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.
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)!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...)
Of 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.
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.
For more information about Meister, click here.
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!
Coffee Fest Portland!: Come to "Stump the Roaster" 10/21
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.
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.
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.
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.
Organizing 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.
Looking 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.
Gabriel Dunn is Director of Coffee and European Senior Sales, for more info on Gabe click here
Farmer Specific Ethiopian Offerings are here!
Due to regulations related to the ECX, coffees with traceability coming out of Ethiopia are an extreme rarity. Through organizations like the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Union, we are proud to work with independent Ethiopian farmers to bring traceable coffees to our Ethiopian offerings since 2011.
These coffees just landed at our U.S. Warehouse (click for beanology) and get them while you can!:
on top of the tracebility, we even have a couple videos for two of our longest standing Ethiopian farmer specfic producing partners: Ayele Dula and Zelelu Ararso -- From the Source
Now Hiring: Customer Service Rep
Café Imports is hiring a Customer Service Rep!
We are seeking a highly motivated individual to join our Minneapolis team as a Customer Service Representative. This position will require attention to detail; an ability to accept and complete work as a team member; and a keen interest in tacos. Exceptional customer service experience (or proof of potential) is a must. Coffee experience is a plus, but not a requirement.
This is a dynamic job with opportunities for advancement as our company continues to grow.
The Customer Service Rep's responsibilities include the following:
- Triaging incoming phone calls
- Assisting customers with information from previous orders and shipments
- Processing orders
- Learning the basics of coffee and quality control
- Assisting with event and tradeshow planning
Experience and Skills
This is an entry-level position at Café Imports, with growth potential. Relevant work experience in a customer-service environment (or comparable) is extremely valuable. Applicants must be able to work well with others in a fast-paced environment. While previous professional coffee experience is not a requirement, candidates must possess a high level of interest in coffee. Friendliness is a must.
Successful applicants will possess strong written and verbal communication skills. Customer Service Reps are the first point of contact for our valued clients.
This position requires the ability to learn quickly. Candidates must take direction and correction professionally and constructively.
Candidates must have a college degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Café Imports is a small and exciting entrepreneurial organization. Our culture is perfectly suited for an individual who takes pride in providing excellent and accurate service to clients and colleagues. Our compensation, benefits, and incentive plan are complete and competitive. We're hard-working, but also have a lot of fun. Also, tacos.
Please email resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org. No calls, please.
Visit our website to learn more about us: www.cafeimports.com
Twitter and Instagram: @cafeimports
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.