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CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 Recap

Acevedo Cup winners and other stellar coffees of the region will be arriving soon! Order your samples by contacting Sal in the US and Nico in Europe.

Jair Caicedo was this year’s winner, a surprise to many at the awards ceremony on Jan 21, as the young farmer is only 26 years old.

The full list of winners

1. Jair Caicedo, Finca Buena Vista

2. Alberto Calderon, Finca La Esmeralda

3. Carlos Calderon, Finca El Porvenir

4. Carmelo Carmelo Blend:
Oscar Ferney Cruz, Finca Jerico
William Arley Cruz, Finca Jerico

Jaimr Useche Gonzalez, Finca La Luna
Dionar Aleis Useche Gonzalez, Finca Los Alpes

5. Blend:
Otoniel Cordoba, Finca El Jardin
Edilson Calderon, Finca El Tesoro

Manuel Calderon, Finca Mira Flores

6. Jhon Wilson Poveda, Finca Danny

7. Jhon Wilson Poveda, Finca Danny

8. Maria Bercelia, Finca Los Angeles

9. Guillermo Rojas, Finca La Falda

10. Blend:
Miller Norberto Bustos, Finca El Mirador
Jamir Usache, Finca La Luna
Diego Bernal, Finca Primavera
Alexander Granada, Finca El Rinconcito
Jose Ignacio Morales, Finca El Guadual

11. Jhon Wilson Poveda, Finca Danny

12. Maria Bercelia, Finca Los Angeles

13. Wilmer Cuellar, Finca Las Brisas

14. Maria Bercelia, Finca Los Angeles

15. Wilmer Cuellar, Finca Las Brisas

16. Mariano Leal, Finca Las Acacias

17. Luis Vargas, Finca Llanitos

18. Maria Bercelia, Finca Los Angeles

19. Carlos Calderon, Finca El Porvenir

20. Jair Caicedo, Finca Buena Vista

Good years and bad years

The overriding theme of this year’s trip to Acevedo is that producing quality is really hard. Sometimes a farmer does everything right and still their coffee doesn’t make it to 86, the benchmark both CCS and Fairfield have set. Why? This season it was the weather. Heavy rains damaged the flowers resulting in lower yields. And those rains, combined with unusually cold weather, caused problems when drying the coffee, resulting in poorer quality.

This is the heartbreaking part of our job. We have a quality benchmark, and there are many good reasons for setting it at 86, but some years that means rejecting coffee from producers we love and dearly want to support. We wish we could buy all their coffee. This year, the best we could do to support them was show up.


The impact of being there

Being present should not to be underestimated, especially in Colombia. Accepting an invitation into a Colombian’s home, allowing them to nourish you, even with just a snack, shows enormous respect for them, and their respect for you. Maribel Claros Castro, wife of Alexander Ordóñez, prepared us a traditional feast called Asado Huilense, meat marinated in bitter orange and cooked on a wood-fired stove. Alexander has had a bad year, thousands of kilos of his coffee were damaged when unusually cold temperatures hit his region while his coffee was drying. But rather than complain about his financial loss, he thanked us profusely for accepting their invitation for lunch. “My wife is an excellent cook,” he explained.

For the producers, the roasters are the real celebrities. Dillon Edwards of Parlor Coffee joined us on this trip to Acevedo and it was his fourth time in the region in two years. He brought gifts for his treasured producers, including roasted coffee in packages bearing the names of their fincas. For many years Colombia offered just one coffee, “Café de Colombia,” so it is a a genuine surprise and delight for these farmers to know their work as a family is presented directly to coffee consumers. 


Bringing producers together

Events like the CCS Acevedo Cup also present a rare opportunity to collaborate. Seldom are so many producers of specialty coffee in one room together, as they were for the CCS Acevedo Cup awards ceremony. The after-party is as important as the awards presentation itself, the farmers use it to discuss, share and advise. 

Special guests at the event this year were Team Tolima! Alejandro Renjifo of Fairfield Trading is a big advocate of regional collaboration, and this year he invited several producers from Planadas to join us on our farm visits and attend the awards ceremony, including Hernando Gomez, Ivan and Jhon Molano, and Astrid Medina. One of the greatest highlights of this trip was seeing Astrid Medina’s reaction to Maria Bercelia’s unique drying facility on her farm, Finca Los Angeles. What a treat it was to listen as these two rock stars of Colombian coffee discussed the finer points of fermentation and drying.

 


What it means to win

Despite the adverse weather, there was great coffee to cup. While this year's event wasn't the marathon of 2016, we still had 37 lots to taste and overall the cupping scores were higher than last year.

What does it mean to place in the Acevedo Cup? In addition to being recognised in the community, winning a place in the top 20 means a significant financial gain. Jair Caicedo will earn 2,200,000 Colombian pesos per carga (125kg of parchment coffee) for his winning lot. To put that price in perspective, the FNC are currently offering around 800,000 pesos per carga. Once yield rates are taken into account, Jair will earn about three times the current purchase price.

We are so grateful to all the farmers who invited us into their homes, offered us meals and refreshments, listened, shared, and gave us their precious time: Javier Pulgarín and Patricia Rodriguez, Luis Vargas and his family, Alexander Ordoñez and Maribel Claros Castro, and Maria Bercelia and Jose Erazo. We are so humbled by your generous hospitality. See you next year.

Acevedo Cup winners and other stellar coffees of the region will be arriving soon! Order your samples by contacting Sal in the US and Nico in Europe.

Meet a Farmer: Dorothy, Gaharo Hill

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A story that is never told is that of the nano smallholder coffee farmer. I'm referring now to the many coffee smallholders who own less than 500 coffee plants and subsist on coffee as their sole or majority cash crop. The coffee producers that make some of our most exciting coffees each year and reside in places like Kenya, Ethiopia and Burundi. Their stories become anonymous, in large part, due to the sheer reality that it is impossible to engage with thousands of people at a time when buying coffee from the washing stations they sell their cherries to. But each of these farmers matter. From both an inter-relational perspective and also from the future of coffee perspective.

By now you've heard about and read report after report warning the coffee industry that climate change is having an increasingly deleterious effect on coffee production. Producers are increasingly saddled with harder to predict weather patterns, new pests and diseases as a result of these variant weather patterns, and confused plants that can't evolve quickly enough to adjust.

Here is where climate change researchers play a crucial role: it is through their work and collaborations with actors throughout our industry that will help us all try to face the seemingly insurmountable challenges that are developing all too quickly.

One of these researchers is Milda Jonusaite Nordbø, a PhD candidate from the University of Oslo's Department of Sociology and Human Geography. Milda's research is important not just because it's focused on climate change, but especially because it is centred on climate change adaptation. For her PhD dissertation, Milda's honed in on an origin that is dear to us, Burundi.  And through her field work, we will gain insights into how the nano smallholder farmers that produce our amazing coffees first, view their work as coffee producers, and (hopefully) next, how they are adapting to climate change.

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This is Dorothy, a coffee producer who delivers coffee cherries to our partner's, Long Miles Coffee, Bukeye washing station in Kayanza, Burundi. I met Dorothy, through Milda, during CCS' June buying trip this past summer. As part of Milda's data collection methodology, she decided to start a "photo journaling" project whereby chosen farmers were given cameras to document not only their daily life as a coffee farmer, but in particular the most important aspects of their daily life as one.

One of the biggest hindrances in social science research has been in getting as close to the reality of a subject's lived experience, as they truly live it. With photo journaling, there's more direct access to the point-of-view of the subject, rather than the researcher's interpretation of their experience. Yes, the researcher, in interviewing the subject about why they took the photo they did, comes in with their own bias and perspective, but the photos themselves do not lie and so using the photo as the basis for discussion is a great way to get close to what the person perceives as significant.

So, what does a day in the life of Dorothy look like? What does she see as important in her daily work as a coffee producer?

Turns out that Dorothy, along with the other few farmers who participated in her group of the photo journaling project, did not take photos of actual coffee. When asked to take photos of what's really important to them, Dorothy viewed her land and children as most important. This finding may run counter to what we would assume about someone who's sole basis for cash earnings rests on coffee. A question that this might raise is whether Dorothy, in not putting coffee at the forefront of her priorities, is negatively impacting her ability to be a great coffee farmer. It turns out this assumption isn't so.

