Introducing: La Bodega, Small Bag Specialty Green Coffee.
We are excited to announce the launch of a new Cafe Imports company, and a new small-bag green coffee-buying experience: La Bodega.
With a focus on providing new and emerging roasters access to some of the world's most amazing coffees, La Bodega offers a variety of options, re-packaged into 50-pound GrainPro-lined jute bags to fit your needs.
We've been working hard these past couple of months to provide you with:
* Free shipping right to your door, anywhere in the United States
* Fully certified Fair Trade and Organic options
* The ability to make purchases on the go, right from your phone or tablet
* Familiar programs like Variety Select, Gran Galope, Regional Select, Women
Producers and a starting line-up of some of our favorite producers
La Bodega is operating independently from Café Imports, so if you have any questions comments or issues, please let us know at email@example.com.
We're excited to have you take advantage of these amazing coffees, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to grow with our thriving, specialty-coffee roasting community.
Manager, La Bodega
Standardization, Automations, and This Thing I Did With Water
As you may know, Cafe Imports now has sales offices in the US, Berlin, and Melbourne. One of the distinct challenges posed by this growth is that of maintaining consistency. So much of what we do is based on what we taste. Even if we're tasting in the same way, how can we ensure that we're tasting the same thing? There have been, are and will continue to be massive expenditures of time and energy with regard to herding these cats on an industry wide scale. Bring cat nip? Fortunately for myself, the only creativity that I'm charged with tamping down is that which might occur in our own cupping labs, by our own cuppers...
What are we talking about here? Simply put, standardization. We use standards, rather than opinions, to assess coffees. We also use standards, rather than whim, to prepare coffees. To be clear, standards are just institutionalized opinion and whimsy. Nonetheless, they have their place. Where is that? Anywhere a strong argument exists for consistency in assessment. If I need to talk to Joe about a coffee in Australia, we need to be speaking the same language, and doing the same thing to arrive at that language. Honesty, the guy is a bit of a goofball and his toilet flushes backwards. If he tells me that he loves coffee brewed with tepid salt water through an old rugby sock, great on him. It's not for standards to tell him "Now Joey, no no, you know better." That said, if Joe decides that maybe he wants to filter his cupping samples through those socks, that's where standardization comes into play. What brand? How old? Yellow or green?
So we got our words, our cupping standards and our protocols. The next thing we did was come to the realization that sample roasting is hard. Not so much because it's hard to pull out every little nuance of every little coffee, but more because it's hard to wean yourself from the idea that you might ever be able to reliably do that -- even more because it's hard to remember that that's not the point of sample roasting. The true artisanal-craft-sample-roastology-art of sample roasting is not too light not too dark always the same adjusted for coffee again and again and again. That's a very difficult task. Unless you're doing it 100 - 200 times per week. Then it's just difficult.
When you're working intermittently, few here few there, it's very difficult. This, in that the point is consistency, repeatability and not allowing any pomade to get on the coffee. So we went automatic with Stronghold S7s. Automatic mosty. I still program the automation. With Stronghold coffee roasters in each office replicating profiles based on coffee density, the roasts used are the same. We train centrally, share samples between offices and all wear the same brand of socks. Problem solved. Solvedish?
Well duh. Of course it is. Same roast, same words, same experience. Right? Lemon curd! Roast profiles!! Lexicons! Same same but different. At best. Completely setting aside that I was only rarely allowed Cinnamon Toast Crunch as a child and thus slyly broaching but also setting aside the topic of lexicon in a global industry that is somehow faddish and idiosyncratic simultaneously and occasionally brilliantly iconoclastic to boot, we still have to deal with the largest part, by volume, of our problem. Water.
People harp on water. Make it clean. Make it hot. Not too hot. Don't let the TDS osmosis in the pex line. And now there's more. Is it another fad? Dunno, but if it is, this fad may hold some water. Check out Phil and Sebastion's story about roasting coffee for Oslo (keep in mind that you don't have to go to Oslo to replicate their results). But I'm ahead of the story.
