With the North East Regional Barista Championship coming up quickly, we’re offering a sneak peek into the activities at our training lab in Ozone Park. As the city’s finest baristas gear up to compete for the title of best in the region, it’s time to practice, practice, and practice—with the occasional break to answer questions for our blog.
This week we’re starting off with competitor Tommy Green from Tiny’s Giant.
Where do you work and how long have you been in coffee?
I’m working at Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop in the Lower East Side. Been working in coffee for about 5 months now.
What made you decide to compete in the NERBC?
I was watching some videos of old competitions a year or 2 ago and thought it was pretty interesting. so when the chance was presented to me i decided to dive in head first…also i was only a barista for about 3 months when i made the decision.
What coffee did you choose to work with and why?
i wanted something with a nice red fruit and after cupping a few coffees i chose the Las Amzonas from Honduras. After tasting it on its own it needed something else to round out the bitternesss and really increase the juiciness. After trying 2 or 3 different Kenyans and Ethiopians, I chose to go with the Liquidambar which won the brewers cup last year and is also from Honduras. once blended with the Los Amazonas it gave me right what i was looking for and a little bit more. so I’ve got 2 Honduran coffees that create a juicy red fruit a nice chocolate/slight lemon rind bitterness and have been getting an interesting key lime finish.
What can you tell us about your signature drink?
As far as signature drink I’m still in the process of collecting the parts to make it come to life. as of now I’ve got some puréed raspberry/blueberry and possibly a tiny bit of cream. Still in the early stages
What’s your training regimen been like so far?
I’ve been training since late November/early December at the Dallis training lab, with 3 other great baristas and also the best training staff a guy or gal could want. Once a week and the last 3 weeks have added an extra day in there since the competition is edging near. Basically we’ve been doing time trials and tweaking blends. Also we’ve brought in a lot of interesting foods to taste so we could compare them to bitterness, sweetness, and acidity that we might find in our espresso. And just having fun being crazy weird and nerding out about coffee.
Have you been to a competition before? What do you think is rad about it or what excites you about its role in the industry, or your role within the competition and within the greater community?
I’ve never been to a competition before. I think it’s really great for the industry because the regions best baristas are showcased along with the roasters. with the baristas usually creating the most crazy and delicious drinks that most people wouldn’t think to create in their wildest dreams.
IMPORTANT NERBC ATTENDEE INFO!
Dallis Bros. Coffee is pleased to be hosting the 2012 NERBC and Brewer’s Cup in association with the Coffee and Tea Festival in a few short weeks. Planning on attending only the NERBC? Skip the festival admission and watch the competition completely free of charge, as a guest of Dallis Bros. and the United States Barista Championship!
To gain free NERBC admission on our guest list, just fill out this handy form and we’ll have your name at the door for both days of the competition. Please note that if you don’t register for our list in advance, attendees will be required to pay festival admission at the door.
Come on out and cheer on the region’s finest coffee pros!
It’s a special opportunity to intimately learn the nuances of a particular coffee farm, from growing section to growing section. Our relationship to Finca Buenos Aires is one such opportunity, as we explore multiple growing sections of the same farm.
Dallis Bros. had the help of a very famous coffee farmer, Aida Batlle, in choosing this special coffee. In the summer of 2011, our coffee director, Byron Holcomb, traveled to El Salvador to check out a few different farms specially designated under the Aida Batlle Selections program, which helps bring best practices to El Salvadoran farms.
Finca Buenos Aires has been a family farm for three generations. The breathtakingly beautiful farm spans the side of a pronounced mountain, at the very top of which sits a natural wildlife refuge. The farm benefits from an orientation to the wind that doesn’t incur the same crop damage as do some other farms in the region. Batlle’s oversight of production at Finca Buenos Aires has created such an uptick in overall quality, we purchased two different tablones (meaning “planks” in English, ”tablon” refers in these parts to horizontal sections of a single farm) from this farm.
