Ethiopia is known the world over for its beautiful coffee. Not only is it the birthplace of all Arabica coffea (Arabica) coffee, it is home to some of the most diverse regions, varieties and cup profiles. In 2009, the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange was started and coffee was included with other products like, sesame seeds, wheat and corn. The idea was to organize these markets and provide the farmers with greater clarity on how pricing is set.
One effect of the ECX is that there is an incredible amount of control, grading and regulation of coffee. Coffee, after all, is the largest dollar-value export for Ethiopia and therefore critically important to the health of the entire economy. Coffees that are delivered to the ECX lose their traceability upon arrival to the warehouse. The coffee is graded and the “acabi” (miller) is given a ticket. Then the coffee is sold per grade and volume, not per specific farmer or delivery. When coffee is graded there are specific regions and grades given for quality. We can tell you this coffee came from Kochere because there it received a Kochere Grade. Kochere is a high altitude region just south of the small town of Yirgacheffe. This is as close as traceability now gets in Ethiopia.
Buy coffee from Kochere here.
Guatemala Chajulense Fair Trade Organic
We’re huge fans of the big flavor of Guatemalan coffees, and of cooperative farming that truly works, both at the farmer level and the quality in the cup. Hints of Key lime pie and berries drew us in to this beautiful coffee, whose renowned co-op is a great example of farming done right.
Cooperatives can do lots of things at origin. They often provide great social services to their members and they can provide several container loads of coffee to buyers. Chajulense is a co-op that has members in 57 different small communities, with projects as diverse as supporting ecotourism, honey production, and even running their own radio station. When co-ops are large, it is rare that they produce quality levels that could actually meet the standards of Dallis Bros. Coffee. But this coffee is different.
This flavorful coffee is picked by the individual farmers and processed on their farms. It is then fully dried and delivered to the co-op. The Chajulenses are packed with unique culture. Part of their attitude is that the benefits of the coffee should be divided amongst all the members. This means it is unlikely that they will be producing microlots to highlight specific farmers. That said, some containers arrive with wonderful cup scores, depending on when the coffee was picked and which farmers contributed to it. We were able to pick up this lot through our relationship with Chajulense’s importer, and were thrilled with the complexity and comprehensiveness of its flavor – sweet berry fruit, sweet lime, honey, granola, and a creamy body. This coffee really stood out.
Honduras – Liquidambar
The joy of working directly with a farmer is great. The joy of working directly with a great farmer is tremendous. Our relationship with Reina Mercedes Claros Bautista has taught us the simple beauty of farming great coffee: in this case the lush, vibrant, competition-winning, peach-necatar-sweet coffee we know as Finca Liquidambar.
Doña Reina Mercedes Claros Bautista is rather famous in Western Honduras. Dallis Bros. Coffee has had the pleasure of attending both the 2010 and 2011 Cup of Excellence events in Honduras, and were afforded the opportunity to ask Reina Mercedes Claros Bautista how her coffee is so consistent every year. She explained simply: it starts with good picking. You have to watch your workers to make sure they only pick ripe cherries. From there, coffee is brought to the wet mill and de-pulped the same day, then allowed to ferment for a 12-hour period before it is washed. Bautista actually manages two different farms, which she keeps fully separate: Finca El Durazno and Finca Liquidambar. She also personally manages the drying of the coffee on her own patio. As coffees are drying, she keeps all the coffee of the same moisture contents together. “Remember,” she says. “I don’t mix coffees together.”
When talking with her, Reina’s tone is humble. When drinking her coffee it is brilliant. She grows 70% Red Catuai and 30% Yellow Catuai on her farm near San Juan in Intibuca Honduras. We were proud to tell her that her coffee was part of a 50% blend of Philip Search’s winning espresso in the 2011 Northeast Regional Barista Competition in New York City. She was moved to hear this good news. This is the second year in a row that we are able to offer her coffee direct from her farm. We hope to continue this into the future.
Takahiro Pour Kettles Back in stock
Our stock of Takahiro pour-kettles had run dry. And now they are back!
CoE Honduras Re-cap
Every licence plate in Honduras says, “Cuidamos los Bosques” – “We take care of our forests”. Usually the things said on licence plates hold some truth. I was really curious to see how their forest really looked. During my time in San Pedro Sula we saw some coffee growing regions after the daily cuppings. There was some slash-and-burn agriculture to be seen but it was under control. On the average, the steep upper sections of the hills did have plenty of cover. Over all I was impressed with their forest management.
