Central America, Direct Trade coffee sourcing trip – An overview
Following this post will be a detailed write up on the new relationships we are forming as well as updates on our current relationships. What I first wanted to communicate was the overall reaction of what we saw in Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica last month.
This is going to be a VERY challenging year for coffee producers. Across all of Central America the average harvest is down 30-50% per farm, in total pounds being produced. This is due primarily to the record-breaking rains falls, which wreaked havoc during the flowering season. When a flower is damaged, a coffee cherry will not grow. On top of this, global demand for top quality coffees is WAY up!! To add fuel to this fire, the fund companies who seem to be in control of the New York Commodity market are pushing the NYC Price of coffee way down putting price pressure on low quality lots reducing the income for farmers even more. This goes to show further evidence that TRUE Direct Trade relationships between coffee producers and roasters is vital for the future sustainability of our businesses. Roasters like Fratello will continue to reward our coffee producing partners for quality coffees, and pay the high prices for green coffee regardless of how low the NYC market is going.
The main reason for going to Guatemala was to visit Diego De La Cerda who owns the multi award winning Finca El Socorro & Finca Guabaya who took 1st place in the Cup of Excellence (COE) last year (as well as 2007) and finished in the top ten of the COE in the last 6 years now. These neighboring farms are in the Palencia region of Guatemala. This coming year we are going to be introducing a few new micro-lot options from Guatemala.
We also visited coffee producers in Antigua as well as Florencia. It was nice to visit some smaller coffee producers as typically in Guatemala we have been working with larger producers who are able to produce and separate smaller lots like our Montecristo. Fratello’s desire is to work with smaller producers, focusing on micro-lots and micro-regions.
The goal is to have coffees that are unique in cup profile to better showcase what a growing region is capable of doing. This means we will need a broader selection of coffee producers in any given region we are working in.
We then went to El Salvador. This was our first trip to El Salvador and it was truly an eye opening experience. El Salvador might be a new favorite coffee region. The expertise, tradition and focus on quality & experimentation just blew my mind. I tasted plum, pumpkin pie, thick syrupy cup profiles which were new to my palate.
We first traveled to the Tecapa region to visit Gilberto Baraona, the owner of Finca Los Pirineos. At the elevation of 1500 meters, situated between two volcano’s is some of the nicest farm land I have been to. Gilberto is growing over 40 different varieties of coffee in the search of the next Geisha. He knows he has some special terroir in his farm, and now needs to find the best varietal of coffee to grow. I guarantee he is going to find it. Gilberto had us taste a few experiments he did with the highest end liquid fertilization he could find. WOW!!! We are going to be taking this Pacamara and it is going to blow your mind!
At Finca Malacara B, who placed #3 and #4 in the Cup of Excellence in 2011, showed me the best example of the original old way of tree pruning called Agobio Para, which translates to “tree bending”. Typically producers will “stump” a tree, cutting at the base, to allow for a new coffee tree to sprout. I’ve been told that a lot of the health, nutrition and character of the coffee tree is in the trunk. Agobio Para treats the trunk like a “spine”. The art of Agobio Para is bending the trunk and tying it to the ground. This will allow for many new sprouting coffee trees to grow from a single root system with out damaging the original trunk of the coffee tree. What you end up with are MANY coffee trees, all of different ages, growing from one root. This root will require MUCH more fertilization than a typical root, however, over all you use less per farm. Each tree takes up WAY more space than a normal tree, however, it will produce much more coffee compared to a regular tree. The goal is a more stable harvest, year over year. Its hard to describe, but was truly mind blowing. Why is no other region doing this?
We are trying to secure 3 very unique lots of El Salvador for this coming year. These are extraordinary, award winning coffees….potentially some of the best lots we have ever offered.
As always, Costa Rican impresses my with their Micro-Mill revolution which continues to expand and improve. I am seeing better organization, at farm level as well as more dedication to improve quality. These producers have been getting premiums for their coffee for a few years now and are typically re-investing into their mills for efficiency’s and consistency.