When cupping this lot of coffee against other farms, it stood out as much as Finca Buenos Aires’s beautiful vistas. Though the two tablones we purchased are a stone’s throw apart, their character in the cup is very different. Tablon #9 brings a sweet balanced quality, with occasional notes of apricot, whereas its neighbor coffee grown in Tablon #11 is tart, like a fresh cherry. Compare the two side by side and see the true diversity of micro-lots from this spectacular region.
Coffee curious? Join us for a tour of our coffee roasting factory and tasting room in Ozone Park, Queens!
Our next tour is Saturday, February 4th beginning at 1:00 and wrapping up at about 4:00. Space on the tour is limited so book now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tours are $10, and due to the tasting component we ask that all participants show up perfume and cologne free. If you have any questions feel free to call our office during business hours, (718) 845-3010.
We know professional baristas can sometimes make their jobs look easy — all that tamping and twirling — but to make it to the top of your trade requires practice practice practice. In anticipation of the upcoming North East Regional Barista Championship, great baristas from around New York City have descended upon our Ozone Park coffee factory to taste, train, and perfect their techniques. We’ll be introducing them each to you as the competition draws near, but for now, here’s a little peek at what have become weekly — or more frequent — shenanigans in our training lab.
Witness Rose-Emma Lunderman from Root Hill, Tommy Green from Tiny’s Giant, Justin Schulz from Roberta’s, and Cara Vince from Think Coffee, all honing their routines under the wary eyes of competition certified judge Teresa von Fuchs and the Dallis Bros. crew. All these hot tickets are using Dallis Bros. coffee — and we couldn’t be prouder. Stay tuned to this space for more on what you’ll see on the competition floor!
Our Director of Coffee, Byron Holcomb, recently got back from a relationship-building trip to Guatemala and Costa Rica. Here is Part Three of his letters home.
They say that for everything here. Hello. Goodbye. Thanks. Whats up? It is kinda catchy. But I’m more likely to pick up what our host kept saying about how challenging this crop will be for both Costa Rica and Guatemala. “Hijo de Gran Puta!” (Son of a b—). Guatemala’s harvest is early. Costa Rica is late. Both have really irregular maturation because of rain, cold and all around strange weather.
I love how honest farmers are. “Yeah, this harvest isn’t going to be our best. Sometimes because of the rain we have to pick pintones” (half-ripes). In general this means a more under-ripes, less quality drying, and more expensive pickings (doing 4-5 pickings when they used to do 3).
That said we (finally) found a cupping table that rocked our world. Yesterday we left the hotel at 6:20am and headed back to Terrazu to meet with an Association that won 6 places in the Cup of Excellence last year and has been placing in the top ranks for the last 4 years. They are going super fast because they pay great prices and seem to be packed with awesome people.
There is one family that we visited two of their farms. They have five farms that range from 2-15 hectares. The two hectare farm at 1,500 meters won 8th place last year in CoE. The family is in its third generation and the six young family members (from 35-22ish) are all really sweet and kind. After seeing their farms, we went to their house for breakfast and shots of Black Label whiskey. Let me explain. The father who was 65 and looked 80 was so moved by the fact that roasters came to his house he forced them to take a shot of whiskey with him, (before we ate breakfast). I smiled and raised my empty hand while they grimaced. The reason it was a big event is that no roaster has ever been to their house. The Senor was sure he would die before he actually met someone who purchased his coffee. They sell to La Minita and others etc. They don’t even know who bought their CoE lot!
Of course, it is tempting to buy some just to make everyone happy. I told them my hope was that the coffee was as beautiful as my experience. We should be able to cup some of it in the next couple months. If the coffee is crazy brilliant, game on.
Speaking of crazy brilliant, after four tables of stock lots, we finally tasted some coffee and shared numbers like 91, 88, 87 etc. Some of them tasted super fresh and will settle really nicely. Others were Geisha, others were sweet sweet honeyed coffees. One tasted just like a Pacamara. They only represent a few farms and some were first pickings (not the best quality). At least we were rather calibrated and left excited. Incredible diversity and some really top notch coffees.
Today was my catch up day. Laundry, hair-cut, email, buy coffee for Korea, lots of email.
Tomorrow, I will head off with Tim O’Brien to visit some more micro-mills and find some brilliant coffees (when they are ready).
