Fresh Crop: Los Naranjos
Two lots from Association Los Naranjos, one of our oldest and most-cherished partnerships, just hit our US warehouse last week. The video below is a short interview of Fairfield Trading's Alejandro Renjifo in which he explains the program we have in place to create Los Naranjos offerings.
See the two available offerings here before they are all gone!
New Cafe Imports Education page: "How We Cup"
It is with great pleasure that we announce our "How We Cup" installment of the Cafe Imports Education program is officially live!
A thorough instructional video along with detailed step-by-step instructions can be found right here: www.cafeimports.com/howwecup
This video/write-up is an installment of our Cafe Imports Education programming where we aim to provide top-notch specialty coffee education as a free resource on our webpage.
It should be noted that this video is how "we" cup, which is slightly different than some of the set standards in our industry. So not only is this an educational video, but it serves as a transparent view of our sensory analysis practices, and should lend for some interesting conversation! Our Director of Education Joe Marrocco has highlighted these differences in the detailed step-by-step instructions that accompany the video.
This project was a distant sequel to our How to Sample Roast video and webpage that we released over a year ago, and should hopefully be the first of many installments that we release on our Cafe Imports Education page this year!
--The CI team
New "Regional Select" Program Offering: Nariño
Café Imports is pleased to announce the arrival of a new member to our Colombian "Regional Select" program: Nariño.
As always, we believe our Regional Select program allows for the unique flavors and complexities of specific coffee-producing areas to be individually highlighted. This terroir-focused approach celebrates producers in each region; their varieties, their histories and farming practices, while at the same time rewarding them for their efforts through a program that pays higher prices for quality coffees.
Regional Select: Nariño
While each of Colombia's various coffee-growing regions has a distinct character in the cup, Nariño's unique climate conditions contribute to the special, sparkling quality of the coffees there. The dramatic slopes and valleys that comprise the landscape in this department have direct effect on the temperature modulation that creates these high-acidity, supersweet coffees: Warm, humid air collects in the lowlands during the day and creeps gently up the mountainsides at night, a combination that allows coffee to thrive at much higher altitudes than most of the rest of the country, as much as 2,300 meters above sea level.
Our Favorite Tagged Instagram Photos of 2016
Once again, we are so grateful for these tagged photos that we have compiled a list of our favorites from this year and wanted to share them back for the whole world to see!
Here are our top ten favorite tagged Instagram photos from 2016 in no particular order:
@alchemycoffeeroasters --"Cafe Imports limited edition caps...primed for a celebratory head spin??? Great roast day at Alchemy!"
Ames, IA, USA
@cabellcoffee --"Cupping through a zillion samples from our good friends up at Cafe Imports..."
Long Beach, CA, USA
@lordwindsorcoffee --"...that El Higueron from Costa Rica was incredibly tasty, so it's fitting to see it end up in good hands..."
@twinpeakscoffee --"We're diving straight into our new season offerings this morning!..."
Popayán, Cauca, Colombia
@nyloncoffee --"...That very moment before we won #caucabesetcup2016 lot 10!..."
Nashville, TN, USA
@katelynncastiglione --"...Thanks fo the lift homie..."
@ichsuchdieddr --"...about to roast new Brazil..."
Lawrence, KS, USA
@amypope785 --"...so amped to receive this very special delivery from Colombia..."
Los Angeles, CA, USA
@klatchroasting --"...making a simple cup of coffee brings out a sweet collaoration between the server, the mug, and the taster..."
Pitalito, Huila, Colombia
@summitcoffee--"...as promised! Taking home a Huila Best Cup crop! Sharing with @vervecoffee - going to be delicious..."
Women Coffee Producers Program
In an attempt to recognize and promote the work that women do in growing and producing coffees around the world, we have developed and hope to expand a program that empowers women along the global coffee supply chain by creating equity, empowerment, and access to a wider market. We have been working with women producer groups over the past five years and have now formalized these efforts into a program, eager to expand into other origins.
While the role of women is culturally distinct from region to region within the coffee-producing world, we have created a set of base guidelines for the organizations and communities whose coffees are highlighted in this program, which helps us to work collaboratively with the growers to establish premiums and parameters for their participation.
At its base, a Women Coffee Producers coffee lot is:
· sourced through a democratically organized collective or group which comprises at least a significant voting percentage of active female coffee growers (more than 25% participation), or from groups entirely comprising female members and/or participants.
· purchased at a premium price above the average market value for the coffee, with the application of that premium decided upon by a majority of the group. The use of this premium will vary based on the needs of the women; in the past, these premiums have been used to build organic vegetable gardens (CESMACH, Mexico), dry-mill facilities (CODECH, Guatemala), and education and training programs related to sustainability practices (Gayo Megah Berseri, Sumatra). In some cases, the premium may simply be distributed among the group members in order to create equity and to raise their standard of living.
· given ample market representation as a lot that seeks to create equity, equality, and recognition for the normally marginalized female members of the supply chain.
· traceable to the organizational level, if not to the individual producer level, with particular attention given to the membership structure of the organization.
· a potential for a long-term relationship in which increased market accessibility creates the opportunity and incentive to improve coffee quality, thereby earning increased cup-based premium in future harvests.