Over the course of getting to know Dorothy over several weeks of meetings, Milda observed and learned the following:

  • Dorothy is vigilant about mulching and selective picking, which she has learned from working with Long Miles' coffee scouts (agricultural educators and outreach);
  • she views growing coffee in similar terms to raising a child: washing, nurturing, and caring for coffee requires hard work and diligence (e.g. mulching, planting shade trees);
  • she is equally meticulous about quality control - she and her children spend the time to hand sort the harvested cherries prior to delivering them to Bukeye washing station;
  • she is curious about the parts of the coffee chain that are beyond the washing station. When she was handed a copy of Standart Magazine, Dorothy had a million-and-one questions about almost every photo on the magazine's pages. It was the first time she had been introduced to the work of coffee professionals beyond a washing station and she was particularly eager to learn about and compare how coffee producers in other countries work.

Dorothy hadn't thought about the fact that there are non-Burundian coffee producers "out there" and when she saw a photo representing coffee production elsewhere, she immediately understood something more about why cherry quality is so important to the Long Miles team. That is to say that she, as a Burundian coffee farmer, is in competition with coffee farmers from other places. Say, Kenya, for example. Not only is this realization important to Dorothy in providing her with more meaning behind her work, it is crucially important for our industry that farmers know and can feel the significance of their work.

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In finishing up her perusing of the magazine, Dorothy wanted us to pass on a question and message to the customers of her coffee: "Why do we get paid so little?" and "We [coffee producers] think of you when we grow coffee. We wonder if you also think of us." In addition, she wanted us to tell you a few more things: the government is making laws that make coffee farming more and more challenging, and the income she receives from coffee pays for the education of her six children.

-Melanie


Coffees from Burundi are scheduled to arrive on January 15th in Antwerp and January 18th in New Jersey. Contact Sal for availability in NJ and Nico for availability in EU/Asia.

Living Our Values 2017

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It’s that time of year when we pause to review our past and plan for our future. At CCS, we have taken this time to consider why this company was founded, its successes and frustrations, and our hopes for the coming years.

The report, “Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017,” is an attempt to highlight the work we are doing to achieve our mission to “source the right coffee, the right way.”

With this document we aim to hold ourselves accountable to our producers, partners, and customers, and everyone working in specialty coffee.

Before the end-of-year celebrations begin in earnest, we hope you find a moment to read this report. We invite you to question, comment and respond. Please email us at info@collaborativecoffeesource.com with your thoughts.

Read the report: Collaborative Coffee Source, Living Our Values 2017

Matt answers your coffee roasting questions: Loring vs Probat

This week Matt Hassell, Global Buyer, QC & Sample Management for Collaborative Coffee Source, and former roaster for George Howell Coffee, has been fielding your roast questions. Here’s a question from @jstnkndy:

@collaborativeCS You mentioned Loring in your last post, can you talk about your experience with Loring vs drum roasters? #ccsqanda

— Justin Kennedy (@jstnkndy) December 12, 2017

Matt's response:

As I briefly mentioned in the last post, I have worked on two different machines. The Loring Kestrel S35 and a 1950’s Probat UG-22. Looking back, it was kind of cool having the chance to learn to roast on two vastly different roasters. There is a difference between a person who is a “Coffee Roaster” in every sense of the title, and someone who just operates a coffee roasting machine. I attribute learning to use a second machine as a defining moment when I considered myself a Coffee Roaster. It forced me to understand why things were happening rather than just knowing how to follow a roast profile.

I first learned to roast on the Loring. Not only a Loring, one of the first ones ever made. It was difficult to find much help to improve my understanding because every resource seemed to be about drum roasters, and there are a few major differences with a Loring.

The Loring basically works like this: heat is pulled off the burner through a cyclone by a fan, then forced into the inlet of the drum. That heat is then forced through the bed of beans, and pulled out by a return fan (that returns the air back into the burner chamber) and the process repeats. Only, the drum is stationary, and the beans are churned by spinning paddles. So, there is no conductive heat, only convective.

Heat transfer rates differ drastically between the two methods. This ended up being the biggest difference between the two. The Loring requires a higher relative burner application to achieve similar levels of development. It took me a long time to figure out what the limits were. My better understanding of them, coupled with Loring’s recent upgrades, has given me a new appreciation for the roaster. I prefer the Loring over drum roasters for espresso roasts, and filter roasts for origins that are your ‘bigger body’ or ‘chocolate, caramel based sweetness’ coffees.

There is a lot of information available in print, both physical and digital, that details how a drum roaster works. They are by far the more commonly used roasters, and in my opinion, are much more intuitive. The one I learned on had some minor airflow and burner modifications, but was mostly as originally designed. Despite being twice as old as me, it was a remarkably consistent and produced a very good roast. The drum, being cast iron, stored a lot of heat. I suppose it depends who you ask, but to me, this was a major positive. I liked being able to back off the burner application heavily, and let the momentum of the stored drum heat carry me through some portions of the roast.

The most useful feature of the machine though, was the airflow damper. This damper, located behind the impeller fan (that pulls the air through the drum) could raise or lower the airflow depending on position, thus changing the ratio of convection:conduction. Proper adjustments can really help minimize some of the variables that we face every day in New England (temperature and humidity variance). These two differences, conductive heat and adjustable airflow, really made me feel like I could hit a small sweet-spot on a coffee. It is for this reason that I preferred the Probat over the Loring for brighter fruit, and higher acidity coffees.

CCS Acevedo Cup, January 2018

Join us for the second CCS Acevedo Cup by Fairfield Trading and Collaborative Coffee Source.

Wednesday Jan 17 to Sunday Jan 21, 2018 Acevedo, Huila, Colombia

Places are limited. Email info@collaborativecoffeesource.com to book your place.

The award ceremony, CCS Acevedo Cup 2016

The award ceremony, CCS Acevedo Cup 2016

The value of cupping competitions

The CCS Acevedo Cup is valuable in so many ways. For roasters it offers a condensed experience of a region, a chance to meet many farmers and cup their coffees at once, to see their land, engage in their community, understand their hopes and plans for the future.

For the coffee growing community of Acevedo it offers a chance to meet the people who buy, roast and serve their coffee, to learn about the markets where their coffees are sold, and the impressions of the consumers who drink the final product. The CCS Acevedo Cup also offers the farmers a reason to get together, to share knowledge, skills, experience and stories.

And, of course, cupping competitions like these offer recognition for the hard work of the farmers. This recognition, combined with the financial reward for the winners, incentivizes continued effort to produce high quality coffee. 

Alexander Ordoñoz, proud third place winner of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016.

Alexander Ordoñoz, proud third place winner of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016.

“I felt really proud,” said Alexander Ordoñez of Finca Los Naranjos, who won third place in the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016. “My wife and two children accompanied me [to the award ceremony], and it was a beautiful experience because they are part of the work one does on the farm. And this third place prize motivates me to continue improving so I can win first place.”


CCS Acevedo Cup, postponed for one month 

The inaugural CCS Acevedo Cup ran in December 2016, which means this event is delayed slightly. Unfortunately weather has been working against the farmers of Acevedo this year. Heavy rains caused later flowering, and as we are seeing in so many regions, the harvest has been delayed. It happens in agriculture — there are good years and bad years. Sadly for the Acevedo community, this isn’t a great year. 

Regardless, there will be some great coffee to cup come January. Rather than cancel the event, we decided to postpone it for one month, giving farmers a little more time to harvest and process their coffee, and to give our partners Fairfield Trading the time to properly cup and select the best entries for the competition. Both Fairfield Trading and CCS are enormously proud of this event, and we are committed to recognizing the hard work and delicious coffee of the Acevedo coffee growing community, in good years, and not so good years.

We look forward to sharing this experience with you. Email info@collaborativecoffeesource.com to book your place.

Matt answers your coffee roasting questions: roast recipes

This week Matt Hassell, Global Buyer, QC & Sample Management for Collaborative Coffee Source, and former roaster for George Howell Coffee, will answer your roast questions. Here's a question from Tom D, @ohthecommotion:

How much of the roasting process is "feel" and how much do you think can be taught? Can I follow a recipe and make a great roast or do I need to just do it for a while? #ccsQandA

— Tom D (@ohthecommotion) December 5, 2017

Matt's response:

This question is so excellent because the answer, for me, has changed dramatically in the last few years.

