In Bloom at Fazenda Nossa Senhora Aperecida

We recently received some beautiful photographs from our farm in Brasil, Fazenda Nossa Senhora Aparecida. These pictures, from the first flowering of Yellow Bourbon coffee trees, are an exciting glimpse of things to come on the farm. Rains have been decent this year, and we are eagerly anticipating this new crop. And beyond the rains from Mother Nature, a new irrigation system is being installed right now that will ensure better and better coffee harvests in seasons to come. Watch this space for photos of the second flowering, and our next coffee harvest. It’s almost as good as being there…well, almost.



Baristas Gear Up for NERBC 2012!

So you wanna compete, huh? Or just want to learn more about barista competitions and how you can get involved? Come on out to Dallis Bros. Coffee Friday, Nov 11, from 4pm to 6pm for an informal happy hour info session on what you need to know to throw your hat in the ring at the 2012 Northeast Regional Barista Competition.

Reigning Northeast Regional Barista Champion Philip Search, Northeast Brewer’s Cup Champion Erin McCarthy and US Barista Championship judge Dan Streetman will join the Dallis Bros. Coffee crew—to answer questions and talk about the upcoming competition season. Come ask questions, meet other competitors and see what all the fuss is about!

And yes–refreshments will be served. First stop Ozone Park, next stop the World Championships! Click here for directions.

Finca La Paz in Serious Eats:Drinks


Serious Coffee: Byron Holcomb, Coffee Farmer and More
Erin Meister talks with our coffee director Byron Holcomb about his coffee farm in the Dominican Republic, Finca La Paz, in Serious Eats:Drinks
10/31/11

Pre-Thanksgiving Roastery Tour!

Join us for a tour of our coffee roasting factory and tasting room in Ozone Park, Queens!

The first Saturday of each month we offer a few hours of local history, coffee tasting, and a tour de force of our roasting plant hosted by our Coffee Director Byron Holcomb.

Our next tour is Saturday, November 5th beginning at 1:00 and wrapping up at about 4:00.  Space on the tour is limited so book now at orders@dallisbroscoffee.com.  Tours are $10, and due to the tasting component we ask that all participants keep perfumes and colognes at home.  We look forward to seeing you soon.

Dallis Bros. and Sisters: Meet Carlo Simeon!

Dallis Personnel Bios

Carlo Simeon is one of Dallis Bros. Coffee’s longest-standing employees. Whether alongside the roaster or making sure coffee gets perfectly packaged for thirsty New Yorkers, Carlo’s seen Dallis, well, grow up a lot over the years. We tore him away from his busy day to ask a few questions about his time at Dallis Bros.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Port au Prince.

How long have you been at Dallis Bros.?
I’ve been 30 years!

How did you get into coffee?
My friend was working here before I was. My first job here was packing coffee. I’m now roasting and packaging coffee.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?
For me, I don’t see anything hard! Roasting is the hard part. I’ve been roasting here for 20 years! Yeah, it gets more and more fun.

What’s the funnest thing about your job?
The Bosch [bagging] machine! Because I like it. I package 1-pound and 5-pound bags in it. It’s easy to use, and it’s a very nice machine! That machine has been here since 1985. I can fix some of it, but not all of it.

What’s your favorite thing about Ozone Park???
My favorite thing—I think it’s nice neighborhood, I’ve never seen anything wrong over here.

What’s your favorite coffee right now, and how do you like to prepare it?
Usually that is dark coffee, but I like tea! Green tea, any kind of green tea is what I like best.

Farm Diaries: Finca La Paz Afterword

When not keeping quality at the utmost and selecting green beans for our roastery, our Director of Coffee, Byron Jackson Holcomb, is also a coffee farm owner. We’ve been keeping up with his dispatches from his own farm, Finca La Paz, in the Dominican Republic. Here’s the last installment of his most recent trip.

Afterword

I wanted to give one last recap of what is going on in the Dominican Republic.

Consumption has out paced production this year, so the company that sets the prices, Induban, went out and bought a few boxes of . . . Vietnam. I’m sure it is terrible Robusta. They are the same company that sets the internal price. When the market was recently at 280, DR coffee traded at about -50 or 8500RD peso/qq or $2.25/lb. Now the market is at 229 and DR coffee is trading the same 8500RD pesos/qq or $2.25/lb. Nope it doesn’t make sense. They must be long on coffee with their new purchase and import of “rot gut R word”. At the same time Brazil had devalued a good bit against the dollar. And the DR peso has also slipped from 37RD peso per USD to 38RD pesos per USD.