To see all of the women producer groups we currently work with, visit our Community Page here.
A.M.A.C.A (Association de Mujeres Productoras Agropecuarias del Cauca) is the latest partnership in our Women Coffee Producer program. Located in the Colombian municipality of El Tambo, Cauca, this collective is made up of 140 female producers. After cupping a sample of their coffee this past July, we decided to drive to the township of San Joaquin and meet them - they're inspiring. The average size of land is just a single hectare per member, most of whom are the heads of their households. The members of AMACA are passionate, strong-willed, and have a deep sense of family values that seems almost magnified within the group as a whole. The premium included in the support of this coffee will most likely go towards the construction of a building where the members can store and cup their future harvests.
Cauca Best Cup - 3rd Edition
Cauca Best Cup - 3rd Edition
Last September we hosted our third-annual live auction of contest winning coffees from a week long event full of cuppings and farm visits in the town of Popayan from the State of Cauca, Southern Colombia. "Best Cup" as we call it, and the winner received $22.00 per pound from Café Libre, in Seoul, South Korea.
Señor Rodrigo Batata from Caldono, Cauca and his one hectare of coffee trees.
Together with our Colombian coffee sourcing partner Banexport and 30 cuppers from around the world, we spent four days cupping coffees in the morning and afternoons visiting producers from this region in preparation for the event. Coffees from this region have rich tropical fruit, sparkling lime acidity, big rich juicy berry sweetness and big full body. They can be a little bit wild and intense and this is the exact quality that makes them unique. Like a nice Chilean Malbec, they can be a little racy, which is one of the reasons we wanted to have this event; to highlight the coffees from this territory.
Banexport collected over 700 submissions over the harvest period of May-July and cupped through them time after time, reducing the submissions down to 60 lots of coffee, 30 micro-lots and some 100 bag lots of "Regional Select" (small lots of coffee that were blended together from a specific micro-region or municipality). In addition, a table of experimental lots and unique varieties like Naturally processed Geishas and Pink Bourbons -- all to be cupped through and auctioned off to our panel of coffee professionals.
To me, these small auctions pay homage to the Cup of Excellence and all the work that program has done over the years to find the best coffee producers in the world, introducing them to the community and paying them well for their commitment to quality and excellence. "Cauca Best Cup" is essentially a small version of COE done on a regional level in order to highlight the micro climates and terroir inherent in the mountainous terrain of Southern Colombia. We do this on a shoestring budget but, in the same way, it discovers and brings forward the best producers in the land, celebrates their greatness in their community, pays them for their quality and introduces them to small roasters from around the world. It is unfortunate in our industry how coffee farmers deliver their product to town and have no idea where it goes or what it becomes. So, one of the greatest joys is seeing the crowd of farmers hanging around the cupping tables all week watching the madness of 30 cuppers from around the world cupping through table after table.
On the final day, we re-cupped the top 15 scoring coffees for confirmation and final scoring. Then we piled in to the bus and headed to the small town of Timbio, where an agricultural coffee fair was being held that day. A day of presentations, vendors, food and celebrations -- kind of like a county fair but throw in the fact that a bus load of gringos were in town to buy some coffee and things got wild.
Roasters from Momos Coffee in Busan to CoffeeMania in Moscow, bidding against Repetition coffee from Kansas and Philly's Elixir. Patriot Coffee from Florida versus Singapore's Nylon coffee and St. Louis' own Sump coffee versus Mpls' Dunn Bros. Quills from Kentucky and LA's Rose Park. These folks were civil during the week but savage on the bidding floor, taking some lots quickly to $10, 11, 12 and $13. Dollars. All the while surrounded by hundreds of screaming Colombian producers encouraging them to pay more with yours truly on the auction podium, gavel in-hand, trying to keep up with the raging prices and the screaming crowd.
When the bidding for each coffee is done, the winning farmer comes up to the stage and is joined by the roaster who just bought their coffee. They hug and take selfies, get certificates but most importantly, they meet. They become business partners and hopefully they begin a relationship that can last for years. We have witnessed first hand the passion that roasters have for a coffee once they meet the person who is responsible for growing it and the pride that famers show when they know the person that is taking their product across the globe to roast, brew and serve it to a community on the other side of the planet. Really pretty cool and one of the success stories that helps me get through Mondays.
We will be back in Huila the end of Jan for Huila Best cup if you know anyone interested in some great coffee and some madness. -- Andrew Miller, Founder & President of Café Imports
Happily announcing our Non-GMO Project Verification
Café Imports is proud to say that our coffees are now certified under the GMO verify project to be a non-GMO food.
Like the Non GMO Project, we believe "That the integrity of our diverse genetic inheritance is essential to human and environmental health and ecological harmony."
We also oppose the fact that the easy and clear labeling of food products that include GMO's has been majorly and unfairly fought by the GMO-Food industry. For these reasons, we took the step to become certified through the Non GMO Verify project. Our commitment to our customers is to never work with GMO coffee in an effort to help maintain the integrity and consumer clarity of a product we all care for so much.
Click here to view and download our non-GMO project verified certificate.
Go to the following link to see all non-GMO verified coffee products: http://www.nongmoproject.org/find-non-gmo/verified-products/results/?keyword=coffee
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 total hardness 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 total hardness 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