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In the Grinder - Our Daily Coffee Weblog

VIDEO: Kigeyo Washing Station, Lake Kivu

Following a simple set of standard processing procedures, Kigeyo Washing Station, a COOPAC coffee Co-op in Lake Kivu, has produced some of the finest coffees that we have encountered this harvest out of Rwanda.

Check our current offerings for Kigeyo and View the Beanology HERE

VIDEO: Fazenda Recreio, São Sebastião da Grama, South of Minas

As one of Brazil's most consistently excellent coffee farms, Fazenda Recreio delivers a cup reflecting evolved processing methods for quality coffee production dating all the way back to 1890. After 5 generations of managing Fezenda Recreio in his family, Diogo Machaedo is now in charge, and he plans to maintain the historic farms exceptional reputation as the world of Specialty Coffee continues to blossom.  Look for Fazenda Recreio in our offerings now! View the Beanology

Watch this video from our most recent trip for an on location view of Recreio's beautiful production, and an Interview with Diogo Machaedo:

Fazenda Recreio, São Sebastião da Grama from Cafe Imports on Vimeo.

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A Lecture on Water Activity in Green Coffee!

"This can be a stressful time of year. If you're like me, this can make getting to sleep difficult. Well, and lack of sleep only adds to the stress, creating a truly vicious cycle that nobody wants to fall into.

Thankfully, the Nordic Roaster Forum has posted a talk that I gave at their 2014 event in Copenhagen earlier this November to the interwebs. Before you cozy up and drift off to sweet slumber in the warm glow of your phone's screen, I can offer just a few words. Q & A style.

What is the NRF? The Nordic Roaster Forum is an annual gathering of predominantly Scandinavian based coffee roasters and cuppers for the purpose of "creating a forum in which people can meet, bond, and achieve further knowledge." There were about 60 people at this event, many varied and interesting lectures, much cupping, much conversation, and much enjoyment.

Great, so what were you doing there? This year they invited me to come and discuss the work on Water Activity in green coffee that we've been doing here at Café Imports over the last couple of years.

The lecture is conveniently broken into five videos, though you shouldn't need but one or two for ordinary seasonal sleeplessness (see your doctor if you find yourself needing more than four or five at a time).

Ok. That should about cover it. So go ahead, snuggle up in your favorite fleece with a nice warm mug of milk and honey and just push play.

Sweet dreams and be well."

- Ian

Ian Fretheim is Director of Cafe Imports' Sensory Analysis department

Lecture Links:

Part 1 

Part 2 

Part 3 

Part 4

Part 5 

VIDEO: Introducing Finca Las Nubes, Colombia (Europe)

Las Nubes, Colombia from Cafe Imports on Vimeo.

Get ready Europe! Cafe Imports, Finca Las Nubes, and Banexport have created an exclusive partnership to bring this amazing coffee to market from our European warehouse. We have three specific variety separations shipping from this harvest: Geisha, Rume Sudan, and Laurina

We view this as an amazing opportunity to highlight variety specific attributes in the cup side by side.

The attention to detail and processing techniques executed by Camilo and his staff at Finca Las Nubes are world class. We are seeing some of the most extreme examples of innovation at the farm level in Colombia.

We are so excited for you to taste this coffee! Contact gabe@cafeimports.com to learn how to get your hands on this.

click for Beanologies:

Las Nubes Lauriña*Lauriña is a naturally low caffeine content variety of arabica, at .6% compared to 1-1.2%.

Las Nubes Geisha

Las Nubes Rume Sudan


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Café Imports' Complete Guide to Big Central Weekend

It's Fall - the season of apples, pumpkins and #BigCentral.  All of us here at Café Imports headquarters are thrilled to be hosting this event again.  We are looking forward to unveiling the new office space and to inviting two more coffee professionals to join us in Colombia next year.

BIG CENTRAL EVENTS AND PARTIES

Thursday, November 6th

Café Imports Open House
2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
2617 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55413

A Film About Coffee Screening
Co-Sponsored by Café Imports and Spyhouse
St. Anthony Main Theatre
115 SE Main St, Minneapolis, MN 55414
Doors 6:30 pm
Screening 7:00 pm
Tickets HERE ($10)

Friday, November 7th

Rope-A-Dope: A Big Central Coffee Competition Party
Presented by: Café Imports, Colectivo Coffee and Curtis
Architectural Antiques
1330 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
7:00 pm - Midnight
Food from Natedogs and AZ Canteen
Beer by Colectivo Coffee Roasters
Music from Marah in the Mainsail

Saturday, November 8th

Five Watt Coffee and Kickapoo Coffee Party
Five Watt
3745 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55409
Starts at 7:00 pm
Central Region Aeropress Championship at 7:00 pm
Latte Art Throwdown at 7:30 pm
Food from Butch Salt

Some of you that will be journeying out to the Mini Apple are old pros around our city.  However, there are some who brand new to town.  To help you out, we've decided to present to you "Minneapolis Five Ways".

