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October 2015 Archives

Watch the Cropster Demo Live Stream with Norbert Niederhauser

Last night, Cropster CEO Norbert Niederhauser visited Café Imports for an in-depth demonstration of his software. This live streamed event included two roast demonstrations, a thorough presentation on the Cropster framework, as well as a Q&A.

Thank you to everyone who tuned in online and submitted questions, thank you to everyone who made it over to our coffee mill as our "live studio audience", and thank you especially to Norbert for volunteering his time and expertise!

This was our first ever live streaming event, and we look forward to exploring this avenue of communication further! We had viewers tuned in from USA, Australia, Canada, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Mexico, UK, Russia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Thailand, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, France, Japan, Italy, Phillipines, Poland, Guatemala, Singapore, Portugal, Peru, and Indonesia -- wooo! 

If you missed the live stream, no need to worry, we have posted the video to our Vimeo channel to live as an archived video stream for all the rest of time!


Blog: Meister goes to Ecuador

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Nestled between two coffee giants, Colombia and Peru, Ecuador is a small country with a lot of coffee potential: Fantastic elevation, good varieties, and lush farmland should put this Equator-straddling South American nation at the top of everyone's origin lists, but this is one case in which size actually might matter. The relatively limited scope of coffee growing in general, and specialty-coffee grade coffee specifically, has kept the country flying a little bit below the radar.

Café Imports bought its first half-container from Ecuador in 2012, and since then, the number of outstanding coffees has grown, alongside strong relationships with producing partners and millers who are as quality-obsessed as we are. This year, we're excited to bring in 2 containers of microlots and another half-container of FTO-certified coffee--a sure sign that things are getting bigger and better in the region's specialty-coffee scene.

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In July of 2015, Café Imports green buyer Piero Cristiani, senior sales associate and education director Joe Marrocco, and I traveled around Ecuador along with a passel of our roaster-partners, visiting some of the intrepid and entrepreneurial farmers and beneficio managers who are actively trying to make a bigger place for Ecuadorean coffee on the specialty-coffee map. In the too-short week we had together, we were able to cup from more than 30 microlots up for offer; see and taste the results of some intensely focused variety experimentation; learn about variations in processing methodology and technology; meet several great farm dogs; and confirm first-hand that yes, you can actually balance an egg on the head of a nail at the Equator.

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Some of the most exciting things we witnessed on this trip were growers' enthusiasm and curiosity about new varieties: From experimentation with SL-28 transplanted from Kenya; to harvests of a new Ecuador-specific variety called Sidra, which is only in its first, second, or third generation at most of its host farms--we were able to compare different processes' effect on single varieties, as well as different varieties processed identically and grown on different parts of the same farm, ostensibly developing characteristics inherent to their type. 

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We visited Henry and Verena Gaibor on their multi-farm property in La Perla, Nanegal, and were treated to a tour of their different lots (Finca Maputo and Finca Hakuna Matata will be familiar to fans of Cafe Imports's Ecuador offerings; coffees from both will be back this year), walking through the variety-specific lots bursting with healthy Typica, SL-28, Bourbon, Kaffa, and Caturra trees. Following Henry is quite a feat: He's as fast a walker as he is a talker, and we scuttled along behind him listening to the story of how he and Verena met in Burundi, where they were both working with Doctors Without Borders. Back up by the house, we inspected the parabolic drying system and small mechanical dryer the Gaibors employ, while making fast friends with the family dog, Rex.

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A few days later, we sleepily shuffled onto a short flight to Cuenca town, and watched the landscape change on a long drive up winding mountainsides to Hacienda La Papaya: the farm and guest houses owned and operated by Juan Pena. Don Juan (which is a very fitting descriptor, especially if you catch the ray of sunshine in his wide smile) is a multi-generation farmer, but he's very new to coffee: A former long-stem-rose producer, he started experimenting with coffee plants 5 years ago, when disastrous weather struck and wiped out his flower fields. Turning entirely to coffee, he has worked to develop as healthy, hardy, and horticulturally intentional a farm as possible, with a very well-nurtured plant nursery and a "garden of inputs" on the property. (The "inputs garden" is something new on me: He has coffee trees planted several yards apart and labeled with the fertilizer inputs they're given, to track the impact of the nutrients on growth and cherry development. You might not find it surprising to hear that the most purely chemical of the fertilizers had created the weakest and saddest looking tree...)

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GOPR5558.jpgOf course, our group was also able to enjoy the beauty of the country, and the pleasure of each other's company: We took a side jaunt to the "real" Equator (identified since the advent of GPS technology, correcting a case of mistaken identity that has caused there to be dueling tourist traps), drank enough blackberry juice to have purple teeth, hand-brewed coffee at 1900 meters for each other, and temporarily shared a bedroom with a pair of curious chickens--at least Hadassah from Square One Coffee and I did, anyway.

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I've always liked to think that great things come in small packages (because I'm a pretty small package myself), but Ecuador's small but mighty, and mightily growing specialty-coffee industry proves that old adage all over again. We hope to see even more coffees from these beautiful farms (and more) next year, but for right now, sit back, and enjoy the fresh crop of coffees that have just arrived.

