Understanding Fermentation and Coffee

Humans love fermented foods so much you’d think we’d have pickled ourselves by now: We can’t seem to get enough bread, sauerkraut, wine, yogurt, cheese, chocolate, or, of course, coffee. Well, coffee’s not a fermented beverage per se, but fermentation does play a part in the creation of this drink we love, and since we are insatiably curious about every step in the process we have attempted to learn and absorb as much as we can about the importance and the impact of fermentation on coffee quality and flavor. Click here to read more about what we’ve discovered in our reading, research, and experience.

Introducing: Farm Select

In response to the diversity of the market and the growing amount of high-quality coffee available from farms of all sizes, we are pleased to announce a new Farm Select initiative in order to offer our customers greater traceability on midsize single-farm lots that are reasonably priced and hit a solid, reliable level of quality.

Origin Report: Colombia 2018

Colombia is a home away from home for us, and we travel there so often it almost feels more like a regular commute than a big-deal coffee trip these days. This year, maybe more than ever, it’s been especially important for us to spend time and share physical space with our producer partners, as continued weather disruptions and a tumbling market threaten to cause a crisis of confidence. Here’s our latest dispatch from the harvest currently underway in Huila and Nariño.

A Note from Cafe Imports Australia about the C Market

In response to many of the questions, concerns, and conversations happening in the global speciality-coffee community lately, we wanted to take a moment to share what we know and how we feel about the current state of the C Market.

Origin Report: Nicaragua 2018

We are in love with Nicaragua, and when we fall for a place, we fall hard. Over the past couple of years, our focus has been on the small specialty producers of Dipilto in Nueva Segovia, nurturing relationships that display huge potential, as well as a continued commitment to the cooperatives with whom we’ve enjoyed strong, stable partnerships for years. While the past few months have been especially hard on the people of this beautiful country, we have found much to celebrate in the highland farms and with the growing specialty-coffee sector: We bet that by the end of this report, you’ll be just as in love—and just as devoted—as we are.

Colombia Best Cup 2018 – Registration now open

Colombia is a special place to us in general at Cafe Imports, but it’s also the coffee-growing country where the Best Cup competition was born: Along with our partners at Banexport, we created this regional competition to highlight the best and brightest within several of the country’s specific growing areas, beginning with Cauca and Huila. For this year’s cupping contest and auction, we are thrilled to expand our reach to the Nariño and Tolima departments in order to discover even more top-shelf lots from the world’s best smallholder producers.

Previously, on “Variety: Unknown…”

Cafe Imports longtime green-coffee buyer for Colombia, Andrew Miller had seemingly stumbled on exactly the type of coffee mystery we love: He tasted something on the cupping table that he could hardly describe, let alone identify. What *are* these mystery coffee beans?

SCA Expo 2018 Flavor Station Recap: Do You Have Good Taste?

This year at SCA Expo, we wanted to have a little fun with flavor, while also gathering data about a (very) random sample of coffee professionals in order to continue asking ourselves about our competency as tasters, and how we can improve—both within our ranks at Cafe Imports, of course, but also how we can help others improve, especially the folks we work with all along the supply chain.

For the three days of SCA Expo 2018 in Seattle, we set up a Flavor Station at the Cafe Imports booth, with different things to taste each day. The idea was to offer show-goers an opportunity to stop for just a minute, taste something other than coffee for a change of pace, and maybe get a small sense of what we are doing when we taste coffee in the cupping lab—something a bit more nuanced and hopefully more constructive and practical than a simple “Loved it,” “Hated it.”

Perfect Strangers: A Sourcing Story

Every stranger might be the friend you haven’t met yet, and in coffee, the way we meet each other is sometimes simply a matter of pure chance and in unusual circumstances.

Origin Report: Mexico + Guatemala 2018

Sometimes the easiest things to overlook are those that are right under our noses-or, in the case of Mexico, perhaps right under our borders. Mexico should have everything going for it as a growing country: Its close proximity to the U.S.A. means shipping and receiving coffees is a relative breeze. It’s full of good varieties farmed sustainably, with a high percentage of certified coffees (both Fair Trade and organic). And it has huge development potential from a quality standpoint. Yet Mexico has seemed to be passed over unenthusiastically for the past few years, considered best for “bulk” or blending lots that are hard to get excited about.

Perhaps ironically, however, Mexico’s neighbor to the south, Guatemala, is one of the darlings of the Central American growing region – a reputation deservedly granted thanks to the exquisite profile and general stable productivity there, of course – but the contrast in impressions among the two countries has inspired us to ask whether the grass is really greener on the other side? What difference does a border make? How can we bridge that gap not only in our perception of the coffees, but also manage to equalize them to and with our customers?

Read more for our latest origin report from Mexico and Guatemala, coffee-growing neighbors who have been around the block a few times.

Origin Report: Kenya 2018

Kenyan coffee is undoubtedly some of the most complex in the world—in more ways than one.

Starting with the most obvious, coffees from this beautiful East African country are big, colorful mosaics of flavor, and tasting the best of the best Kenyans can feel like the coffee equivalent of standing directly inside a rainbow with your mouth open, as if you could taste color.

Then there’s the complicated way that the market operates there: Traditionally dominated by the generations-old auction system, buying specific, individual lots is no easy feat, and not for the weak of heart or light of palate.

Perhaps the most complex thing about Kenyan coffee, however, is the set of ethical questions it raises for us, and the challenges it presents to us as a square peg we have spent decades trying to fit into the round hole of traceability, partnership, and consistency.

Open Door: Costa Rica 2018 Dates Announced

The Open Door program was developed in 2017 to allow our customers to visit our Central American office and lab in San José, Costa Rica. Most Fridays from March through May, guests have the opportunity to walk in to our office and join our Costa Rica–based green-coffee buyer, Luis (“Lucho”) Arocha and sales representative Omar Herrera, to cup coffees and hear about the development work with which we have been involved in Costa Rica. Our producing partners regularly join us for these cuppings, offering unique opportunities for calibration and real-time feedback.

Origin Report: Costa Rica 2018

What does it mean to be “engaged” at origin? What does it mean to develop real, genuine relationships in business? What is the true impact of immersion into the culture of a coffee and the people who grow, harvest, process, and mill it? As curious coffee people, and as importers who try to be conscious of the size of our footprint in more ways than one, we ask ourselves these questions all the time.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answers vary from place to place, from one situation to another: Some producers operate best with little to no interaction from their buyers, while others find a more personal connection to be deeply meaningful—and everything in between.

When it comes to the producers of our microlots from Costa Rica, which is the better option—Face Time, or face-to-face time? Read more about how we strike the balance of being engaged while not being overbearing, and to create healthy, longstanding partnerships in Costa Rica, one of our cornerstone origins.

Variety: Unknown

There are still some unknowns in coffee—lots, actually—but this one in particular has us pretty intrigued… If you like mystery stories with a little bit of adventure and a whole lot of 90+ point cups, this might be right up your alley.

The Rest of the Best Cup

Saying “everyone’s a winner” might be a cliché in most instances, but when it comes to the fantastic but not auction-winning coffees we discover at Best Cup events, the saying is actually true—especially for our customers.