I think it goes without saying that any task or skill you learn requires a certain level of understanding to not only do it well, but to repeat those results. Lord knows roasting is all about repeating results.

When I first started, people were very nervous to share roasting tips and profiles. There was no Cropster to log, overlay and send roast profiles, or Ikawa sample roaster capable of transferring profiles through text message. There was no ‘Coffee Roaster’s Companion’. Information sharing was scarce. So, I had to rely on being ‘in tune’ with my machine.

The last few years have also brought a lot of scientifically backed research that allows us to understand how to manipulate a multitude of complex chemical reactions and achieve a sweeter, cleaner cup. There are a lot of tools and resources being introduced that help aide in this process. There seems to be a lot more of a science-feel towards roasting than what there used to be.

But, that isn’t to say we’ve progressed to the point where we can just build a recipe for roasting. There are too many variables that are different. Perception of what is “good”, roasting environments (roasting in New England with the weather changes, not fun), and roasting machines themselves (Loring vs. Probat, different location of thermocouple, thickness of thermocouple, etc, etc…) Roasters must be in tune with their machine and have the ‘feel’, that will come with (a lot) of time. But, a good foundation is built on knowledge and understanding.

Matt will be answering your Twitter roast questions until Dec 12, 2017. Post your questions on Twitter to @collaborativeCS and use the hashtag #ccsQandA.

Co-Roasting Spaces — Building Coffee Communities

Announcing the first in a quarterly series of cuppings at Bay Area CoRoasters, Berkeley, California: Tuesday Dec 5, 10am. See below for details and reserve your space on our Facebook page.

Co-roasting spaces such as Bay Area CoRoasters (or CoRo for short) are crucial businesses in the specialty coffee industry, providing an entry into the expensive business of roasting. Co-Ro offers memberships to coffee companies who then receive scheduled time on one of the four roasters on their production floor of their West Berkeley space.
 

An affordable beginning for new roasters

Co-roasting spaces give young companies time to practice, learn and build their business, before making the large investment of time and money in finding their own space, setting up machines, and acquiring the necessary permits. 

“Our goal is to provide all of the infrastructure and capital intensive equipment for you to start a coffee business,” said Floy Andrews, co-founder and CEO of CoRo. “All of that investment is shared by different brands.”

One of four roasters available on the CoRo production floor. Image courtesy of  Bay Area CoRoasters .

One of four roasters available on the CoRo production floor. Image courtesy of Bay Area CoRoasters.

CoRo is also in a position to keep their roasting space up to date. “We’re really focused on having the newest technology,” Floy said. For example, “we’re switching out the afterburner with a thing called a Vortex which is a water quench mechanism. It collects the dirt in the smoke, and its strained into a bucket. It’s not toxic - it’s actually good for your plants. Afterburners release a lot of CO2 and [the Vortex] aligns more with the values of Co-Ro.”

Building a Coffee Community

But CoRo is so much more than simply an affordable way to roast. In keeping with the spirit of the Bay Area where they are located, CoRo has a mission to create a community. In addition to the four roasters available, the CoRo space offers members a QC lab and a cupping room. Here they hold events and offer their members training and development on their journey as coffee professionals.

CoRo offer classes in roasting and production. Image courtesy of  Bay Area CoRoasters .

CoRo offer classes in roasting and production. Image courtesy of Bay Area CoRoasters.

Regular cuppings are held in the CoRo Cupping Room. Image courtesy of  Bay Area CoRoasters .

Regular cuppings are held in the CoRo Cupping Room. Image courtesy of Bay Area CoRoasters.

Then there’s the “Green Wall”, a space for importers to leave greens samples of their coffee for roasting, cupping and comparison. “The way green coffee is distributed, traditionally, is sort of out of sync with the way these small roasters operate,” Floy explained. “Our Green Wall is our first endeavor in connecting small roasters to a range of importers. It plays into the community space function of Co-Ro.”

The Green Coffee Wall at CoRo. Image courtesy of  Bay Area CoRoasters .

The Green Coffee Wall at CoRo. Image courtesy of Bay Area CoRoasters.

CCS and CoRo Community Events

At CCS we believe strongly that community is essential to the growth and sustainability of the specialty coffee industry, so we're excited to announce two initiatives:

CCS Quarterly Cuppings at CoRo

Colleen will be running quarterly cuppings in the cupping room at CoRo! The first will be next Tuesday December 5 at 10am. Join us for a cupping of Late Harvest Hondurans from Santa Barbara, plus Colombian coffees from Huila and Tolima. Contact Colleen to learn more, or sign up on our Facebook page.

Roasting Q&A with Matt Hassell

Matt Hassell, Buyer, Sample Manager and QC Director at Collaborative Coffee Source, and former roaster for George Howell Coffee, will be answering your roast questions starting immediately after the cupping at CoRo next week. The Q&A will begin at midday Tuesday Dec 5 and run until midday Tuesday Dec 12. Whatever your roast quandary, Matt is here to help. Post your question on Twitter to @collaborativeCS and use the hashtag #ccsQandA.

Welcome, Colleen!

Colleen We'd like to introduce you to the newest member to CCS, Colleen King. Welcome, Colleen!

With all the positive feedback and growth we've been experiencing across North America, it's time for us to expand our team's presence and reach to better serve the unique needs of the various regional markets. With Sal joining us from Boston at the beginning of this year, it made sense for us to expand our team into the western regions. After hearing from and meeting with many wonderful candidates (thank you!), we're excited and proud to be bringing Colleen on board.

Colleen has been working in specialty coffee since 2008, when she was hired at Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea at their flagship store in Chicago. Since then, she has worked in specialty coffee in Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco, where she currently resides. Her career experience includes wholesale strategy, build out design, quality control, and green coffee trading. She received her BA in Critical Theory and Analysis with a concentration in Post Colonial Economics. Her work has been published and featured in Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary JournalDaily Coffee News, and Life & Thyme Magazine.

Given our team's personalized style of working with roasters, if you're located on the west coast, you can expect to hear from Colleen about meeting and cupping with her in person. You can get in touch at colleen@collaborativecoffeesource.com.

Santa Barbara, Honduras 2017

Neptaly Bautista: an early CCS partner in Santa Barbara

Neptaly Bautista: an early CCS partner in Santa Barbara

Field Reports from early and late harvest visits

This is an intro and a comment to what CCS is doing in Santa Barbara. As we are celebrating our 12th+ year of working in this region we are assessing some experiences and looking ahead; at how we want work here going forward.

CCS is making such a direct impact in this community like nowhere else I can think of. Our position is strong, which comes with great responsibility. One that I do not take lightly. It is really humbling. Our deeds are seen and our words are heard. Any temptation to give suggestions to a farmer-friend must be well thought through before it is said, or else, before you know it, what you said will be done.

These partnerships have fortunately been mutually beneficial. Yields have never been higher and the quality has never been better. That is of course not to our credit and is thanks to hard work from the people that live and breathe in Santa Barbara.

There is no mistake: Buying is Power. It has always been like that in this business and continues to be the case. CCS’ buying-power is evident in Santa Barbara, which is important for the things we want to achieve with San Vicente. This is a fact that we are well aware of and is something that needs to be protected, nourished, cherished and held on to.

In the years that have passed since the beginning of our focused sourcing and concrete buying from the region began, CCS is now committing to 20 times our original volume. When looking ahead we should prepare ourselves, collaborate with our farming partners (including our exporter San Vicente), and communicate with the marketplace that we will double the current volume within the next few years; a growth that is inevitable and has been almost organic.

The Moreno family: one of CCS' strongest partnerships anywhere

The Moreno family: one of CCS' strongest partnerships anywhere

How This All Began

It started with buying just a few bags from Natividad Benitez, the first-place winner of Cup of Excellence in 2005. It sparked a relationship between Natividad and MOCCA in Oslo (later MOCCA’s roasting operation became a separate roasting company: KAFFA) yet instead we found ourselves growing into relationships with some of his neighbors over the course of the next couple of years. From these humble beginnings, today we find ourselves working with 40 families — and counting — through Collaborative Coffee Source.

