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The 2016 Legendary Coffee Producer Tour Lineup

Café Imports is committed to supporting the baristas who are at the front lines of our industry--the people who shake hands with customers and humbly serve a beautiful product which so many people worked so hard to prepare.

After recent changes to the SCAA competition structure, we are proud to announce that, in place of the Barista Origin Trip sponsorship this year, we will allocate those funds toward hosting a series of regional educational and enrichment events, designed to encourage professional development and community--just as the regional barista competitions have in the past.

This year, we bring to you the inaugural Legendary Coffee-Producer Tour!

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 We will be touring with six coffee producers from around the world to three US cities, engaging and sharing information freely with the local coffee communities. During each daylong event, we will be offering free classes on agronomy, coffee processing, cupping, flavor, and other areas of coffee science in which this group are expert.  

The tour will feature some of our truly legendary coffee-producing partners, to allow them to share their experience and, in a sense, bring origin to you and your community.

We have collaborated with these dedicated producers for many years, and have accepted gracious invitations to join them in their own homes and lives, sharing their stories with us. We are excited to finally reciprocate their hospitality and kindness by bringing them to our homes, in an effort to deepen the understanding on both sides of our industry's culture. Please help us welcome and learn with some of our most innovative and dedicated coffee-producing partners.

 

 Jairo Ruiz and Elkin Guzman - Banexport, Colombia  

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"...on the topics of experimental processing methods, an overview of the coffee supply chain, exportation, and maintaining quality control in different buys."

 

 

 

 

Oscar and Francesca Chacon - Finca Las Lajas, Costa Rica

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"...on the topics of processing methods, the importance of sustainable farming, and the emergence of Costa Rican microlots." 

 

 

 

 

Jacques Carniero - Carmo Coffees, Brazil

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"...on the topics of pruning, productivity, and innovative agricultural practices unique to Brazilian producers."

 

 

 

Juan Jose Moguel - Finca Nueva Linda, Mexico

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"...on the topic of moving from commodity grade coffee into the specialty realm, as well as the challenges that are unique to Mexican specialty coffee producers."

 

 

Tour: Dates, Times, Locations 

RSVP at the links below.

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 For more information on the event, producers, and topics, visit our Facebook events page.

 

 


A 2015 Visual CI Retrospective

Well, wouldn't you know: It's that time of year where America's favorite VJ, Carson Daly, throws on the leather gloves & ear muffs to guide us through the cosmos in NYC's Time Square. Cosmos, you ask? Well, that would be referring to our ever-revolving planet, soaring through space, as a symbolic reverse disco ball descends above a skyscraper, officially closing out 2015. We here at Café Imports tend to get sentimental while changing our hanging wall calendar, in an odd, slightly too-ceremonial fashion. We think it is important as we roll into the new year to look back at the memories we cherish most, sit with them for a moment, and then totally forget them as we plow ahead into the future.

Move over 2015, there's a new kid in town, right? People?

Well, at least we'll leave this blog up for the Internet to enjoy for years to come, as a reference to where we once were....which reminds us, hello readers from the future, how is it out there? Good? That's great! 

There are almost as many memories at Café Imports this year as there are stars in the sky. We whittled it down to highlights in an order that's only relatively chronological--but who's keeping count? Carson Daly, maybe? Either way, come with us for a guide through the cosmos that were Café Imports 2015.


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The Variety Select program joined our offerings

We changed it up.

We linked up with the Jamaican Coffee Farmers Association

Piero brought some samples in from El Sal.

The Yemeni Red Haraaz was stronger than ever

We USBC'ed and competed in the U.S. Cup Tasters Championship.

We cupped in slow motion.

We Expo'd.

Joe got an award.

We partied.

We collaborated with Dr. Flavio Borem.

We worked with some dogs.

We swagged-out the Cup Taster Champions.

We made some vids

Joe 'Pro'd.

Customer Service took advantage of some deals on wheels.

We coffee mapped some origins, and the quest continues...

Cafe Imports Europe grew from 1 to 4, follow them on instagram @cafeimportseurope and join the thousand of fans.