We use a water treatment system made by Global Customized Water. This system is a Reverse Osmosis system with a bunch of pre and post filters and a little blend back valve. Basically this means that we take our raw Minneapolis water, clean it, strip it down to zero, and feed some of the cleaned (but un-stripped) water back in. This brings the TDS back up to brewing range. Nifty. However, because Minneapolis water is relatively low re: TDS in the first place, the blend back doesn't bring us up as high as we would like to be for coffee extraction. NP.
Part two. When I called GCW they told me not to worry, they had a solution. Two of them actually. If I added a little of each to my holding tank each morning, our TDS would be up and our water would be absolutely delicious. Great said I. No problem said they. Hitting the standard said I. We're on it said they. The solutions came, I figured out a method (standardization) and we began beginning our days with measurements and additions. Checking that TDS box like it was going out of style...
A little while later a book came out. Like, Like Water for Chocolate, this book was called Water for Coffee. Water for Coffee pursues the thesis that TDS is not enough, and too much, simultaneously. Everybody knows that water is H2O. Or do they..(dun dun dun)? Water, it turns out, is really waters. Kinda like how everybody is a unique and beautiful snowflake. Except that rather than being a thing that people say because we're the only remaining species of homo sapiens on the planet (with the genetic variability to prove it) and nobody wants to believe they're just another bozo on the bus, with water there are measurable compositional differences.
In this way, water is perhaps rather opposite to humans. For while it appears quite the same, when you open it up it can (and will) be quite variable. Of course, H2O is H2O. The catch is that H2O is not something that exists in nature as such. There's always something else. Minerals. Molecular bonds. Stuff. All this stuff behaves differently in solution. Brewed coffee is a solution made largely out of water (a variable solution itself). Know why your Dr. Bronners ™ is sudsier in Minneapolis than in Saint Paul? Different variables in the H2O.
Of those variables, the minerals are what we really want to look at. Of those minerals, you can create two general groups: general and carbonate hardness. General hardness allows water to rip stuff out of other stuff. Like acids in coffee. Carbonate hardness is a buffer- it keeps acids from swinging the pH of your solution wildly. It rounds, tamps or smothers acids in coffee, depending. In almost all cases, a sample of water will contain some amount of both. TDS does not distinguish between these two categories.
Our perfect TDS is crap! Before getting into full "sky is falling" mode, we decided to put it to the test. The two solutions that we were using from GCW were exactly these two complementary mineral components: one for general and one for carbonate hardness. Phew. Once the alert level was dialed back down a bit, we decided to do some testing. We decided to make up a few different waters, roast a bunch of coffee, mix 'em up and see what happened.
I wanted to use 4 opposing waters and compare their coffee brewing capacities. I decided to use 200 ppm TDS as my benchmark. That is, apart from the distilled option, the other three would each total 200 ppm. The variable would be in the composition of the ppm. Our waters were as follows:
200 ppm KH.
200 ppm GH.
125 ppm GH/75 ppm KH.
As it turns out, three of these four waters (these are not naturally occurring waters, fyi- all real waters have some balance of mineral content and more mineral variety than our additions) were able to function as relative stand-ins for the water that we have in our three offices. While we don't run a full 200 ppm here in the Minneapolis, we do run a fairly close 2/1 ratio. Further, while Berlin's water contains a balance of GH and KH, it has a huge 214ppm KH, and GH of 286! For the purposes of our demo, the 200 KH suited just fine. Finally, Melbourne's water is very water. With a TDS of only about 30, again about 2/1 GH to KH, the distilled was not too far off.
I roasted three different coffees for the trial: a washed El Salvador, a rip roaring washed Ethiopia, and a natural Ethiopia.
The results? You should probably just run this game yourself. Jason put it very well. He said that he was expecting maybe a few out of our 20 or so tasters would really get the difference. Another mountain made of molehill in the annals of coffee geekery. Turns out everyone in the room could not only taste the differences, but no one in the room could really believe the coffees were the same.
The quick and dirty?
Distilled: it does extract. Just not that much. Thinner crust, thinner cup.
