"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 firstname.lastname@example.org to order yours before the are gone!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
for more photos from our 2014 Brazil origin trip Click Here
"A Film About Coffee" Minneapolis Screening! get your tickets for through our friends at Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Co. HERE
Screening November 6th at St. Anthony Main Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Doors open at 6:30 pm with screening starting at 7:00 pm, for more information visit afilmaboutcoffee.com.
*Please bring record of purchase for entry to the show.
Gishawama Island, located in Lake Kivu, Rwanda, has over thirty-five thousand coffee trees planted with environmental harmony in mind. This farm is certified Fair Trade Organic, and is amongst forestry that provides a level of shade much greater than typical African coffee. Also, by nature of Gishamwana's isolation from other coffee, many of the other natural coffee diseases and pests quite simply have not made the boat over.
The coffee is grown, washed, and dried all on the same island - a truly remarkable production resulting in an even more amazing Cup.
Be on the lookout for Gishamwana Island Coffee, as our Rwanda containers arrive this fall.
We are excited to announce a much more functional and useful offering page for you to use as a tool in your pursuit of the finest coffees on the planet.
-Simplified Location Tabs
-Real Time Search Functionality By Keyword or Flavor Note
-"Whats Hot" scrolling section so you can see the coffees we are freaking out about now
-Sort by Any Column
-Robust "Help and Instructions" Page
Please see some of the new features we are introducing! Play with the page and let us know what you think!
In July, Joe, Piero, Andy, and I had the pleasure of leading the annual Cafe Imports Barista Origin Trip, a prize given to each of the U.S. regional barista champions, the U.S. national champion, and the world champion. These champions might be laid back (or not) and act like hipsters (or not), but behind whatever image they've chosen as their own are fierce, dedicated professionals who has sacrificed significant portions of their professional and personal time on the altar of coffee. When we plan the Barista Origin Trips, our goal is to give them the keys to the kingdom in whatever coffee country we're going to. We want them to feel like kid's at Disneyland, to see things that surprise and awe them, and to leave with a renewed passion for coffee and this industry that we love.
As it turns out, Ecuador pretty much blows you away all on its own so our jobs in this case were to hang on and capture as much of it as possible in the time we had.
Our adventure started in Quito in northern Ecuador. Quito is the capital city and, at more than 9,000 feet above sea level, is the highest capital city in the world. Quito is surrounded by 'cloud forests,' which meant that we woke up on our first morning in Ecuador to this view:
After a quick breakfast at our hotel, some friendly commiserating about altitude sickness, and justifiably dubious forays into the hotel's coffee, we loaded into the small bus that would be our second home for the next four days and hit the road to go visit some farms. It took several hours to reach our first destination, during which I happily absorbed the interesting mix of impassioned, professional discussion on brewing methods and competition rules, life stories, and 'that's what she said'-esque jokes that were flowing thickly between the baristas and our crew.
Our first visit of the day was to producer Fabian Lomas' farm. The Cafe Imports crew was especially excited to explore this particular farm. This May we cupped a new variety that they've been growing, named Sidra, that blew us all away. It broke the 95 point barrier and had us waxing poetically about tropical fruits, wild floral sweetness, and freshly pressed cider. Joe actually roasted some and brought it with us on the trip so after a morning of exploring the farm, we all retreated to brew up some of the coffee that had come from those very trees. Most of the baristas were trying Sidra for the first time and it was exciting to watch them experience the same awe and joy of discovery that we had.
On a personal note, this was my first trip to origin and standing in the sunshine biting into a coffee cherry that I'd just picked off the tree is an experience that will stay with me a long time. I wasn't alone in that experience and I could not have handpicked a more eclectic and dedicated band of coffee travelers to experience that with.
After we explored the farm itself, we toured the beds where the coffee is dried and the machines used to process it. Because the volume of coffee is relatively small from this particular farm, the machinery involved in processing was much smaller in scale and more labor-intensive in operation. This was my first glimpse into the amazing ingenuity that producers use to achieve their processing objectives. A variety of tools and machines had been repurposed and combined. The ingenuity and attention to detail reminded me of visiting a craft artisan in the U.S. and seeing lovingly refurbished original machinery.