THE CULTURIST

Where to Stay - The Depot
The Depot, as the name might suggest, was a freight and passenger train depot until 1971.  Today the building serves as a hotel, waterpark, event center and ice rink (the rink doesn't open until Thanksgiving Day).  This historic hotel is located at the edge of Downtown, with easy access to theaters and museums.

Morning Walk and Brunch - Start your morning off with a nice walk across the Stonearch Bridge.  The bridge will take you across the Mississippi River to the St. Anthony Main area of the city.  Be sure to pause along your crossing to observe the St. Anthony Falls.  Be sure to dress warm, as the wind really picks up on the bridge.  Once you are in St. Anthony Main, walk on over to Wilde Roast Café.  You may have a bit of a wait at this Oscar Wilde themed joint, but it is well worth it.  Their Crab Cake Benedict is delicious, as are the huevos rancheros.  Don't feel like breakfast food?  Try a flatbread pizza or their famous mac & cheese.  When you're done with brunch, take a stroll around St. Anthony Main.  You won't regret it.

Lunch- Head over to Midtown Global Market.  This public market is home to an array of restaurants and shops.  With over 20 restaurants and cafes, there is something for everyone.  There is no other place in the city where you can get a gyro, tacos and a camel burger under one room.  Not feeling food?  Poke around the shops for gifts to take home. 

Midday Options - If you're into history, we recommend checking out the Mill City Museum.  The museum is built into the ruins of the old Washburn A Mill, and offers an interactive learning experience.  Start with the Flour Tour, catch a showing of Kevin Kling's 19-minute history of Minneapolis, mill around the main exhibit area and finish with a stop on the 9th floor observatory.  Mill City Museum is a great stop for families. 
If learning and museums aren't the kind of culture that you had in mind for your visit, head over to Sociable Cider Werks.  Sociable is conveniently located just minutes from Uppercut Boxing Gym.  The team at this cider house transformed an old industrial warehouse into a gorgeous taproom, worthy of the fine ciders and beers they brew up.  If you're interested in a complimentary tour, be at Sociable by 12:30 pm.  They just ask that you bring a canned food item with you, to benefit the Southern Anoka Community Assistance Food Shelf. 

Dinner - You'll be transported from the frigid Minneapolis November and find yourself in tropical weather at Marla's Caribbean Cuisine.  The jerk chicken and oxtails are to die for.  They are a favorite among Café Imports staff.  Be sure to order the fried plantains and save room for the sweet potato pie.  When it comes to spice, Marla's means business.  Think about your heat threshold, and order a level down from that.  Marla's does not take reservations, so plan on a wait or arrive for an early dinner.

Evening Outing - Minneapolis is home to a slew of great local bands and amazing venues.  Whether you like jazz, hip-hop, punk, rock or opera, there is bound to be a show in town for you.  First Avenue & 7th St Entry is the most famous of our venues, thanks to Purple Rain and its consistent national rankings as one of the top venues in the US.  First Ave also owns St. Paul venue, the Turf Club, which hosts a variety of local and national touring acts.  If you are feeling a bit jazzy, check out the show listing at Dakota Jazz Club.  Many of the jazz greats stop here when passing through Minneapolis.  The venue also boasts an amazing food menu.  For the punk rockers and metalheads, check out the calendar at the Triple Rock Social Club.  They host indie rock concerts as well, but are known for their roots in the dark arts.  If it is opera or classical music is more your pace, you have some wonderful options.  The Minnesota Orchestra will be hosting The Art of Russia: Energy and Elegance, while the Minnesota Opera will be performing a darkened version of Hansel and Gretel.
Full Music Calendar - City Pages

THE GOURMET

Where to Stay - The W at Foshay Tower
This historic hotel is located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis.  Completed just months before the stock market crash in 1929, this gorgeous Art Deco building was the tallest building in Minneapolis until 1971.  Wilbur Foshay had the building modeled after the Washington Monument, and he spared no expense in its construction.  While staying at Foshay Tower, be sure to take a journey to the 30
th floor Observation Deck and museum for a brief history into the extravagancies of the building and its opening.  Also check out Prohibition on the 27th Floor.  It's a pricey bar, but the backdrop is worth a wander.