KH: The gross one. Made all coffees taste like all popcorn. Burnt popcorn.
GH: Actually the crowd favorite. Not surprising, as GH in absence of KH produces a screaming cup of acid and we all know how balance is a code word for 85...
GH/KH: The balanced cup.
What's it all mean? Water is important. But just because I called the KH dominant example the gross one doesn't make it so. That's not important. Neither is purporting to have the best water composition in all the land that everyone else should follow. Those things are games. Molehills made of mountains. Water is important to your coffee because it changes your coffee. Just like the grind setting, dose, and roast degree.
If you've waded this far through this much mish mash then you probably also take care to select and roast your coffee and are invested in its presentation in the world. If that's the case, you may find it fruitful and interesting to play around with the H2Os a little as well- even just to figure out what yours is. Without revamping your water system you may still be able to find ways to tweak your roasting or brewing approaches to accommodate your water. You may also find that you like something better than what you're currently doing. Or maybe you'll find that you've already innately done this.
For us, we have three offices each with substantially different water trying to do standardized assessments and share automated roast profiles on identical machines. Turns out even if you split a batch of coffee roasted on a single machine (let alone a shared profile on different machines, let alone a hallowed and followed one), if your water doesn't match then neither does the coffee. So we strip it all down and build it back up to be the same. We've got GCW RO units in each office that monitor the output water and feed it that sweet, sweet mineral mix.
Do you need to do that? Na. Should every single roaster and cafe do that so we can all be exactly the same? Of course not. Every little thing doesn't have to be an industry mobilizing global initiative. Roasting to your water and watering to your roast can go a long way to changing your appreciation for and approach to the complex cup. Maybe that's enough. Will the automatons take over? Only if we don't take the time to learn to swim.
Ian Fretheim -- Director of Sensory Analysis at Café Imports
Field Report: Introducing Peruvian Regional Select
A first arrival of the 2016 Peruvian harvest landed this week after great anticipation. Café Imports green buyer Piero Cristiani has been working relentlessly with Peru in recent years, visiting several times per harvest--strengthening relationships, focusing communication, and unlocking the great potential of these Andean coffees. We took a moment during early harvest in Cajamarca to sit Piero down and get his thoughts on how the state of specialty-coffee is in Peru, and what we can be excited about this year. Watch the video below for an early harvest insight, and read onward for a post-harvest reflection...Spoiler Alert: this harvest marks a first Regional Select grade for our Peruvian offerings (which landed this week, beanology here). More regional select, microlots, APU/CENFROCAFE coffees in the coming arrivals, so much to look forward to! In the meantime please enjoy this Peru 2016 field report from Piero.
As an origin, Peru has all the conditions necessary to produce world-class coffee: concentrated volumes of coffee growing at and above 1700 masl, a prominence of Typica, Bourbon, and Caturra, and a movement among the producing population, away from subsidence-farming, and into seeing quality coffee production as a viable business.
Peru has the potential to produce the same volume and quality as Colombia, but a few key challenges must continue to be addressed for this to come to fruition.
Firstly, coffee culture in Peru isn't as strong as it is in Colombia. Peru lacks a government agency such as Colombia's FNC. Without an organization like this, there is no support for producers in terms of technical assistance, loans, seeds, etc. Having been buying high quality Peruvian coffee since 2008, we have seen the movement towards higher quality development. It has been slow, but it has been consistent and will only continue to progress towards higher yields of higher quality coffee.
Another factor that challenges Peru's producers is geographical. The average distance from a coffee farm to a point of parchment delivery is very far. So far, in fact, that producers will wait until they have a full truckload of coffee to delivery before making the trek. This inevitably risks degradation of the coffee itself as it awaits transit while stored under poor conditions.
Lastly, there is very little drying infrastructure in Peru. Most all coffee gets dried on plastics tarps on the ground. When coffee sits close to the ground or soil, it gets contaminated, risking mold, uneven drying, and the occasional direct rain.