The National Judges narrowed a field of 170 (if I remember correctly) down to 52 coffees for us to judge. After the first round we had only narrowed it down to 40 coffees. One the second round, which was Thursday, we cupped all 40 coffees to see if they could pass an 84 on the CoE cupping form for the second time. The third round of cupping is actually only the top ten to establish the ranking and get descriptors for those coffees. At the end of it, only 33 coffees made it through. Over all the coffees were brilliant. On the last day I wrote “candy” under sweetness twice. I found about 4 different profiles. All were acidic. Some were so bright that they turned sour as they cooled. Speaking only of acidity there was a full range of acidities and concentrations. Some were soft well structured and malic, others pointed and phosphoric, some were dry and tartaric. I will get more into the profiles in a different post.
Before my first participation in the Cup of Excellence, I was a fan of the program. They have successfully identified producers that are producing quality and rewarded them with never heard of prices. There are real barriers to finding some of these coffees. Certain people in the coffee chain benefit from blending brilliant coffee with commercial grade to sell something passable. To those people discovering new areas is not in their advantage because they might lose their source of high quality coffee to bring up the quality of their blends.
Twenty Four coffee professionals spent a full week cupping coffee knowing only they are from Honduras. We only could talk about coffees by table position. Last year the Santa Barbra region dominated. This year was the same, but only because the cups stood up for themselves on strong tables. I’m now an even bigger fan of the CoE after going through the process.
Kenya – Kiamabara
About 150km (93 miles) north of Nairobi is a small town called Nyeri. If you try and drive the route it might take three to four hours. It seemed like every road in the country was under construction last October when I was there. Like much of East Africa, most Kenyan farmers only own an acre or two. This distribution of ownership makes quality coffee production difficult in some countries, but in Kenya systems are in place that actually support some of the small famers and coffee co-ops.
Farms less than 6 acres are not allowed to process their own coffee. They must deliver the coffee to a wet mill where it will be managed with professional care and attention. This single step secures coffee quality starting at the cherry. Immediately after de-pulping, the coffee sorting begins with washing channels, and then with size sorting. As soon as the coffee hits the drying beds, workers hand pick out any defective looking parchment coffee. At this stage, the coffee is called P1, P2, P3, and P4. P1 is the best quality and P4 is the lower quality. (Coffees I buy come from P1 and P2). Once the coffee is fully dried the coffee is rested in specific resting areas that control the airflow over the coffee. Often times the best coffees from these small mills might only be 15 bags weighing 60kgs or 132lbs.
The auction system allows those 15 bags to be sold independently without blending. Each lot is auctioned individually to a host of buyers. The buyer who bids the most by pushing their red button wins. As I saw in Kenya some farmers set their base price above the auction price and hence actually can reject the auction price offer, which is yet another reason Kenyan coffees can be very expensive.
This Lot comes from the Mugaga Farmers Society and it processed at the Kiambara mill. As I said above sometimes farmers own small plots of land. The average number of coffee trees per family is only 200. Kiamabara is not going to be found on any maps but I can tell you where it is. Between Nyeri and Mt. Kenya National Park you will find 910 members that deliver their coffee cherries for good prices.
When buying Kenyan coffees I look for areas that have heirloom varieties planted. The trees that give us this beautiful coffee are SL-28 and SL-34 varieties.
In the cup, this coffee is crisp, clean and vibrant with notes of raspberry with a tart lemony brightness. The silky smooth body and deep chocolate notes round out a beautiful and lively cup.
Coffee Director – Dallis Bros Coffee
Out of the shadows of illicit agriculture springs the beautiful Los Idolos, a beguilingly soft, citrusy coffee from Colombia’s flavorful Huila region. Though farmers in the area used to produce somewhat less…legal…crops, they now farm coffee, like this this butterscotch-sweet-and-savory microlot we’re proud to offer you.
Los Idolos comes from the region La Vereda de Los Cauchos in southern Colombia, in the Department of Huila (whee-la). The area’s rich history is still present today in the ancient statuary high on the hilltops, known to locals as “El Altos de Los Idolos”.
This coffee is brought to us by the Grupo Asociativo San Agustin Los Cauchos co-op. Like many remote regions in Colombia, coffee is not as lucrative as some more illicit crops. Since 2002 the co-op has committed to not growing such crops because of the tension that followed. The members made the conversion to producing quality coffee and have been rewarded with prices 35%-50% above the internal market. The premiums have helped them improve infrastructure in the community and improve their quality of life all while producing a legal (and safer) product.
This coffee is grown very near the microlot Andino. However, the farms in La Vereda de Los Cauchos differ in aspect. It is a mountainous region and the general aspect of the farms face east, meaning morning dew is burned off early and coffee trees spend more of the day in slightly hotter temperatures than the west-facing Andino. Both co-ops are very near San Agustin and yet the coffees taste distinctly different.