Breakfast - For an adventurous start to your day, head over to Haute Dish in the North Loop district of Minneapolis.  There are entrees and plates to share.  Start with a breakfast corndog, share the breakfast potstickers and order the Ropa Vieja or the Chicken & Waffles for yourself.  It's hard to go wrong with any dish here.  Haute Dish is famous for the Bloody Marys.  Try a classic version, or be bold and try the Bourbon.  Reservations are encouraged.

Morning - We picked a great weekend for Big Central for all of you donut lovers.  On Saturday, November 8th, you could be a part of the first official Twin Cities Donut Crawl!  The event starts at 9:30 am, and will feature your favorite deep-fried rings by some of the best shops in town.  Tickets are $25.00 and include a custom t-shirt, coffee, one donut per participating shop, a punch card with coupons for local coffee shops and a "guaranteed sugar high".   All proceeds will be donated to Second Harvest.

Lunch - If you like meat, head over to Kramarczuk's (pronounced Krah-MAR-chucks).  While Minnesota is known for its Scandinavian roots, there are many here with Eastern European backgrounds.  Kramarczuk's is part meat counter, part restaurant and part small grocer.  This delicatessen has been serving up Eastern European favorites since 1954.  If you order up a sausage sandwich, we highly recommend the polish sausage or bratwurst served with the traditional sauerkraut.  They make one mean varenyky if you're looking for a dumpling side dish.

Afternoon Tap - We sent the culturists over to Sociable Cider Werks.  You will wash down your sausage and kraut with brews and a tour at Harriet Brewing.  Tours are on Saturday at 1pm, and kick off with a tasting.  You'll get a behind-the-scenes look at how Harriet brews as well as a tour of their art gallery.  Tours are free and family-friendly (though you must be 21 or older to participate in the tastings).  If your group is larger than eight, contact the brewery about a private tour.  Be sure to stay for a pint or grab a growler on your way out.

Dinner - Gourmets, this is choose your own adventure time.  We have two suggestions based on your preference of a casual atmosphere or a dressier atmosphere.
Casual, like I like my barista performances - Journey over to the Midtown Global Market and enjoy an experience inspired by Korean street food at The Rabbit Hole.  An absolute must on your table (at least for the carnivores) is the Wangs.  These chicken wings have the perfect texture and flavor combination for a one-two-punch that'll knock your socks off.  Just ask Joe Marrocco and Dan Jensen, our resident Wingxperts.  Feeling adventurous and a little Canadian?  Try The Harold & Kumar Poutine, which puts a Korean twist on this Great White North classic.  You cannot go wrong with anything on the menu.
Fancy, like my pants - Restaurant Alma will provide you with hand-crafted, seasonal dishes, made with fresh, organic and local ingredients.  Three course tasting menus are available.  Your mouth will water as you read over their menu, created by James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Roberts.  This is a great place to go for a little vacation date or for a celebratory dinner.  Be sure to save room for dessert!  Reservations are STRONGLY encouraged.

Night Cap - Those who drink booze and those who prefer soda (or pop, while you're in Minneapolis) will all appreciate the concoctions at Eat Street Social.  These master crafters of the finest cocktails in the Twin Cities will blow you away with their unique mixtures.  If you're serving as the DD for the night, ask for one of Eat Street Social's amazing sodas.  They are made to order and won't disappoint!  Sorry under 21-ers - If it's after 9 pm, you'll need to be of drinking age to enter.

NEW TO THE MIDWEST

Where to Stay - Hyatt Regency Minneapolis
The Hyatt Regency is located on the edge of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.  You'll be within walking distance of everything Downtown has to offer.  The hotel is also located on the Loring Greenway, which connects Nicollet Mall with Loring Park.

Breakfast - For a morning culinary experience with a Minnesotan twist, check out brunch at Hell's Kitchen (breakfast is served on weekdays too!).  No, there's no relation to Gordon Ramsay.  Hell's Kitchen is appropriately located in an underground lair.  The walls are peppered with artwork by Ralph Steadman (famous for his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson), making this one hell of a place to start your day.  Brunch on the weekends is served up with live, local music.  The Lemon-Ricotta Hotcakes are the most popular breakfast item, and they won't disappoint!  Fancy yourself a morning libation?  The Bloody Hell was voted the best bloody in the Twin Cities.  If tomato juice isn't your thing, check out their peach mimosa.  Be sure to pick up a jar of Hell's Kitchen's peanut butter on your way out.  Reservations are encouraged.

