March 11, 2014
We recently returned from a trip to Nicaragua where I got to meet some new producers and taste some amazing coffee from them and some of the producers that we have been working with for years. This really seems like a great year for quality from Nicaragua. One of the major differences between this trip and previous trips to Nicaragua was the drying techniques that are now popping up around the country. We saw multiple producers using raised African beds and parabolic dryers to dry their product. The goal was to slow the drying process down to increase quality and consistency.
October 3, 2013
August 13, 2013
This year we are excited to announce that we have had the opportunity to work with some new people in Bolivia. The company we are working with is Agritrade, they work with around 500 different farmers to collect coffee from all over Bolivia and bring it to their wet mill in Caranavi in cherry form. The coffee makes the trek from up to 4 hours away down the mountains to Caranavi every evening by taxi. Agritrade pays top dollar for only the finest coffee coming from the farms and also pays for the transport by taxi so that there are no additional expenses incurred by the farmers. Once at the Wet Mill it is then sorted by hand to insure only the best cherries get through, this is on top of the meticulous sorting that the farmers have done before it is ever put in the taxi.
One of the most interesting things about this wet mill is how many options they have to process the coffee, they have 6 fermentation tanks, 3 mechanical driers, a concrete patio, African raised beds and Covered African raised beds. This helps ensure that each coffee is processed exactly the best way to bring out the flavours that their customers request.
After it is processed and dried it is stored in Caranavi in a temperature controlled room for 2 month before being shipped to the dry mill at El Alto. The dry mill is a mostly typical dry mill, they remove the parchment then run the coffee through density shakers and finally it is hand sorted to make sure no damaged beans get through, the only real difference between this dry mill and most other specialty dry mills is the black light sorting it goes through. As it is being hand sorted it passes through these black light tents where imperfections that are previously invisible to the eye are shown as little white dots, though not a defect in the coffee this coffee is removed, what this does in increase the clarity of the cup, making the flavours of each particular coffee pop out more and become more exciting.
At every step of the process the coffee is cupped to insure that the product is still what was agreed upon at time of purchase.
One of the biggest challenges in finding good Bolivian coffee is the small size of the farms, with most farms being 3 to 8 hectares, it becomes difficult to find quality coffee in the quantity we need by just dealing with individual farms. This is where Agritrade comes in, with the ability to work with over 500 farms and find the best coffee from all of those and then pass on this quality to us it makes it significantly easier.
For instance this year we will be buying from 5 different farms that Agritrade works with and has a good standing relationship with already, so instead of hunting down these farms from all over Bolivia we now have it much easier because of Agritrade. We are looking forward to working with Agritrade in the coming years; it is my hope that next trip down to Bolivia the farms that we are buying from this year will continue to be as good or better so that we can develop more of a relationship with the farmer. If we can find this kind of consistency we can then start playing with processing types to create the best and most interesting coffee for our customers. We believe they have already found the best Bolivia has to offer and through their continuous improvements in milling and experimenting we expect it to get even better!
Written by David Schindel, Lead Coffee Roaster, Fratello Coffee.
July 19, 2013
Continual improvement is something every farmer we work with strives for but few have the level of commitment that Eleane Mierisch does. This is Fratello Coffee’s 5th year working with the Miersch family and have written about them a lot. We wanted to focus on Eleane in this post as she is a big reason for the consistent quality coffee coming from their farms.
Eleane is the second oldest child of Erwin Mierisch Sr. who was one of the early leaders in specialty coffee in Nicaragua. Eleane gave up a nursing career to take care of her ailing mother, that was over 6 years ago and though her mother passed she has stayed to help with the family business.
Eleane oversees the family farms in Nicaragua but her real passion is the dry mill in Matagalpa. She told us that “We are still quite a small dry mill so the focus has to be on quality.” And that focus on quality really shines through in the cup.
Her favorite job in the dry mill is the quality control, and to maintain that she repeatedly cups the lots that are processed there. The other highlights of her job include experimenting with the multiple different drying techniques and most importantly maintaining and building the team of people that work at the dry mill. Her goal is that everyone enjoys working there and finds it rewarding, because if the workers are enjoying their jobs it is much easier to keep the high qualities of products coming out that her customers have come to expect.
One of the ways she is improving is by putting up African Raised beds as an alternative way to dry the coffee, before this the coffee was dried on a concrete patio. The Raised bed is a drying style that many believe increase the pleasant acidities in coffee. Making them stand out even more from the majority of coffee coming from Nicaragua.
The biggest way that she is improving is by communicating with her clients and finding out what types of coffees and processing methods they prefer what drying method they are most interested in. In this way she is learning what other methods her clients have seen from other countries on how to process so she can not only tailor the best coffee to each of her clients, but it also gives her more ideas on how to experiment and make the coffee better for everyone.
In February of 2012 we were first introduced with Mauricio Salaverria of Divisadero Café Farms when touring El Salvador. We were impressed with what we saw at his farms Finca VilllaGalicia and Finca Himalaya, both in the Concepcion de Ataco which is in the Ahuachapán region in Western El Salvador. What impressed us the most was the care we saw in all steps of production. From his nursery, to his drying practices, the health of his farm and care of their harvesting. Its wasn’t until this past visit in February 2013 though that we made the important decision to work with Mauricio and bring his coffee into Calgary, Canada. We are thrilled to also say that this year, Mauricio won 2nd place in the El Salvador Cup of Excellence competition! It is no wonder he was a top winning coffee when you look at how they harvest only the perfectly ripened cherries.
