Colombia - Elias Roa - Acevedo, Huila - Direct Trade

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.

The Vanguard Review - Analog Coffee 17th Ave

Calgary has become an amazing coffee city. It’s quite rare for a city to have one great coffee roaster, let alone three. Fortunately the city has been quick to embrace this coffee movement. I’m confident to say Calgary coffee roasters rival that of Blue Bottle/San Francisco, Stumptown/Portland, or Intelligentsia/Chicago. 

Analog is the café arm of what seems is becoming the Fratello Coffee Roasters ‘empire’. Owned by three brothers, Fratello sources, roasts, and now brews its coffee. Analog struck gold with its location on the corner of 17th avenue and 7th street SW. Quite fortunately this is also less a mere block from my house.

In the few months the café has been open it has developed a bit of a reputation as a hipster hangout. Needless to say the crowd tends to be young, hip, and gorgeous. In my mind this is never a bad thing.

While I consider myself a latte guy, to me the quintessential coffee at Analog is the single cup pour over. I’m consistently blown away by the flavour notes of the roasts. It’s impossible to get such flavour notes in a latte.

In addition to great coffee, Analog sources a great selection of pastries and delicious sandwiches from Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. This makes it a great spot to do some work and grab some lunch. Given the location, it is always a great spot to sit at the window bar or the patio and people watch.

One can discuss who makes the best coffee in Calgary. Ultimately this is dependant on the roast, the barista, and the individual’s taste. Analog is a great option in a great location with less children than the average Calgary café.

To read this review from the original source go to: The Vanguard Review

Guatemalan - Montecristo, Geisha - Direct Trade Coffee

Easily one of the top coffees we've ever had the opportunity to taste has been our new Guatemalan Don Gustavo Geisha, a stunning cup, bright citrus and tropical fruit notes with an incredibly smooth body and a candy like finish. It is grown at 1600 Meters above sea level alongside Bourbons and Caturra coffee plants and macadamia nut trees which provide shade for this coffee.  We have been working with Johann Nottebohm (seen beelow) now for 5 years.

The Montecristo Estate is a Rainforest Alliance certified farm. It has schools, housing and many other facilities for its many permanent workers as well as for any workers that come just for the harvest. The schools are also available for the surrounding community that does not work for the farm.   Montecristo has been part of the community for over 40 years, and the farm manager, Don Gustavo (seen below), has been a vital part of it for over 30 years!

What is truly special about this coffee besides the amazing taste was the fact that we were able to see this coffee grow from a seedling 5 years ago. Having this special relationship with Johann for many years allowed us to taste and buy it on its first year of production.  This new area of their farm has 8000 new Geisha trees being planted and is being called FRATELLO for our evolvement in this initiative. 

For those of you who don’t know, a Geisha is a unique varietal not only in taste but also in the way it grows. If treated like a typical coffee varietal/tree a Geisha will grow very slowly and take up to 7 years before it produces any fruit, compared to the 3 to 4 years of most other varietals. What Johann (Owner of the Montecristo Estate) has found is that with proper grafting of a stronger and more productive root system onto his Geisha plants, along with 4 times the amount of fertilization, he has been able to have Geisha’s start producing after 3 years, which is absolutely unheard of.

Other differences of the Geisha include a lower crop yield, typically 25% of what other varietals will yield. When I asked Johann if he felt it was worth growing he told me if he could find people who enjoyed this coffee and were willing to pay the higher cost than it would be worth it to him. He also went on to explain how he felt it was much more resistant to Roya (also known as Coffee Rust) than the Bourbon and Caturra he was also growing, which is still a major concern for Guatemalan farmers.

The Montecristo estate fully washes all their coffee with the Geisha being no exception. It is soaked for thirty-six hours in their fermentation tank then rewashed and soaked again for another two days, giving it the clean crisp notes in the cup. After the two soakings it is Sun died over multiple days and then run through a density shaker to separate the lower density beans away from the lot and then sent through a color sorter where it picks out any discolored beans, after this it is then hand sorted for any defects or broken beans that may have gotten through. After all this it is bagged and put into the bodega to ensure the moisture levels are stable.   Even the bodega at the Montecristo Estate is a very unique as it is lined with Conacaste wood which helps keep the moisture level down in the building, which leads to a more stable coffee, increasing its shelf life and trapping all the characteristics inside the bean.

So is the price and all this work worth it?  I would most definitely say yes! This is such a unique and amazing coffee I recommend for everyone to try this cup at least once. But be warned you may fall in love with it!

Written by: David Schindel, Lead Roaster. 

Fast Forward Weekly - Calgary's Booming Coffee Scene

Cream of the coffee shops  - Calgarians hungry for more than a cup of joe

Published April 11, 2013  by James Wilt in Bar & Restaurant Guide

It’s mid-week, mid-morning. A dozen or so customers are drinking espressos and lattes in Fratello’s Analog Cafe on 17th Avenue S.W. It’s decently busy, at least by the standards of many local third-wave coffee shops — a movement to promote high-quality, artisanal coffee, of which Fratello’s is an adherent. The mixture of conversation and coffee grinding is nearly constant.

But Russ Prefontaine, an owner and green-bean buyer for Fratello, is a tad perturbed. He can’t figure out why the shop is so “dead” at the moment. Standing-room only is the norm on weekends, and often during the late-morning rush, he explains. Overall sales have been increasing week by week. Needless to say, this sort of customer excitement around coffee isn’t typical for this city.

“It just goes to show how hungry Calgary is for something like this,” Prefontaine says, noting that Analog is the first café of its kind to set up in such a “mainstream” spot — it’s adjacent to the popular joints of Clive Burger, Sloth Records and The Big Cheese. “What I didn’t expect was to open the doors and be this busy right out of the gate.”

However, it’s not just Prefontaine who’s noticed the growing interest in artisan coffee. A shift has been happening across the city. It seems as though new roasters (Caffe Rosso), cafés (Savour and Gravity) and home-brewing websites (Eight Ounce Coffee) are popping up every few months. After five or so years of tillage, the scene is flourishing.

We now have the top two baristas in Canada, a huge accomplishment for a city of 1.1 million people. In September 2012, Jeremy Ho and Ben Put of Phil & Sebastian brought home the gold and silver, respectively, from the Canadian Barista Championship, earning Ho a chance to compete at the World Barista Championship in May, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. Calgary’s officially on the country’s coffee map.

The Canadian champ says that he’s seen a massive shift in Calgary’s interest in coffee since he started working in the industry back in 2006. “Before, people weren’t ordering based on origin — they were ordering on roast level [light, medium or dark],” Ho says. “Now, people are starting to understand that coffees can be different depending on where they’re from, so that’s really cool.”

Of course, roasting is a fundamental part of making coffee (along with picking/processing green beans, and the physical preparation in the café), and David Crosby of Caffe Rosso is taking full advantage of the city’s new interest to teach customers about that part of the operation. Rosso has been roasting its own coffee for a few months now.

“The process of people seeing roasting in our Ramsay location is really big,” he says. “Customers are coming behind the counter and asking questions. The biggest reason that we put the roaster in our Ramsay location — instead of just in some warehouse — is for the customers to see it and be engaged with it, and to see yet another link in the chain.”

While Calgary may not have the sheer quantity of cafés as Vancouver or Toronto, the overall quality is undoubtedly comparable. As Ho puts it, “People are starting to taste distinctions between different chains and shops. And that’s huge — they can’t go back. We’re converting them.”