Gabe and Ari went to Russia...

Meister, Joe and Adrienne got Legendary in the PNW.

Matty B got huge at Lo Mejor de Mexico.

Fresh Crop Came.

The Costa Community Lots delivered.

We had a staff engagement - Matt and Kate set a date! #mattandkatesetadate

Cafe Imports Australia was born. Watch them grow up before our eyes over at @cafeimportsaustralia on Instagram.

We got to know our green buyers.

Benny Boo got published.

Dan travelled East and made some friends.

Omar celebrated national coffee day.

Roasters got stumped at Portland Coffee Fest

The Cafe Imports Education dept. joined the AV club

Noah and Jess barista-tripped with the best.

Cropster livestreamed.

We made a hat benefitting Grounds for Health -- still in stock! Purchase here.

We got some solar power at HQ

Cauca Best Cup was the bestest:

Okay, time to SLOW DOWN THE SCROLLING. We are specifically extremely excited to note that the premiums paid for coffees from the Cauca Best Cup competition brought in over $500,000 USD to producers in the Cauca region!

Cuaca Best Cup, our Hats for Health, and recent solar-panel installation are few of many projects we've worked on over the years to create momentum, foster community, and safeguard the environment, from our small corner of the global coffee world.

We've typically only blogged about these projects in the past, or referred to them in our Beanologies, but we thought it was time to finally make a home for these programs to live in a new section of our website we have deemed "Progress": a new category we have adopted into our driving principles

We believe this framework should clear a path for us and our customers to travel together, strengthening these programs as we move forward in the new year.

On our Progress page, we break down our projects into three categories: community, development, and environment. Check it out here.

That's a wrap on 2015, stick a fork in it, it's done! We have a lot in store for 2016, and we couldnt do what we do best without the continued support of you, our amazing coffee patners. We hope that, together, we can continue to start our days with the best coffees this planet, barreling through the cosmos, has to offer.

Have a Happy New Year, a sweet '16 it shall be!

-- The CI Team


Our favorite tagged photos of 2015

The interconnectivety social media has granted modern day coffee creatives absolutely flabbergasts us. We are delighted on a daily basis to open up our instagram and discover ourselves tagged in photos, making us proclaim things like:  "Zaaaam, that coffee made it all the way to Alaska! Coffee really connects the whole gall dang world doesnt it?" or "what the heck is Gabe up to now?" or "Person in a coffee bag! Person in a coffee bag!". We are so grateful for these posts, that we have compiled a list of our favorites and wanted to share them back for the whole world to see! 

Here are our top ten favorite tagged Instagram photos from 2015 in no particular order, as well as some honorable mentions:


@dessert_oasis_coffee_roasters--"Our new team mascot #burlapboy #cafeimports #docr"


@codykinart--"Load 'er up"


@hatchetcoffee--"New Space, New Roaster, New Coffees. We're closing in on a launch. @recessnc #v60 #pourover #booneview"


@tonyqtostador--"Importer Sales. Roaster. Producer. Importer Green Buyer. Complete the chain. I just had the opportunity to serve Juan Peña the coffee he produced, that I used for US Brewers Cup, at his farm La Papaya. This harvest was the best coffee I have ever seen. Some moments are too special for words. Moments like this make me great full to be part of the team at @spyhousecoffee and get to work with the amazing people at @cafeimports who facilitate these things."


@tandemcoffeeroasters--"namesake"


@blackcupcdm--"Two bags of this incredible microlot just arrived from @cafeimports for September's featured Coffee Of The Month. What could it be...? 


@redlightroastery--"Coffee anyone? I got some for Hot Springs! #redlightroastery #thankyoucoffee #getroasted @cafeimports #cafeimports #hotspringscoffee #hotspringsnationalpark"


@coffee_mistress--"@gabemakescoffee"


@baristamagazine--"Yummo cappacinos at Icono in Popayan, Colombia, complete with replica of colombia traffic @cafeimports #coloyolo"


@Cassr0cks_ha--"The MYOB poster boy is now doing adverts for Cafe Imports. On location at Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada #people #posterboy #usa #coffee #coffeelovers "


HONORABLE MENTIONS

@petegrizzles--"Solo Quality Control on this Tuesday morning."