After saying our grateful farewells to our hosts, we climbed back into the bus and headed for another nearby farm, Finca Maputo. Finca Maputo is owned by a doctor and his wife. It was fascinating to hear his perspective on the spread and treatment of rust. At one point when we were marveling at the quick, robust recovery of his trees from what would normally have been a devastating brush with rust, he simply said 'I'm a doctor. I know how to apply medicine.'
Finca Maputo is a relatively large farm and its processing facilities reflected that in both scale and automation. It also had a large nursery where they're experimenting with different ways to grow trees that are healthy enough to withstand rust.
After a lovely lunch with our hosts at their home, we headed to a private ecological reserve where we spent the evening relaxing and getting to know one another more.
The next day we headed to a dry mill owned and run by Ena Galletti and her husband Don. Ena is a larger than life personality and the number of coffee-related activities she has her hand in is truly astounding. She and her family do everything from growing to milling to roasting, not just for themselves but for a wide range of farmers in the sprawling northern region.
Ena walked us through the mechanics of her dry mill and coffee roastery and also treated us to a blind cupping. The Sidra once again peeked through as the favorite among the group, but there were definitely some other promising coffees on the tables. We also got a chance to meet some local baristas, who stopped by to say hi but had to hurry off because they were preparing for a barista jam that we'd be attending later that evening.
We spend the afternoon taking a tour of Quito, which is full of interesting colonial history. That evening, after a very full day already, we pulled up outside of a gorgeous white converted church where the barista jam would be held. Because the local producers and baristas had arranged this event, we weren't sure exactly what to expect. It didn't really matter because even if someone had told us how epic the event would be, we wouldn't have believed them. Baristas from around the city were there. Producers were there. And tons of the city's coffee fans were there. By the time things got rolling, it was literally standing room only.
The jam was held in a relatively large chapel and the juxtaposition of religious iconography, espresso machines and siphons, disco lights, and pumping local music should have been strange but somehow worked. The baristas answered questions from the crowd, gave demonstrations on how to pour latte art, and had a latte art throwdown. And took lots and lots of pictures with grinning fans.
After another night in Quito, we all piled into the bus for a 5 hour drive (aka extreme group bonding time) out to Hacienda Primavera, a 'wilderness ecolodge' owned by Ena's family. Hacienda Primavera is easily one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen and after a couple days of intense traveling, it was a sweet relief to arrive somewhere that virtually demanded that you relax.
The baristas spent the afternoon horseback riding (many for the very first time) and then we headed out to see the wet mill Ena's organization runs. They were having some water issues because a line had been cut so while the producers waited for the water tank to fill up, Ena took us on a short hike down to a nearby river. At which point pretty much everyone stripped down to various undergarments and jumped in.
By the time they'd gotten the water situation straightened out and fired up the wet mill, it was dark out. We spent a long time watching the producers dump bags of perfectly ripe cherries into the tank, reaching down and tasting the different varieties and comparing notes with one another, listening as Ena and Joe took turns explaining the exact mechanics of the machine we were watching, holding out our hands to catch the mucilage-free beans as they came out of the chute, and examining the green coffee for size and insect damage. More importantly, we were all sorting through what we were seeing and experiencing and tying it back to our own roles in the coffee supply chain.
Ena is a larger than life personality and it should have come as no surprise that the evening was not over after our wet mill experience. We went back to Hacienda Primavera and ended up dancing late into the night to an Afro-music band that had driven out from who-knows-where to come play for just our small band of merry travelers. I didn't take an official headcount, but the band may have had more members in it than were in our party.
The next day after a quick stop at the equator to test all of the equator 'myths' Joe had been telling us about (which all turned out to be true), we were off to Guayaquil in the south, where we'd spend the final two days of our whirlwind tour of Ecuador.