This year we are going to continue with our relationship with La Cabana and Miguel Rojas and introducing a new producer and micro-mill La Lia. The La Lia coffee is glorious. Its delicate, floral and elegant…..a true stand out coffee on the cupping table. We will potentially have 2 lots from them as well as 2 lots from Miguel Rojas. Miguel has harvested a special micro-lot for us, which is in a very protected micro-region at his farm. The consistency of red cherries on the trees was like something I’ve never seen. This was a new experiment Miguel was doing with higher quality fertilization. Proof will be in the cup, but I have no doubt that this 15 bag lot will be impressive.
In general we are seeing quality way up, however, quantity way down. This is going to be a big year for Central American coffees out of Fratello. We are going to be really raising the bar on quality and selection in the hopes of continually introducing new/fresh coffee offerings. We know you and your clients are going to appreciate the work that goes into sourcing coffee the way we do.
Panama Boquete - The Geisha Varietal
The Geisha Varietal of coffee is the most sought after coffee in the world. Find out why this coffee is so special, and thought to be the king of all coffees. After cupping these coffees, I was blown away at the flavor profile. Flavors of Juicy Fruit candy, creamy strawberry, tangerine acidity, intensely sweet and a balanced lingering acidity. I brewed a Chemex of this in Calgary and found myself gulping it back. Our 200 lb lot of Panama Mama Cata Full Natural Geisha will be available July 2011.
For many years the most expensive prices paid for coffee has been a rare coffee found in Panama. The record for this Panamanian coffee was set in 2007 when an auction fetched over $150 USD / lb (Green) for coffee grown at Esmeralda Estate using the Geisha Varietal. Since this time, it is not rare for people to pay 10-20 times the regular asking price for this rare coffee. In a café setting it is no different. To get a taste of this coffee, you should expect to pay $10-12 per cup. Is it worth it? I think so.
So what is with this coffee and what makes it so unique? I wanted to know as well, so the purpose of going to Panama was to begin to learn about this varietal and appreciate what it brings to the cupping tables. (more…)
Costa Rican Coffee buying trip – 2011
At the end of February 2011 we visited our friend Francisco of Exclusive Coffee in San Jose Costa Rica. Our goal this trip was to re-visit our relationship not only with Exclusive Coffees, but also our current coffee producer Luis who owns the Rio Jorco Micro-mill. Below is our observation of the Costa Rican coffee growing market, as well as introduction to two great new Micro-Mills coming to Fratello.
To my amazement and delight, our trip started visiting the new offices of Exclusive Coffees. They moved into a much larger facility with a state of the art cupping lab. As always the coffees being cupped at Exclusive are roasted to perfection (which is extremely rare when visiting farms/labs at origin) and the selection of coffees for the most part where shining stars on the table. Costa Rica has many great growing regions, and now has many first class micro-mills in each of these regions. To keep our palates focused, we only cupped coffees from Tarrazu and the West Valley. Aside from the cupping facility, Exclusive Coffees has installed their own Dry Mill to assist in the grading, separation and cleaning of the micro-lots being produced by the micro-mills they work with (approximately 100 micro-mills).
It’s no secret that the current pricing in the coffee market is almost at an all time high. We’ve seen prices reach $3.00/lb at the New York Commodity Markets this year, the second highest since February 1997. (more…)
Lowering Our Carbon Coffee Footprint
Roasting coffee is one part of a long journey from Seed to Cup. Fratello has been a part of this journey for over 25 years in Calgary. We talk often about the chain of important decisions that influences quality and the many steps from the farm to your coffee cup that showcase coffees culinary potential. This is our passion
We are also passionate at Fratello about the people and places we work with that grow our coffee and the many loyal customers that enjoy it. Fratello has been working hard to reduce our overall carbon footprint at each step of this journey to you.
We would like to take the time to highlight some of the steps we are taking to reduce waste and contribute positively to the environment. We would like to be part of a dialogue with you the consumer on how we can do more to affect positive change! We welcome comments, ideas and feedback so that we can learn and grow green.