@daveyssuitcase--"Mountains of coffee at the Cenfrocafe warehouse. #hubcoffeeroasters #specialtycoffee #cafeimports #cenfrocafe #coffee"


@repetitioncoffee "Empty bags at #repetitioncoffee means #lfk can't get enough #Chiapas espresso - pulling it right @thebourgeoispig ! #cafeimports #coffeelife"


@river_vili--"COFFEE SUPERSTARS"


@huckleberryroasters--"A couple years ago, buying one full bag of coffee was a lot... now we're buying pallets!"

 Thanks for sharing everyone. Keep them coming next year, tag @cafeimports on instagram in the photo, and this blog could include you!


Hats for Health

In a follow up from last years Coffee throws for Coffee Kids fundraiser, we have produced a new item for sale, with profits directly benefitting an organization called Grounds for Health. 

For this project, we collaborated with three master crafters including Leatherworks Minnesota, Phenom, and Ebbets Field Flannels to deliver these one of a kind, coffee inspired hats.

This five-panel hat is now available:

Hats are $49 (shipping included inside the U.S., Europe, and Australia. )

The $25 profit from each hat goes directly to Grounds For health

If you are an existing Café Imports customer and would like the order to be charged to your account, order by email to hats@cafeimports.com or by phone at 1-800-278-5065

Orders inside the U.S., Australia, or Europe can be made through the Paypal button below

If you are a customer without a Café Imports account, and you are outside of the U.S., Australia, or Europe, order by email at hats@cafeimports.com

All orders can be taken by phone at 1-800-278-5065

Grounds for Health is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving women's health in developing countries.

By focusing on the preventable disease of cervical cancer, Grounds for Health has made a major impact on what is currently one of the most significant global disparities in women's health. 

To date, GFH has screened over 57,000 and treated more than 3,800 women for cervical cancer. With a head office in Vermont, GFH currently supports programs led by local field staff in Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Peru, and is actively exploring opportunities to extend impact to other developing countries. 

Learn more at www.groundsforhealth.org

DETAILS:

SALVAGED BURLAP ADJUSTER TAG

Each cap is tagged with a salvaged piece of burlap, all cut from the same Brazil Coffee Jute, and hand stitched to prevent from fraying by our friends at Phenom. The hats will vary uniquely depending on where the burlap fabric was salvaged from.

Phenom is a clothing boutique & garment maker with locations in Uptown Minneapolis and Lowertown Saint Paul.    

If you have ever had the pleasure of owning a Café Imports shirt, you have Phenom to thank for the quality and attention to detail, as they handle all of our screen printing needs.

Max Weber, Phenom's owner/operator pictured above, went to infinity and beyond by helping make repurposed coffee materials a fashionable reality on this project.

Learn more at about Phenom at www.phenomglobal.com

NATURAL LEATHER PATCH BY LEATHERWORKS MINNESOTA

Leatherworks Minnesota showcased their timeless leather craft skillset on this collaboration by heat embossing our Café Imports logo onto die-cut natural leather.

Leatherworks MN is a leather craft business located in the arts district of Lowertown Saint Paul, MN. LWM's leather is sourced directly from Red Wing, MN's S.B. Foot tannery.

Over time the natural leather will darken with exposure to sunlight.

Family run since 1999, Kent and Lee, a husband and wife team, manage the operation along with their son Nathan (pictured above) and their newest member Joe. 

Learn more at www.leatherworksminnesota.com

CONSTRUCTED BY EBBETS FIELD FLANNELS IN SEATTLE

When the patch and tags were ready, we shipped the materials off to the trusted hands of Ebbets Field Flannels in Seattle Washington. 

Since 1988 EFF has been making vintage jerseys, jackets, and caps using original materials and manufacturing 
techniques that were used in mid-century American athletic garments.

Learn more at www.ebbets.com

A little bit of old-fashioned care goes a long way, as these are the most comfortable, lightweight, and durable caps you could ever rest on your noggin.