One good thing coming out of this is that farmers are taking more ownership of their farms. The cost of living and salaries are rather high in the DR compared to countries like Nic. Over the last 10 years farmers went from managing every aspect of their farm and counting their profit at the end of the year, to slowly eliminating coffee and handing all management over to workers. It went like this: cheap labor and rather low costs = farmers managing the entire picking, cleanings and pruning of their coffees. In the 1950′s, the DR was one of the major exporters of coffee. Even in the 90′s there was plenty of coffee leaving the DR. The DR is one of the few coffees that can be traded on the NYBOT ICE or the Futures market. After the coffee crisis in 1999, farmers starting losing lots of money. They offered their coffee farms to their pickers to manage. It started where the pickers would manage the cleanings (2-3 per year) and at the end they would get 1/4th of the harvest as payment. The owner still owned the land, but was totally removed. Then prices stay low and costs go up. Workers demanded 1/3 of the harvest. Owners gave it to them because they couldn’t make profit. For about the last 10 years (I think) coffee was provided to the workers at 1/2 “a media”. Usually the owner only shows up on the days the pickings happen to see that they actually get 50% of the harvested coffee. You can imagine a non-owner taking care of a farm for 3-10 years… the farms look terrible. No inputs (organic or chemcial), no real pruning method, cleaning only just before the harvest (so coffee trees are stressed and compete with vines and weeds for nutrients and sunlight). Often times there is suspicion of taking coffee or not taking “good enough” care of the farm or harvesting too harshly and killing next year’s crop potential. Which means the farm is offered “a media” to different picker every year (those farms look particularly bad).

Now, since last year farmers made some money on coffee and are actually stepping back into their farms. They are paying for cleanings. They are paying pickers per day and per the “caja” or box for picking coffee. The farms look better and the coffee isn’t all spoken for before, it flowers (which is better for exporting quality coffee). These are all much better conditions for producing quality coffee and having sustainable financial and environmental systems.

My coffee from Finca La Paz is on a truck headed to Ozone Park! It should arrive on Tuesday.

Farm Diaries: Finca La Paz Part Two

The second installment from our Coffee Director, Byron Jackson Holcomb, on his recent trip to his own coffee farm, Finca La Paz, in the Dominican Republic.

27 September 2011: Lessons

Chop dem weeds. Have any of you ever trained some one to use a computer for the first time? It is painful. No, the mouse is that little thing there. That is a folder, click and drag. No click. No click with the other button. No hold the button down. I did a class down here years ago, it taught me a lot of patience.

Today I had a massive list of projects for Antonio. But before we could do the fun stuff we did some more weed wackin training. He changed the head to a blade that looked like a saw blade. Antonio has great hands, but when it comes to wrenching it takes him a very very long time to get it right.  It seemed like an hour to change the head from the nylon to the saw. I saw that he put it on backwards, I figured the practice was a good thing.

He started it and it just pushed the weeds around. I pointed out that it was on backwards. It only took him 20 minutes to put it on right this time. I was really glad that we did this follow-up training. Antonio is brilliant with what he knows. With small motors and that type of mechanics, it is like a new language.

My thoughts are mixed on the weed eater. I can’t use it on really steep sections (40% of the farm). And the nylon only works on lighter brush, but you can get really close to the dirt. The blades are great for thick brush but we can’t use the guard (more likely to fall coffee trees) or cut that close to the dirt (so the weeds grow really fast and the work needs to be done again).

We spent the rest of the day planning out all the projects: Lemon Persa, Passion Fruit, Yucca, Banana, styrofoam plates soaked in oil to attract and drow broca, broca traps with ground coffee and rum, pruning planning and fertilizer application. I tried to explain how we plan work on Nossa Senhora with precision agro product application (each section with different needs). In a very simplified way that is what today was like.

There is still plenty of work to do. The next few months will be very busy for Antonio.

It is bed time. It is raining. The heat is not appropriate for the season. The harvest is soon to arrive. The cockroaches are roaming the bathroom. And the dogs are eating chicken bones. Nighty night.

29 September 2011: Beginning to Build

Yesterday and today were pretty dandy. Yesterday we spent most of the day drilling holes in metal tubes for the new roof of the parabolic drying bed (the wood roof tore the plastic sheeting every year). The generator wouldn’t start. So we used what did work: two car batteries and an inverter.

