Introducing: Hacienda Cincinnati
We have a new coffee coming from a unique growing region in the North of Colombia called Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This territory is an isolated mountain range separated from the coffeelands of Huila, Nariño, Cauca, etc. that stretch through the Andes from the North to the South of the country.The Sierra Nevada encompasses about 6,000 square miles, and is the source of 36 rivers. There are 51,000 hectares of coffee in production being tended by 13,000 families, which is about 3 hectares per family. This area was designated as a Worldwide Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage site in 1979, and in 2013 a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature identified the park as the most irreplaceable park in the world for threatened species.
Historically, this area was the birthplace of the Tairona culture, the most monumental and unique indigenous civilization of Colombia; there are Kogi, Arawak and Wiwa tribes that make up about 26,500 inhabitants of the area--and yes, they grow coffee. You might remember the Kogi coffee we imported in 2011.
There is a lot of Fair Trade and organic coffee that comes from this area, thanks to the number of small producers and indigenous groups that have banded together as associations and are able to fit the Fair Trade model. Even though the countryside is a rich and diverse tropical forest, the coffees that we have seen over the last 10 years tend to cup around the 80-point range, with descriptors of dry spices and cinnamon; in other words, good but not great. My personal opinion is that the message of how to improve quality and get higher prices that have been delivered to producers in the south of the country over the last 10 years has not made it to this isolated region in the mountains of the north. That, coupled with the Fair Trade premiums that don't encourage cup scores or quality standards, have left these producers and their groups a little bit behind. On my visit to the Kogi people's farm, we saw lots of under-ripe cherry being picked, and no real standard for depulping, fermenting, and drying; just traditional methods. We continue to talk about higher prices for better-cupping coffees and innovation, and we want to make a difference in this part of the country as well.
Mr. Flye and Finca Cincinnati:
Last year, I heard the story of a coffee farm near Santa Marta called Cincinnati, and the esteemed Mr. Flye, an American engineer who traveled from Ohio in 1890 to install an electrical generator in the city of Santa Marta, Colombia. Santa Marta is a port city not far from the coffee zone. It is the oldest city in the country, and was the first city in Colombia to have electric lights. Mr. Flye fell in love with the area during his visit, and while traveling in the hills to find sources of water for the hydroelectric plant, he collected some samples of coffee, and sent them to a fiend in New York who told him it was the best coffee he'd ever tasted. In 1893, Mrs. Flye and two sons arrived on a banana boat from the U.S.A. to join him Mr. Flye his new coffee endeavor. They bought some land in the mountains to build a farm, which they christened Hacienda Cincinnati in honor of the Mrs. Flye's birthplace, and in 1901 they shipped their first load of coffee to the U.S.A. This farm remained in the Flye family until 1984, when it was sold to another respected family from Santa Marta. The buildings were in disrepair, but the antique strains of Typica, Bourbon, and Caturra were still in production.
Hacienda Cafetera Cincinnati: Certified Organic In 2010, the property was acquired by the Diaz Granados Guida family with the intention of refurbishing the property and rejuvenating the coffee trees. Of the 680 hectares of land, 510 of are in a "Natural Environmental Reserve." It is a stunningly beautiful farm, thick with butterflies, songbirds, fruit, flowers, and fauna. About 18 percent of the world's bird species live in Colombia, and most of them live in this region. I saw a Toucan, hundreds of butterflies, was sung to sleep by the frogs, and ate oranges and bananas off the trees in the woods.
The coffee varieties were of the same strain since the early 1900s, but since the farm was certified organic in 1912 and new varieties have been planted, Hacienda Cincinnati is the first organic coffee project of special varieties in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Martia.
Among the varieties grown there are 42% antique Arabica, 23% Gesha, and the remaining 35% a mix of Mocha, Caturra, and Castillo.
The wet mill, dry mill, and original house have been restored to their original splendor. A state-of-the-art cupping lab has been installed, with a full-time agronomist on site to manage the trees and processing.