- Meister

For more information about Meister, click here

For a photo album from Meister's trip to Ecuador, click here (photos by Joe Marrocco)

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Cauca Best Cup 2015

A Smattering of the top 12 Cauca Best Cup lots will be available in our offerings along with the #13-#30 lots. All coffees are scheduled to ship out of Colombia this week! Until then enjoy this play-by-play from the event by Café Imports Europe's Gabe Dunn:

"Súbale! Súbale! Súbale!" The hoard of mildly intoxicated spectators chanted as the bidding war ensued. Joey Trujillo, of Reno-based coffee roaster The Hub, coordinates with an imaginary angel investor via cell phone, while he signals to Coen (his Dutch partner in crime) to increase the bid. A nonplussed Pil Hoon Seu, all the way from South Korea's Coffee Libre, rolls his eyes and tops the bid with zero hesitation. The auction participants may also have been mildly intoxicated.

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Something about this bizarre display caused me to snap out of my delirium to ask myself how we got here. This marks our 2nd year operating the Cauca Best Cup competition, officially making it an annual event. If you missed our recap of the event last year, you can find it HERE. This year marked another resounding success and differentiated itself primarily in scale. Bigger is better, they say.

With our partners at Banexport, roughly 500 lots were assembled from various producers around the state of Cauca. This is up from last year's 200 submissions. These can be larger lots from associations, collections from a small community, or just from a single farmer. Over the course of a few weeks these 500 coffees were whittled down to a mere 30. We then organize a jury of established roasters from around the world to cup through these final 30 and rank the top 12. Finally, these 12, the cream of the crop (heh), are auctioned off on the final day.

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There were a couple motives at play when it came to organizing this event. The first of which was to show off the beauty and variance that can exist within a relatively small set of parameters. The contributors are all producers within a single state, growing in the same climate, with similar terroir, processing methods, and varieties. Yet even within this degree of limited variation, we're encountering a vast range of characteristics. From delicate florals reminiscent of jasmine tea, to heavy, syrupy viscosity, like that of something that syrupy and viscous, Cauca has something for the whole family.

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The second, and arguably more important, motive is to highlight producers and the literal fruits of their labor. At the end of the day, it's all about giving credit where it's due. This credit largely comes in the form of big-time cash-monies. Dolla billz. C.R.E.A.M.  While the standard microlot in Colombia fetches somewhere around 3.00 USD/lb. for the producer, the top coffee in this competition went for $31.50 USD. Second and third went for $20.40 USD and $16 respectively. To paint a picture, these premiums are over $10,000 greater than what they would typically earn. When looking at the entire event, the auction garnered an additional $77,000 paid to the top 12 producers for their coffees. This equates to real, tangible change for each of these people. This allows them to reinvest in their farms, families, and communities. It also sends a message to other producers around the country, showing them what is possible when the right steps are followed for quality. It's hard not to be excited about this program.

Do-goodery aside, this trip is an absolute blast. Case in point: The big bad motha that was getting us from the cupping table to the farms. 

IMG_2892.jpgOrganizing transportation and logistics for a group of 30+ over-caffeinated nerds high on altitude sickness isn't without its challenges. It seems only fitting that our principal means was an iconic chiva with all of the bells and whistles, not unlike the one chosen for the event's logo. This thing puts to bed the notion that one must choose fashion over function. Traveling with this level of style is totally worth the damaged eardrums incurred by the country's finest reggaeton.

Miraculously, this behemoth deftly maneuvered the livestock-laden switchbacks and got us safely to the coffee farms. Though the time allotted didn't allow us to make a dent in our list of farms, we had some stunning visits, including one of the associations that made the top 12. Other than a source for choice marketing material, it's apparently also a great opportunity to learn a thing or two. Here we are at 1800 meters, getting to pick the brains of the agricultural wizards that are effectively responsible for our livelihood. "Humbling" doesn't quite cut it.

IMG_4494.jpgLooking back on the trip leaves me with equal parts satisfaction and apprehension. Sure, everything about this event was a huge success. All of the goals were met: Producers were paid well. Banging coffees were selected. Aguardiente was consumed. Tears were shed. More Aguardiente was consumed. But what's next? For us, we can't help but look at the bigger picture. Why does only Cauca get all the fun? Or Colombia? There's a big world out there, and it's full of tasty coffees produced by amazing people who deserve to be compensated accordingly. Count this as less-than-subtle foreshadowing for similar projects to come. 

-- Gabe 

Gabriel Dunn is Director of Coffee and European Senior Sales, for more info on Gabe click here

For a full photo album of Cauca Best Cup 2015 click here, photos by Caitlin Cooreman

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Farmer Specific Ethiopian Offerings are here!

Due to regulations related to the ECX, coffees with traceability coming out of Ethiopia are an extreme rarity. Through organizations like the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Union, we are proud to work with independent Ethiopian farmers to bring traceable coffees to our Ethiopian offerings since 2011. 

These coffees just landed at our U.S. Warehouse (click for beanology) and get them while you can!:

P#7693 Ayele Dula

p#7694 Zelelu Ararso

P#7695 Tekebo Mekiso

P#7701 Sherebo Waro

P#7699 Mengesha Godi

P#7700 Tegegn Ocholo 

P#7697 Birhanu Bali  

on top of the tracebility, we even have a couple videos for two of our longest standing Ethiopian farmer specfic producing partners: Ayele Dula and Zelelu Ararso -- From the Source