Support Grounds for Health, and get one before they are gone!

Hats are $49 (shipping included inside the U.S., Europe, and Australia.)

The $25 profit from each hat goes directly to Grounds For health

If you are an existing Café Imports customer and would like the order to be charged to your account, order by email to hats@cafeimports.com or by phone at 1-800-278-5065

Orders inside the U.S., Australia, or Europe can be made through the Paypal button below.

If you are a customer without a Café Imports account, and you are outside of the U.S., Australia, or Europe, order by email at hats@cafeimports.com

All orders can be taken by phone at 1-800-278-5065


The Legendary Coffee Producer Tour

In 2010, we approached the SCAA with a proposal to bring the U.S. regional champion baristas to visit a coffee-producing country. This was a new idea--connecting some of the most passionate coffee professionals with the producers who grow the thing they work with every day. This proposal was the beginning of what is now known as the "Origin Trip Sponsorship." This sponsorship category didn't exist prior. It was met with an unbelievable amount of enthusiasm from the community, and it brought a new stream of revenue to the USBC. 

Now, five years later, we've traveled the world with some of the most dedicated, passionate, and inspiring coffee professionals in our industry. We've been to Brasil, Costa Rica, Kenya, Ecuador, and Colombia. These champion baristas have given more to the coffee farmers and baristas in these countries than they even know. They've helped support a movement toward quality and inspired huge global advancements for specialty coffee on these trips. We are so honored to have been even a small part in this and sinerely thank the SCAA/BGA for helping to make this happen.

One of the main reasons we first submitted this proposal was the inclusive nature of the regional competition process, and the long-term vision of these amazing baristas taking the knowledge and insight gained through travel in a coffee-producing country back to their communities, spread out across the entire country. We loved that idea that someone from a small town who cared deeply about coffee could dedicate themselves and, through hard work, earn a spot on the trip--and become an even more capable ambassador to specialty coffee than they were before in their home towns.

Unfortunately, due to myriad financial and logistical concerns on behalf of the SCAA and BGA, the regional competition structure has changed this year, and we do not believe that the new structure proposed to take its place--a single qualifying event held prior to the U.S. Barista Championship--will serve the same inclusive mission that the regional events we first agreed to sponsored did. While we fully believe that the SCAA and BGA leaders will work to meet the needs and fulfill the desires of those baristas who continue to long and strive for their moment in the competition spotlight, at the present time, Café Imports would rather devote its resources toward creating a series of regional educational and enrichment events designed to encourage professional development and community, just as the regional barista competitions have in the past.

While this proposed single qualifying event is a step in the right direction, we feel strongly that holding only one event still limits the accessibility of competitions for those baristas and coffee professionals who may not have the means to travel across the country to participate. The distance and increased costs will undoubtedly limit access to the competition experience for hundreds of people who would have otherwise competed this year.  

Some of our industry's most influential leaders began by entering into a competition they knew little about, because they wanted to be a part of the energy and momentum present at the local events in their communities.

For this reason, we at Café Imports cannot in good conscience continue to sponsor an experience (the barista origin trip) that was intended to benefit our industry on a local grassroots level, while ignoring the vacuum that the regional events' absence creates across our country.

So, what is our plan now?

Café Imports is committed to supporting the baristas at the front lines of our industry, the people who shake hands with customers and humbly serve a beautiful product that so many worked so hard to prepare. We are proud to announce that, in place of the Barista Origin Trip sponsorship in 2016, we will allocate those funds toward hosting three free regional educational events in the US designed to empower and engage coffee communities across the United States, entitled the "Legendary Coffee Producer Tour".

We will be bringing 6 coffee producers from around the world to 3 US cities to engage and share information freely with the local coffee communities. During these day-long events, we will be offering free classes on agronomy, coffee processing, cupping, flavor, and other areas of coffee science in which this group are experts. We will be bringing along some of our most important coffee-producing partners, to allow them to share their experience and, in a sense, bring origin to you and your community. They are very excited about this opportunity to engage with you. 