There is one guy in these 9 towns who has a drill and a few metal bits. Jose. He is a total clown, and thinks his drill is really manly. I like Jose a lot.

We assembled and drilled one side of the roof. Then the sky fell out and dumped gallons of violent water and lightning that struck really close.

When the lightning slowed to a roll, we turned the inverter back on and it smoked and sparks flew. I borrowed an inverter from Antonio and we finished the job just before nightfall, and the two batteries lost their charge.

Today we headed to the farm with the tubes bundled and shouldered, nails, screws, saws and the omnipresent machetes on our hips. We assembled each side of the roof and put it in place. It was crazy hot all morning. The clouds were low and threatened rain after breakfast. It drizzled a bit but we got the new roof installed and tied to the wood frame. Hopefully this will last us a few more years.

It was 4pm before we started the long walk up the hill.  The rain roared in the distance and I was sure our good luck ran out. It drizzled on us the whole way up the hill to Antonio’s house. Apparently there is a tropical storm in the area. I’ve lived through enough of these seasons (basically since 2003) to know that if it is supposed to be bad, nothing will happen. And if there is no news, it could be the worst of the whole year. Some news means it might rain. It is the end of the rainy season here. So it might rain every day.

This year’s crop was supposed to be massive because of the flowering. However cold dry air didn’t allow the April flowering, which was the biggest, to take, and the crop is smaller than it should have been. Much like is about to happen in Brazil if they don’t get some steady rains soon.

to be continued…

Farm Diaries: Finca La Paz Part One

Besides being our esteemed Director of Coffee, Byron Jackson Holcomb is a licensed Q grader, meaning he’s able to evaluate cofeees and calibrate his palate with the best in the world. And when he’s not in Ozone Park, he’s managing his own coffee farm, Finca La Paz, in the Dominican Republic. Byron recently checked in from Finca La Paz and sent us these dispatches from the front lines of coffee. Keep checking back for further installments.

23 September 2011: The Journey

I got the bump to First Class. The weed eater got through security. I took a public bus to San Juan and listened to the usual loud hilarious conversations that happen on those buses. It all started because the guys who sell roasted corn apparently don’t wash their hands after going pee. Then a guy accused all women of using all 5 fingers to wipe. The woman (about 40 yrs) who started the gender war demanded to be called Senorita. A name reserved for young virgins. I will spare you what the bus discussed after that.

It was hilarious.

Now I’m at a hotel in San Juan, tomorrow I take the weeder to a welder’s shop to get a metal guard fitted. I need to buy some supplies for the parabolic drying bed then catch the only truck to Los Frios in the market at 12 noon.

26 September 2011: Arrival

When the owner isn’t present things take more time. When the owner has no idea what to do things take even more time.

It feels like that, now that my farm is 4 years old, I have a pretty good idea about making this farm work for me. I’ve made almost every mistake so far. Wrong cleaning methods. Paid too much for coffee in the tree. Wrong planting methods. Letting Antonio “prune”. Not planning far enough in advance for farm work.

Anyway. It feels like now I have the horse under control. Aida Battle sent me a picture of a weed-eater-guard her workers use to protect the coffee trees from a renegade weed wacker, which was the missing piece of technology I needed. Now I have one installed on mine. Today Antonio and I covered the basics on how to use the weed wacker that served as my checked bag en route here. This might save me a ton of money in cleanings.

Antonio has put dried bean plants tied up and hung them in different parts of the farm to encourage the growth of a fungus that kills the broca. It actually seems to discourage the growth.

I’ve been told by many that banana is not beneficial to cafe. Wrong. I’ve allowed Antonio to plant many many bananas in the areas we are re-establishing coffee. A friend told me that we need to plant even more. I’m happy to. Fill every inch. I don’t care that I can’t sell the bananas. Let em rot with the rest I can’t sell.

There are a lot more examples, but I will spare you the details of happy lime trees which could pay the rent, and chayote and passion fruit that only cost me money.

No’ vemo’ pronto.

to be continued…

Dallis Bros. and Sisters: Meet the Director of Coffee!