Santa Barbara is one of those regions that was clearly discovered and defined by the CoE program. Arturo Angel Paz of San Vicente Coffee Exporters, is a dedicated and curious coffee cupper. He met Miguel Moreno of El Cedral, an ambitious and anxious producer (he was in huge debt at the time just before the competition) when Miguel dropped off one of his samples. From this moment, these two men have been instrumental in changing the Honduran coffee scene forever: Santa Barbara has clearly developed into an appellation. Ironically today, coffee cherries from Marcala (formerly recognized as the important coffee region in Honduras) are bought to be dried in Santa Barbara.

Like so many places we are visiting and buying from, the coffee supply chain and trade has clearly separated into two tracks: commercial or specialty, which not only defines level of ambition and empowerment, but livelihood and thus, level of poverty, to be clear. The dream of most farmers in the know is to find ‘a buyer’ — un comprador — one to grow with. Coffee farming is incredibly labor intensive and the only way to make a living when one has a small farm is to work the land yourself and engaging other family members. Only when the land is larger, just like in any economy, really, can one afford the overhead cost of management.

Having pickers/workers/employees, even in countries where the cost of labor is already unsustainably low (for the worker) when paid at its minimum level, is still the main cost for making coffee. It is also the cost that farmers really experience to be their main economic challenge.

The current price of coffee, even when at levels paid for specialty coffee these days, is dependent on keeping people in poverty, or at least paying them as little as possible for a job that is not only hard and uncomfortable — but totally necessary.

So when we speak about ‘equitable’ and ‘sustainable’ business for the people, we mean everyone involved.

Pedro Sagastume (L) and his son-in-law, Edwin Pineda (R). Gen II relationships in SB

Pedro Sagastume (L) and his son-in-law, Edwin Pineda (R). Gen II relationships in SB

Paying up

Having responsibility suggests that one act responsibly. Our sense of ‘duty’ in these Santa Barbara communities is firm. I strongly believe that the only way to talk about the issues of ‘livelihood’ and ‘poverty’ is to acknowledge the fact that money matters — for all parties involved — and now is the time to bring it up with our suppliers in a way that is also making them feel the responsibility that they have as employers of coffee workers, many times from their own community and sometimes their neighbors.

There can be a subtle nuance between suggesting and requiring something. As much as there may be a desire to change things for what we think is better, we walk a fine line in trying not to impose our mindset. Exposing ignorance is one thing. Worse is being seen as disrespecting cultural differences and inter-relational dynamics in the communities that we - after all - visit only for a few days each year. We have to acknowledge that we don’t live our farming partners’ lives.

Still, this is the new paradigm we are working toward: This harvest/buying season we are increasing the FOB price to $4.25/4.50 per pound (hence Farm Gate pricing is increasing proportionally) as the BASE price for an 86-points lot, we are at the same time ‘asking’ that the farmers also the pay their workers: farm-workers, pickers, etc., more. It is not a condition, but this increase of 50 cts/lb from last season is meant to give the farmer/land owner/owner of the facilities/business person/ employer an opportunity to distribute some of the gains they are making in relationship with us, to their workers.

As for the farms themselves: the stories, challenges and qualities from this harvest, we’ll share these over the next few weeks as we receive the lots and distribute them to their homes all over the world. Due to the prolonged harvest season, which started in January and went all the way to June, we have visited the region more often this year and have thus selected lots from the mid-harvest point (March), which has now just landed. The lots selected from the later harvest point (June) will soon be afloat.

Follow here and our social media for more on the specific farm updates that we will present in the coming days and weeks.

Coming up in the next season, we will work closely with a team of people on the ground to improve quality even further and in all aspects of making great coffee: husbandry, picking, processing, drying and packaging.

See you soon at a cupping table near you!

- Robert W

CCS IS HIRING!

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The Collaborative Coffee Source (CCS) is looking for self-motivated individuals to join our team

If you have any of the following, get in touch!

- Industry Experience (must)
- Cupping skills
- A Lab & Quality control background
- Are Service & Sales oriented
- Are self-driven, organized, a people-person
- Have outstanding communication skills

We are a quality and education focused green coffee sourcing company founded in Oslo, Norway and are concurrently expanding from our New York headquarters to cover more of the North American market, as well as from Shanghai to better serve our rapidly growing Asian markets.

CCS currently sources coffee in nine countries from Central America, South America and East Africa. We serve roasters from all over North America, Europe and Asia.

Send your cover letter and CV to robert@collaborativecoffeesource.com.

SCA x CCS 2017

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We will be cupping a curated selection of our coffees: available, soon to be available, along with some stunners that simply need revisiting.

Date: Sunday, April 23, 2017
Time: 10:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location: The Cupping Exchange, Room 618
 

Honduras

From the currently harvesting. Showcasing long-time friends and new acquaintances from Santa Barbara, which produces some of our most interesting Central American offerings coming from some of our longest-standing relationships.

Moreno Family, El Cedral, Santa Barbara

Moreno Family, El Cedral, Santa Barbara

Guatemala

A selection of some of the most versatile coffees we offer. Featuring cups from Antigua & Huehuetenango.

Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora, Bella Vista Mill

Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora, Bella Vista Mill


Kenya

Charles Cardoso from Kenyacof will be on hand to discuss the flight of freshly harvested coffees (on offer), along with the ups and downs of the just completed harvest season.

Mary Maina, Manyeki Estate

Mary Maina, Manyeki Estate


Ethiopia

From mainstays to our first international presentation of newly established relationships with cooperatives in the Agaro region.

Asnake Nigat of Kata Muduga Union

Asnake Nigat of Kata Muduga Union


Colombia

Alejandro Renjifo of Fairfield Trading will accompany the presentation of our Acevedo lots, freshly arrived and meticulously curated during the Acevedo Cup Competition from December 2016.

Alejandro Renjifo (R) with Acevedo Cup winner Fernando Bustos (C) & Eduardo Urquina of Fairfield Trading (L)

Alejandro Renjifo (R) with Acevedo Cup winner Fernando Bustos (C) & Eduardo Urquina of Fairfield Trading (L)


Burundi

Ben Carlson from Long Miles Coffee joins us as we cup and reflect on how stunning these Burundian coffees have been and what it took to get them there.

Ben Carlson (L) with Jeremie Nakimuhana (C) from Long Miles with a farmer from Mikuba Hill

Ben Carlson (L) with Jeremie Nakimuhana (C) from Long Miles with a farmer from Mikuba Hill


Sal, Martell, Robert and David will be on hand to talk about the coffees, the origins, and also CCS, our model and fielding inquiries/interest on working together.

Our session is open to the public. The room is set for 30 people, with 25/30 spots already confirmed.

Get in touch with Sal to secure these last spots. He will also be happy to schedule a meeting with you should you not be able to attend the cupping.

Acevedo Cup: Recap

The CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 Awards Ceremony

The CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 Awards Ceremony

The inaugural Acevedo Cup was one of the most inspired/inspiring events CCS was a part of in 2016. What a motivating way to finish off the year. It’s difficult to imagine just how much preparatory work the Fairfield team had done in advance of the competition but the resulting four days we spent cupping, discussing, scoring and ranking the top 20 lots were an absolute pleasure.

Those of you who’ve cupped at origin know how arduous full cupping days can be, so the fact our group of judges enjoyed cupping and re-cupping these coffees says everything about the standards to which the Fairfield team operates.

This competition was a great way to start our work in the Acevedo municipality of Huila. It gave us the opportunity to taste a wide variety of cup profiles available within this community, while the closing ceremonies, in turn, gave the community the opportunity to learn about CCS’ and Fairfield’s work and ambitions for working in and around Acevedo.

Between 20-30 families came to the closing ceremonies and while many of them weren’t “winners” in the sense of having submitted top-20 coffees, it was fascinating to speak with several of the families afterward and learn about their perceptions not only about the competition, but about how they view working with Fairfield and us in the long-term. Some well-established community leaders were in attendance and they had already decided to organize meetings amongst Acevedo Cup winners and their neighbours to first discuss the winners’ protocol and strategies for the winning lots, and then determine how and what strategies neighbouring farms could implement to improve their own production.