The lot we chose was also originally selected to be entered into the Cup of Excellence Competition; however Mauricio was anxious to begin working with Fratello Coffee as well and agreed that this could come to Calgary instead. This was our top choice out of 30 unique lots we cupped.
The honey processed coffee at VillaGalicia is world class! The mucilage left on the beans made moving the coffee on the African beds very difficult as it was thick like toffee! This requires continual movement of that coffee, every 30 minutes, day and night for the first few days during the drying process. Mauricio is also one of the few producers we have come across who is already aware of the great importance of drying his coffee properly. He knows, through working with his Australian roasters, that in order to extend the quality of his green bean freshness, that proper slow drying is required.
History of Finca VillaGalicia
More than a century and a quarter ago Don Manuel Ariz left Galicia, Spain and arrived in concepcion de Ataco, Ahuachapán to a truly magical area that was known by the locals as the site of ”elevated springs”. In that time period coffee planting was beginning to take hold so Señor Ariz smartly proceeded to invest in small plots of land nearby, beginning with 13.5 flat, clay-lime soil hectares of what today is VillaGalicia farm, hence the name.
Producer Mauricio (Moe) Salaverria continues the family tradition of specialty coffees which includes 6 small farms ranging in altitude from 1000 to 1600 mts and investing in a ecological Micro Mill as part of Divisadero Café Farms . The coffee is treated separately by tablones and dryed slowly in African beds after being depulped with stored rain water. The picking/harvesting is very selective to assure quality year after year.
The farm has kept its Bourbon varietal yet we have added Pacamara plantings since VillaGalicia is located at a perfect altitude with no wind factor, where the terroir and shrubs are protected with a heavy canopy of shade, specially this days of difficult weather. They have dedicated all their efforts in being an ecologically minded grower with progressive employment for their workers including higher wages. This in part by the added value our coffee gets with a proven and consistent quality.
We are thrilled that Mauricio’s Finca VillaGalicia will be available through Fratello Coffee Roasters and that we are the first to bring this coffee into Canada. We are hopeful that this could be a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationship.
April 25, 2013
Elias Roa and his family have been producing coffee for 25 years. Elias has 2 farms, this one in the Acevedo region called Finca El Recuerdo and the other is in El Pital called Finca Tamana, giving him the ability to harvest coffee all year long. Elias will be able to send his 3 children to University through producing high quality coffees. Elias is the president of the coffee growers association called Primavenal in Acevedo and is leading the other members to produce higher quality coffees through his examples. There are 8 people who are employed on his farm all year long, and 25 people during the harvest season.
Acevedo is on the southern side of Colombia in the department of Huila. Huila is one of our favorite regions within Colombia–the cups have lots of tropical fruit, citric notes, have pleasing acidity and are extremely sweet.
The average farm in Acevedo region is about 3 hectares of land with traditional varietals of Caturra, Typica and now more and more Castillo as this is a Roya/Rust resistant plant. From this, you can typically harvest 20-40 exportable sacks of coffee (152 lbs per sack), twice per year. Colombia and Kenya are unique in the world for having 2 harvests per year due to their proximity to the equator and many microclimates with in their countries.
Elias uses a small traditional pulpers on his farm along with small fermentation tanks. There is ample spring water coming down the mountains that producers use to ferment and wash their coffee. An overnight fermentation of 10-13 hours is followed by hand test in the morning to determine if the sugars are off the beans. Should the fermentation be complete, coffee is then brought to his small parabolic drier with a bamboo floor and domed poly roof to keep the afternoons rain off.
Elias is one of the rare coffee producers leading the way in his drying techniques. He understands the importance of drying his coffee slowly and evenly to ensure consistency and longevity of his coffee. Elias ensures that the temperatures in the parabolic dries are calibrated. He has 3 layers of African beds. 2 layers of beds are calibrated at 30 degress, and a lower layer at 20 degrees. READ THIS for more information on drying coffee. Once dried it goes to the communal warehouse Primavenal in town where it is catalogued and cupped.
Our challenge over the past 5 years working in Colombia has been finding a coffee producer who is able to consistently produce enough high quality coffee each harvest for us to partner with. The risk with Direct Trade in Colombia is that you do not have much flexibility in choosing different Lots from a single producer. Ideally when working with coffee producers year over year, is the ability to pick and choose specific Lots (areas within a farm) that you want to buy that harvest. Each harvest produces new challenges to the coffee producers, and you are never guaranteed to get the same quality as you did before. Being able to choose different Lots from a single coffee producer creates more certainty in finding the specific quality we desire year over year.
These challenges are also what make Colombia rewarding for us. Because this isn’t an easy country to source from, a lot of roasters do not go, or have yet to try and establish Direct Trade with any coffee producers. Due to the relationships we have established over the years, we have been able to find some amazing producers who we are confident to work with.