When as a company you think of reducing your carbon footprint, Recycling comes to mind first. Running a warehouse and roasting facility where we are receiving and shipping coffee and other goods daily causes a lot of material to be used.
We looked at what everyday recycling programs we could put in place easily and maintain. So far we recycle:
We are looking to recycle or donate broken pallets. These come to us in shipments and often break due to use. We would welcome a cost effective way to reuse or recycle these. Please contact us if you would like to come pick some up!
Coffee that is shipped to us from all over the world arrives in burlap coffee sacks. We have stopped putting these sacks into the garbage, and instead have been donating these. Gardening groups love the burlap sacks for making planters! In conversation with Green Calgary, an environmental consulting group we learned that the burlap sacks break down within a few years. Crafters also love them. Give us a call, and then visit Fratello to take away some burlap sacks for yourself!
We have also recently started donating all of our Chaff (a by product of roasting coffee, similar to the skin of a peanut) to be used in composting. This Chaff is also going to chicken farms for making nests. Through these efforts, Fratello has reduced its garbage shipped to landfills by 60-70%.
We have also designed and implemented a revolutionary new gas burner system on our roaster which has 98% gas efficiency which is a departure from most if no all other roasters which operate at much lower efficiencies (as low as 50%).
We also have re-usable Blue Bins to do our local deliveries in, instead of cardboard, and have also changed our branded cups to a paper cup using 10% post consumer products (looking into using 100% post consumer products).
Fratello Coffee Roasters is opening our first café April 2011. Analog Café at the new location for the Calgary Farmers Market will run on 100% Bullfrog Power wind energy. We are also working with Bullfrog to supply our roasting facility with clean energy for both electricity and gas. Our café is only a few miles from our roasting facility so there will be minimal transport emissions getting the coffee to Analog café. Our pastry supplier will be right at the market as well reducing extra transport. We look forward to also benefiting from the environmental practices of the market itself and insuring we take full advantage of any composting, recycling and waste reduction programs they offer.
However, we do not look just at our company, and the city we live in. To us, the largest impact we can make is through our buying practices. Our coffee is: Consciously Chosen, Responsibly Purchased & Carefully Roasted. What this means is we do not treat coffee like a commodity. We “deep source” our coffee and buy directly with the farmers. We do this for many reasons; most obvious is to find the highest quality coffee. But just as important, is to ensure the farms and farmers we work with our doing their parts to take care of their environments.
We seek out farms that are Rainforest Alliance Certified. This is the most in depth certification available. Please read the link on our website “Why Fratello Coffee Chooses to Support Rainforest Alliance Certification” for more information on why we choose this certification:
We also purchase certified Organic and Fair-trade Organic coffees on a regular basis.
As we dig deeper into ways that Fratello Coffee Roasters and Fratello Analog Café can reduce our environmental footprint, we will share them with you. Our goal is to work closely with our community right here in Calgary and the coffee communities we work directly with. The journey from seed to cup is one that carries with it many challenges and many rewards. We are hoping in our own way to make that journey a little greener.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Please write us, either in the comments here or directly. We would love to spark a dialogue about ways we can further our environmental commitment.
Contact Kevin McConnell at Fratello Coffee Roasters:
At the end of February 2011, John and I got home from touring coffee estates throughout Central America with one stop in South America to Colombia. I always get excited about going to Colombia. The culture, the diverse landscape, the food and the excitement around coffee is contagious. To top it off, I just love what it takes to get to the farms. They are much more remote and smaller in size then other growing countries, so it isn’t an easy task. It takes work. Due to this, we decided to focus on only one region located in the South of Colombia called Huila; however; within Huila are many micro-regions (and micro-climates). Huila is generally known as the region that produces the highest quality coffees, and are typically ranked high in the Cup of Excellence competitions.
The first thing you notice when visiting a farm is how small they are. Typically a farm in Colombia will produce 30-40 bags (152 lbs per bag) of high quality coffee per harvest. In Colombia, unlike other regions, they produce 2 harvests per year due to their climate and proximity to the equator. The main crop called Principal will happen in the North, while the smaller Mitaca crop will occur in the South (and visa-versa).