Our first day in Guayaquil started with a trip to a large, low elevation robusta farm. The differences between the small, mountainous arabica farms we'd seen in the north and the sprawling, flat, orderly robusta farm were striking. With it's underground drip irrigation systems, droves of seasonal workers, and neat uniform rows of short, easy-to-pick trees, the robusta farm could have been any small scale agricultural operation in the States.
After showing us the robusta side of his operation, which is a relatively new endeavor, the manager of Hacienda Victoria showed us his real passion--and something we'd been looking forward to all week--his cacao farm. The parallels between cacao and coffee were surprising. Both grow in pods on a tree, have to be removed from their outer fruit, and are set out to dry. The texture and flavor of cacao straight out of the pod, still covered in its spongy white fruit is almost impossible to describe, like a combination of honey, tropical fruit, and rich cream. It reminded me of good oysters, fleshy and sweet.
After thoroughly interrogating their resident processing expert about the different drying systems they're experimenting with and whether any of the techniques they're trying would translate to coffee, we retired to an airy pavillion on a hill overlooking the farm for a chocolate tasting and lunch.
After lunch we got to hang out on the farm. Hide found a zip line that went out to an island in a small lake and the baristas took turns trying to make it across without ending up in the lake. There was a full scale ring for bull-fighting, complete with fake practice bull (essentially horns attached to a large trike), which we also made good use of.
On our final day in Guayaquil, we had a free day. All you really need to know about that day can be summed up in this picture:
As we slowly parted ways on our various flights, two things struck me. First, that we were extremely lucky to have shared this experience with such a fantastic group of people. The hugs as we all parted were real. Second, that our objective--of breathing new life into each of our passion's for coffee--had been more than achieved, thanks to the naturally intoxicating beauty of Ecuador and the warm dedication of its coffee community.
for a full photo album from the trip, Click Here
The modern story of Faribault Woolen Mills is one that defines a current revolution among millenials: the desire and movement to get back to the roots of our nation and honor the craftsmen that literally helped build this country (maybe one of the few silver linings of the most recent recession). Call it what you will, heritage goods, Made in America products, craft goods; their growth in popularity is indicative of an increasing demand for products made by the sweat and love of individual hands in places with a legacy of American craftwork.
Faribault Woolen Mills has been manufacturing products since 1865, and still holds many of the military and state contracts they have had for generations. When I asked, "Do you carry a 'commercial' line and a 'heritage' line'?", I was told, "Look around you at all these old machines and these people; we can't produce something that isnt 'heritage'." Faribault makes products well, because it's all they know. Their success in recent years reaching a more discerning and younger audience proves that they are the real deal.
Driving to Faribault to meet with the people behind this rejuvenated company that operates the oldest wool mill in the country, I couldn't help but draw a direct parallel between the heritage product movement and the explosion of high end specialty coffee. Both industries rely on a customer base of people that truly value having a connection to the products in their lives. People pay more for heritage goods knowing that their purchase is supporting a greater good and directly impacting real American families, while also providing them with something that will stand the test of time.
The same is true for specialty coffee; our customers in specialty coffee pay more for a product that they can be connected to and, quite frankly, is more delicious than the less expensive options. "More delicious" in coffee and "well built" in heritage products are the same concept - things brought to market with intention and purpose, representing a revolution in how we spend our money, increasing the perceived value per dollar significantly.
So this is why we at Cafe Imports enjoy highlighting craftsmen from all industries. We all are riding our bikes in the same direction, and often times share the same customer base.
Cafe Imports has teamed up with Faribault Woolen Mills to produce a one of a kind wool throw whose design is inspired by coffee. All of the proceeds from the sale of this throw will benefit the wonderful charity organization, Coffee Kids. We are excited for you to see this design. We don't want to let the cat out of the bag yet on it, but suffice it to say, you are going to love it.
There will be a VERY limited supply of these, so we suggest emailing email@example.com to pre-reserve your throw before they drop to the general public. The throws are 50"x70" and will retail for $159.
Here is to giving a damn about where the products in our life come from, and doing our best to honor the hard work involved from tree to cup and sheep to loom across the world.