Nicaraguan Coffee Producer Profile - Eleane Miersch

Continual improvement is something every farmer we work with strives for but few have the level of commitment that Eleane Mierisch does.   This is Fratello Coffee's 5th year working with the Miersch family and have written about them a lot.  We wanted to focus on Eleane in this post as she is a big reason for the consistent quality coffee coming from their farms.

Eleane  is the second oldest child of Erwin Mierisch Sr. who was one of the early leaders in specialty coffee in Nicaragua. Eleane gave up a nursing career to take care of her ailing mother, that was over 6 years ago and though her mother passed she has stayed to help with the family business.

Eleane oversees the family farms in Nicaragua but her real passion is the dry mill in Matagalpa. She told us that “We are still quite a small dry mill so the focus has to be on quality.” And that focus on quality really shines through in the cup.

Her favorite job in the dry mill is the quality control, and to maintain that she repeatedly cups the lots that are processed there.  The other highlights of her job include experimenting with the multiple different drying techniques and most importantly maintaining and building the team of people that work at the dry mill. Her goal is that everyone enjoys working there and finds it rewarding, because if the workers are enjoying their jobs it is much easier to keep the high qualities of products coming out that her customers have come to expect.

One of the ways she is improving is by putting up African Raised beds as an alternative way to dry the coffee, before this the coffee was dried on a concrete patio. The Raised bed is a drying style that many believe increase the pleasant acidities in coffee. Making them stand out even more from the majority of coffee coming from Nicaragua.

The biggest way that she is improving is by communicating with her clients and finding out what types of coffees and processing methods they prefer what drying method they are most interested in.  In this way she is learning what other methods her clients have seen from other countries on how to process so she can not only tailor the best coffee to each of her clients, but it also gives her more ideas on how to experiment and make the coffee better for everyone.

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.

Colombia - Elias Roa - Acevedo, Huila - Direct Trade

Elias Roa and his family have been producing coffee for 25 years.  Elias has 2 farms, this one in the Acevedo region called Finca El Recuerdo and the other is in El Pital called Finca Tamana, giving him the ability to harvest coffee all year long.  Elias will be able to send his 3 children to University through producing high quality coffees.  Elias is the president of the coffee growers association called Primavenal in Acevedo and is leading the other members to produce higher quality coffees through his examples. There are 8 people who are employed on his farm all year long, and 25 people during the harvest season.

Acevedo is on the southern side of Colombia in the department of Huila.  Huila is one of our favorite regions within Colombia--the cups have lots of tropical fruit, citric notes, have pleasing acidity and are extremely sweet.

The average farm in Acevedo region is about 3 hectares of land with traditional varietals of Caturra, Typica and now more and more Castillo as this is a Roya/Rust resistant plant.   From this, you can typically harvest 20-40 exportable sacks of coffee (152 lbs per sack), twice per year.   Colombia and Kenya are unique in the world for having 2 harvests per year due to their proximity to the equator and many microclimates with in their countries.

Elias uses a small traditional pulpers on his farm along with small fermentation tanks.   There is ample spring water coming down the mountains that producers use to ferment and wash their coffee.  An overnight fermentation of 10-13 hours is followed by hand test in the morning to determine if the sugars are off the beans.  Should the fermentation be complete, coffee is then brought to his small parabolic drier with a bamboo floor and domed poly roof to keep the afternoons rain off.

Elias is one of the rare coffee producers leading the way in his drying techniques.  He understands the importance of drying his coffee slowly and evenly to ensure consistency and longevity of his coffee.   Elias ensures that the temperatures in the parabolic dries are calibrated.  He has 3 layers of African beds.  2 layers of beds are calibrated at 30 degress, and a lower layer at 20 degrees.  READ THIS for more information on drying coffee.  Once dried it goes to the communal warehouse Primavenal in town where it is catalogued and cupped.

Our challenge over the past 5 years working in Colombia has been finding a coffee producer who is able to consistently produce enough high quality coffee each harvest for us to partner with.  The risk with Direct Trade in Colombia is that you do not have much flexibility in choosing different Lots from a single producer.   Ideally when working with coffee producers year over year, is the ability to pick and choose specific Lots (areas within a farm) that you want to buy that harvest.   Each harvest produces new challenges to the coffee producers, and you are never guaranteed to get the same quality as you did before.  Being able to choose different Lots from a single coffee producer creates more certainty in finding the specific quality we desire year over year.

