Origin trips

CCS in Ethiopia, 2019

Some of CCS’ strongest and longest standing partnerships were built in East Africa, and in Ethiopia specifically. Laws and trading parameters, restrictions and possibilities, they are changing all the time. As much as we want to hold onto things that work, we keep a dynamic approach and curious mind, always holding the door open for change and improvement. 

A recent transparency reform at the ECX, plus an easing of restrictions on export licenses for coffee suppliers, has opened the market. While new opportunities are great, opportunism is not, so we were cautious when it came to meeting new partners taking advantage of these new trading arrangements.

On the streets of Addis, beyond dusty air and traffic jams, behind construction sites, piles of gravel and hordes of goats, we were introduced to a mild mannered, helpful and service-oriented Abenezer Asfaw. Abenezer is the Supply Chain Manager for Snap, one of those new specialty coffee companies taking advantage of a more open market.

Abenezer Asfaw, Supply Chain Manager for Snap Specialty Coffee, our new partners in Ethiopia

Abenezer Asfaw, Supply Chain Manager for Snap Specialty Coffee, our new partners in Ethiopia

Snap was established by Negusse D. Weldyes, for whom Abenezer is the right and left hand. The company has its own washing stations in Guji, Gedeo and West Arsi, and it also manages coffees on behalf of other washing station owners such as Daniel Mijane in Gedeb, and the Jebril brothers in Uraga, to name a few. Their coffees are meticulously processed, washed and naturals alike. Starting next season, all coffees exported by Snap will be hulled and screened, sorted and bagged at their own dry milling facility in Addis. 

It was clear from the outset that Snap is a company with a long-term commitment to producing well-crafted coffees, not out to make a quick buck before the export license system changes again. Controlling and following up on the last and final steps of the coffee’s journey out of Ethiopia is key, and Snap have proved they have the know-how and infrastructure to make that happen. That is why we have partnered with them.
 

CCS PRESENCE IN ETHIOPIA, JAN AND FEB 2019

CCS will be working closely with Abenezer and his team, sharing cupping tables, lab functions and offices in the Snap building on Bole Road, Addis Ababa. 

Robert will be in Addis from January 11th to the 28th. If you are passing through town, we invite you to the lab to cup with us.

Matt will be leading an official buying trip with customers for CCS from Feb 4th to Feb 11th, 2019. Email Matt to find out more.

If you will be visiting outside of these days, get in touch, we can arrange a cupping of CCS coffees with the team at Snap.

See you in Ethiopia!

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Colombia Origin Trip Update

The “best flavor profile” is, obviously, highly subjective. Mine changes by the hour. I often look for something smooth and chocolatey in the mornings. In the afternoon, give me something lively and exciting.

Whatever your profile, it’s likely you can find it in Colombia.

The CCS team has been all over Colombia in the last few months. On this trip we visited Nariño, Huila and Tolima as guests of our export partners, Fairfield Trading. I split this trip with Colleen, and met the team in Acevedo. We immediately packed ourselves into one of FFT’s safari-style off-road vehicles and set off for the first farm visit.

Finca Los Angeles

We soon arrived at Finca Los Angeles, home of the much-lauded Maria Bercelia Martinez. We spent time touring the farm and discussing the many upgrades and additions she has implemented since our last visit. Success, of course, does not come without hard work and innovation, and Maria is a leader in both. In addition to refining the infrastructure (drying beds, fermentation tanks, and her super-impressive custom patio), Maria is experimenting with new varietals and processing methods.

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San Agustin

From Finca Los Angeles, we made our way west to San Augustin. Fairfield Trading, one of our partners in Colombia, recently purchased and renovated a storefront to become a new purchasing point. This will act as a satellite location for buying coffee, sample roasting and other quality assurance measures, and general business practices. When I say recently, I mean the last coat of paint was drying the night before we arrived! To be among the first to see the beautiful new facility was a spectacular honor. You could see how proud the FFT team was of what they accomplished, and they were so very excited to share it with us. Like their coffee, their hard work on the facility was evident, and they should be proud of the result. Best of luck, Alejandro, Sascha, Ana Beatriz, Eduardo and the rest of the team!

Welcome, clients and producers! The inauguration of the Fairfield Trading purchasing point, San Agustin, Huila, Colombia. From left to right, Stephanie and Dillon from Parlor Coffee, Alejandro of Fairfield Trading, Robert William Thoresen of CCS, and producer Maria Bercelia Martinez.

Welcome, clients and producers! The inauguration of the Fairfield Trading purchasing point, San Agustin, Huila, Colombia. From left to right, Stephanie and Dillon from Parlor Coffee, Alejandro of Fairfield Trading, Robert William Thoresen of CCS, and producer Maria Bercelia Martinez.

Bring on the coffees!

With a fresh boost of inspiration from the unveiling, it was time for the guest of honor – the coffee! We spent the next three days at the old purchasing point in San Augustin, cupping just under one hundred lots. Our group was a big one, with CCS customers from all over the globe including Parlor Coffee from Brooklyn, NY, Sey Coffee from Brooklyn, NY, Behind The Cup from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Reveille Coffee from San Francisco, CA. The space was tight, but with the masterful sample roasting of Esnaider Ortega and direction of Eduardo Urquina, the operation was fantastically smooth. On the table were coffees from Huila including Acevedo (Tarqui, Baralla, and San Augustin), Valle de Cauca (Caicedonia), and Tolima (Planadas, San Antonio and Ibague). The scope of flavor profiles was impressive! The coffees ranged from soft subtle florals, to big bright citric fruits, and even super sweet chocolate/caramel.