Left to right Eduardo Urquina of Fairfield Trading, Miller Bustos collecting the certificate for his brother Fernando Bustos, and Alejandro Renjifo of Fairfield Trading. 

Left to right Eduardo Urquina of Fairfield Trading, Miller Bustos collecting the certificate for his brother Fernando Bustos, and Alejandro Renjifo of Fairfield Trading. 

Field Notes

Day 1

Calibration round + two competition tables. Screened 29 coffees down to 12 which will move on to the next round.

Learned about the National Learning Service (SENA), a government initiative that provides workers, adults and youths with technical training within the areas of industry, trade, agriculture, mining and cattle breeding. Some of volunteers helping with the Acevedo Cup are students of SENA and are currently undergoing training to become professional baristas, cuppers and roasters.

Day 2

Screened 29 coffees down to 12. Day 3 is the cupping of the top-24 coffees from Days 1 & 2.

First introduced to the winning coffee which I described as one of the best coffees I cupped all year. I gave it a score of 93 points with the following aroma/flavour descriptions: a floral, lemony, jasmine, and bergamot aroma. Cup is complex, juicy, well-structured, citrusy, clean, with a red currant finish. This coffee has all the elegance of great washed Ethiopian coffees, while also maintaining a Kenyan-like acidity.

Day 3

Top-24 coffees screened down to top-20. Ranks 11-20 determined today; top-10 will be cupped and ranked on Day 4.

Visited Los Angeles farm, owned by Maria Bercelia and her partner, Jose Erazo. We purchased coffee from them for our first ever shipment from Acevedo and are pretty certain at least one of their coffees will be amongst the winning coffees.

Day 4

Final round/table of top-10 coffees.

Winners, lot sizes (per 70kg bags) and varieties are as follows:

#10: Jhon Wilson Poveda, 11 bags, Colombia & Caturra

#9: María Bercelia, 15 bags, Colombia & Caturra

#8: Otoniel Morales, 7 bags, Castillo

#7: Nicolas Delgado, 18 bags, Colombia & Castillo

#6: Ciro Lugo, 12 bags, Colombia

#5: Elizabeth Abaunza, 5 bags, Caturra

#4: Ciro Lugo, 12 bags, Colombia

#3: Alexander Ordoñez, 12 bags, Colombia & Tabi

#2: Fernando Bustos, 18 bags, Colombia

#1: Jesucita Cuellar, 5 bags, Tabi

Jesucita is a new grower to Fairfield and the Fairfield cupping team hypothesized that this coffee would win the competition during their screening of all the coffees submitted for competition. Must learn more about the Tabi variety!

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Ciro Lugo won 4th and 6th place. 

Ciro Lugo won 4th and 6th place. 

Final Notes

A big thank you to our three roaster judges:

Ria Neri, Four Letter Word, Chicago, IL

Tali Robbins, Barismo, Cambridge, MA

Dillon Edwards, Parlor Coffee, Brooklyn, NY

The remainder of the judging panel were Ana Beatriz Bahamon, Eduardo Urquina Sanchez, Esnaider Ortega & Alejandro Renjifo, all of Fairfield Trading; along with David Stallings & myself, who represented CCS.

Until next time,

Melanie

Coffee & Genetic Diversity

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'Science' is often conflated with 'truth' and this assumption can have far-reaching impacts, both positive and negative, on an industry that is as reliant on evidence-based conclusions as specialty coffee is.

Bruno Latour, a philosopher and sociologist of science, wrote a clear and in-depth analysis back in 1987 about the ways in which scientific communities are inseparable from the traditions, culture and societal perspectives that surround them. This is something that is not often acknowledged within the course of scientific debates and it came to mind when I recently came across diverging sets of research on genetic variability: a topic that is of vital importance to the future of coffee.

Since 2013, World Coffee Research has been undertaking studies on genetic variability and one of their preliminary findings was that there is almost no genetic diversity amongst coffee plants, whether wild or cultivated. Thisconclusion was based on 'an incredibly diverse range' of around 1000 plant samples. It is important to note that these samples were taken from the CATIE coffee germplasm collection, and not wild Ethiopian coffee forests.

If these findings hold true, the consequences could be dire for coffee which is increasingly under threat from climate change and its associated diseases, pests, rain and temperature fluctuations, etc. Coffee requires, as other viable crops do, a broad range of genes from which to select and plant future coffee.

But the findings from World Coffee Research are not corroborated by other researchers who are investigating this same topic. For example, Ethiopian and German researchers from Addis Ababa University and Freie Universität Berlin jointly published an article in 2014 that used inter-simple sequence repeats (ISSR) fingerprinting analysis and found high genetic variability in the forest populations it studied.

One of the realities about conducting any kind of research is that it is almost always conducted within a specific sphere of influence, whether a university, a small international community of acquainted researchers, or a company that has its own R&D department. I'm glad that World Coffee Research exists - it is made up of many great coffee organizations and companies that are specifically working for the specialty coffee community. This industry needs to have bodies such as WCR in order for all of us to thrive and innovate.

What my very short and select literature review highlights is the need for more and closer cooperation between specialty coffee and the wider scientific community. Why shouldn't specialty coffee benefit from the fact that a lot of resources and great minds outside 'our sphere' are addressing some of our biggest questions and challenges?

- Melanie

The Inevitable Chaos that is Burundi Coffee Buying

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I'm supposed to be writing an article about my recent experiences travelling in Colombia. It was my first time travelling there (as well as in Brazil, where I later went) and having only experienced being in some of East Africa as a coffee buyer, these trips illuminated so much for me. There are many exciting developments taking place within the specialty coffee communities in both countries and learning some of the historical backgrounds behind the current innovations I was introduced to provided some much needed nuance to my perspective on the world of specialty coffee and the major roles Colombia and Brazil both play.

As is so often the case, events taking place here and now end up occupying the forefront of a place's work flow to the expense of other equally important and pressing matters. In the case of importing coffee, and taking into account the various harvest seasons CCS' schedule revolves around, Burundi should already be out of the major part of the current workflow because the coffee should have landed in our warehouse during the summertime and roasters should be well into their inventories of the current harvest. Although there are always delay-inducing minutiae that creep into every shipment from every origin, Burundi is one of those origins where things are predictably unpredictable and where one can reliably expect to have their patience tested day-after-day (I wish that were an exaggeration) during the export process.

When one chooses to import Burundian coffees, they're signing up to ride a logistical, and at least for me, emotional rollercoaster. This year the country is experiencing the culmination of a political storm that has been brewing since 2005 when the latest in a series of civil wars the country has endured, ended. Turmoil is depressingly cyclical in this country and this year it came via the heavily disputed presidential election. When working with a country that is so complicated and has so much going against it, it can be difficult not to become numb to the constant flow of shocking news that comes from partners living and breathing all that chaos.

As an importer whose main goal is to provide roasters with the very best on offer from the beautiful array of stellar coffees out there, working with Burundi has sometimes felt like an inconceivable origin to take on. To be clear, the biggest reason Collaborative Coffee Source started working in Burundi is because we came across coffees that couldn't be ignored. But throughout our short history of working there, plenty of situations have arisen where deciding to continue working in Burundi has been a source of reappraisal within the team.

All of the above is a prelude to the current situation we are faced with in trying to move our first container from Burundi to Antwerp this year. Hopefully the following will help our roasting friends understand how truly complex importing coffee can be and how the act of purchasing coffee can clearly be life altering for producers. For simplicity's sake, I'll narrate the story of this container by way of a timeline.

July 2015: Final cuppings and screenings of microlots making up the proposed container are completed and negotiations on contracts commence.

The presidential election is completed and protests, which have been occurring since late-winter, escalate into riots after the results are announced. Both of CCS' partnering exporters flee the country with their families, along with tens of thousands of other Burundians.

August 2015: Milling, packaging and preparations of export documents begin and are expected to be completed by month's end.

Our exporters travel in and out of the country to oversee the process.

September 2015: Export document preparation continues amidst continued political turmoil and violence. The shipment is delayed weekly as ARFIC's (Burundi's national coffee board) office shuts down and the directors in charge of signing and stamping export documents scatter throughout the country and our exporting partners are charged with locating them. One of the two exporters reports travelling to nine different people, in order to obtain 29 signatures and stamps for our microlots.