Before a coffee gets to your morning cup, it has to get to Dallis Bros. Coffee, and without a talented, diplomatic, and quality-focused Director of Coffee, we wouldn’t have anything to roast at all. Our Director of Coffee, Byron Jackson Holcomb, is thus a critical part of the team here at Dallis Bros. He’s a licensed Q grader, meaning he’s able to evaluate coffees and calibrate his palate with the best in the world. And when he’s not in Ozone Park, he’s managing his own coffee farm, Finca La Paz, in the Dominican Republic. We took a minute to hear Byron’s coffee story.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a logging town in Northern California. There was no coffee there. But there were a lot of pine trees, and a lot of dirt, and it was gorgeous. My father was a field hydrologist, which is the study of watersheds, and everyday he’d come home with stories about bears and bobcats and rattlesnakes and king snakes. And that really inspired me to do something environmental, something with biology.

How long have you been at Dallis?

Just over a year. John found me wandering the floor at a coffee trade show, I was consulting at the time. We had known each other before — our paths almost crossed at Counter Culture Coffee — and we had a little chat about possibly doing some work for Dallis Bros. in the Southeast. I met some of the people and was super excited, and said yes! I’ll take the sales job. And then three weeks into it, and after my training, they suggested this position.

How did you get into coffee?

I had this little voice in the back of my head, for the two years while I was in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, that said “do more with coffee, do more with coffee”.

I didn’t go into coffee there, but I did see the production cycle, as well as that of avocados, soil erosion barriers, family planning projects, etc. I left the Peace Corps intending to work in the non-profit world, and it was about a year until I got totally burnt out working in a Cuban refugee settlement program — I received people coming off the plane, and I had 24 hours notice to get their apartment ready. I started looking at myself and what I wanted to do with my life, and then I had what I called my coffee epiphany. I wanted to work with something global in scope, use my Spanish, use my skills I learned in Peace Corps, and then I went to a coffee trade show out west, without a job, and had a great conversation with one guy from a roastery in Alaska, who said “Byron, you can do anything you want in coffee! You can travel, you can fix equipment, you can sell equipment, you can buy coffee, you can roast coffee, anything!”

Six months into my first coffee job, at Batdorf & Bronson, I was offered to purchase a coffee farm. I agreed on a price for the farm over the phone, i knew it was an honest price, and went down and bought it, while i was a production employee at Batdorf.

From there I’ve gleaned an immense amount of production and farming knowledge, because it’s very different when I walk into someone’s farm now as a buyer and ask how is this going, how do you do your pruning, etc., that’s very different than being the farmer, and being the one who has to deal with whatever comes in. Because it’s a fruit tree. It’s not something like a cabbage crop that you can spray or move or manipulate or manage very quickly. It’s a tree farm. If you have an infestation of the bean bore from your neighbor’s negligence, you have to deal with it.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

There are no challenges! Just kidding… the biggest challenge is the fact that I need to sleep. There’s SO MUCH work to do, there’s so much good coffee out there, if I could clone myself and have one person that’s full time on the road at origin, developing relationships at origin, that’d be great. The biggest challenge is just not getting everything done that i want to get done. Maintaining quality, improving quality, training, sourcing. We’re sourcing really great coffees, all that said, there’s so much I still want to do.

What’s the funnest thing about your job?

One of the funnest things that I get to do is cup with other people. I love hearing other people’s interpretations of coffees, and I really enjoy working with all of the coffee supply chain. So from importers, exporters, directly with farmers, directly with millers, all the way through to baristas. I really enjoy those conversations. Because those are the gatekeepers of quality, and just to say it’s all about the farmer is completely misinformed and wrong. You have to talk to all the gatekeepers of coffee to help produce and create really phenomenal coffee. And that’s an incredible game of diplomacy, of being assertive, of knowing true value, of being a strong cupper, of respecting their culture. And you have to do all of that.

What’s your favorite thing about Ozone Park?

To be honest? I love hearing snippets of people’s excessively loud music as they drive by on 102nd Street. It’s never the same — sometimes it’s reggaeton, sometimes it’s hip hop, sometimes it’s rap, sometimes it’s incredibly loud Indian music. It’s just so diverse. And so loud! This place is just oozing with culture — and yet none of it is sexy.

What’s your favorite coffee right now, and how do you like to prepare it?

It’s the Kenya Muburi right now, it’s a coffee that is really sweet, it’s really intense, it’s really balanced. Very chocolatey, great tropical fruit notes. It’s not the super typical Kenya, but it is super super coffee. I use a Bonmac pourover with a single hole, 19 grams of coffee, 300 mL, one bloom and then all in.

Dallis Coffee in Edible Queens Magazine


Local Brew
Nancy Davidson in Edible Queens Magazine
Fall 2011 (print only)