Daytime Stroll - Minneapolis is a combination of the Dakota Sioux word for "water" (mni) and the Greek word for "city" (polis).  We simply call our home the "City of Lakes".  Take a stroll/run/bike ride around the Chain of Lakes, a 13.3 mile series of four connected lakes.  There is a path that is part of the larger Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, which you can follow.  The Chain of Lakes is a popular destination in Minneapolis, both in the summer and the winter.

Lunch/Midday Adventure - Stop at FIKA, voted the "Best Lunch in Minnesota" and the "Best Place to Eat Out with Your Kids in Minneapolis".  This café is a part of the American Swedish Institute, and serves up a lunch of Nordic-inspired cuisine.  The menu is seasonally-driven, and showcases regional ingredients.  They even host one of "America's Best Sandwiches" (Travel + Leisure, Radish Smörgås).  While you're there, be sure to check out the American Swedish Institute to learn more about Minnesota's Swedish roots.

Dinner - Many people may think that Prince's pancakes are the city dish of Minneapolis.  The truth is that the Jucy (we spell it without an 'i') Lucy is our plate of pride.  Some genius (or maybe geniuses) have taken the burger patty and stuffed it with cheese.  The classic is made with good ol' American cheese.  There has been some debate as which restaurant is responsible for this molten cheese-filled burger.  If you're looking for a classic, greasy Jucy Lucy, Matt's Bar is the place for you.  Be prepared to wait in line at this neighborhood bar.  It is well worth it.  If you are looking for some cheese choices or a place with more variety, you will want to test out the 5-8 Club.  These two restaurants have been duking it out for creation rights since the beginning of the Jucy Lucy.  We may never know who began this art, but both places make a strong case for tastiest Jucy Lucy.

After Dinner Party - You've experienced the best of Minnesota today, so let's throw in a Wisconsin pastime to finish off your night.  Nye's Polonaise is a step back in time.  With two rooms, you can choose between piano karaoke in an old fashion supper club or the sweet sounds of The World's Most Dangerous Polka Band in the Polka Lounge.  One thing is for certain, this place gets busy on Fridays and Saturdays.  For a real taste of Wisconsin, be sure to order up a brandy old fashion sweet.  It pairs quite well with polka.  If you're in need of a late night treat, order up some pierogi. 

ON THE CHEAP

Where to Stay - Airbnb or a Friend's Couch
Airbnb is a great place to find a cheap room to rent if you don't have any Minneapolitan friends (don't worry, you will by the end of Big Central). 

Breakfast - There is a reason that Al's Breakfast is a staple on the University of Minnesota campus.  It's cheap, it's delicious and it will fill you up!  Be sure to keep your eyes open for the blue and white awning.  You might miss this narrow restaurant, thinking it's an alleyway.  You'll go for the food and stay for the laughs at Al's.  Expect to see a line out the door, as this breakfast joint (yes, they are only open until 1pm for BREAKFAST) seats 14.  Bring cash, as this gem only takes cash. 

Daytime - Take a stroll through the U of M campus and enjoy the sites of frantic students and even more frantic squirrels running about the mall.  You'll walk over to the Weisman Art Museum, where admission is always free.  The first thing you'll notice is that the building is itself a work of art.  Look familiar?  Why yes, Frank Gehry is the architect!  Inside WAM, you'll find a large collection of contemporary art. 

Lunch - You'll leave WAM and walk across the Mississippi River's pedestrian bridge to the West Bank.  Once through the campus, you'll be looking for your lunch destination - Hard Times Café.  Hard Times is collectively owned and 100% vegetarian.  The café hosts people from all walks of life - anarchists, artists, students, parents and even City Council members.  It's a little bit of a dive, but the food is fantastic.  If you're a fan of seitan, be sure to try the Philly or the Gyro.  This is another cash only establishment.

Afternoon Jaunt - Head toward Minnehaha Park, one of the oldest and most popular destinations in the city.  In addition to providing smiles while saying its name aloud, the park offers some of the most breathtaking sights in the area.  You may even forget that you are in a metropolitan area.  Hike toward Minnehaha Falls (a 53-foot waterfall), and take in the limestone bluffs that overlook the Mississippi River. 

Dinner - If you're staying with friends, pay them back by cooking up a nice meal.  The Twin Cities are home to a fair share of co-ops where you can find local, seasonal ingredients.  Check out the following: Eastside Food Co-op, Linden Hills Co-op, Mississippi Market (two St. Paul locations), Seward Co-Op, and The Wedge Co-op.  Show off a popular dish from your home state, or try cooking up some Minnesota classics - hot dish, anyone?

Night Shenanigans - If you're looking to do something away from the coffee parties of the weekend, check out bowling at Memory Lanes.  After 5 PM, bowling is $5.50 + tax per game.  After 11:30 pm on Friday and Saturday, $9.00 gets you shoes and unlimited bowling.  On Friday evenings, your strikes and spares will be accompanied by live music by local bands. 