October 2015: As of October 20th (today), we find ourselves awaiting ONE last signature for one of the 13 microlots we're shipping in this container. We need to get the container out of the dry mill and out to Dar es Salaam port for departure to Antwerp. We were assured at the end of last week that all the necessary paperwork was completed and in order...this proved to be illusory, as we experience time and again...

The conflict in Bujumbura (Burundi's capital) continues and moves too close for comfort as one of the exporter's has his home assailed by bullets. He chooses not to publicize this, perhaps because it does not change the fact that his family and their cherry producing partners simply need to see shipments move ahead and don't see the point in inviting sympathy as it doesn't change reality in any way. These are my speculations, anyway.

In the meantime, Tanzania has a presidential election coming up on Sunday and yesterday the Dar es Salaam port authority issued us warnings about potential strife that may affect the reception of our container. We debated internally, with our exporters, with our logistics partner, about the pros and cons of moving now or waiting. We ended up choosing to move ahead with shipment today, only to learn that the paperwork was in fact, not in order.

Hence my writing of this post now. Upon commiserating about all of this with a colleague and struggling with all the practical and emotional complexity this situation poses, we come to the conclusion that this story needs to be shared in the hopes that in the sharing, more people might develop the appreciation for all the efforts and struggle that goes into producing the beautiful coffee that this container holds. Over the past weeks, our team has been continually stunned by the quality we're tasting from these microlots. It's led to an increasingly popular refrain around here that Burundi is becoming "the new Kenya".

Sincerely hope you all agree when the gems making up this shipment finally land in your roasteries.

-Melanie

The CCS approach to doing Ethiopia

It being the birthplace of coffee, combined with notoriously changing the perceptions of coffee drinkers about what coffee can taste like, Ethiopian coffees court especially high expectations and attention year after year. Perhaps more than any other origin, coffee roasters look to Ethiopia to provide both stand-alone knockouts, as well as that little something to round out an espresso blend. Time and time again, the “Queen of Coffee Origins” delivers, despite a frankly labyrinthine and constantly evolving coffee auction and export system. Year after year, coffee buyers eagerly make their way through Addis Ababa and into the countryside, in search of the next fabled cup.

Ethiopian coffee is still made up of many wild growing coffee plants – most of them have not yet been classified, so the genetic diversity is innumerable and is still very much being studied and explored. While varieties do change from region to region within Ethiopia, you will often see “landraces” or “heirloom” listed as the varieties, even though this does not denote a homogenous genetic pool covering all of Ethiopia.

Being wild, these varieties have evolved naturally and so are well adapted to their surroundings. All this means that chemical inputs (fertilizers), pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are rarely needed/in use in Ethiopia; the majority of coffee produced is organic in the truest sense of the word.

Our washed coffees are carefully selected, rigorously sorted (by both machine and hand) and curated together with Heleanna Georgalis of Moplaco Trading Co. Heleanna and her team purchase coffees from the Ethiopia Commodities Exchange (ECX) and once the coffees arrive at their facility in Addis, they are meticulously sorted so that the full potential of each lot is clearly distinguishable. The current iteration of the ECX is structured in such a way that transparency (i.e. knowing the specific people involved with harvesting, and the place the coffee was grown and processed) is not available. Licensed exporters like Heleanna purchase coffees based on three criteria: broad geographic areas (e.g. Yirgacheffe, Sidamo), quality grade as determined by the ECX (e.g. Q1, Q2), and the lot’s date of submission to the auction. Bidders are not allowed to see or taste the coffee prior to bidding. These realities are why the work of Heleanna’s processing and export team is so fundamental to the quality of the coffee our roasters receive; it’s why we consider Moplaco to be a “producer”.

Moplaco's natural coffees are produced at its commercial farm, which also works together with neighbouring smallholders. The region these coffees are grown is near Gedeb at about 1880 meters above sea level, with red soil. It is on the borders of Yirgacheffe and Guji, which are separated by about 10km of distance. The number of farmers that supply the cherries is around 200, but this number can change depending on the price. Farmers are paid twice: once when the cherries are initially delivered to the washing station and secondly through a percentage dedicated to community projects, such as schools. For example, a school in Yirgacheffe was built from this percentage in the past and is now being financed by current proceeds. Another school near the farm is also being supported in this way.

The natural coffee process starts just as washed coffees do: red, ripe cherries are collected and then sorted within four hours after they have been picked from the trees. These cherries are spread on raised African beds, where exposure to air helps dry the beans. The fact that the seeds do not touch the the ground and other foreign materials eliminates, as a first step, the risk of contamination, and subsequent defects that end up contributing to "earthy", and “soily” tastes.

In the second phase of processing, full red beans are carefully selected and any broken, green, immature beans are eliminated from the beds. This drying and selection process goes continuously from 12 to 15 days.

As the cherry dries onto the seed, a fermentation process takes place, which allows sugars to dry onto the seeds, leading to the development of a more complex, fuller bodied coffee, wherein more aromatic compounds can develop through the roasting process.

Coffee stays in parchment for as long as possible. Ideally between 4-6 months, so that the many acetic acids that develop inside the parchment during the drying, once settled down, will not taste like vinegar. If coffee is hulled after 4-6 months, it will have more pronounced tastes, both in sweetness and flavour. 4-6 months is an ideal period to have the coffee’s acids and sugars settle, in order to develop a more sweet and aromatic profile.

The fact that the coffee is from Yirgacheffe adds to its prestige, as the coffee is genetically supreme. What a careful sundried process does is maintain this supreme character and allow it to develop properly.

Important Terms & People within Ethiopian Coffee Production and Export

Garden coffee: coffee grown and harvested on smallholder property.

Semi-forest coffee: coffee that grows under a forest canopy. The land below the canopy belongs to a farmer who produces coffee in addition to other crops.

Forest coffee: coffee grown in forests protected by the Ethiopian government. People are given permission to harvest cherries. No people-induced cultivation is allowed.

Plantation coffee: coffee grown on privately owned commercial farms.

Smallholder: coffee farmers owning smaller plots of land.

Collector: a person that bought coffee cherries and in turn sold to suppliers (i.e. washing stations). In the current version of the ECX, there are no longer collectors.

Supplier: washing stations that are owned by a private person, or a cooperative. They deliver processed coffee to the ECX.

Exporter: can be a private person/company, a commercial farm, a union (usually supplied by cooperatives), or a government plantation. Commercial farms can only export their own production.
 

The ECX system: previous & new

The ECX auction system was established in 2008 and is a private company made up of private parties and the Ethiopian government. It was set up, ostensibly, to protect the rights of all parties involved, from sellers, to buyers, to intermediaries.

During its early iteration, smallholders sold their cherries to a collector, who bought cherries from throughout their area and in turn sold to suppliers/washing stations. Collectors had to obtain licenses in order to buy from their specific areas (e.g. Kochere), to which they had to strictly adhere.

Once processed by a washing station, coffee was delivered to the auction in Addis and were cupped and graded by the Coffee Liquoring Unity (CLU). Auctions occurred daily and exporters had the opportunity to see the samples, which together with the coffee’s region, is what they based their purchasing decisions on. In this early system, the name of the region (e.g. Yirgacheffe) as well as its specific locality (e.g. Kochere) and sub-locality (e.g Chelelektu) were transparent. Also available was the name of the supplier/washing station. Notably, exporters did not have the opportunity to cup these samples; only look at the sample and see its lot info. This is in contrast with other auction systems, such as Kenya’s (for example), where exporters routinely cup coffees they’re interested in.

Once the auction ended, the trucks containing the lots were sent to the exporter’s warehouse within the same day. This allowed for good quality control—trucks delivering coffee that did not match the sample could be sent back—and it allowed for price discovery via the knowledge about specific geographic origin and the exporter’s knowledge of demand for the various regions. One downside and perhaps a subsequent reason that the ECX was changed is that certain suppliers and exporters would enter into prior agreements so that the supplier could end up withdrawing from a sale if the highest bidder was not the same person it entered into a pre-arrangement with.

