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.
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
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.
April 12, 2013
Cream of the coffee shops – Calgarians hungry for more than a cup of joe
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.”
We are extremely excited and proud to be introducing you to not only one of, or THE BEST Colombian coffee in the world, but also one of the best coffees we have tasted in a very long time. Arnulfo Leguizamo, a coffee producer in San Agustin, a micro region of the Huila district broke records when he finished 1st place in the 2011 Colombian Cup of Excellence competion. He not only was one of the highest ranked Colombian Coffee in history scoring a 94.05 (2nd highest) but he also recieved the highest price paid at any Colombian auction in history when bids reached $45.10 / lb green, FOB Colombia (with the average amount paid at that time being around $2.75 / lb). We purchased this coffee in November of 2012 on our last trip to Colombia.
Fratello Coffee has a very small amount of this coffee availalbe, only 300 lbs, but we are the only roasters in Canada to have access to it. There was only 900 lbs of this #1 Lot available world wide so we are happy to offer what we got.
Finca Primavera Overview:
Mr. Arnulfo Leguizamo is 46 years old, son of a coffee farmer born in the municipality of Teruel, Huila. In his youth he studied several mechanical activities and after doing a lot of work in an urban environment, he decided that his future was in the field – dedicated to work with coffee.
He started by planting half of a hectare in the property of his father in Teruel. He traveled to the municipality of San Agustin 23 years ago, in order to know the mystical sculptures at the Archeological Park. Nevertheless, the climate, the warm people and mainly the wealth of earth caused him to fall in love with this municipality where he met Mrs. Aura Rita Bolanos his wife and the mother of his four children: Mayeli, Joh Edison, Diego Felipe and Hamer Duvan.
He began with 1 hectare, an inheritance of his wife, and after a while he bought 3 more hectares that he planted little by little with coffee. His farm is called “Primavera” and it is located in the village “El Tabor” at the municipality of “San Agustin”. Is cultivated with Caturra varietal and is being renovated to integrate the variety Castillo. He has been a Rainforest Alliance Certified farmer for 4 years, and he is committed to the protection to the environment. He is protecting springs and birds, he is recycling trash, and he doesn’t spray out chemical products. These principles are because of his sons – he wants to keep his place at least without contamination or pollution so they can live and eat there in the future in a healthy way.
His principals for the production of coffee are based on the quality; he says “I have to do things with love, dedication and with the support of my wife and my children. The advantages of this land where my farm is located are a secret but mainly because of the high altitude and the right temperatures we produce coffee with the best attributes for its taste. It is important for us to harvest only ripe-red cherries and process on time. We have to wash coffee well with clean water and dry it under sun and air for that we use the system: ‘Casa Elda’.”
Nothing is more rewarding then seeing a fresh crop of micro-lots being unloaded off the back of a truck into our roastery. This pleases me so much as I know the amount of work our producers and exporters have put into this coffee to get it this far. I also personally know how much work we have put into sourcing and choosing these precious beans to offer our clients.
Nothing is more disappointing then when you begin to sample roast and begin profiling these new arrivals and the flavor profiles we tasted at origin are no longer being tasted. “What is going on!?!? How can a coffee taste so different at origin compared to what we are tasting now?” This isn’t unique to Fratello, and is something we have heard many roasters around the world talk/complain about. It has been a topic of many conversations over the past year with the coffee producers we work with and exporters who are working on the ground at origin every day.
My first major experience with this coffee was 2 years ago when we purchased an incredible micro-lot from Acevado Huila, Colombia. This 20 bag lot was scored a 91.00 at origin by myself and the others we were with that day. It was an outrageous coffee, and we paid top dollar for it. By the time we received this coffee 3 months later, it was extremely faded. We were getting cupping notes of wood/twigs and it almost tasted like a past crop coffee. The moisture content was accurate and the processing seemed perfect. We ended up not selling this coffee to anyone. It was a total waste of our time and re-sources. So what went wrong?
6 months later we visited this coffee producer again and began asking questions about how they dried their coffee. In Colombia it is normal for producers to use a Parabolic drying bed (similar to a green house). These are perfect for protecting the green beans from the elements; however, it can also produce high levels of heat when not used properly. Unfortunately, this producer was not, and was drying their coffee in 3-4 days. This is WAY too fast. Typically, a producer would want to slowly dry their coffee over a 12-18 day time frame for an even consistency throughout the bean. What we are learning is when you dry your coffee too quickly; it is hard to read the correct moisture level in your green beans accurately. The extreme heat forces the water content into the beans giving a false reading in your moisture meters. You may show a moisture reading of 11-12% (which is the goal), but as these beans sit, the moisture that was forced into the bean, will migrate back out to the surface over time. The end results are beans being pulled from the drying beds much to early, giving an unstable bean, which has potential fermentation and accelerated fading in flavors.
Another example is in El Salvador we had purchased an award winning Pacamara (large bean). It was extremely sweet, with an orange syrupy body, maple flavors and very clean. On arrival in Calgary, we found some of the same faded, twiggy notes coming through in the cup. Again, a huge disappointment. With research we found that the drying time was 5-7 days, which was much too fast for such a large bean.
In speaking with our producers the biggest challenge they face is the changing environment. It is getting hotter and more intense each year. They never had these issues in the past of drying the coffee this quick and now have to re-think their processing techniques. Creating systems that help them slow the drying times employing shade barriers and different cooling techniques. All of this takes time and often a lot of money to re-create their drying beds. More and more often we see raised African beds with shade cover being installed and used on our top micro-lots.
This then brought my attention to the mechanical drying systems installed at MANY large and micro-mills around the world. They are becoming very common, as coffee must be dried once it is de-pulped after harvesting. If the sun isn’t out due to rain, the coffee will need to go into dryers. These dryers work very fast, and often only take 1 day to finish the drying. This drying technique is not only fast; it consistently dries the bean through out. Is this the best route?
Studies are now showing that the ideal drying conditions for coffee require the slow drying technique. What this allows are some resting periods for coffee. When heat is on the beans, the cellular structure opens, when the temperatures drop, the cells close…. almost like it is breathing. This has shown to create a harder cellular structure on the bean that enhances acidity and gives better conditions when roasting. The fast drying speeds in the mechanical system never allow for resting, giving a softer cellular structure and less acidity in the final cup.
This short blog post barely scratches the surface on drying techniques and does not answer or explain everything processing technique (Naturals, pulped naturals, honey’s, etc…), but has simply been written to bring some awareness to a subject not often discussed. We have some much more to learn, and together with the producers will continue to push the limits of processing, exporting and roasting the best coffee in the world.