Our first visits occurred in the Northern Huila micro-region Suaza. The average farm size is 3 hectares with an average of 5000 trees per hectare. Typical elevation is 1300 1800 meters. In the past 2-3 years, Suaza like most regions in Huila were affected by a coffee tree disease/fungus called Leaf Rust. This Leaf Rust severally damaged the crop sizes in Colombia by primarily attacking the coffee varietal Caturra. Caturra and Colombia have been the two most commonly planted varietals in Colombia until recently. What we witnessed was the mass planting of a new Leaf Rust resistant varietal called Castillo. Castillo isn’t as sweet as Caturra, but it is a large producer of coffee cherries. Colombia is at a time when they need to correct the coffee shortages, and fix it fast. For the past 3 years Colombia has had bad crops, which affected most farmers/families in Colombia, as well as the worlds coffee pricing due to the shortages of high quality washed coffees.
Fratello will be offering two coffees from Suaza in March 2011. Both have been purchased through our new partners CooCentral, a cooperative located in Garzon Huila. Working with a cooperative seems to be necessary in Colombia due to the small farm sizes and logistical nightmares. Finding a good cooperative to partner with is just as important as finding the great farms. They are vital as they are the people on the ground every day. They are the people who coach/teach technical issues, who have agronomists who analyze soil conditions for customized fertilization and basically insure the health and yields of the overall farms. Over & above this, CooCentral has impressive social benefits for the 332 farms in Suaza that have partnered with them.
CooCentral starts by paying more money per lb than any of the other cooperative. Because of this they get to be more selective with who they work with and ensure that only the farms producing the highest quality of coffee are associated. Above this, they pay for 50% of the health care needs as well as 100% of any funeral expenses for their immediate families. Also impressive is the fact that they offer lines of credit to the farms in order to buy fertilizer and other products they need at 0% interest rates.
Currently CooCentral is in the process of re-building 110 new homes, including new kitchen installations for the farms that have been the most loyal. Next year, they will work on more.
The two lots we are bringing in have been chosen for their unique cup quality and characteristics. The farms associated with these lots were paid an additional premium for this quality.
Our first lot is a blend made up of 14 different families in the Suaza region. This was a special preparation of green coffee, which had extra attention in the dry mill to ensure a much more consistent bean size. What we found was approximately 15% of the green beans were not used. These families were:
Isauro Burgos, from the Cerritos-Galladro hamlet of Suaza.
Sigifredo Giraldo, from the Esmeralda hamlet of Suaza.
Pedro Jose Girald, from the Esmeralda hamlet of Suaza.
Jesus Antonio Mojo, from the Esnarlda hamlet of Suaza.
Ariel Pulido, from the Galladro hamlet of Suaza.
Sinforoso Cruz, from the Gallardo hamlet of Suaza.
Omar Antonio Realpe, from the Horizonte hamlet of Suaza.
Luz Mari Hurtado, from the Horizonte hamlet of Suaza.
Placido Espitia, from the Toribio hamlet of Suaza.
Jose Yadir Munoz, from the Toribio hamlet of Suaza.
Dario Munoz, from the Union hamlet of Suaza.
Roniro Duque, from the Vergel hamlet of Suaza.
Juan Carlos Taborda, from the Vergel hamlet of Suaza.
Jose Enrique Jordan, from the Vergel hamlet of Suaza.
Our second Lot is considered a Micro-Lot that is made up of only three tiny farms. Together they made up a 22 bag lot of extraordinarily great quality coffee which showcases the profile of what Suaza is all about. This Lot is from:
Ariel Pulido, from the Gallardo hamlet of Suaza.
Dario Nunoz, from the Union hamlet of Suaza.
Juan Carlos Taborda, from the Vergel hamlet of Suaza.