ST. PAUL CURIOUS

Where to Stay - For an historical and elegant visit, check into the St. Paul Hotel.  This hotel has been providing luxurious accommodations in downtown St. Paul since 1910.  Located on Rice Park, this hotel is within walking distance from the Mississippi River, the Xcel Energy Center and the Ordway Theatre.

Breakfast - Mickey's Dining Car is a classic breakfast joint just minutes from the St. Paul Hotel.  This diner was one of the first to be built in the Art Deco style and was designed to resemble a railroad dining car.  You may recognize it from its appearance in all three Mighty Ducks movies, Jingle All the Way and various Food Network series.  Mickey's is a must stop for anyone who is a little St. Paul curious.  If you don't feel like breakfast, have no fear.  The diner has been operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for nearly 70 years.

Meander in the Morning - Take a stroll along the Mississippi River.  No matter which way you go, or how long you stay on the paths, you'll find many gorgeous sites.  If you decide to head east along the river, you will come across the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary Park.  The park was once a significant spiritual site for the Dakota.  Today it is a sight of ongoing restoration.  If you venture the other way, head toward Crosby Farm Park.  The park is a great place for fishing and wildlife watching.  As you take in the view of the bluffs, be sure to keep an eye out for bald eagles, white-tailed deer and beavers.

Lunch - Grand Avenue is a destination for many weekend shoppers and diners.  We recommend that you treat your taste buds to Everest on Grand.  This Nepali and Tibetan cuisine restaurant claims "the tallest taste", and they aren't joking.  The Weekend Lunch Buffet is $12.00 of flavor.  If you prefer to order off the menu, do know that their food runs a bit on the spicier side of the spectrum.  Feeling extra adventurous?  Try the yak!

Afternoon Delight - You'll find fun for the whole family at Como Park.  There are many activities to choose from at the park.  There are 2.3 miles of trails, a golf course, a conservatory complete with coffee trees, an amusement park, a lake AND a zoo.  Earlier this year, the zoo became home to a baby zebra.  Currently, St. Paulites are eagerly awaiting the birth of a baby gorilla.  This will be the first member of the species to be born in the zoo.  The watch began on October 18th and will continue into early December.

Dinner - Experience the restaurant consistently voted as one of the best restaurants in the Twin Cities.  Strip Club Meat & Fish (fondly known by locals as The Strip Club) will make you wish you lived in St. Paul.  What should you order?  The real question is, "How do I choose?"  Start with the evening's Meat on a Stick selection a.  Given the name, you know you can't go wrong with the New York Strip.  You thought we just went for the food?  We haven't even begun to go on about their drinks.  The bar is fun to sit at, so if you can't get a table for dinner, try sitting at the bar.  Reservations encouraged.

Nighttime in That Other City - If there is one thing that Minneapolitans wish, it's that Minnesota Public Radio could be claimed as theirs.  MPR is based in St. Paul, making The Fitz(gerald) Theater home base for the great radio shows of Wits and A Prairie Home CompanionPrairie Home will be out of town in Duluth during Big Central, but you can catch an amazing Wits lineup on Saturday.  Guests will be author Neil Gaiman and singer My Brightest Diamond.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, and there is a chance that you will fall out of your chair from laugh crying so hard.  When the Wits taping is done, grab a pint at Great Water Brewing Co. or catch the show at Amsterdam Bar and Hall.


If you didn't quite find what you were looking for in this list, check out last year's more comprehensive guide.

VIDEO: Peru's are Arriving!

It is that time of year folks! our first 2014/2015 container from Peru arrived this week and we couldn't be more excited! (see photo below)Cenfro.jpg

Keep an eye on our new arrivals as these quality Peru lots start showing up! In the meantime, enjoy this video from our August 2014 trip to Peru with CENFROCAFE.

CenfroCafe Peru from Cafe Imports on Vimeo.

VIDEO: New Arrivals from Carmo Coffees

With 100 years of coffee-growing tradition in Carmo de Minas, Brasil, our exporting partners at Carmo Coffees provide us with a refined cupping profile of Brazil's illustrious history in coffee production. Though many steps of production are ingrained in tradition, Carmo Coffee is excited to experiment with new processing and harvesting techniques, as explained in the video, which can open new horizons in the world of Specialty Coffees.

Observe the freshly stripped Coffee plants at Fazenda Santa Lucia as Jacques explains "Safra Zero", a zero harvest method Carmo Coffee uses in which half the farm rests each harvest season after being fully stripped, and provides a yield 3-4x more per hectare the next time it produces cherry. 