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See you in Acevedo

My time in Colombia was short, but as always, very impactful. I came away from the trip as I normally do: feeling blessed to have the opportunity to spend time and learn from some of the best coffee minds and hardest working individuals in the industry. We are all eager for these delicious coffees to make their way to your hands, and I am already dreaming of my next trip to Colombia. Luckily, the Acevedo Cup is right around the corner! Stay tuned for details.

Kenya update - First Origin Trip 2018

We visited Kenya in February, starting at the KenyaCof lab in Karen, and wrapping up in C. Dormans LTD in Nairobi. For ten exciting days we cupped the best of this year’s Kenya crops, and found the truly unique and delicious gems amongst so much great coffee. 
 

Order your samples

We are excited to provide you with nothing but the best of what Kenya has to offer. These stellar coffees should be on the water very shortly. Contact Nico in Europe, or Colleen and Sal in the US to request samples.
 

KenyaCof

It was my first trip to this origin, and I could not have imagined the logistics behind buying coffee in an auction system, and what that means for sample storage. The first day I walked into KenyaCof I was blown away by the thousands of sample bags that filled the office. To me, it looked like compete chaos, but the wizardly staff at KenyaCof could have located a sample in a second, and told us exactly how much was remaining. I am truly impressed with the professionalism at KenyaCof, including Managing Director, Mie Hansen, who hosted us in a multitude of ways, even picking us up from the hotel every day, to Sample Roaster extraordinaire James, and everyone in between.

Days one and two at KenyaCof were spent screening and pairing down the massive offerings list, setting up the final table for day three. There was an overwhelming number of coffees to choose from and I am thrilled with what we’ve selected.

Decisions are hard - Will (left, Tandem Coffee Roasters), Ondrej (middle, Doubleshot) and Robert grapple with the difficult task of selecting the best of the best. 

Decisions are hard - Will (left, Tandem Coffee Roasters), Ondrej (middle, Doubleshot) and Robert grapple with the difficult task of selecting the best of the best. 

A small fraction of the KenyaCof offerings

A small fraction of the KenyaCof offerings

Dormans

The start of the next week brought a short trek over to the historic C. Dormans Ltd lab. Dormans Coffee holds such a dear place in my heart, and it has long been my dream to visit their famous facility. How bittersweet it was to have made it to the lab in its last year before they move to a bigger and better facility. While you can’t take the history of the building with you, you can take the people and know-how that make C. Dormans the coffee powerhouse it is today. I had the fortune of seeing some drawings of the planned facility, and it is going to be spectacular.

The lab was buzzing with activity when we arrived. The plan, as before, was two days of pre-screening coffees, followed by a final day of top selections. Again, we were overwhelmed with the quantity of delicious coffee, and the skill of their roaster of 28 years, Samuel, whose consistency is awe-inspiring. Raphael and the rest of the Dormans team were thrilled of the quality of coffee available in the auction this year, and noted the significant improvement over last.
 

Price increase

While quality is definitely up, yields in Kenya this year are down, and that will affect prices.

Bridget Carrington, Managing Director at Dormans, explained that production is down around 20-30% on the main crop. “The New York futures market is much lower, so the coffee that is traded deferentially is more expensive,” she said. However she also agreed that quality is a better this year than last. “The best coffees continue to fetch healthy premiums over and above the rest."

Raphael (far right) and his team at Dormans working hard to provide us with delicious coffee

Raphael (far right) and his team at Dormans working hard to provide us with delicious coffee

Ruiri Coffee Fair

This trip was strictly about cupping, so we didn’t have time to visit any farms or washing stations. However we did have the chance to see the Ruiri Coffee Fair. Don’t bother Googling it. I tried. The website doesn’t link to booth reservations, hotel offerings or a symposium program. You won’t find much more than a date and time for last year’s event, and a Facebook group that suggests that two people attended. But I can assure you it exists and more than two people were there.

In fact, there were perhaps 300 people from Kiambu County, which may be a small fraction of the attendance of an event like the SCA Specialty Coffee Expo, but for those 300 people it was possibly the most important event on their calendar. As well as discovering the latest technology tractors, depulpers and roasting machines, those 300 people were there to share and receive information. In our hyper-connected countries we sometimes take for granted our access to information, anytime, anywhere. For these farmers, the Ruiri Coffee Fair may be the place to receive some small offering of knowledge that changes their coffee, and thus, their lives.

The booths were buzzing with eager attendees

The booths were buzzing with eager attendees

Sustainability and financing seminar at the Ruiri Coffee Fair

Sustainability and financing seminar at the Ruiri Coffee Fair

Cultural cupping exchange

Cupping in Kenya was also a transformative experience for me. On this trip we were joined by a number of colleagues from across the globe; Will of Tandem Coffee Roasters in the United States, Ondrej from Doubleshot in Czech Republic, Stanley of Green Coffee Gallery in Taiwan, and Nicholas of Camera Obscura in Russia.

It is always a joy and a revelation to travel with coffee professionals from different parts of the world. As a coffee buyer, even a single cupping session with someone from another culture can yield information that gives you an invaluable outlook into another market, an experience that you just can’t get secondhand. To spend multiple days with them and see how the process works in their head, session-to-session, can add a layer of understanding that allows you to grow you as a professional. You start to re-evaluate your own understanding of coffee. I’m very grateful for each time I get this opportunity. Thanks, all. 

Matt