We are proud to announce that our guests/speakers for this February 2016 are:

Jairo Ruiz and Elkin Guzman - Banexport, Colombia

Jacques Carniero - Carmo Coffees, Brasil

Oscar and Francisca Chacon - Finca Las Lajas, Costa Rica

Juan Jose Moguel - Finca Nueva Linda, Mexico

We sincerely hope this isn't the end of the Barista Origin Trip, and we believe our industry leaders will be able to figure out a way to bring back the inclusive nature of competitions and regional events, something we all loved, and will remember fondly forever.

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Stay tuned for more information about the Legendary Coffee Producer Tour stopping in a city near you! In order to ensure your spot to attend, please RSVP to  LCPT@cafeimports.com or on the corresponding facebook event for each city (links below)! 

Monday, February 22nd: Olympia Coffee Roasters, Olympia WA click here for facebook event 

Wednesday, February 24th: Café Imports, Minneapolis, MN click here for facebook event 

Friday, February 26th: Square One Coffee Roasters, Lancaster PA click here for facebook event 

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Watch the Cropster Demo Live Stream with Norbert Niederhauser

Last night, Cropster CEO Norbert Niederhauser visited Café Imports for an in-depth demonstration of his software. This live streamed event included two roast demonstrations, a thorough presentation on the Cropster framework, as well as a Q&A.

Thank you to everyone who tuned in online and submitted questions, thank you to everyone who made it over to our coffee mill as our "live studio audience", and thank you especially to Norbert for volunteering his time and expertise!

This was our first ever live streaming event, and we look forward to exploring this avenue of communication further! We had viewers tuned in from USA, Australia, Canada, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Mexico, UK, Russia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Thailand, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, France, Japan, Italy, Phillipines, Poland, Guatemala, Singapore, Portugal, Peru, and Indonesia -- wooo! 

If you missed the live stream, no need to worry, we have posted the video to our Vimeo channel to live as an archived video stream for all the rest of time!


Meister goes to Ecuador

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Nestled between two coffee giants, Colombia and Peru, Ecuador is a small country with a lot of coffee potential: Fantastic elevation, good varieties, and lush farmland should put this Equator-straddling South American nation at the top of everyone's origin lists, but this is one case in which size actually might matter. The relatively limited scope of coffee growing in general, and specialty-coffee grade coffee specifically, has kept the country flying a little bit below the radar.

Café Imports bought its first half-container from Ecuador in 2012, and since then, the number of outstanding coffees has grown, alongside strong relationships with producing partners and millers who are as quality-obsessed as we are. This year, we're excited to bring in 2 containers of microlots and another half-container of FTO-certified coffee--a sure sign that things are getting bigger and better in the region's specialty-coffee scene.

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In July of 2015, Café Imports green buyer Piero Cristiani, senior sales associate and education director Joe Marrocco, and I traveled around Ecuador along with a passel of our roaster-partners, visiting some of the intrepid and entrepreneurial farmers and beneficio managers who are actively trying to make a bigger place for Ecuadorean coffee on the specialty-coffee map. In the too-short week we had together, we were able to cup from more than 30 microlots up for offer; see and taste the results of some intensely focused variety experimentation; learn about variations in processing methodology and technology; meet several great farm dogs; and confirm first-hand that yes, you can actually balance an egg on the head of a nail at the Equator.

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Some of the most exciting things we witnessed on this trip were growers' enthusiasm and curiosity about new varieties: From experimentation with SL-28 transplanted from Kenya; to harvests of a new Ecuador-specific variety called Sidra, which is only in its first, second, or third generation at most of its host farms--we were able to compare different processes' effect on single varieties, as well as different varieties processed identically and grown on different parts of the same farm, ostensibly developing characteristics inherent to their type. 

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We visited Henry and Verena Gaibor on their multi-farm property in La Perla, Nanegal, and were treated to a tour of their different lots (Finca Maputo and Finca Hakuna Matata will be familiar to fans of Cafe Imports's Ecuador offerings; coffees from both will be back this year), walking through the variety-specific lots bursting with healthy Typica, SL-28, Bourbon, Kaffa, and Caturra trees. Following Henry is quite a feat: He's as fast a walker as he is a talker, and we scuttled along behind him listening to the story of how he and Verena met in Burundi, where they were both working with Doctors Without Borders. Back up by the house, we inspected the parabolic drying system and small mechanical dryer the Gaibors employ, while making fast friends with the family dog, Rex.

