El Salvador - Mauricio Salaverria, Finca VillaGalicia - Direct Trade

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.

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. 

Panama Boquete - The Geisha Varietal

…….After cupping these coffees, I was blown away at the cupping 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 like I was in a beer drinking competition back in College.  I quickly realized that I had NO CHOICE but to buy some.  Our 200 lb lot of Panama Mama Cata Full Natural Geisha will be available July 2011……Now let me start at the beginning…..

Panama Boquete Geisha Finca Mama Cata

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.

Panama Boquete Geisha Finca Mama Cata Coffee Cherry

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…)

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…)

It is a great time to be drinking coffee in Calgary!

caffe crema coffee barista training Slayer barista training fratello

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.

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Guatemala Direct Trade Coffee Video

Here is a new video we just shot while touring our Direct Trade Partners in Guatemala

Guatemala Montecristo Estate - Micro Lot from Russ Prefontaine on Vimeo.

Direct Trade Coffee - Nicaraguan Los Placeres

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.

Coffee cupping

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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.

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Rainforest Alliance - Coffee farm audits

We have written and spoke a few times about why Fratello Coffee chooses to purchase Rainforest Alliance (RA) certified coffees over other certifications.  We believe strongly that RA is the most complete certification available to us today.  A certification that looks at many different levels of life and accountability on the farms we choose to work with.

Not all of our coffee is RA, however, more and more are and we will continue to source coffees that first stand out as exceptional on the cupping table; followed with the hopes that these estates are/could be certified.

Below is a short video provided to us by The Rainforest Alliance that shows a few of their objectives while auditing at the farm level.

Guatemalan Montecristo - Rainforest Alliance - Direct Trade Coffee

Last year we were offering coffee from this same estate called Nueva Granada.  This year we wanted to dig a little deeper into their farm and decided on this single varietal coffee, Bourbon.  Bourbon, an American mutation of the Typica varietal, is known for its softer, creamer cup then most other coffee varietals.

This 100% Bourbon micro-lot has a sappy maple aroma with flavor notes of brown sugar and white chocolate.  The green grape acidity finishes thick and clean.

Cupping Score - 88.5.

Montecristo is located at the highest point of Nueva Granada in the San Marcos region of Guatemala.  At 5200 feet elevation, this is San Marcos highest farm.  From the top of this farm you can see two volcano's and Mexico's boarder.

Fratello Coffee is the only roaster who had access to this coffee in the entire world as Johann D Nottebohm, the owner of the estate, did this special separation of 100% Bourbon just for us.

guat1_o

Thank you Johann, we look forward to sharing this with our clients!  To read more information about this coffee/estate, please go to: https://www.fratellocoffee.com/2009/02/05/guatemalan-nueva-granda-buying-trip/

Costa Rican Cup of Excellence - Lot #3

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. 

You can read more about this coffee here:

Look for this coffee to be available late this summer/early Spring.  Some incredible coffees are available now and coming soon to Fratello…..a few of these are:

Available now (and selling fast): READ more.

Available now: READ more.

Available July: READ more.

Available July/August: READ more.

Available August/September: READ more.

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.  

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…)