Carmo is also experimenting with  an extremely unique pulped natural process they call "Chuveirinho" at their Serrado Farm. 

Keep an eye out for Carmo Coffees in our new arrivals!

Carmo Coffees - The Dream Coffees from Cafe Imports on Vimeo.

Cauca Best Cup: The Beginning of Something Truly Special

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Last month we held a cupping competition of the best coffees from the department of Cauca in Southern Colombia. Together with a group of twenty roasters from around the world, we cupped the top 40 coffees from over 200 submissions. The next day we cupped the top ten, ranked them, and had a live auction that night where the roasters bid on the coffees while surrounded by over 300 producers cheering them on. The top price was $9.50 for a 3 bag lot and the #1 coffee netted $6.50 for a 23 bag lot while the crowd cheered on the bidding  "Mas, Mas"... It was fantastic.

Cauca is a department (State) on the South West border of Colombia above Narino and West of Huila. It is a great producing region but with not as much fame as its two neighbors. Recently, I compiled the results of Colombia's past ten COE auctions and sorted by region and found the top winning departments to be Huila, Cauca, Tolima and Narino. Here are those results if you are interested.

Cauca coffees are big rich, juicy with acidity that is a little bit racey.  If you are a wine drinker think Malbec from Argentina or in coffee, think East African fruit and acidity combined with caramel, chocolate and vanilla; Wonderful coffees with not a lot of recognition.

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This was exactly the motivation for this contest; to shed some light on the wonderful coffees of Cauca and hope to increase the livelihood of the producers in this region.

One year ago we hatched this idea with our friends at Banexport and together we solicited the help of the FNC's regional office in Popayan, which is the capital city of Cauca.  The Federation has agronomists that work in the field assisting producers with coffee production as well as the cultivation of food items such as fruits and beans. These technicians are able to travel in to the mountains where people like me can't go because of guerilla activity, so it was a great assist to have them sharing the news about the contest and bringing in samples from producers in the outlying areas. 

Banexport's team of cuppers cupped through over 200 coffees and narrowed them down to 30 for the contest before we arrived with roasters from Australia, Europe, the US, and Singapore for a total of about 20 cuppers.

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The first day we cupped three tables of ten with a sort of loose COE format of cup, score and discuss. The next morning we came back for the top ten with fresh palletes and the knowledge that these coffees had been vetted a number of times by serious professionals. The last table was a nice table, all ten coffees between 87.5 and 90 points.

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Later in the day we loaded up the bus and headed to the fair; an agricultural fair of Cauca coffee producers in the town of Santander de Quillichao. There were over 700 producers that came through the door to see vendors and hear presentations throughout the day. There was food and music, fertilizer and pulping machines, booths for chemicals and weed whackers, parabolic driers and jute; Everything that a coffee farmer might need.

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We were put on stage in front of the audience of a couple hundred producers and asked to speak to what coffee roasters and buyers were looking for in Colombian Coffees. The answer was simple: quality, and that we were willing to pay for it - a no-frills response, but from the perspective of multiple roasters in multiple continents; It was a good exchange and a good message that we were able to prove by "walking the walk" in a live auction of the top ten coffees.

We moved outside in front of the stage. I was given a microphone and a gavel while Jairo from Banexport organized a stack of certificates for the winners. The jurors lined up in the front row with numbered signs to bid with. We started with an overview of the coffee; farm, varietal, number of bags, our collective score and the descriptors that we had collected earlier in the day. The pricing started at $3.50 U.S. per pound FOB and the bidders fought from there. Places 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6 all went for around $4.50 which is more than twice what producers were getting on a normal day for their coffee so they were giddy and the crowd was clapping and yelling when the producers name was called. The great thing about this event was that the producer was called to the front of the stage, given the price in Pesos, and handed a certificate by the roaster who just bought their coffee. It was a great moment when a roaster could cup a coffee, love a coffee, buy it and then travel to meet the person that produced it, shaking hands and hugging for a photo. It was a little surreal; we don't get to see that very often.

The real fun came with coffee #3. It was a three bag lot and the favorite of quite a few roasters "Cocoa, orange, stonefruit, savory towards end, yirgy, peppercorn, passionfruit, creamy, juicy, prune"

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This coffee went to $5 and the crowd roared, one of the bidders laid down his card..."$5.50 ..going once...going twice...." and he was back in action: "....Six Dollars!" - the crowd went wild.

I think you get the picture; this went on for some time until $9.50 all the while producers were waving their ponchos in the air yelling "Mas...Mas..".   The roasters were glaring at each other shaking their heads and raising their hands to bid again in the frenzy.