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A few days later, we sleepily shuffled onto a short flight to Cuenca town, and watched the landscape change on a long drive up winding mountainsides to Hacienda La Papaya: the farm and guest houses owned and operated by Juan Pena. Don Juan (which is a very fitting descriptor, especially if you catch the ray of sunshine in his wide smile) is a multi-generation farmer, but he's very new to coffee: A former long-stem-rose producer, he started experimenting with coffee plants 5 years ago, when disastrous weather struck and wiped out his flower fields. Turning entirely to coffee, he has worked to develop as healthy, hardy, and horticulturally intentional a farm as possible, with a very well-nurtured plant nursery and a "garden of inputs" on the property. (The "inputs garden" is something new on me: He has coffee trees planted several yards apart and labeled with the fertilizer inputs they're given, to track the impact of the nutrients on growth and cherry development. You might not find it surprising to hear that the most purely chemical of the fertilizers had created the weakest and saddest looking tree...)

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GOPR5558.jpgOf course, our group was also able to enjoy the beauty of the country, and the pleasure of each other's company: We took a side jaunt to the "real" Equator (identified since the advent of GPS technology, correcting a case of mistaken identity that has caused there to be dueling tourist traps), drank enough blackberry juice to have purple teeth, hand-brewed coffee at 1900 meters for each other, and temporarily shared a bedroom with a pair of curious chickens--at least Hadassah from Square One Coffee and I did, anyway.

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I've always liked to think that great things come in small packages (because I'm a pretty small package myself), but Ecuador's small but mighty, and mightily growing specialty-coffee industry proves that old adage all over again. We hope to see even more coffees from these beautiful farms (and more) next year, but for right now, sit back, and enjoy the fresh crop of coffees that have just arrived.

- Meister

For more information about Meister, click here

For a photo album from Meister's trip to Ecuador, click here (photos by Joe Marrocco)

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Join us for an evening with Cropster Wednesday 10/28

Join us for an evening with Cropster CEO Norbert Niederhauser on Wednesday October 28th, 6:30p at Cafe Imports Headquarters, Minneapolis. There will be a Q&A with Norbert, a roasting demo, food, high fives, friendship, and much much more! In addition we plan to live feed the Q&A/roasting demo, so stay tuned to our social media for details!

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Coffee Fest Portland!: Come to "Stump the Roaster" 10/21

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Go to Facebook invite HERE.

Café Imports and Roast Magazine invite YOU, the evening of Wednesday October 21st during Coffee Fest Portland, to an in-depth conversation about roasting. 

Emceed by Roaster Joe (Joe Marrocco) of Café Imports

With a powerful round table of guests Guests:

Paul Thornton, Director of Coffee/Roastmaster @ Farmer Brothers / Coffee Bean International, Past President of the SCAA

Robert Hoos, Lead Roaster @ Nossa Familia, Owner of Rob Hoos Coffee Consulting, Author of Modulating the Flavor Profile of Coffee "A Roaster Manifesto", SCAA Specialized Instructor, Member of the SCAA Certification Committee

Nathanael May, Director of Coffee @ Portland Roasting Coffee, Member of the SCAA Competition Committee, USCC Head Judge, WBC Judge

Food provided by Roast Magazine and Café Imports, Beer provided by Rogue Ales & Spirits. 

Ping Pong after party to follow, just around the block, 8:30pm at Pip and Bounce: 833 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97214


Cauca Best Cup 2015

A Smattering of the top 12 Cauca Best Cup lots will be available in our offerings along with the #13-#30 lots. All coffees are scheduled to ship out of Colombia this week! Until then enjoy this play-by-play from the event by Café Imports Europe's Gabe Dunn:

"Súbale! Súbale! Súbale!" The hoard of mildly intoxicated spectators chanted as the bidding war ensued. Joey Trujillo, of Reno-based coffee roaster The Hub, coordinates with an imaginary angel investor via cell phone, while he signals to Coen (his Dutch partner in crime) to increase the bid. A nonplussed Pil Hoon Seu, all the way from South Korea's Coffee Libre, rolls his eyes and tops the bid with zero hesitation. The auction participants may also have been mildly intoxicated.

