This year, we wanted to find a way to honor and highlight the baristas that have chosen to use a coffee sourced in partnership with Cafe Imports at the United States Barista Competition.
And thus, #EliteBaristaSquad was born
The Specialty Coffee Association of America's big event is upon us once again. This year the show is being held in Seattle April 25th-27th
Most of the Café Imports crew will be out at the event, so please come say hi to us. Our booth number is #13095
We are so proud to announce that Sebastian Stephenson of Colonna and Smalls has won the UK Brewers cup and Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood wins Barista Championship using a microlot sourced in partnership with us from the rockstar Elkin Guzman in Pitalito.
Maxwell took us on a "science" adventure wearing a lab coat and lab glasses. He worked with some awesome grape infusions to complement the distinctive flavors in the coffee.
Here is a little video from Elkin. He told us in November that he is fiercely focused on winning the Cup of Excellence in Colombia.
This is the story of Elkin Guzman, and his farm, Finca El Mirador
We recently held our first ever Mexican cupping competition in the dusty little coffee town of Jaltenango, that sits in a valley of the Sierra Madre mountain range in Chiapas.
It was a huge success in that we found 15 lots of exceptional coffee and met a number of quality coffee producers who delivered over 600 bags of coffee above 86 points. Some over 90.
This was our first attempt at an event like this in Mexico; an attempt to find the best producers and best regions of specialty coffee in that country. About twenty cuppers from Ottawa, Philly, Ohio, Mexico and other parts of the US stopped in Jaltenango for two days of farm visits and one very long and intense day of cupping alongside us.
At the end we had 3 coffees above 90 points, 2 above 88 and 10 coffees over 86 points. Coffees from Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Chiapas. From small farms to large estates, from single producers to FTO Co-op members but in general, the most intense and eclectic tables of coffee we have ever seen from Mexico. Incredible diversity of flavor and intensity Here are a couple of examples of the cupping notes;
PSS 90.50, Gorgeous, floral, perfect harmony, vibrant balanced taste, creamy, stone fruit, floral, pomegranate, custard, lemon, apple pie, earthy, savory
PSS 92.5 Incredibly juicy, berry acidity, mango, earl grey, pineapple, currant, peach, dark chocolate, sparkly lemon orange.
A big portion of the resources we allocate as a company over the course of a year is dedicated toward digging deep in origin to try and find and engage quality farmers in a country that has historically blended most of its coffee. In Mexico there are 450,000 farmers working on 600,000 hectares, so an average of 1.34 hectares per producer. A "small-holder" centric country like this usually leads to a situation wherein small producers bring their pergamino to town where it gets blended with other coffee from the area. The challenge is to cup each lot of coffee before it gets blended and pick out the gems.
Our export partner in this project, AMSA, has been setting aside top lots from the recent harvest and had pre-cupped 30 coffees that they felt were above 86 points. We cupped three tables of ten and then sorted out the top ten coffees for a "greatest hits" table in the afternoon. There were a few coffee producers in attendance for a barbecue and an awards ceremony. The winning coffee producer was paid $4.50 cents per pound and invited to visit us at the SCAA expo in Seattle this April as part of the prize. The other portion of the prize was 10,000 rust resistant seedlings and a year of technical assistance from SMS the sustainability and technical arm of AMSA. Talk about a cool initiative!
Hopefully, this will get the attention of dedicated coffee producers and let them know that there are roasters out there that value their hard work and dedication and that there ar consumers that value top quality coffee and are willing to pay for it.
We are going back again next year for the second annual... I hope you can come. Thank you in advance for your support of this program.
To see more photos from Mexico CLICK HERE
To see beanologies of these competition coffees, CLICK HERE or simply search "Lo Mejor de Mexico" on our Beanologies page.
Increase the quality of life for those involved--from tree to cup--through the commerce of coffee.
The day is upon us, our very first "Farm Select" decaf lot has landed and is now available for sale.
Brasil Fazenda Rainha Decaf, Yellow Bourbon ID5833
Farm Select Decafs are coffees that are farm specific and sourced intentionally to be highlighted in this program.
With decafs, the equation involving great coffee in, better coffee out always seems to be accurate. Most decafs sold around the world are purchased "spot" from the decaffeination plant, so the importer often doesn't have much say on what went in to create the product. Both Farm Select and Origin Select are coffees we have sourced specifically for this project, essentially changing the game.
Farm Select brings the level of transparancy and traceability into the realm of other microlots we offer.
Fazenda Rainha (pronounced "hi-een-ya") is an award winning farm in Brasil, producing lots that have won the Cup of Excellence. We are so excited by this coffee. Get some while it lasts!
This weekend our very own Joe Marrocco joined Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl on WCCO radio to chat about coffee and its application in restaurants.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (3/22/14 show)
Cesar Urena is the owner/operator at the Don Pepe Micromill, located in San Isidro de Leon Cortez, Costa Rica.
We visited Cesar's Micromill during Cafe Imports trip to Costa Rica for the 2014 harvest, what we discovered was a crown jewel in the treasure trove of Costa Rican coffees this year.