I've never seen anything like this in all my years of coffee and I have to say it was fantastic to share the beauty of these coffees with the farmers in the same room. To pay a healthy price and encourage quality and to have the roaster standing arm in arm with a new partner, a producer whose coffee they will roast and serve with a deep knowledge of the source and the person who produced it.

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The next day, we went to visit some of the farms in the area that did well in the contest and all headed back to our perspective homes. The coffee is on the water now and we cant wait for it to get it here to see how it survived the ride and how it has blossomed with a little rest.

It was a great event and I hope you can appreciate the value of lifting up all the people in the chain of great coffee by promoting quality.  If you can't, then you should come to Huila in January where we will host the first ever "Best of Huila" competition and I'll show you.

Best Regards,

Andrew

 

 

Announcing: "The Coffee Throw" by Faribault Woolen Mills

"Loomed in the Land of Lakes", We are very excited to announce this Colombian coffee jute inspired wool blanket. A true piece of heritage American craftsmanship, we collaborated with Minnesota's own Faribault Woolen Mill, whose wool and weaving is world renowned for comfort and quality. All proceeds from sales of this Blanket benefit Coffee Kids (www.coffeekids.org)

for a full look at the story behind this one of a kind, 100% made in the USA wool blanket, read the article that Sprudge wrote about it

We have a very limited supply available for sale now!

Email sales@cafeimports.com to order yours before the are gone!

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Brasil in a Nutshell

When first learning about Café Imports, in terms of its mission and values as a company, the greatest allure was an ongoing commitment to building and sustaining relationships. The Café Imports office practices this value and extends it to all other parts of the industry, especially in building relationships with coffee producers.

Café Imports finds it extremely valuable to give employees the opportunity to travel to origin. They recognize the importance and the educational opportunities that come with experiencing how coffee is produced firsthand, as well as how coffee production varies from country to country.

Picture this: you're a week and a few days in to your brand new job, and your boss walks over to you and says: "so we've been figuring out origin travel for the coming months and with the rotation of people traveling, it looks like it's your turn. So how does Brasil in August sound?" Brasil in August, and, right now, it's practically May. I'm in!

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After the initial excitement settled, we realized the irony of me, being a Spanish-speaker, traveling to the only country in South America that doesn't speak Spanish. Hm, better luck next time. The next question that followed was: "do you like meat?" They weren't kidding.

Never have I ever eaten so much meat. In fact, on the plane ride home from Brasil, Andy (our media guru) realized that he was probably smuggling an entire cow back into the U.S. From churrascaria visits to a never-ending supply of picanha and cheese-stuffed sausage at a wonderful BBQ hosted by CarmoCoffees, I probably consumed a year's supply of beef in just one week.

Throughout our entire stay, we experienced the wonderfully bizarre mix of Italian and Japanese cuisines that exist only in a little spot in Poços de Caldas: a (literal) boat of sushi followed by multiple rounds of pizza. I know it might not sound appetizing but, trust me, it's quite a delectable combination.

The last food item we became rather fond of - read: daily must-have - was açai. An addicting force of antioxidant-rich slush that just tastes so good after an impromptu Crossfit workout, consumed, of course, while watching yourself and friends star on local Brasil TV news.

I must note, if there's one characteristic I've found true of people who love good coffee, it's their equal love of good food.

Now for the coffee part.

While in Brasil, we split our time between two of our major export partners: Bourbon Specialty Coffees and CarmoCoffees. Both are located in the Minas Gerais state of Brasil. Upon arrival, we spent the afternoon doing a cafe crawl around São Paulo. It's interesting to note that it is illegal to import coffee from other countries into Brasil, so all cafes serve solely Brasilian coffee. After several shots of some very tasty espressos and lunch at a cafe - also the first of many experiences with the juice-juice of Brasil - we piled in the van and headed for our first destination: Poços de Caldas, home of Bourbon Specialty.

After first glimpsing the offices and labs at Bourbon, it became quite clear how different coffee production in Brasil compares with other South and Central American countries. The advancement in systems and technologies was quite impressive, even down to their cataloging system for keeping a library of samples.