We have some exciting plans for Colombia in the second half of this year, which includes a competition held at CooCentral for many of the farms we visited. Our goal is to find the highest quality coffee from a Single Estate in either El Pital, Los Naranjos and Suaza regions from the harvest coming this May/June. Our goal will be to continue supporting this farm year over year in a true Direct Trade partnership that will allow both parties to prosper. We will continue to update you on this project as more details come our way.
Watch for these two exciting new Lots coming very soon. For more photos from this trip please visit our Facebook Page or Flickr Page.
Nicaraguan Coffee buying trip - 2011
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…)
It is a great time to be drinking coffee in Calgary!
Over the last 4 years the number of independent quality driven cafes has grown from less than a handful to over 20 to choose from, with multiple locations opening for some companies. We have seen a greater dedication to sourcing exceptional coffee, hiring and retaining baristas that are passionate about coffee and educating the public.
One of the key distinguishing qualities in a great coffee house, is the sense of community between the customer and the employees. Baristas working in great coffee shops see their role as a sort of guide for the customer to what coffee has to offer; and by extension the customer becomes excited and engaged with the experience. Independent cafes and progressive chains are opening up to their customers and inviting them to learn about the whole seed to cup journey of coffee.
Chemex, Hario V60, French Press and Aeropress oh my!
Please join us November 3rd 1-3pm at Fratello Coffee Roasters to explore 1 coffee brewed 4 ways!
We are going to take our award winning Costa Rican Rio Jorco Direct Trade coffee and show you how to prepare it 4 different ways. This class is all about discovering some simple, easy but really great alternative ways of brewing coffee in your café or restaurant or at home. There will be a chance to taste the coffee, try the brew methods yourself and a contest thrown in as well to win an Aeropress brewer!
Direct Trade Coffee - Costa Rican Tarrazu - Rio Jorco Micro-Mill
Fratello Coffee is proud to introduce an exclusive new coffee available from the Tarrazu Valley in Costa Rica. Last month, we wrote about a Micro Mill Revolution happening in this region, this is one of those special micro-lots we wrote about.
The Rio Jorco Micro-Mill employees between 4-6 people & has 65 pickers during harvest season. Rio Jorco is situated at an altitude of 4600 feet, and like many farms in Tarrazu faces the Pacific Coast. The strong winds from the Pacific are important as they create a defined dry season. This dryness causes a stress on trees creating extra sweetness in Tarrazu coffees, and especially in the 100% Caturra lots we chose from Rio Jorco.
Rio Jorco which was once known as Hacienda Jorco, is rich in history and has played a key role in the development of excellent coffee within the Tarrazu region. The Rio Jorco Micro-Mill processes all of the coffee from their own estate. unlike in their early historyof 1910, when the coffee had to be taken from Jorco to San Jose using Oxen or on horseback. Though the distance was only 15 miles it was a long trip up winding muddy roads. This required oxen to be changed 2 or three times and a one day trip was considered fast. (more…)
Costa Rican Coffee Micro-mill Revolution
I guess I’m a slow learner because it took me 4 days of visiting 16 micro mills (and 1 mega mill), cupping 48 individual lots of coffee and traveling through the Tarrazu, West Valley and Central Valley regions with Jason to fully understand & appreciate the phenomenon in Costa Rica.
This phenomenon is being called “The Micro-mill Revolution” by Francisco Mena of Exclusive Coffees. He has personally visited all 150 micro-mills that now operate through out Costa Rica and works with many of them to increase quality through proper growing, harvesting and processing techniques.
A micro-mill is small coffee farm (typically producing 1000 bags or less, or 152,000 lbs of coffee) that also has its own wet mill and processing on its farm. What this allows a farm to do is process their own cherries to ensure the absolute best quality and taste. This also allows the farmer to separate varietals (Typica from Caturra, etc…) for micro-lots as well as introduce unique processing methods for individual coffee roasters needs (washed, honey, red-honey, naturals). What this really means is complete traceability and a totally individual identity for each lot of coffee we bring in.
We traveled to Nicaragua in December and fell in love with the people, the culture, and the food. Read about our trip and find out why we think this is one of our favourite regions in Central America.