Although these challenges call for very clear and direct solutions, this hasn't stopped Peru from producing some very impressive coffee this year. So exciting, in fact, that we have decided to expand our Regional Select program from Colombia and apply it in Peru. Producer lots are cupped and classified according to their quality. The 85+ coffees are placed into our Regional Select lots and the 87+ coffees are then further separated as Producer Microlots, highlighting Peru's full potential. We are looking forward to seeing Peru become a power-house in coffee in the following years.
Photos by Andy Reiland - For more, visit our Peru Photo Gallery
Stump the Roaster 5: Minneapolis!
Café Imports, Roast Magazine, Cropster, and The San Franciscan Roaster invite YOU to an in-depth conversation about roasting at the new Café Imports Warehouse.
Free beer and food will be provided by Café Imports, Roast Magazine, Cropster, and the San Franciscan Roaster.
THIS MONDAY, August 22nd 6-8pm
Emceed by Roaster Joe (Joe Marrocco) of Café Imports
With a powerful round table of guests:
Devin Connolly of Cropster
Stephen Ezell of The San Franciscan Roaster
Dan Jensen of Cafe Imports
Our new warehouse address is:
2280 Walnut St, Suite 200 Roseville, MN 55113 (Map)
RSVP at our Facebook Event here, or simply show up!
The 2016 Costa Rica Lineup
Our efforts in Costa Rica have become quite specialized in recent years, but how could they not? This is a place of opportunity, not only for wonderful coffee, but also opportunity for relationships with the people that make this all worthwhile. The consistent production of high-quality coffees coming out of Costa Rica lends itself to the existence of amazing micromills. Specific to this origin, these micromills combine the systematic benefits of a mill while maintaining the unique characteristics and integrity of single-farm microlots. Farmers grow and harvest their coffee, then deliver it in-cherry to be processed by the micromill. Thus, we come to have coffees that are innately different in the bean, yet consistent and professional in the process. This system allows farmers to completely focus on their production and micromills to specialize in processing, giving us as consumers the opportunity to work with an ever-developing legacy that is the Costa Rican microlot.
Cafe Imports' green buyer, Luis "Lucho" Arocha, is headquartered at our Costa Rican office for the entire harvest season, which allows us to work directly and effectively with almost 90 producers and some of the best micromills in the world. Through these relationships we have been able to collaboratively focus on raising the standards of Costa Rican microlots.
This year's harvest was a record for our sensory lab with 30% more samples cupped than last. We are cupping as much as we can in hopes of uncovering new gems and ensuring we purchase the best Costa Rica has to offer. Now that all of our new harvest offerings have arrived, we know that no matter the roast or brew, these gems will be savored down to the very last sip.
Party is from 6pm-9pm at the Bourbon room inside the Odeon Bar, located at
There will be free appetizers and drinks, with music deejayed by the notorious DJ Sprudge.
Be there and receive gauranteed high fives and handshakes from the gentle, yet firm hands of the Cafe Imports Europe team, your favorite CI USA all-stars, and of course, the beloved Sprudgesters.
See you soon Dublin!
ANNOUNCING: The Legendary Cupping Tour - Carolinas!
ANNOUNCING: The Legendary Cupping Tour - Carolinas
This June 28th - July 1st Café Imports is heading down to the Carolinas to taste some of our favorite fresh-crop coffees with you.
Tuesday, June 28th @ 2:00 PM: Charleston, SC
708 King St, Unit C, Charleston, SC 29403
Thursday, June 30th @ 2:00 PM: Charlotte, NC
Friday, July 1st @ 12:00 PM: Raleigh-Durham, NC
(inside YesterYears Brewery)
El Salvador: Understanding the Progress
Cafe Imports has been buying coffees from Chalatenango in El Salvador since 2007 when Chalate (as we call it locally) was discovered by Cup of Excellence. These coffees have consistently been taking the top places in Cup of Excellence and other competitions even since. Currently, we are purchasing coffee directly from producers at parchment level and organizing the dry milling of the lots. This allows us to have access to the top lots in the area; we cupped about 60% of the high altitude production to select our lots this year.
