cauca - Twitter: @kyle_rampage
"Baron of the burrs! Kyle is one of the finest professionals I've had the pleasure of meeting, it's great to see the way that he has stretched his desire to advance our industry into this competition. More than that, great to see him doing such a fine job. I'm excited to see what he brings to the national level." - Matt Brown
Radames Roldan: Blueprint Coffee - Saint Louis, MO. Coffee: Ecuador Finca Maputo. Instagram and Twitter @radprojection, @BlueprintCoffee
"Radames is cool, calm, collected. He has a voice that captivates and pulls everyone in the room to hear what he has to say. But, more importantly, he has the skills and follow through at the bar to surpass expectations of what coffee quality means. Don't be fooled by this champion's cool deameanor. He is out to win, and has one round under his belt." -Joe Marrocco
Leann Wacker: Colectivo - Milwaukee, WI. Coffee: Ecuador Juan Pena. Instagram: @leannsoowacker
"Leann is a fairly new competitor to the scene and completely blew everyone away with her BIG CENTRAL routine. She is known as the "Milwaukee Dark Horse". Leann is one of those people that just completely lights up a room with her smile and positive attitude. I am so happy to see her flourish as a competitor and cannot wait to see her progress in her coffee career." - Noah Namowicz
Hadassah Wilson: Square One Coffee - Lancaseter, PA. Coffee: Brasil Santa Lucia Instagram: @hadassahwilson
"Hadassah is a unbelievably dedicated and fierce competitor. She has constantly been in touch with myself and our partners at Carmo Coffees to truly uncover what makes her coffee tick. Hadassah's BIG EASTERN routine just made me want to be back in Brasil. I am proud to call Hadassah a friend and love everything she brings to our industry." - Noah Namowicz
(click here to watch our interview with Hadassah From last years USBC)
Brewers Cup Competition:
Zach Althaus: Sump Coffee - St Louis, MO. Coffee: Peru ACES Alejandro Apolinar
"Zach Althaus has that hear of gold that pushes him to brew coffee in a way that is customer first, Zach second. His humble focus leaves the coffee on center stage and the drinker in awe. Expect him to take a surprisingly refreshing coffee, a Peru Microlot, to new heights!" -Joe Marrocco
Brian Benavente: Black Cup Café Del Mundo - Anchorage, AK. Coffee: Ecuador Las Cinco - Fabian Lomas - Sidra - Twitter and instagram: @brthbe
"Brian has shown such an amazing excitement about competing this year, driven by a love for his coffee. I know that attitude is going to show in the spotlight, all of you who get to partake should consider yourself fortunate. Someone give that guy a hug on my behalf." - Matt Brown
Mickey Comerford: Colectivo - Milwaukee, WI. Coffee: Ecuador Juan Pena
"I got to know Mickey because he lives and works in my hometown of Milwaukee, WI. Mickey has been a force the past several years of barista competition. He has some of the most impressive facial hair capability in our industry. Mickey and I also share some Jesuit education roots and I feel like he is just one of those people in life you could call and count on for anything. Best of luck Mickey!" - Noah Namowicz
Mick Evans: One Line Coffee, Columbus, OH. Coffee: Costa Rica Las Lajas Alma Negra. Twitter: @mick_hop, Twitter & Instagram: @onelinecoffee
"Mick is director of retail operations and partner in One Line Coffee. He brings 7.5 years coffee experience, starting off an educator with Boston Stoker. His approach is trying to bring simplicity to brewing; trying to adapt brew to the variables as presented to him. We love this approach and believe that Mick is using one of the most amazing coffees we saw out of Costa Rica last year. Las Lajas processing experiments bring an amazing opportunity to showcase processing to the judges. Best of luck Mick!" - Cafe Imports Team
Tony Querio: Spyhouse, Minneapolis, MN. Coffee: Ecuador Juan Pena. Instagram: @tonyqtostador, Twitter: @tony_querio
"We were all incredibly excited to learn that Tony was being imported from Oregon to Minnesota to work for Spyhouse's new roasting operation. Tony is a man with an unbelievable amount of integrity. He is truly one of the good guys in our industry, and a seriously talented roaster. Watching Tony compete at the Big Central, it was clear that he is one of the most well rounded coffee pros in our industry. We cannot wait to see what he comes up with for the USBC this weekend!" - Joe Marrocco
And of course, we cannot forget the Cup Tasters Championship, where we have two competitors representing Cafe Imports (!!!)
Piero Cristiani: Cafe Imports Green buyer.
"Piero is originally from El Salvador and found his way to Minnesota for school. We are so proud that he wanted to join the Cafe Imports team. Piero started by answering phones, and for you
longtime customers, you will remember his distinctive greeting. Piero has been a pioneer for many new exciting origin programs for us, including setting up our office in San Jose Costa Rica. Piero is an incredible cupper. We all will be cheering him on this weekend!"
- Noah Namowicz
Megan Person: Cafe Imports Sensory Analysis
"Megan is a pillar of the Twin Cities coffee community, previously working as a barista behind the counter of some of the best coffee shops in the area. Megan has developed into an incredible cupper and sample roaster throughout her journey at Cafe Imports. She outright smoked everyone in the office during cup tasters practice rounds. Watch out for this one, she's there to win."
AND LASTLY BUT NOT LEASTLY - here are our FIVE ads that you can see during the 2015 Barista Championships' commercial programming between competitors! enjoy :)