Chris and myself along with Nan & Gerry (of Good Earth Cafes) just finished visiting the Meirsch family in Nicaragua. Together we toured Matagalpa and Jinotega to see their 5 unique coffee estates, each show casing a different cup characteristic that stand out from one another.
The Merisch family is a 3rd generation coffee family that currently evolves 2 generations, with a 3rd (or the 4th in total) not far behind. It was easy to see how close this family is to one another and how important family is to them. When staying at Erwin Merisch’s Seniors home, you were always in the company of his siblings and wives, their children as well as cousins. We certainly didn’t feel like outsiders either, as we were welcomed with open arms.
Direct Trade Coffee - Guatemalan Montecristo Rainforest Alliance Estate
After 16 hours of traveling from Calgary to Guatemala, Nan, Gerry (of Good Earth Cafes), Chris and myself arrived in the San Marcos region where Neuva Granada Estate is located. At the highest elevation of 5200 feet, you will find a micro lot of 100% Bourbon coffee called Montecristo. This small lot of coffee is exclusively prepared for Fratello Coffee in the North American market.
After spending a few days with Johann and his wife Holly Nottebohm I come away with a renewed energy towards supporting there coffee. Johann is a 3rd generation coffee farmer who has been committed to the quality of not only the coffee they grow, but also the life styles of their workers and community around them. This farm is meticulously keeping up with, and surpassing the standards of Rainforest Alliance certification.
When we last visited this estate, we saw first hand the activities and investments Johann was doing to improve the lives of their workers, but this time, we got to see how far his progress has come. Not only does he have free health care and school for the 60 children that live full time on the estate (grades 1-6 as well as computer class), he is almost ready to open his 3rd class room which will host grades 7-9. What excites us the most is that he is now going to open these classes up to the families that do not live on the farm. This proves his commitment to continually improve the community which lives around the estate.
We are pleased to announce the introduction of our newest Direct Trade coffee, a Colombian coffee from the region of Tolima. For the rest of this season, we are offering some of the best coffee from Colombia there is. We have been working hard to find a co-operative to work with since judging the Cup of Excellence Competition back in March 2009. Since then our standards for Colombian coffee went through the roof, and needless to say, it has not been easy finding something to meet our new expectations.
This particular lot has prominent aromas of brown sugar, apricot and star anise with a red apple sweetness & acidity. Flavors of toffee and caramel finish notably clean.
Cupping Score: 89.0
This lot is the sum of the work from 44 individual farms, each contributing the equivalent of about 2 and a half bags (about 185kg) of finished coffee. It comes from the very mountainous area in the southern end of Tolima, around Planadas near the border with Huila. Tolima is filled with an ecosystem of numerous rivers, lakes and abundant native forests which is the optimal area for growing coffee.
Fratello Coffee just won the # 3 Lot of Costa Rican Celle de Copey - Cup of Excellencetoday. This was a HUGE achievement and the highest ranking coffee Fratello has every won. Jason was part of the jury down in Costa Rica this year and helped approving this coffee as being one of the top 5 that Costa Rica has to offer this year.
These coffees are all limited quantities, so enjoy them while you can. There are a few other origins we are working on, each as exciting as the ones above. Looks like its going to be a tasty summer.
Colombia | Cup of Excellence
I have just returned from Pereira Colombia after judging the 2009 Colombia 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.
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.
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.
Last June I was lucky to be chosen to be a judge at the Honduras Cup of Excellence competition. This was a great event that really opened my eyes to the possibilities that Honduras has to offer with its coffee profiles. Honduras borders Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, and often Honduran coffee will cross borders and will be sold as those varietals instead. Guatemala is currently the largest Central American exporter of coffee, however if Honduran coffee wasn't smuggled into other countries - they would probably be the largest exporter.