In the newer version of the auction, which was implemented quite soon after the first version of the ECX, collectors were eliminated and centralized marketplaces were implemented. So now, rather than suppliers buying from collectors or specific smallholders, they buy from centralized markets: cherry prices are based on the “market price”. One big effect of this change is that suppliers can no longer negotiate prices based on whose cherries they like better: they have to buy lots based on what’s available at the market.

Once the coffee (in parchment for washed; hulled for natural) arrives at the specific auction allocated for that particular region (e.g. Dilla auction for Yirgacheffe region), it is cupped and graded by the ECX lab within the facility, each truck that contains specific lots from specific washing stations is given a number so that its identifying information is only known by the Ministry of Agriculture, and exporters purchase based on the region and ECX grade. For washed Yirgacheffe coffees, there is an additional identifier: type A are coffees that have the “Yirgacheffe flavour” and type B are coffees that do not have the “Yirgacheffe flavour”. Washed and natural coffees have slightly different classifications.

Heleanna Georgalis of Moplaco 

Heleanna Georgalis of Moplaco 

About Moplaco 

Yanni Georgalis established Moplaco in 1972 and was a third generation coffee exporter. Yanni was highly respected not only within Ethiopia but was well known and beloved by buyers of Ethiopian coffee around the world. He rightfully maintained a reputation for not only selling the highest quality coffee, but also for his integrity in all aspects of the business. Heleanna, Yanni’s daughter, then comes from a long and established lineage of highly respected Ethiopian coffee exporters.

Heleanna is a courageous woman and has done an admirable job of continuing the legacy of her father’s at Moplaco while also carving out her own version of it in the years since her father’s passing. Under her leadership, Moplaco is constantly evolving to produce ever-increasing quality coffee in spite of the complexity and challenges continually present within Ethiopia’s coffee production and auction systems. Born in East Harar Heleanna, as a young girl, was forced to flea her home in the face of civil war and so grew up and was educated in and around Europe, where she eventually established a successful career in finance. She neither imagined nor planned to find herself back in Ethiopia and working in the footsteps of her father within the world of specialty coffee.

After the sudden passing of her father in 2008, Heleanna was faced with a difficult crossroads: continue the legacy her father had meticulously built with almost no knowledge about the coffee business, or continue on the path she had created for herself within the world of finance. We are very glad and lucky she chose coffee. True to her personality and way of approaching new challenges, Heleanna completely immersed herself in learning about roasting, cupping, agronomy (including the latest research and practices in natural processing) and the niche markets of specialty coffee all around the world. Though she admits that these challenges were extremely daunting at times—and sometimes continues to be—Heleanna continues to trailblaze her way through specialty coffee and is consistently updating herself on the latest trends and experiments in agricultural and processing techniques, travelling around the world to meet with and discuss these developments with the best and brightest producers and coffee researchers.


Moplaco Brands

With all the experience and knowledge he had amassed on the multitude of distinct cup profiles found in Ethiopian coffees—as influenced by species, geographic location, processing practices—Yanni developed a line of Moplaco green coffee brands that are based on some of the most distinct, well-known and loved cup profiles coming from Ethiopia. Given the ECX’s built-in lack of traceability, these brands are especially relevant today and we’re proud to present them now in 2015.

Matahara: Is a coffee from the West of Ethiopia. It has a flavour profile that is spicy, very sweet, full body and has a medium pointed acidity. Matahara means “new brain” in the language of Oromifa, and it was chosen to indicate the new idea Yanni had at the time he created it.

Abysinian Mocca: Many people identify Ethiopian coffee as coffee with the “mocca” flavour. This can mean different things to different people, but for Moplaco, the mocca profile has a dark chocolate flavour, is very clean with full body, and a good acidity.

Abysinia is the ancient name of Ethiopia. To Moplaco, this coffee represents the epitome of Ethiopian coffee.

Illily: This coffee comes from the Lower West lands of Ethiopia, under deep forests and wild nature. The coffee’s cultivation goes from the lower lands around 1600 meters above sea level, to the highlands at 1800 metres. “Illily” means flowery in the Oromifa language, which is well represented in the cup. This coffee also has a notable citric characteristic that is well balanced with its floral attributes.

-Melanie

Colombia: A Clash of Mindsets

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Remember the days when the main quality distinction among Colombian Coffee qualities was Excelso (‘export quality’) and Supremo (‘export quality’, bigger screen)? Those were the days…

Looking back just a few years in time, it is evident that the development of ‘Specialty Coffee’ as a term and as a mindset has changed how we perceive coffee, how we describe it (with flavor attributes), how we communicate about it (as product from a concrete place and person) and how it is traded (transparently).

One may take these things for granted today. As we all should.

Soon Colombia will celebrate its 10th year as member of the growing and still exclusive group of coffee producing countries that have been scrutinized and recognized by the Cup of Excellence (CoE) program. The program’s mission is to bring farmers to the forefront, by acknowledging both their existence and individually crafted products.

Up until ten years ago ‘Colombian Coffee’ had been presented to the world by a very different marketing concept. As early as in 1958, the Colombian Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros (FNC) created Juan Valdez, a marketing mascot playing the role as a personification of the Colombian Coffee Farmer. ‘He’ is not only a fictive figure, but has represented FNC’s marketing concept which, quite tellingly, has been a presentation of the entire community of Colombian coffee farmers, meant to build a collective pride as a nation of coffee famers. And it has worked well for a long time.

Juan Valdez, an FNC icon

Colombian coffee had been marketed as a brand and as a blend, made collectively by the country’s half million coffee farmers, and managed to build a worldwide reputation for its quality. It had fame and recognition and became a staple on every roaster’s menu. CoE’s concept of bringing farmers individually and personally into the light and onto the stage, which at the time was a new idea, didn’t fit perfectly well with how Colombian coffee had been marketed by the FNC in the past.

With the CoE competition in 2005, this was literally the first - and ultimate - test of what Colombian Coffee really was about. Since the average production at a coffee farm in Colombia is much less than the CoE program’s minimum submission requirement of 12 bags, farmers were allowed to form groups with coffee from up to three farms constituting a CoE competition-lot. Despite this stipulation, samples representing over 800 lots were submitted to FNC’s center in Manizales that first year, where the national CoE jury first pre-screened the samples based on technical quality and then began the comprehensive cupping/further screening and re-cupping processes of the remaining 150+ samples. Of these, the international jury were presented with 60+ of the best samples and given the task of cupping and scoring them all over again. The CoE international jury’s mandate is to screen the national jury’s selection further in order to find the very best lots (at the time those who scored an average of 84pts or more), and then ranking these top coffees, as well as describing each coffee’s attributes.

Many of the well-known personalities, new and old in the coffee trade, were on that jury, including the gracious Grand Lady of Specialty Coffee, Erna Knudsen. As a matter of fact, it was she who coined the term Specialty Coffee almost thirty years prior to this event.

CoE Colombia 2005: Specialty Coffee Pioneers Erna Knudsen cupping with Bob Fulmer

During the course of two weeks, all the samples from the submitted lots were cupped five times, but even with all that, on the final table, when ranking the top 10 coffees on the final day of the competition, samples were rejected for phenolic off-flavors, a defect that is usually related to issues with the processing of the coffee cherries. Hey, Juan Valdez, what was going on?!

In the end, the remaining top coffees were fantastic and all the farmers’ names were revealed. The winners received their standing ovations and sold their coffees at the auction at record prices. Regions and microclimates were discovered. A new era began.

Still, this was also a time for reflection on how to approach the seemingly endemic processing issue that had thrown so many coffees out of the competition.

Meanwhile, another kind of problem had been threatening the Colombian coffee tree population for a long while. Coffee Leaf Rust, La Roya, is such a long-standing phenomenon that Colombians commonly use it as a slang term for something that ‘takes with it whatever comes in its way’: La Roya se lo llevó. Coffee farmers have had to struggle with climate and climate changes that have created environments where fungi that can kill coffee trees leaves are able to flourish. The traditional ‘Colombia Varietal’, a Catimor hybrid, was designed to be Leaf Rust resistant, whereas the Caturra varietal became known to be more susceptible to it, yet many farmers have been able to work out Roya-threats proactively.

