An Education - Cupping 19 unique micro-lots

I recently had the please of meeting Ted Buracas of NewContent.  Ted Buracas is a writer, photographer, and film maker in Calgary, where he counts coffee as one of his many passions. You can find this article cross posted on the blog, NewContent.ca.  Ted got in touch with me as he knew I was going to be in the process of cupping 19 micro-lots from Nicaragua and wanted to join me.  Ted had never cupped coffee before but had a good back ground in wine tasting.  Needless to say, we had a very fun day talking about many different things relating to coffee and coffee cupping.

Primarily Ted wanted to know why we cup, the purpose of cupping and to educate himself if it really makes a difference in what we do.   The below information is taken directly from Ted's blog post:

coffee cupping tasting bowls

I’d like to try to address a gnawing question about coffee. If it were only for myself, that would be fine, but if it would also salve your conscience, and help you feel a little bit less guilty for the occasional extravagance, then so much the better, and my job would be done.

The question is this: why would anyone in their right mind spend five bucks for a cup of coffee?

The answer is at once simple but also complicated by a myriad of factors. There is an answer for those who would take some time to consider nuance. And for those who would invest a little effort to understand (or, at the very least, appreciate), I might even be able to to convince.

My own investment comes courtesy of Russ Prefontaine (@FratelloCoffee2) of Fratello Coffee Roasters. We spent four hours today cupping fresh Nicaraguan beans, and deciding which three or four Fratello would offer up for sale this year.

coffee cupping trays fratello micro lots

The simple answer is that some simply would not (spend the five bucks, that is). But then again, a four buck flank steak or a ten dollar bottle of red wine does quite well, thank you. And The Olive Garden is good Italian!)

And to be truthful, I am always looking for a drinkable $10 bottle of plonk.

But – and not to be snobbish here – there is a difference between good coffee and bad. And life is simply too short and too precious for coffee (or wine or food) that sucks.

It starts, of course, with the bean. Today we are sampling (cupping, to be precise) 19 different beans. They come from a single estate grower in Nicaragua, who grows several different  varietals of Coffea arabica spread out over two different growing regions. They (the beans) are all different, each unique. And it’s our job to pick just a few that will be presented to Fratello commercial clients this year.

fratello cupping table tasting micro lots

The first factor, then lays with the choice of the three or four beans that will represent an entire country. Three or four lots out of 19 on the table, from a single grower, a single producer among perhaps thousands. If you don’t care about sustainable farming practices, fair trade, pesticides, or shady business dealings (let alone harvesting practices, washing, processing, and drying) then it’s easy enough to choose a supplier from a catalog, and purchase from the cozy confines of Calgary in the wintertime.

And we haven’t even looked at the roasting process (which for these 19, has been kept controlled and is the same for all).

But garbage in, garbage out, as they say. And as I’ve said elsewhere, life’s too short…

None of these offerings are garbage. Not even close. All of them score 80 or higher, which in the considered opinion of an expert (like Russ) qualify as premium beans. Some are in the high 80s $30 to $40 dollars per retail kilo. 89 was the best score on a Java bean.

To choose from among today’s selection will take three or four hours. It’s an involved ritual akin to wine tasting. There’s lots of sniffing, swirling, stirring, and more sniffing. And then there’s the slurp. There is nothing sexy about the process; your nose is deep into the cup, and there is something undignified to the inward slurp.

The sounds involved are… interesting, and slightly off-putting. Not to be done in mixed company, for the self conscious.

But in performing the ritual, you begin to learn, and to appreciate differences. I am led to put words to the nuance I can smell – citrus, dark chocolate, strawberries, paper, among many. And there are  others still that I haven’t the vocabulary to describe.

But they’re there. I smell them, and later, I taste them.

cupping bowl ground tasting

There are some for whom taste and quality does matter, and I am one. This isn’t to say that a five dollar cuppa is a daily occurrence for me; I might spring for one a couple times a month. This is an indulgance, but a modest one; there is worse in the coffee world (let’s not even consider Kopi Luwak, for instance).

Is [the process] worth it? Russ says so: “It’s the people with the biggest mouths that can tell the difference.”

But when it comes down to final choices, it is about personal preference. There is no garbage here, remember; just preferences based on a qualitative score. It’s for the expertise (among other things), borne of 20 years of experience, that you are paying.

Would the average coffee consumer be able to tell the difference between Fratello coffee and, say, a Co-op house brand bean? I honestly don’t know, but it’s an interesting experiment that I shall try with both sets of my own parents when they come to call.

They say they like coffee.

notes cupping score sheet

But even if most would not appreciate the love and dedication that goes into this premium coffee, is it still worth the effort that folks like Russ put into the choice? He says it is: “It’s the people with the biggest mouths that can tell the difference.”

So just why would you spend five bucks for a cup? One simple reason; it just tastes good.