Honduras has a long history with coffee and many of the estates/farms have been controlled by the same family for many generations. An interesting fact is that 91% of the farms in Honduras contribute to 50% of the coffee sold in Honduras. What this shows is how many small estates there are to work with in this country, the challenge is finding them. Of the 38,000,000 lbs of coffee sold in Honduras, 45% is sold as an Organic/Fair-trade/Organic Fair-trade and only about 10% is even offered as a single estate. Most of this is from huge farms and sold for commercial use.
Our goal when planning this trip was to establish a Direct Trade partnership with a family and farm who's products stood out as exceptional on our cupping table when sampling late last year.
In the west of Honduras is a region called La Paz, and in this region is an area called Marcala. Marcala is known for the quality of coffee produced, and has a history & tradition that reaches back to the late 1800's. Families have owned and worked there farms for 4 generations and practice harvesting techniques that produce clean, sweet and rich tasting coffee. One hour south of Marcala is the town Opatoro, and just out side Opatoro is a very small village called La Florida, and just a few miles out side La Florida is a small coffee estate called Arenal (Arenal Estate is situated 70 km from El Salvador). (more…)
Guatemalan Montecristo - Coffee Buying Trip
We have been buying direct trade coffee since 2013, which means we have years of experience in understanding the best practices in coffee production and purchase. We go to Guatemala once a year to learn more about our producers and their families, to understand their challenges, and to stay up-to-date on their successes
On January 17th my brother’s Jason & Chris joined my self to travel to Guatemala to visit our friend Johann Nottebohm and his wife Holly at their farm Nueva Granada. Our journey began in Guatemala City when we traveled 7.5 hours by car to the far North West corner of Guatemala which is known as the San Marcos region.
The drive was long, but beautiful as the landscape of Guatemala is very mountainous and boasts 38 volcano’s which is the most in all of Central America. When we reached the town of El Rosario and turned off the highway El Rodeo thinking we reached our destination, however, we had 167 more curves & turns in bumpy rock road before reaching the elevation of 4300 feet, the base of Nueva Granada. This farm has views Volcano Tajumulco the tallest Central American volcano at 14,440 feet, and Volcano Tacana which is half in Mexico.
Johann’s is now the 3rd generation coffee farmer in the Nottebohm family. His great grandfather, originally from Germany, moved to Guatemala in 1894. Nueva Granda was the 3rd farm in Guatemala to become Rainforest Alliance certified, and their family tradition continues today of striving for better quality, consistency, improving environmental techniques and educating the families that live on their farm.
The pride in this farm is shown on every level. It starts by watching their team pick only the ripest red cherries. Every 2 weeks, each tree will have hands sort through their branches choosing the best coffee, for a total of 15 passes per harvest! Most farms will only have 4 or 5 passes per harvest forcing them to choose over & under ripen cherries each time.
Once picked, cherries are brought immediately to the wet mill located on the farm. (more…)
Honduran Cup of Excellence 2008 - Las Amazonas
Yesterday was the online auction for the 2008 Honduras Cup of Excellence competition, and Fratello Coffee is happy to say, that we have won another Lot of coffee, and are the ONLY Canadian company to win one. This is always an exciting process, and is particularly long, when you are also one of the 26 judges from around the world to actually participate in the competition at origin.
The judging process is a 4 day cupping extravaganza that allows you to taste the best coffees that country has to offer. It starts out with the national cupping jury to taste all the entries and separate all the coffees that score an 84 or higher.
The next event bring the international jury into to rank all of these coffee to pick the final farms that qualify as a Cup of Excellence coffee (again anything over 84). Every coffee gets tasted by each judge from 4 - 12 times and will be scored, and described each time. Very tiring, but very rewarding.
When you walk away from the competition, you have experienced the best of this country as well as had the opprotunity to discover many different micro regions that had never been descovered until this time. (more…)
Nicaraguan's Mama Mina Estate - Direct trade
This is an exciting addtion to our coffee selections. This is our new Direct Trade Nicaraguan coffee that is replacing the old Selva Negra variety. Look for this coffee in our offerings by the 3rd week of June.
