SCA Expo 2018 Flavor Station Recap: Do You Have Good Taste?

This year at SCA Expo, we wanted to have a little fun with flavor, while also gathering data about a (very) random sample of coffee professionals in order to continue asking ourselves about our competency as tasters, and how we can improve—both within our ranks at Cafe Imports, of course, but also how we can help others improve, especially the folks we work with all along the supply chain.

For the three days of SCA Expo 2018 in Seattle, we set up a Flavor Station at the Cafe Imports booth, with different things to taste each day. The idea was to offer show-goers an opportunity to stop for just a minute, taste something other than coffee for a change of pace, and maybe get a small sense of what we are doing when we taste coffee in the cupping lab—something a bit more nuanced and hopefully more constructive and practical than a simple “Loved it,” “Hated it.”

Perfect Strangers: A Sourcing Story

Every stranger might be the friend you haven’t met yet, and in coffee, the way we meet each other is sometimes simply a matter of pure chance and in unusual circumstances.

Chalatenango Best Cup Discovery: SCA Silent Auction Recap

The idea of holding a microregion-focused cup-quality contest and auction event in and around the remote area of Chalatenango, El Salvador, has been a twinkle in senior green-coffee buyer Piero Cristiani’s eye for years now: Born, raised, and based in El Salvador, Piero has been working closely with the super-smallholder producers in the northwest there for several seasons, consistently finding himself blown away by the quality and the purity of the profiles he was tasting there.

Origin Report: Mexico + Guatemala 2018 (or “Won’t You Be a Neighbor?”)

Sometimes the easiest things to overlook are those that are right under our noses-or, in the case of Mexico, perhaps right under our borders. Mexico should have everything going for it as a growing country: Its close proximity to the U.S.A. means shipping and receiving coffees is a relative breeze. It’s full of good varieties farmed sustainably, with a high percentage of certified coffees (both Fair Trade and organic). And it has huge development potential from a quality standpoint. Yet Mexico has seemed to be passed over unenthusiastically for the past few years, considered best for “bulk” or blending lots that are hard to get excited about.

Perhaps ironically, however, Mexico’s neighbor to the south, Guatemala, is one of the darlings of the Central American growing region – a reputation deservedly granted thanks to the exquisite profile and general stable productivity there, of course – but the contrast in impressions among the two countries has inspired us to ask whether the grass is really greener on the other side? What difference does a border make? How can we bridge that gap not only in our perception of the coffees, but also manage to equalize them to and with our customers?

Read more for our latest origin report from Mexico and Guatemala, coffee-growing neighbors who have been around the block a few times.

Legendary Coffee Tour 2018: Cultivar Caravan

Cafe Imports is packing up the tour bus and heading out to 10 cities across the U.S.A., bringing along a little bit of something for everyone out there. We’ll be tasting and talking about the history and significance of varieties in coffee—and finally putting an end to that “variety” vs. “varietal” debate—as well as discussing some of the current research, new hybrid development, and other interesting news going on right now in the field.

There will be plenty of non-coffee stuff to taste as well, as we explore varieties in other things we like to consume, and we’ll have the chance to celebrate the diversity of flavor and genetics that having more than one type of anything allows.

A welcome back to Inzá

Inzá is a small town deep in the Central Cordillera mountain range of Southern Colombia. While it’s technically located in the department of Cauca, Inzá sits on the eastern side of the mountain slopes, so its harvest behaves more like neighboring Huila: The main harvest starts in November, and the fly crop or mitaca is in May. It’s a three-hour drive east from Popayán and a four-hour drive west from Pitalito, Huila—way out there in the middle of the hills.

Origin Report: Kenya 2018

Kenyan coffee is undoubtedly some of the most complex in the world—in more ways than one.

Starting with the most obvious, coffees from this beautiful East African country are big, colorful mosaics of flavor, and tasting the best of the best Kenyans can feel like the coffee equivalent of standing directly inside a rainbow with your mouth open, as if you could taste color.

Then there’s the complicated way that the market operates there: Traditionally dominated by the generations-old auction system, buying specific, individual lots is no easy feat, and not for the weak of heart or light of palate.

Perhaps the most complex thing about Kenyan coffee, however, is the set of ethical questions it raises for us, and the challenges it presents to us as a square peg we have spent decades trying to fit into the round hole of traceability, partnership, and consistency.