If you want to try something singularly amazing, drop into the Fratello Analog Cafe at the Calgary Farmer’s market. Order a premium drip coffee. It will take some time – nothing is rushed here – but it may well be the best cup of brewed coffee you’ve ever tasted. It was for me.

———————————

Fratello Coffee Roasters is located at 4021-9th St. S.E., Calgary, where they will sell you fresh beans or brewing paraphernalia, and offer up advice. You might even get a free bevvie. Tell them Teddy sent you.

Nicaraguan Coffee buying trip - 2011

nicaraguan matagalapa direct trade coffee micro lot Fratello raised african beds

We have successfully completed another buying trip in Nicaragua and this year we have done something a little different.   We are still working with Erwin Miersch and his family who have farms in both Jinotega and Matagalpa, but for the first time we aren’t focusing on just a single lot of coffee.  Instead we wanted to taste coffees and approach this up coming year with a variety of Estates, processes and varietals.  This is going to be a fun & exciting year filled with selection. (more…)

Discover African Coffee! Public cupping March 12th.

Its time for another free public cupping event which will be help this Friday March 12th at 1:30.

We are going to be tasting 13 different varieties of African's from 5 different countries:

I hope that many of you can make it as we are sure to discover some amazing flavors.  Our office is located at:

4021 - 9th Street SE in Calgary.

Taste of Fratello public cupping Feb 10th

Fratello coffee is going to be holding a casual public cupping of 10 fantastic coffees that we offer. We invite the public to come to Fratello on Feb 10th at 1:30 to taste a wide variety of offerings.

If you have not come out to one of our last cupping sessions this is a great way to learn about the distinctions amoung different coffee regions. You don't have to be an expert to join us, just an interest in learning about some great coffee!

Here are the coffees we will be cupping on Feb 10th at 1:30

Guatemalan Montecristo, Single Estate, Rainforest Alliance, Direct Trade

Nicaraguan Finca Limoncillo, Single Estate, Direct Trade

Panama Hacienda la Esmeralda - Diamond Mountain, Single Estate, RFA

Colombian Tolima Tierra, Direct Trade

Bolivian Caranavi Villa Oriente, Organic Fair Trade

(more…)

2009 Brazilian Cup of Excellence public coffee cupping

Fratello Coffee is going to be holding a public cupping of the top 10 Cup of Excellence coffees from the Brazilian 2009 competition.  If you are interested in tasting these coffees, please come to Fratello Coffee on January 12th @ 1:30. 

The auction for these coffees will be on January 19th.   26 lots of coffee were awarded the prestigious Cup of Excellence award this year; however, Fratello Coffee will only be focusing on the top 10 coffees.

What we’ll be cupping is:

Lot #1  Fazenda Ouro Verde

Lot #2  Fazenda Sant’Ana

Lot #3  Fazenda Recreio

Lot #4  Fazenda Monte Verde

Sumatran / Indonesian Public Coffee Cupping

Good day all you coffee lovers.   I'd like to invite you to come to Fratello Coffee this Thursday at 2:30 for another free public cupping.  This week we will be sampling 16 different Sumatran & Indonesian coffee.  Each of these are from different cooperatives, each processed differently and each to deliver a different profile in the cup.

Sumatrans are typically known for their Earthy flavor profiles and often described as woody, dirty and inconsistent in their roasting profile.  Our goal is to bring you a coffee which still offers these classic cup characteristics, at the same time as bringing something much cleaner, sweeter and syrupy to the table.

What we'll be tasting is:

We hope that you can make it to this event.  This will be a fun and casual atmosphere to taste some of the nicest coffees available from these regions.

Public coffee cuppings at Fratello

Our first public cupping this week was a great success!   We had a lot of fun and got to taste some amazing Ethiopian coffees with fellow coffee enthusiasts.  It just wouldn't be fair to share these coffees with others.

We will be doing an exploration of 6-10 different Indonesian and Sumatran selections first week of December.  Stay tuned for the actual date/time which we will announce next week.

Here are a couple photos from the event.

A celebration of 7 Ethiopian Coffees

We want to invite anyone who loves specialty coffee, especially Ethiopian Coffees to come by Fratello Coffee tomorrow at 11:30 am. 

We are going to be hosting a free cupping for the public, of 7 very rare and special Ethiopian coffees.  What we will be cupping is:

  1. Ethiopian Beloya Micro Lot#12, Full Natural
  2. Ethiopian Beloya Micro Lot#10, Full Natural
  3. Ethiopian Aricha Micro Lot#26, Full Natural
  4. Ethiopian Aricha Micro Lot#14, Full Natural
  5. Ethiopian Idido Misty Valley, Organic, Full Natural
  6. Ethiopian Sidamo, Organic Fairtrade, Fully Washed
  7. Ethiopian Amaro Gayo, Organic, Full Natural

This is going to be very casual.  We want to share with you some of the most sought after Ethiopians every processed, all on one table for you to enjoy. 

We are located at:

4021 - 9th Street SE

Tel - 403-265-2112.

Fratello Coffee in the News!