Our Director of Coffee, Byron Holcomb, recently got back from a relationship-building trip to Guatemala and Costa Rica. Here is Part Two of his letters home.
My night visit to La Tacita was amazing. Very high altitude (very cold at night), wonderful people, great looking farm, huge amounts of history. They separate the farm by tablones but weren’t as keen on the idea of keeping them separated. They might send me samples.
Yesterday was amazing and long. We left the hotel just after 3am, made a connection in Panama where my sweet-talking the immigration agent didn’t pay off because he forgot to give me my customs form. Customs only made me fill out another one. Then I got to the hotel and they charged my credit card $8000. It was not my day for smooth traveling.
We got to San Jose, Costa Rica and what a different country this is. Everyone is tan and looks like they shop in Southern California. Surfer style rules here. Our cab driver had enough gel in his hear to look like Sonic the Hedeghog.
We ate lunch and tore off to Terrazu to visit a farm. The farm is 9 brothers that all own farms and work in different areas of production. The farms are really well managed, and they have had great success selling to top buyers and differentiating lots per the buyers demands.
They are truly at the front of the top micro mills out there. They keep a small “simple” operation. No massive patios, no 200 raised beds. Just a really small-capacity wet mill, some raised beds, a concrete patio. They have been one of the front runners in the micro-mill movement in Costa Rica. They do all different types of honey coffee, keep varieties separate, keep specific farms apart, they pay the attention to detail like you would imagine any professional craftsman would pay. They are really doing amazing work with varieties: I tasted the cherries from SL-28 (orange, spicy sweet with a savory finish), Geisha (all floral but not as sweet as I imagined), Red Catuai and Caturra (crazy sweet, kinda like Hi-C Red flavor).
They do many different types of Typica processing. And they have been doing selections of plantings of Geisha based on cherry sweetness and will launch an improved Geisha variety lot this year or the next. We have the chance to buy some of this coffee this year, which really is an honor considering most everything they have is long-term relationships. They are also environmentally responsible and really great people to be around.
One of my favorite parts of meeting them was how eloquent the farmer was when describing how different markets demand different profiles, and what he needs from his buyers in direction. For example, if we want a sweetness driven coffee (based on a sample) then he will craft one to our needs. I haven’t cupped it yet, but according to them, these guys can create a lot based on a requested profile. For example, I could say I want a coffee that is very bright and very sweet with notes of citrus, red cherries and passion fruit. They would run an experiment, send me a sample for feed back then custom craft the lot.
Of course we haven’t cupped it yet but we will on Monday.
We also visited another farm which has planted a really cool variety they will probably keep separate for next year. And the most impressive part is how they use an organic system of foliar spray that has reduced the need for herbicide on the farm and eliminated the need to use fungicide completely on the farm for the last 7 years. This was all done through the use of pulp, molasses, efficient micro-organisms, salts, etc.
That is a lot of information. From the farm side, I’m totally excited, lets just cross our fingers the cups are as impressive.
Our Director of Coffee, Byron Holcomb, recently got back from a relationship-building trip to Guatemala and Costa Rica. Here is Part One of his letters home.
The weather has been perfect. The nights are cool and the mid day sun intense. The first day we spent our time cupping a couple different tables and visiting the a dry mill and one advanced farm. The dry mill has an impressive operation and incredible traceability once a coffee arrives to the mill. They set all lots to a bar code system. The coffees are cupped every two weeks to monitor the qualiy and look for defects. Then in the headquarters lab they are cupped again with only the bar code visible, then the coffee is judged and classified to fill basic stock grades: Extra Prime, Hard Bean, Strictly Hard Bean, Strictly Hard Bean Huehue and Robusta, just to name a few.
There is a bit of everything here: body driven coffees that are “cheap”, pointed bright coffees, pickers who barely speak Spanish because they are “Naturales” — a local word that refers to indigenous populations, beautifully painted “chicken buses” (old American school buses), really tasty meats, lots of guards everywhere with guns. Every single mill we visited has at least 12ft barbed wire fences, two or three armed guards who grill our drivers for info and names before they crack a smile. Why? because people steal coffee.