In short, I think this is a beautiful place with a wonderful farm whose owners have respect for the land around them and have a vision to bring specialty coffee to this part of Colombia using innovation, tradition, and passion for excellence. I cupped the Gesha and gave it 88 points, and the Mocha 88--so it looks like they are off to a good start.
Best Regards, Andrew
Read more about Andrew Miller Here
Read More Blogs from Andrew Miller Here
From the Source: Piero & Lucho talk El Sal & Guat
During the tail end of this past harvest season in Guatemala and El Salvador, Café Imports media pro, Andy Reiland, had the pleasure of sitting down and interviewing CI's coffee traveler, Luis Arocha, and green buyer, Piero Cristiani, in their respective birthplace countries. Get to know our green team as they talk about what you can expect from this year's Salvadoran and Guatemalan offerings.
Piero Cristiani has been working at Café Imports since 2010. He started in Customer Service and after 1 year he began his adventure as a green buyer. Piero discusses what it was like returning to his home country of El Salvador as a green buyer, and three projects he has been working on that we are very excited to have in our Salvadoran offerings this harvest.
Learn more about Piero here.
CI coffee traveler Luis Arocha, AKA "Lucho", discusses what you can expect out of this year's Guatemala offerings, as well as his experience starting at Café Imports over 1 year ago and returning to his home country of Guatemala with a new perspective and role in the coffee industry.
Learn more about Lucho here.
CESMACH Women Producers
In 2011, Café Imports green buyer Piero Cristiani was sourcing in Mexico with our producer partners at CESMACH and saw that there were a considerable number of women producers dropping coffee off for processing. On the heels of our women's producer program in Guatemala with CODECH, Piero presented the program to CESMACH, wherein coffee from independent women producers are kept separate. A premium is paid for those coffees in an effort to support these women who, more often than not, are single parents providing for their families.
This year's harvest marks the fourth year of the CESMACH Women's Producer program. The quality only continues to increase as the program grows in reputation, and more producers from the surrounding communities of Sierra Madre are getting involved. The premium is paid directly to the women's producer program, and they decide by committee on how to invest it. Last year's premium went to building vegetable gardens. Silvia Roblero, interviewed by Piero in the video above, helps manage the women producers at CESMACH and has hopes to start investing the premium into women's health programs, as the production volume continues to grow.
The CESMACH women produced two containers of coffee this year, and they are currently in our U.S. offerings. Next year, the CESMACH women producers are aiming to increase production to four containers.
Read more about Piero Cristiani here.
Announcing the Legendary PNW Cupping Tour!
Saturday August 1st @ 6PM: Coeur d 'Alene, Idaho: DOMA COFFEE ROASTERS. 6240 E. Seltice Way, Unit A, Post Falls, ID 83854
Monday August 3rd @ 2PM Portland, Oregon: PORTLAND ROASTING. 340 SE 7th Ave. Portland, OR 97214
Wednesday August 5th @ 2PM Seattle, Washington: LA MARZOCCO. 1553 NW Ballard Way, Seattle, WA 98107
Thursday August 6th @ 1PM (roaster) and 3PM (public) Vancouver, British Columbia: ELYSIAN COFFEE ROASTERS. 2301 Ontario St Vancouver, BC, Canada
The 2015 Costa Lineup!
Our 2015 Costa offerings are here!
Top row (left to right): La Joya, Community Coffees, Don Pepe, Don Sabino, La Candelilla Estate.
Bottom row (left to right): Café Vida, Las Lajas, Aguilera Bros, Rio Jorco, Undecaf, La Perla del Café.
Check our current offerings for what's available.
Check out this new photo album of all our favorite producing partners in Costa Rica here. Photo's by CI's Jess brotzler.
We have also constructed our first edition map of Costa Rica's coffee producing regions -- for that and more info on Costa Rican coffee, visit our Costa Rica origin page.
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.