Fratello Coffee was on TV last week as Channel 10 News Shaw Magazine wanted to have a short interview to discuss coffee cupping.   More and more people in Calgary (and other cities obviously) are starting to hear about what us roasters do on a daily basis.

It is hard to describe coffee cupping in a 3-4 min video, but I think that Lisa from Shaw Magazine did a great job putting this video together.

To view this video click: Shaw Magazine

If you would like to talk more about coffee cupping, and if you and your friends would like to potentially do a coffee cupping evening please contact Russ by putting a response on this post.

Russ

Brazil Daterra Sweet Blue – Rainforest Alliance Coffee – Micro Lot

Ok, here we go again…..We keep finding new coffees that keep blowing me away.  Fratello has a new Brazilian coffee, exclusive to us in Canada that you need to try.  Daterra is an extraordinary producer who’s plantations are located in the Cerrado region (State of Minas Gerais) and in the Mogiana region (State of São Paulo).  They were also the first to introduce Rainforest Alliance in Brazil.

 

Daterra’s Sweet Blue gave us sweet chocolate and syrupy orange aromas compliment a thick mouth feel and clean finish.  Balanced flavors of dark chocolate fudge and mild almonds.  Cupping Score: 90.

 

 

 

Daterra is a coffee grower and exporter best known for its innovative research, its respect for the environment, social responsibility and its high quality coffee.  Daterra is by no means a small coffee producer; however, they are very well known for the quality of coffee they produce.  This is evident when looking at a few of their awards:

 

  1. Cup of Excellence finalist in 2001;
  2. Best coffee from Brazil on the cupping for Quality by Rainforest Alliance in 2005 and 2008;
  3. Espresso Blend used by World Barista Champion Troels Poulsen in 2005;
  4. Espresso Blend used by World Barista Champion Klaus Thomsen in 2006;
  5. Sustainable farm model by Illy Cafè in 2008
  6. Four out of the six WBC finalists used Daterra coffee in their blends in 2008.
  7. Daterra has a “Penta Pack®” packaging system (vacuum packaging) patented internationally.  This was used to ship Brazil's Cup of Excellence winner lots in 2006 and 2008.

The Sweet Blue is a Micro Lot from Daterra which produces only 5300 – 7950 lbs of coffee per year.  Sweet Blue is the Mundo Novo varietal.  Their processing methods on this coffee is a pulped natural at the wet mill, 100% sun dried and followed with their Penta System for both packaging and quality control (See bottom of this post for more information on that).

 

 

Daterra's plantations are located at an average altitude of 3,800 ft (1,150 m) under a stable temperature of around 25ºC, which constitutes the perfect environment for Arabica Coffee production.  The plantations are divided into 215 mini- farms and further subdivided into 2.816 blocks called "quadras", each of which is planted with a specific coffee variety.   (more…)

Organic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe- Idido Misty Valley

Fratello Coffee is introducing an exciting new coffee to our portfolio at the end of May.  We have found an Organic fresh crop Ethiopian that we just had to buy which is replacing the Kembata currently available.

 

 

 

 

Flavor description: Intense tropical fruits, blueberry and strawberry in both the aromas and long lingering flavors.  Thick syrupy body and full of character, yet notably clean and bright through out. 

Grade: 1

Region: Idido, Gedeo Zone Yirgacheffe

Processing: Natural / Dry-Processed

Crop: February 2009

Varietal: Heirloom and Longberry

Cupping Score: 91

 

 

 

 

Ethiopia, the birth place of coffee has 5 growing regions, each producing very distinct characteristics from the other.  In the south of Ethiopia is a district called Yirgacheffe which is just north of the Kenyan border.  Yirgacheffe is currently producing the most exotic flavor profiles in this country and possible the world.  

(more…)

Colombian Cup of Excellence 2009

I have just returned from Pereira Colombia after judging the 2009 Cup of Excellence competition.   Although tired, I'm thrilled about this experience.  It is so exciting going through the cupping process and seeing the award ceremony's on the final day.

COE #1 lot winner

 The Cup of Excellence competition is the most thorough and competitive screening process a coffee farm will put their coffee through.  The goal of COE is to bring out the best coffee a current region has to offer in the current crop year.  After the competition is over, the COE award is given to the top farmers who represent the best coffees that this region has to offer.  These coffees are then put in front of the world on an on-line auction which rewards these farmers for their focused attention to improving quality coffee, and puts a spot light on this region show-casing their excellence.

coe4

Stage one Involves the submission from the farmers current crop of coffee.  Of the 512,000 families growing coffee in Colombia, only 374 submissions were sent in this year, which was relatively low do to the fact that Colombia's crop forecast is 30-40% lower than the year before.

All of these coffees are cupped and analyzed in Colombia by local cuppers.  All coffee scoring an 84 or higher (out of 100) move on to the second National Cupping jury.  The National Cupping Jury is chosen from the pool of local cuppers.  They are chosen for their cupping skills in the first stage.

coe5

(more…)