FNC map of varietals in Huila, 2010. Pre-Castillo Era: Still predominantly Caturra (green) and Colombia (yellow, a Catimor-hybrid), pockets with Typica predominantly in the north.

Coffee is a cash crop; it is handled as any other cash crop, like soy, maize, beans, bananas, etc. Coffee farming in Colombia is usually a rather non-technical enterprise, often times with little planning, thus no calculations for concrete outcomes. With little control over harvest outcome, revenue, and cost control, one becomes vulnerable to unexpected problems and market price volatilities. Coffee farming is often times a losing proposition.

Being on top of the game requires more than just will. Taking care of a farm, particularly with the ever-present risk of a Roya-attack, is labor intensive and costly. Cleaning weeds, pruning trees, fertilizing, and in order to maintain sound trees is key, particularly when there is an environmental threat lurking. A healthy tree is generally less susceptible to diseases like Roya. If proactive spraying is necessary, usually done with copper, this is an extra cost to already expensive regular operations.

One may take the chance and do nothing about disease prevention, but if the farmer wants to be proactive and doesn’t have money saved from previous harvest sales to buy the required products and pay for the labor to apply it, he can easily find himself within the hands of those money lenders, or those who sell disease prevention products on a credit basis. These suppliers can be private, sometimes a cooperative, but usually the supplier is the FNC itself. The same FNC that guarantees buying coffee at the market price, but at market price only…

One of the results of all of this is that the concept of investing in a coffee farm and keeping healthy coffee trees isn’t necessarily a viable path from an economic perspective - considering the level at which coffee is usually paid for. So when fertilizers and fungicides are needed, a vicious cycle of borrowing money before the upcoming harvest can easily develop. When you don't own the revenue for your own coffee harvest until all debt has been paid off (sometimes at exploitative high interest rates) it becomes tempting to not spend extra money on the farm.

For Colombia, as a coffee producing country, this kind of vicious cycle has been even bigger. When millions of trees lost their leaves, partly due to insufficiently attentive farming practices or plain negligence, many farms lost entire harvests, meaning Colombia as a nation lost a lot of revenue. The FNC went on the hunt for solutions!

This is when the Castillo varietal, a modern version of the Colombia (Catimor) varietal, was developed and pushed for by the FNC. Castillo was cleverly designed as 11 different types, meant to be ‘site specific’ to particular geography, environmental and climatic conditions around the country. But the FNC not only encouraged farmers to exchange the Roya-susceptible Caturras into Castillo; Castillo was made a requisite variety, meaning it became eligible for subsidies and credits from the government.

Castillo has its benefits. It can be planted more densely (higher yield per hectare), the trees are shorter (easier to access for cherry pickers), and it produces more even cherry ripening than other varietals (making the harvest season shorter). Though whether Castillo continues to be resistant to Roya, or other fungi, in the future is as yet to be seen. Coffee farming may not prove to be that simple.

The good news for Colombia is that tanking production levels and a record low of 7 million bags is now turning around. Production levels are back at 11 million bags; approximately where they were ten years ago.

In the meantime, the country has transformed itself into a ‘Castillo-origin’ making the other varietals (Caturra, Bourbon, Typica, Tabi, etc.) more difficult to find. Begging the question: How smart is this, when a growing market is asking for diversity and specialty quality?

And this is all political. Of course it is!

The (g)olden days: Colomiban farmers delivering coffee at FNC collection piont

As a nation, for which the GDP is dependent on coffee, the market price level matters.

On the other hand, Colombia’s coffee production level (volume) affects the world market and international coffee price. In any economy where a product is – to such an extent – culturally engrained, is so much part of national identity, with so many livelihoods dependent on it, it will be – and should be – a political matter. But as is any political matter in any modern society, it is – and should be – up for debate; the policymakers in power accepting of questions. As independent as the FNC is supposed to be, there is no question that it is seen as, as well as functions as, an extension of the governing institutions of the country. I get this perception. Policies need to adapt to changes occurring over time, whether they are internal or, as is very much the case with coffee, international. Today, the parties on both ends of the chain, the producers and the buyers, are interacting and communicating more transparently than ever before.*

Colombia is not merely a coffee supplier; the ‘market’ is not merely asking for supply.

For one, the ‘market’ is divided into at least three coffee segments:

- Commodity coffee (sold at NYC with a differential);

- Certified coffee (sold with a premium);

- Specialty Coffee (sold at a negotiated price based on quality assessments, including cup attributes).

With this backdrop and based on recent visits, my next article will look into what is happening in the field of Specialty Coffee in Colombia right now.

Locally Grown, Home Roasted, Hand Brewed by Omar Viveros, Colombian Specialty Coffee producer, Pitalito 2014

As an important aside, the Cup of Excellence program celebrates its 100th competition this fall. Susie Spindler, the program’s director for many years has chosen to step down, thus we should take a moment to reflect on her formidable and significant contribution; building CoE’s credibility by holding firmly to it’s protocol, which has helped to define Specialty Coffee as we know it today. CoE, under Susie’s tenure, has helped create an understanding of the individual origins it has been present in since the program’s inception in Brazil, 1999.

Looking back at a hundreds of years of coffee history, this understanding has developed a long way in a very short time. Thank You Susie!

- Robert W

*In the case of Specialty Coffee we are seeing a drive toward taking charge of the production by ‘designing quality’ for specific markets. With so many Colombian farms being re-planted with the Castillo Varietal, the question becomes if the Country is able to meet the demand of an increasingly growing Specialty Coffee market.

Le Carnaval du Café will land in La Bellevilloise: 4-6 November 2014

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Le Carnaval du Café is a celebration of coffee in a comprehensive sense: it’s a time for illuminating the latest in coffee research, a space where merited farmers and exporters get to share their valuable knowledge and expertise, it’s a collegial gathering of researchers, roasters, farmers and exporters—passionate coffee craftspeople. In Paris, no less! We are pleased to announce we have now landed on the venue and dates for this year’s LCDC: La Bellevilloise, a cultural and historic venue in Paris will be Carnaval’s home this year from Tuesday, November 4th to Thursday, November 6th, 2014.

Schedule

Late Afternoon Tuesday, November 4

LCDC starts with a meet-and-greet amongst participants. We’re setting the time later in the day so that participants flying into Paris that morning can have a bit of time to settle into their accommodation and make their way to this first gathering.

9am-5pm Wednesday, November 5 and Thursday, November 6

These are the two main days. All the lectures/presentations and cuppings will take place at La Bellevilloise from 9 AM to approximately 4-5 PM.

Evening, Thursday, November 6

LCDC’s closing dinner will be hosted by our friends, 32 Cup. Venue TBA.

While the event ends on Thursday, hopefully some of you will stay in Paris for the weekend to enjoy all the city has to offer in terms of cultural events, food and coffee culture. We’ve got a lot of recommendations for you; a list carefully curated by our Parisian coffee friends who are in the know. On the other hand, the event ends early enough for you to be home for the weekend. Nice, right?

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Historic venue

La Bellevilloise is beautiful historic venue with many big spaces and we have rented their Le Forum for our event. Le Forum is bright hall where we are going to have a stage for the speakers to put them on a spotlight what they truly deserve. The space additionally contains two other rooms where we are going to set our cupping tables and an area for relaxation between the presentations.

Read of the interesting history of La Bellevilloise:

” Founded in 1877 near Père Lachaise cemetery, right after the Commune, La Bellevilloise is the first Parisian cooperative built to offer to the middle class an access to political education and culture. A place of resistance where the first commercial exchanges from producer to consumer, early equitable trade and shows took place, La Bellevilloise had a main role in the economical and cultural life of the eastern Paris from 1910 to 1949. Since 2005, Renaud Barillet, Fabrice Martinez and Philippe Jupin, three agitators from the living arts production, media and production industry reopened this historical building with a strong project: give a second life to the spirit of La Bellevilloise by creating a huge independent place with artistic activities and happenings for the public, companies and media which is unique in Paris.”

More info coming this week!

Read more at Le Carnaval du Café 2014 website: http://lecarnavalducafe.com/

 

We have a limited amount of tickets in our pockets so be quick! Reserve your spot here by email to hanna@collaborativecoffeesource.com.

 

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