This uniquely sweet and savory coffee has overwhelming sweet caramel notes. The mandarin-orange-like acidity is soft and balanced, and brings out the depth in this coffee. Try it alongside our Andino to get a nuanced flavor comparison.
Andino Especial Micro-Lot
This fruity, floral coffee is just one result of our relationships in Colombia. A partnered investment in our coffee’s production allows us not only a connection to the farm, but the ability to learn from real agricultural innovation. As such, we’re proud to offer the Andino Especial Micro-Lot.
As we strive for transparency in coffee, we are faced with real challenges accessing the true farmers that produce our coffees in remote areas. Through a multi-year personal relationship with an exporter in Colombia, we were able to source a special micro-lot from Andino, near the town of Bruselas, that seven farmers contributed to assemble: Albiero Calambas, Norbey Macias, Ana Nelly Luna, Sergio Daza, Arnoldo Hernandez, Edilma Piedrahita and Helio Roco. They are all members of Grupo Asociativo Café Andino Especial, which cooperatively produces about 1,000 bags per year. These seven producers are clearly managing their coffee right from pruning, development, harvesting and wet-processing.
The topography of Colombia is packed with vertical running valleys called veredas (ver-A-das). Andino comes from the west-facing side of the valley, which gets most of its sun late in the day, keeping the trees cooler longer — which in our experience leads to a wonderful acidity in the cup. Our Coffee Director, Byron Holcomb, is a farmer himself and has cupped aspect-specific lots to study this pattern.
The coffee is picked and wet milled on each individual farm. The coffee is then dried in raised beds called Parabolic Drying Beds. This process helps to prolong the life of the green beans while developing that beautiful clean and balanced acidity. To keep the cup tasting clean, we had the coffee shipped in vacuum-sealed boxes to preserve its freshness.
Colombia is a large country, so we chose two different profiles from Huila to explore the flavors of a region. Try Andino alongside the beautiful Los Idolos to get a sense of the nuance available lot to lot.
We find this coffee to be sweet and bright with beautiful clarity and floral notes of orange that fill out a supple and round body.
When we select a coffee at Dallis Bros. Coffee, there is one requirement that must be met: it must make us say, “wow”. When our Director of Coffee, Byron Holcomb, first cupped this Pacamara, it was set among a selection of fantastic Central American microlots. This coffee was so beautiful, complex and intriguing that it stopped him in his tracks. Farmed near the birthplace of the Pacamara variety, this coffee is an exemplary offering of how sweet, acidic and balanced a Pacamara can be.
Luis Silva’s Finca Siberia is known to offer some of the best 100% Bourbon and 100% Pacamara coffees in El Salvador. Since 1870, the farm has been passed down through generations. We at Dallis Bros. Coffee can relate on a personal level to a commitment to sustainability that spans generations. Year after year, harvest after harvest, decisions are made to maintain quality and the environment.
Roasting a Pacamara is an art. The beans are exceptionally large due to their paternal genes from the Maragogype variety, dwarfing most other beans produced in Central America. The next consideration is density. Pacamara beans tend to be rather soft. The trick to roasting Pacamara is to get enough heat to the center of the bean without damaging the outside. Lucky for us we have talented roasters and a Probat G-45 that can make this coffee sing.
this coffee market. . .
Last week I was able to participate in the SCAA Symposium in Houston Texas. In my job as a green buyer for Dallis Bros, managing our risk and quality are priorities number one and number one. Really. Both are related.
The global perspective shown in the Symposium was really refreshing to hear. The attitude seemed to be, “we are all in this together”. One of the positives from this market is that all of us buyers are dealing with the same NYBOT_KC ticker. I want to share a bit of what I understand as of now:
1) The paradigm shift that recently happened (maybe 9 months ago) was the fundamental driver of the coffee C market switching from Supply driven to Demand driven. Demand is nearly impossible to quantify and “visible coffee stocks are at the lowest recorded levels”.
2) Emerging markets: Brazil, China and India are consuming much more coffee than they did before. Brazil’s consumption (from the graphs I’ve seen) is increasing almost 1million bags (60kg) a year.
3) In general the demand has gone up and supply has also increased. But consumers are demanding more and more quality coffee (Specialty Grade). The Specialty supply hasn’t kept up with the increased demand.
4) Foreign Currency rates are pushing the market around, especially as the dollar has weakened. For example, today the market fell about 12 points over the period of about 30 minutes. . . Word on the street is a weak report on the Brazilian Real caused a sell-off.
It is chaotic. The coffee market has always been chaotic. I hope this at least explains a bit of the chaos. There is plenty more to come.