It is funny what happens when I read commodity reports that are saying, “Central America will ship late.” Then when I use my personal knowledge of farms and weather, I get different results – Central America should be early. And both Honduras and Guatemala are both about a month ahead of schedule. Humm… This is from the incredibly heavy rains this season. They accelerate the maturation of the cherries. I’ve lived it. It should also decrease the volume. Again the commodity reports said, volumes should be fine, maybe a touch low. And yet from what I hear and see it looks like the volumes will be greatly affected.
Today we left early and headed to the Santa Rosa area. The coffees were solid and they actually had a nice natural. The farm is massive. 700 hectares and all organic certified and Rainforest Alliance as well. When the Pacamara was blended with one of the better lots, it was incredibly balanced and delish.
I’m writing this in a truck on my way to La Tacita. Tomorrow we check out of the hotel at 3am for a 5am flight to Costa Rica. Night night.
Showcasing the best a nation has to offer, Cup of Excellence is a rare program that allows a truly vibrant spectrum of a country’s coffees to be compared and given the honors they deserve. This sunny, warm coffee is tangy sweet with golden raisin and pineapple notes—truly among the best of Honduras.
At Dallis Bros. Coffee we are huge supporters of the Cup of Excellence (CoE) Program. For several years we have sent one or two of our Q Graders to judge at the competitions, which take place in different coffee growing nations. It is a privilege to be invited to judge the crown jewels of a producing country. In 2011, Dallis Bros. Coffee was invited to both Honduras and Brasil.
The process can start with hundreds of coffees. The National Jury narrows the pool down to 40 or 50 great coffees, then awaits the arrival of the International Jury (that’s us!) to cup and score. Only coffees that have average scores of 84 points or higher can advance.
After the 2011 Honduras CoE, our Coffee Director returned to Ozone Park raving about the diversity and quality of the top coffees. Some were incredibly floral, others were citric. Others had a lovely tartaric acidity.
This particular coffee was hard to miss. It scored high enough to make it into the top ten coffees produced in Honduras’ last harvest. When we cupped it in Honduras, it jumped off the table with exceptional balance and beauty. Back home at Dallis Bros., we cupped each sample from the Cup of Excellence in Honduras and fell in love again. This coffee was awarded #8 in the 2011 competition.
Much of the coffee from the small town El Pinal isn’t sold as Honduran coffee. It is exported and relabeled with a different country’s name, because of the higher prices available. Through programs like CoE, we hope to highlight beautiful coffees from Honduras and help Honduran farmers return to selling them as the country’s own.
Sharing resources in coffee production allows smaller landholding farmers access to technology they might not otherwise be able to afford. This coffee from Kenya’s Muburi Coffee Factory is a sweet, tangy, stone-fruit example of individual farmers cooperatively working together to process their coffee and deliver it, deliciously, to you.
Where water flows across a low-lying place is “muburi” to the Kikuyu people. About 200,000 coffee trees grow along the southern slopes of Mount Kenya, and are handpicked and sorted for size and quality here. The members of the Rwama Farmers Cooperative Society individually own their land, and collectively deliver their coffee cherries to the Muburi Coffee Factory. We are pleased to deliver it to you.
Long before this coffee got on a boat to New York City, our own Byron Holcomb went to Kenya to calibrate with an exporter and miller in Nairobi named Ibero. The calibration was easier than getting there — with all the major roads under construction, getting around Nairobi isn’t easy, nor is getting there on two red-eye flights. The head cupper in Nairobi is, like Byron, a Q-grader. Byron was easily able to articulate to her the exact type of Kenyan coffees Dallis Bros. was looking for: bright and sweet, full of nuanced flavor and body.
The auction system in Kenya doesn’t easily allow us to taste coffee samples before they go to auction. Ibero helped us find this delicious lot and set it aside for us, knowing exactly what flavors we were looking for based on our calibrated palates. When the sample arrived here in Queens, its sweet, fruity and clean acidic character charmed us on the cupping table.
The tropical character of this coffee is really a treat in the morning. A savory apricot undertone and sweet guava note with juicy round acidity make this coffee beautifully balanced.