We found this farm a few months ago when traveling with Erwin Mierisch and his family. During this visit, we went to all 5 farms, and began offering the Limoncillo Pacamara Peaberry varietal right away. Their Limoncillo farm just took second place at this year's COE competition, however, took the higest price.
Our next offering from the Mierisch family farms is from the smallest farm they own Finca Mama Mina Estate. This farm is affectionately named for their grandmother Mina McEwan. Trees and mountains surround the farm in every direction, and sits at an elevation of 1200 - 1350 meters. This farm has lots of daily cloud cover which provides natural shade ontop of what is produced by the tree canopy's.
They are currently producing 75% Caturra and 25% Catuai on this farm. They also have their own wet mill, and dry all of their beans on site with raised beds. This is one of their younger farms, but is producing only "Grade A" coffee and is fast becoming a favorite of the family.
Brazil Sete Cachoeiras Estate wins first place at SCAA 2008
I wanted to let you all know that the Brazil Sete Cachoeiras Estate - Rainforest Alliance coffee was given an award at the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) this year to recognize their quality among all the Rainforest Alliance Coffee produced.
When I went out for dinner with Renato Farhat Brito and his father Marcel Renato Brito, the owners of this estate, they had mentioned that when they entered this contest, they entered the exact same Lot of coffee we chose to import.
Fratello just returned from another origin trip to continue our expansion and work with developing our Direct Trade coffee program. As we have mentioned before, our goal is to source our coffee this way when ever possible. It is a work in progress which will also include increased selections of Rainforest Alliance, Organic and Fair-trade Organic coffees. Direct Trade allows Fratello to source the best and most unique coffee lots before they are sold and blended with other lots at Cooperative which most farmers use. Through this practice Fratello pays our farmers 25%-35% more than what Fair-trade premiums would have paid them.
This time it was Russ, Jason and Angela Prefontaine who traveled to Nicaragua to visit Erwin Mierisch and his family. What an amazing journey this was. It was not only educational visiting 5 different farms in Matagalpa and Jinotega, but it was terrific getting to know Erwin better. We had the pleasure of touring around with Erwin, his cousin Ricardo Oliu and Erwin's father, Erwin Mierisch Senior who was a gracious host and a pleasure to be around. We also had the pleasure of meeting Erwin's sister Maria and Erwin and Ricardo's wives. The Mierisch family has been cultivating these farms for 3 generations (Since mid 30's).
Nicaraguan Fina El Limoncillo Pacamara Peaberry - Direct Trade
Starting March 1, 2008 you will be able to purchase this incredible Direct Trade coffee from Fratello Coffee Co. We haven't been this excited about offering our clients a coffee since the first lot of Cup of Excellence we won.
This coffee cupped out at a 89.5, but if you were to include the look of the beans when scoring, this coffee would have been well into the 90's. These giant beans give this coffee a very unique look. We found that this coffee gave us a spicy orange and fresh pine aroma which was complimented by the thick & syrupy mouth feel. Flavor notes of black-bing cherry, candied cloves and apple pie are brightened with the delicate grapefruit acidity.
Finca El Limoncillo - General farm information
This farm got its name from the unusual growth of lemon trees that were originally found here. This is arguably their most beautiful farm (out of 5).
Guatemala Nueva Granada - Rainforest Alliance Certified
Fratello Coffee has found a new source for its Guatemala coffee and is pleased to announce that it is certified by Rainforest Alliance. We have chose to work with the Nueva Granada estate and will have this amazing coffee starting in December of this year.
Guatemalan Nueva Granada – Single Estate - Rainforest Alliance Certified Cupping Score – 87.6 – Nutty & chocolate orange aromas prepare you for the dark chocolate and creamy/silky mouth feel with lingering and zesty orange acidity.
Nueva Granada Estate Coffee
During the harvest, Nueva Granada selects only the ripest cherries, and when the beans are in parchment form, again grades the coffees and stores them in burlap bags in a special, dry, wood-line storeroom. Once an order comes from Fratello Coffee Co., the parchment covering is removed and Nueva Granada's blue-green beans are carefully selected and prepared for shipment.