Open Door: Costa Rica 2018 Dates Announced

The Open Door program was developed in 2017 to allow our customers to visit our Central American office and lab in San José, Costa Rica. Most Fridays from March through May, guests have the opportunity to walk in to our office and join our Costa Rica–based green-coffee buyer, Luis (“Lucho”) Arocha and sales representative Omar Herrera, to cup coffees and hear about the development work with which we have been involved in Costa Rica. Our producing partners regularly join us for these cuppings, offering unique opportunities for calibration and real-time feedback.

Origin Report: Costa Rica 2018

What does it mean to be “engaged” at origin? What does it mean to develop real, genuine relationships in business? What is the true impact of immersion into the culture of a coffee and the people who grow, harvest, process, and mill it? As curious coffee people, and as importers who try to be conscious of the size of our footprint in more ways than one, we ask ourselves these questions all the time.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answers vary from place to place, from one situation to another: Some producers operate best with little to no interaction from their buyers, while others find a more personal connection to be deeply meaningful—and everything in between.

When it comes to the producers of our microlots from Costa Rica, which is the better option—Face Time, or face-to-face time? Read more about how we strike the balance of being engaged while not being overbearing, and to create healthy, longstanding partnerships in Costa Rica, one of our cornerstone origins.

Roasting Concepts

Roasting coffee truly is a craft, the intersection of art and science. Truly becoming a master of any craft is a long and lonely process, one made much easier through collaboration and cooperation. We are about to embark on that process together, through a brand-new free educational video series: Roasting Concepts.

Variety: Unknown

There are still some unknowns in coffee—lots, actually—but this one in particular has us pretty intrigued… If you like mystery stories with a little bit of adventure and a whole lot of 90+ point cups, this might be right up your alley.

The Rest of the Best Cup

Saying “everyone’s a winner” might be a cliché in most instances, but when it comes to the fantastic but not auction-winning coffees we discover at Best Cup events, the saying is actually true—especially for our customers.

We’re Hiring: Coffee Associate, Costa Rica

Cafe Imports’ office in Costa Rica is seeking a full-time Coffee Associate, available to start immediately. This position is designed to act as backup and support to Cafe Imports’ green-coffee buyer who is based out of the office for part of the year, and should expect to work both as part of that small team as well as independently when the green-coffee buyer is traveling. Details inside.

Origin Report: Ethiopia 2018

Times are changing in Ethiopia, and coffee is changing, too: This year marks a lot of transitions both for the farmers and exporters of the world’s oldest coffee-growing country, as well as for Cafe Imports’ presence on the ground there.

One theme seems to stand out for us as we dive into the 2018 harvest in Yirgacheffe, Guji, and Sidama, and that is a look at the past is sometimes the best way to push forward into the future.

Progress Report: Development 2017

When we think about Development here at Cafe Imports, we mean more than simply better coffee, but also better systems—that includes the contributions we make on the ground and in the field, the collaborations we undertake at the farm and mill level, and the work we do to improve our daily lives and operations in our offices and warehouses.

With the end of the year right around the corner, we are proud to share our annual progress report on Café Imports commitment to Development, which not only offers some insight into what we have been working on over the last 12 months, but also what we look forward to in 2018.

Traceable Sumatra: Bergandal Mill

Sumatran coffees are already different from coffees anywhere else in the world, and Sakdan Abdul Wahab (pictured in the hat) represents something even more different: Truly traceable coffees from a microregion within the Gayo Highlands.

You’re Invited: Resource 2018

It’s a new year, a new crop, and a whole new selection of opportunities to shrink the distance between your roaster’s hopper and coffee’s source. We at Cafe Imports would like nothing more than to have you join us on our travels into the field (literally) as we seek, study, cup, and source the world’s finest specialty coffees. Throughout the year, we gladly invite our roaster partners along on visits to the producers, mills, and exporters with whom we work year in and year out, to develop personal connections and long-standing relationships, and, of course, to bring home the most delicious coffees we can find.

Origin Report Roundup 2017

The Earth made another trip around the sun, and we at Cafe Imports made another trip around the world—visiting partners, sourcing lots, making introductions, managing logistics, and rounding out another year of bringing you the finest specialty coffees. As we get ready to stow our passports for a little holiday break, and before we jet off into the next adventure, we’d like to take a moment to wrap up our year at origin as well as offer a glimpse of what’s to come. 

Progress Report: Community 2017

“Progress” is the most important word in our vocabulary, as we constantly aim to push forward with our efforts to be engaged in all the areas and with all the people with whom we do our work. Here, we are pleased to share our annual Progress Report: Community 2017, and we hope to capture the momentum at the end of this year and leap head-first into what’s left to be done.