"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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
On our most recent trip to Colombia, there were a select group of producers who's coffee made a huge statement at our cupping tables. We had the opportunity to visit a number of these producers to get a behind the scenes tour and ask them what makes their coffee and processing so excellent. More to come as coffees arrive, but here are a few of the microlots from Huila and Cauca that you can expect to see in our offerings this fall!
As Cafe Imports' Media-Pro, my mission is to tell the story of where exactly our coffee comes from by creating a visual narrative. Traveling to origin with an objective to properly document and authentically depict the people and places behind the scenes creates a coffee profile above and beyond geo-tags and altitude measurements. For every farm/mill/or washing station that we visit, I will be making a media package comprised of a compelling photo album, an informative video/interview, and inspired graphic design.
What's even better is that whenever we complete said media package, we send the digital content to the producer for them to use at their own liberty to market their coffee. We also aim to provide the content through our beanologies to anyone else who wishes to use it in marketing the coffees - in the name of celebrating origin coffee producers, and all of the efforts they have made to provide us with supreme, high quality coffee.
With that said, there are plenty of adventures ahead to jump start, dare I say, an ambitious, long-term project ;)
In early June, we took a coffee field trip to Burundi and Rwanda with a skeleton Cafe Imports' crew - myself, Jason, and a new CI green buyer, Luis. At our finest moments, it felt like we were the three best friends that anyone could have - a triple threat of "Snap, Crackle, and Pop" proportions, to put it in relative terms.
From the camera's perspective, Burundi and Rwanda were on a visual landscape unlike I've ever seen before. From the lush, abundant agricultural climate, to the inherently vibrant lifestyle; the amiable spirit found within the communities were complemented by the beautiful, bright colors that highlight life in the market places. There was so much daytime activity, that by the afternoon, my eyes would be strained from trying to keep up with the amount of mind-blowing roadside commotion.
After several 3+ hour car rides, it seemed near impossible to go more than 50 meters without seeing a dozen people walking roadside, all of whom appear to have accomplished ten-fold what I could have in the short daylight hours, usually carrying their entire days work on their head or on the back of a bike, taking it somewhere very important, and probably far away. It was incredible and inspiring - I thought I was something special biking home with two grocery bags hanging off my handle bars...
One of our trips in particular we ran into some construction traffic at the beginning of a long developing road outside of Lake Kivu...Our guide/driver shrugged his shoulder and exclaimed: "the Chinese". After asking for an explanation, it became clear to me: In the US, we often outsource jobs to China...the difference is that in China, they outsource their labor. As it turns out China has worked out some deals with Rwanda to help in it's development, I am not sure of all the details, but it is a pretty amazing operation to witness. The road we embarked on is currently under construction, and when I say under construction, I mean its been 3 years in the making, physically carving the road out of a hillside, and there is probably just as much time until it is finished.
Ive always wanted to sit in one of those cool bus seat/safari style landrover/land cruisers, and on this trip I was living out that dream - however, after an incredibly bumpy 4 hour ride on unpaved developing roads in sideways bus seating with nothing to hold on to but my fragile media gadgets, lets just say that dream is now somewhat jaded. Besides the crippling terrain, the road project on Lake Kivu is an incredible site, hundreds of workers and scores of trucks, you couldn't help but be in awe of the dedication and determination of the communities surrounding the developing roads, and how exciting it will be when they are fully finished and paved.
okay enough about roads, geez!
We visited 4 washing stations in Burundi, as well as the Sivca Dry Mill. In Rwanda we cupped with COOPAC and visited 7 Stations. At every washing station there was often an open, communal feel as surrounding residents would come and observe us visiting in a genuinely enthusiastic welcoming manner. Workers at the various stations were very excited about our visits and in some instances voluntarily jumped in front of the camera in order to properly document the fruits of their labor.
Carrying a fancy camera brought me lots of attention; at any point I could turn around and discover that I had a school of children following behind me as if I was the Pied-Piper of intrigued African youth.
Cupping at Coopac was a beautiful experience. The attention to detail in their cupping lab was immaculate. The environment was one that demanded nothing short of excellence. After cupping, the on-site roasters had plenty of questions to pick Jason and Luis' brains with. They were incredibly grateful for any feedback on how they could improve the quality of the coffees.
On an exciting nerdy media note, this trip marked the inaugural use of the DJI Phantom Quadcopter in our origin coverage. It's essentially a remote controlled hobby flying device that you can attach a go pro camera to - similar to a "drone" as many have called it....I prefer to refer to it as an "Aerial Camera Robot". Regardless I somehow made it through international Customs with only a few raised eyebrows, and was able to film some obscenely amazing footage at various washing stations throughout Burundi and Rwanda.
Almost more exciting than the footage, was the reaction to the Phantom/go-pro from the washing station workers and surrounding towns. While filming at the Kinyovu washing station, about 200 people showed up laughing and cheering as I pretended to know what I was doing, staring into direct sunlight and hoping not to steer it into deep African forest, never to be seen again. After landing the spectacular flying camera robot, we packed up and hopped in the car to go to our next location. As we vacated the scene, we were surrounded as if we were Justin Bieber and posse leaving an arena concert in a stretch Hummer limo or whatever that kid boots around town in.
see the first take off below:
Our visits to the washing stations were a little later than ideal, meaning we did not get to see much cherry, or processing, and only about 15% of the drying beds were in use, rounding out the final pickings of this years crop. However, One advantage of this was catching the workers and managers at a "mission accomplished" stage of the harvest season: Jutes full of coffee stacked to the ceiling ready to ship, and a sense of accomplishment in the air.
We were able to interview all of the station managers that we visited, and a great sense of pride was communicated through enthusiastic French, often going in depth about how meticulous their processing methods are as well as how important the coffee crop is for their economy. Be on the look out for some great interviews, as well as some special featured farmer profiles this fall.
A major highlight of the trip was visiting the washing stations on Lake Kivu with COOPAC in Rwanda. After arriving by boat to our first Lake Kivu washing station, we found a makeshift stage set up adjacent to the drying beds, quickly discovering that there were plans for a performance as locals started to congregate and form an audience. I had seen traditional Rwandan dance before, but nothing out of a middle school gymnasium in Wisconsin, so I had a feeling that this was going to be a little more "authentic". After about 45 minutes of an incredibly captivating, powerful performance, I sat down and placed my camera equipment on the ground; I heard a large gasp from the surrounding audience, and realized it was directed towards me. I turned to Emmanuel, the owner of Coopac, wondering if I had done something wrong, and he just laughed. I found out later that sitting down was a way of expressing that you are impressed - I guess i'm glad I played hard to get.
After the performance we visited a washing station located on a small island in Lake Kivu called Gishamwana. I spoke to Emmanuel about how I was excited to supply artwork for COOPAC's coffees - I mean a washing station where the coffee is grown, washed, and dried all on the same island? - that's a Cafe Imports media pro's dream!
Overall an incredible trip, and now I get to relive it while I dig through about 120 GB of media. I'll save the rest of the storytelling for the videos, they tend to paint a better picture then me anyways - From aerial camera robot footage, to incredible ground level "slice of life" encounters on the road, I feel highly equipped to compliment these amazing coffees from Burundi and Rwanda with some awesome artwork this fall.