We have found quality in this area to exceed what is produced in other parts of El Salvador this is due to several factors:
1. Prominent Pacamara Variety
2. Cooler Climate Conditions
3. Drying on Raised Beds
Pacamara is probably one of the top cupping varieties globally. It was developed in El Salvador by Mr. Angel Cabrera and his team. It is a cross of Pacas (a dwarf Bourbon) and Maragogype. With Pacamara we've seen 88+ cups at 1200+ meters! This is a very low altitude for an 88 point coffee, which speaks directly to the inherent quality of this variety. We are also purchasing Pacas lots, which are essentially a dwarf version of the Bourbon variety with higher yields. In very small volumes we are also seeing some Bourbon and Catuai.
The cooler climate simulates higher altitude and allows for a softer drying curve, which is essential for cup stability on arrival to consuming countries. Also, many of the producers dry on raised beds which also dries the coffee at a softer pace.
Finally, the terroir is very similar to the rest of El Salvador, but is in much better shape as land in Chalate hasn't been worked as much as other parts of the country like Santa Ana.
Most of these lots are small microlots so this year we have decided to export them in 35kg Yute + GrainPro to give access to smaller roasters:
Words by: Piero Cristiani, Café Imports Sourcing and Development
We at Cafe Imports Australia are seeking to hire a new core member of our team!
This role will be helping to maintain accounts and business matters for the Australian office. This position will be working on accounting matters including invoice generation and accounts payable/receivable, reporting, administrative office responsibilities, customer service, and assisting with marketing for the Cafe Imports Australia office.
The ideal candidate is someone that is extremely comfortable with numbers, currencies, and open to learning basic coffee "C" market concepts.
This person will also be working closely with the US office to ensure reporting standards are maintained in Australia.
In addition, the right person is someone that is comfortable speaking to customers, and embodies Cafe Imports strong emphasis on a meaningful customer experience and education.
By nature of being a small business in Specialty Coffee, everyone wears several hats to continually innovate and keep progress moving in an ever-changing and exciting industry. The ideal candidate for this job is constantly looking at how to improve systems and procedures in the office.
Previous experience in accounting, account management, or some other position which included working closely with numbers and dealing directly with customers.
An interest in coffee and fine food, or an open-ness to learning more about specialty coffee
Willingness to travel to Abbotsford, VIC daily, M-F
Skills and Experience:
1. Accounting and Contracts
a. Demonstrate basic understanding of coffee "C" market and hedging
b. Be able to work easily between multiple currencies & units
c. Familiarity with accounting software
d. Understanding of expenses & reporting
e. Possess and demonstrate knowledge of transactional contract terms and terminology
a. Previous work experience in a consumer facing position
b. Ability to show empathy and deal effectively with challenging customer situations
a. Ability to navigate working with multiple freight carriers,
b. Generating bills of lading, creating pickups, monitor billing
a. Extremely organized, proactive, and very "type A" personality
b. Ability to work alone at times
c. Tidy and efficient in both physical space and communication
d. Strong interest in either specialty coffee, fine food, or some other culinary area
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org with CV and cover letter. No calls please.
New Cafe Imports Warehouse
Since the purchase of our first Brazilian coffee container in 1993, we have striven to unilaterally improve on our values of quality, service, education, and progress while sourcing and developing world renown specialty coffee. Sharing that passion is our likeminded coffee producing partners, exporters, and roasters worldwide. A coffee supply chain empowered by quality has created a future for specialty coffee we could have never imagined back in 1993. We are humbled and proud to enter a new chapter in our role in that supply chain, presenting the new home for our Cafe Imports HQ offerings in Minnesota--now with some breathing room.
2280 Walnut St
Roseville, MN 55113
Owning and operating our own warehouse has always been very important to us because it ensures the best possible level of service for our customers. Equally so, the efficiency of this step in a coffee's journey is only made possible through the hands of our extremely capable and hardworking warehouse staff:
From monitoring proper storage, wrapping and strapping our orders perfectly, to shipping same day--we pride ourselves on equipping our customers with these benefits, and we are determined to carry forward the best care possible into an industry that has given us so much--Thank you all, cheers to the future.