Keep an eye out for Don Pepe's coffees coming in April 2014!
Shot and Edited by Andy Reiland
song: "El Diablo" by Compay Quinto
As I write this recap of my recent trip to Costa Rica, the red dust from the West Valley still lines my shoes. This trip with Piero and Dan of Cafe Imports was a moving and eye opening trip for me, especially since I had the expectations from my trip last year of what I was going to see and experience. I can honestly say that much has changed in just one year in Costa Rica, most for the better, some for the worse.
Starting off with the worse. "Roya" or rust disease is a daunting problem here. Hearing firsthand from the producers what the real effect of a 20+% loss on their crop means for them and their family is heartbreaking. There are serious measures being taken to help manage the rust like sprays and other chemicals, but hearing that the rust can live on a tree for nearly 3 weeks before showing any physical signs was disheartening. These producers must keep an constant eye on their crops, and not only eliminate the rust as they see it, but take preventative steps to try and stop it before it shows its ugly head. They are all preparing for that 20% figure to climb in 2015, so securing good prices for their coffee that is available this year was of extreme importance to keep their operations afloat. I sincerely hope we as an industry can help to solve this problem.
On to the good...
This is our second harvest with a physical operation on the ground in Costa Rica. Piero is living in San Jose, and new this year was his fully operational lab with sample roasting and cupping capabilities. This has given Piero an incredible turnaround time on securing lots, giving feedback to producers, and calibrating with us in Minnesota. Since we are in the middle of harvest and shipping season is beginning, those roaster barrels and gibraltar glasses are seeing a ton of amazing coffees come through them at Piero's hands.
I am always blown away and inspired by the systems in which Costa Rican producers operate in. We continue to see more producers and producing groups build micromills in Costa Rica. Their ability to be able to have the capital and technical knowledge to establish and operate micromills is very much unique to Costa Rica. In most other countries, small producers are responsible for not only caring for their crop and picking only the ripest cherries, but they also have to control fermentation and drying times on a small scale before delivering parchment to its destination. In Costa Rica, many small producers are delivering ripe cherries to a micromill, then the mill is responsible for the very sensitive second part of the processing.
From an operational standpoint, having one micromill with one fearless leader behind it allows for much more consistent quality. Working closely with a micromill on stellar processing is a much less daunting feat than trying to get every small producer on board with the importance of fermentation times and drying profiles. We are fortunate to be working with some amazing micromills this year who are leading the charge on a scientifically backed approach to processing unlike I have ever seen before.
We saw that most mills are drying their coffee to 10.5% moisture before storing in grainpro or plastic lined bags still in parchment or cherry (for naturals). They are then resting their coffee for 30+ days in "reposo" before dry milling and preparing for export. This lower moisture standard is what we hypothesize contributes to the longevity of this coffee. Every micromill we visited had moisture meters this year; a big improvement from the old "mouth test" in which parchment is crunched between the teeth by the producer to gauge the moisture. We saw some impressively built and engineered raised beds, and equally impressive parabolic patio dryers with proper ventilation and placement in direct lines of the common wind flow. Processing here is done with intention, and producers are sharing knowledge with one another at a rate unlike I have ever seen before. We even were able to taste some really exciting experiments with new varieties like SL28 and Geishas that lead me to believe the best is yet to come in Costa.
We held a soccer tournament gathering together some of the major growing regions and top producers within those regions at the Aguilera Bro's regulation sized field they literally carved out of the side of the hills on their property. Teams included Rio Jorco Micromill, Aguila Bros Micromill, Tarrazu, and West/Central Valley. While the game was exhilarating and great fun, I couldn't help but be drawn to the small conversations and tours between the Aguilera Bros and the other visiting producers. I was swept away by a flood of questions about technique, machinery, varieties, processes, theory from one producer to another in this setting. We were told that a "meeting of the minds" on this scale is extremely rare. Imagine if all the top chefs in the world all met for a BBQ and pickup game of baseball; the things that would be talked about, and the knowledge that would be passed around. That is how I felt this soccer tournament was. What a special thing to be a part of. In the end, the Aguilera Bros won the title, and are reigning champs until next year...
After cupping 8 full tables over two days with Piero, I am confident we are going to have some of the most immaculate coffees coming out of Costa Rica this year. Places like Rio Jorco, Las Lajas, La Perla Del Negra, Aguilera Bros, Don Pepe, Don Sabino, Coopetarrazu, and more are partnering with Piero in a way like never before with our lab in San Jose and our investments like prefinancing and education. Our commitments and partnerships with all of these producers has increased significantly, and in return I believe we are able to secure their best lots.
This was an amazing trip. After thinking about everything we saw on this trip it reaffirmed my belief in our company culture and the way in which we do honest business. The operations we have abroad and what Piero has built in Costa Rica just beams with integrity, and I am so proud to be a part of this team and see the continued transformation in Costa Rica.
(Photo and Video cred: Andy Reiland)