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Something about this bizarre display caused me to snap out of my delirium to ask myself how we got here. This marks our 2nd year operating the Cauca Best Cup competition, officially making it an annual event. If you missed our recap of the event last year, you can find it HERE. This year marked another resounding success and differentiated itself primarily in scale. Bigger is better, they say.

With our partners at Banexport, roughly 500 lots were assembled from various producers around the state of Cauca. This is up from last year's 200 submissions. These can be larger lots from associations, collections from a small community, or just from a single farmer. Over the course of a few weeks these 500 coffees were whittled down to a mere 30. We then organize a jury of established roasters from around the world to cup through these final 30 and rank the top 12. Finally, these 12, the cream of the crop (heh), are auctioned off on the final day.

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There were a couple motives at play when it came to organizing this event. The first of which was to show off the beauty and variance that can exist within a relatively small set of parameters. The contributors are all producers within a single state, growing in the same climate, with similar terroir, processing methods, and varieties. Yet even within this degree of limited variation, we're encountering a vast range of characteristics. From delicate florals reminiscent of jasmine tea, to heavy, syrupy viscosity, like that of something that syrupy and viscous, Cauca has something for the whole family.

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The second, and arguably more important, motive is to highlight producers and the literal fruits of their labor. At the end of the day, it's all about giving credit where it's due. This credit largely comes in the form of big-time cash-monies. Dolla billz. C.R.E.A.M.  While the standard microlot in Colombia fetches somewhere around 3.00 USD/lb. for the producer, the top coffee in this competition went for $31.50 USD. Second and third went for $20.40 USD and $16 respectively. To paint a picture, these premiums are over $10,000 greater than what they would typically earn. When looking at the entire event, the auction garnered an additional $77,000 paid to the top 12 producers for their coffees. This equates to real, tangible change for each of these people. This allows them to reinvest in their farms, families, and communities. It also sends a message to other producers around the country, showing them what is possible when the right steps are followed for quality. It's hard not to be excited about this program.

Do-goodery aside, this trip is an absolute blast. Case in point: The big bad motha that was getting us from the cupping table to the farms. 

IMG_2892.jpgOrganizing transportation and logistics for a group of 30+ over-caffeinated nerds high on altitude sickness isn't without its challenges. It seems only fitting that our principal means was an iconic chiva with all of the bells and whistles, not unlike the one chosen for the event's logo. This thing puts to bed the notion that one must choose fashion over function. Traveling with this level of style is totally worth the damaged eardrums incurred by the country's finest reggaeton.

Miraculously, this behemoth deftly maneuvered the livestock-laden switchbacks and got us safely to the coffee farms. Though the time allotted didn't allow us to make a dent in our list of farms, we had some stunning visits, including one of the associations that made the top 12. Other than a source for choice marketing material, it's apparently also a great opportunity to learn a thing or two. Here we are at 1800 meters, getting to pick the brains of the agricultural wizards that are effectively responsible for our livelihood. "Humbling" doesn't quite cut it.

IMG_4494.jpgLooking back on the trip leaves me with equal parts satisfaction and apprehension. Sure, everything about this event was a huge success. All of the goals were met: Producers were paid well. Banging coffees were selected. Aguardiente was consumed. Tears were shed. More Aguardiente was consumed. But what's next? For us, we can't help but look at the bigger picture. Why does only Cauca get all the fun? Or Colombia? There's a big world out there, and it's full of tasty coffees produced by amazing people who deserve to be compensated accordingly. Count this as less-than-subtle foreshadowing for similar projects to come. 

-- Gabe 

Gabriel Dunn is Director of Coffee and European Senior Sales, for more info on Gabe click here

For a full photo album of Cauca Best Cup 2015 click here, photos by Caitlin Cooreman

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