Here are some fascinating facts we learned from Thiago at Bourbon Specialty:

  • Coffee was brought to Brasil in 1727 - (You know the story- lies, sex, a bouqet of flowers)

  • Brasil produces around 50 million bags of coffee annually - 70-80% Arabica

  • Of all the coffee produced in Brasil, 60-70% is Natural Processed (only 5% washed)

  • A small farmer in Brasil is categorized as 1000 bags of production and 25 hectares

  • A large farmer in Brasil is categorized as 20,000 bags of production and 500 hectares

The biggest shock came when we arrived in their cupping lab. While I find an electric kettle to be rather easy and convenient - Bourbon blew us away when they pulled out a hot water gun. Literally, a long spout with a trigger rigged into the cupping table that pours out temperature-controlled water. Apparently these hot water guns are the current rage in Brasil because CarmoCoffees also had one; although, we did clarify that Bourbon got theirs first. 

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 After a thorough tour and introduction to Bourbon Specialty, we spent the afternoon visiting some farms. Another astonishing fact about coffee farms in Brasil is the proximity and ease with which one can travel to the farms. We hopped in the van and arrived at the first farm, Fazenda Recreio, only about 20 minutes later. Fazenda Recreio is managed by Diogo Dias, who showed us the processing of both natural and pulped natural coffees from the wet mill to the drying patios. The drying patios were impressively expansive; we watched as the workers spread and raked the natural and pulped natural coffees. Being that the average elevation for coffee farms in Minas Gerais is around 1.300 masl, using natural and pulped natural processing methods allows for greater development of flavor and sweetness in the cup.

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As the sun was beginning to set, we hopped in the van again and drove through neighboring Fazenda Rainha, up to a church on top of the hill. The producers at Fazenda Rainha were once asked, if they could have anything, what would it be? They wanted a church. The church was designed by the famous Brasilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer. We made it to the top just in time for sunset - a scene that would also inspire what was to become our tradition of hand-standing at every farm we visited.

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The next day we visited a large dry mill where, again, I was amazed with the machinery and technologies used to measure and sort for quality. At this dry mill, the parchment is stored in super-sacks and the warehouse is both temperature and humidity-controlled. One super sack is equivalent to 25 60 kg bags.

The Bourbon Specialty lab also happened to be the place where my first official cupping took place. I quickly discovered that my slurp needs some serious work, but that's one of the most amazing things about this industry. There are never-ending opportunities to learn in a community full of passionate teachers.

The following days consisted of several cuppings followed by visits to farms of the coffees we had just tasted. In addition to Recreio, these included Fazenda Rainha, Cachoeria da Grama and Sertãozinho.

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We spent the tail end of our trip t in Carmo de Minas with CarmosCoffees. Founded by Jacques and Luis Paulo about 10 years ago, their offices are located inside a beautiful converted home and provide for an inviting yet extremely professional coffee lab - complete with a hot water gun. True pioneers, Jacques and Luis Paulo are dedicated to exploring, testing and evaluating different processes and varieties.They strive develop innovative techniques that bring out the full potential of each and every bean.

Their Direct Trade program provides  education and guidance to smaller producers,  ultimately bringing about the best quality and satisfaction for all involved, from complete traceability to complexity in the cup.

We cupped several tables, including some microlot coffees, before hopping in the car to drive out to the farms. Another short drive from the city brought us to beautifully manicured and tended-to rows of coffee trees neighbored by other agricultural products, so as to make the best use of the land.

As we wound through the hills from farm to farm, we came across Carmo's unique and very sustainable practice for pruning. They are beginning to remove every other row to allow for more space between rows.  Also, instead of stumping their trees, they trim off the branches and tops, leaving behind only the stem. The system works on a two-year rotational cycle. After a tree has produced cherry and has been completely harvested, it is trimmed down to the stem. The following year, the tree will produce leaves, but no cherry. The year after that, the tree will produce an abundant amount of high quality cherry (four times as much) to be harvested, then pruned down to stem again. Although they've been practicing this method for a short time, they've experienced great success.

Download Zero Harvest Pruning System PDF Presentation.

 

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The foundation of CarmoCoffees is pretty stellar. This statement in particular really stands out to me: "CarmoCoffees is a partner of the coffee producer. Based on values such as transparency, collaboration, sustainability and admiration, the company supports the grower, offering technical agronomical and commercial assistance so that he/she can produce more efficiently, add value to the product and later receive better differentials during commercialization."

Similar to what I have experienced since working for Café Imports, it is incredible to see a company so honestly dedicated to their work and craft; a huge emphasis of that dedication focuses on bettering people's quality of life.  

On our last day in Brasil, we enjoyed a slow morning at Unique Cafes filled with espressos, cappuccinos, gibraltars and warm pão de queijo. As we strolled through the city park, sipping naturally sparkling water, I couldn't help but feel so extremely fortunate for the incredible hospitality we received during our entire visit and excitement and anticipation for the next time we would meet.

-Caitlin Cooreman

for more photos from our 2014 Brazil origin trip Click Here

 

 

 

 

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