These challenges are also what make Colombia rewarding for us.   Because this isn’t an easy country to source from, a lot of roasters do not go, or have yet to try and establish Direct Trade with any coffee producers.   Due to the relationships we have established over the years, we have been able to find some amazing producers who we are confident to work with.

The Vanguard Review - Analog Coffee 17th Ave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guatemalan - Montecristo, Geisha - Direct Trade Coffee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by: David Schindel, Lead Roaster. 

Fast Forward Weekly - Calgary's Booming Coffee Scene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Colombia - Arnulfo Leguizamo, San Agustin, Huila - Direct Trade Coffee

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’.”

The Effects of Coffee Drying Speeds at Origin

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.

Modern Socialite - The Prefontaine's and Analog Coffee

By Jeannette Vega B.

Russ Prefontaine and Chris Prefontaine are the visionary brothers behind the hit wonder, Analog Coffee on 17th Ave, nestled in the heart of Mount Royal and the Red Mile business district, a better location could not have been chosen.

The sleek and stylish cafe has quickly attracted a discerning and loyal clientele who recognizes the artistry and passion being put forth in this initiative. The brother’s desire to bring a higher level of quality and service to Calgary has not gone unnoticed with the buzz about Analog being wide spread.

I sat down with Chris and Russ to find out more about their journey into Analog, I wanted to know what motivated them and drove their passion throughout the years. The quiet yet charismatic brothers had a lot to say, their extensive knowledge, dedicated heart and deep desire to bring us the very best was immediately  apparent.

Q.1 When and how did your passion for coffee start?

1 - Its difficult to say when my passion for coffee started as it has been a part of my entire life.  My parents started in the coffee business in 1974 so my brothers and I grew up with coffee around us all the time. When we were young boys we would earn an allowance through helping my dad clean up coffee brewers.  My parents started roasting coffee in 1985, and as we got older, we began being able to assist my dad in the roasting department during our summer holidays.  We would help package coffee and get orders ready for his clients.  When I was in high school and College I started working at coffee shops.  My brother Chris also worked in a coffee shop but in 1991 started Espuccino Imports with our oldest brother Jason while Chris was in College.  Espuccino Imports was an Italian espresso equipment import company who also did service, installation and training for local coffee shops.  I joined my brothers at Espuccino Imports as a service technician in 1994, but the three of us began partners in 1997 when we purchased my parents coffee roasting business which was called Custom Gourmet Coffee at the time.

Prefontaine, Modern, Socialite, Analog, Coffee

Our coffee is consciously chosen, responsibly purchased, and carefully roasted.

Q.2 What motivated you to open up a retail location (Analog)

- Many people have asked us why we started Analog Coffee at the Calgary Farmers Market as well as our new flag ship location on 17th Ave SW.  Our Analog Café’s were not designed to be “just another coffee house”.  They were designed and created to give Fratello Coffee Roasters a voice directly who matters most.  People who drink and enjoy our coffee everyday

The idea of having our own cafe isn’t new.  We have been talking about this for over 15 years when we first purchased the roasting company from our parents in 1997.  Back in the early years of our roasting company, our father Cam Prefontaine did his best to buy better coffee from his competitors.  He would experiment with different ways of roasting this coffee with the equipment he had and would service his customers way better than his competitors.

These were also the days before “2nd Wave” coffee was the norm, and back before anyone had even heard of Starbucks.  Trying to convince the early bakeries and deli’s to buy what was “gourmet” coffee was a challenging thing to do.  It was only the early/mid 90’s that Starbucks, Second Cup, Grabba Jabba (now Timothy’s) began to pop up on every corner that the ability for us to roast/sell higher quality coffee began to become easier.

In these years, or the 2nd Wave of coffee, we began working closer with our wholesale café customers with education on what espresso based beverages were all about.  We did our best to encourage them and get them excited about wanting to sell better and better coffee.  We would offer our brand image to them in hopes that they would represent us in a way which would create recognition for quality.   This unfortunately is very challenging to do when you are required to rely on others to be your voice on the streets.

Prefontaine Analog Coffee

A big decision was made in 2007/2008 when we as a company decided to down-size and re-focus on what we cared most about. And what we cared about was quality. At this time we changed our name to Fratello Coffee Roasters (Italian for brother) and began to focus on our accounts who aligned with the same principles as us.  If an account didn’t “fit” we simply decided to end the relationship. Over the course of 4 years, a 50-60% reduction in business as well as an entirely new company culture was formed.   It was only during this process that we could begin our transition into becoming a “3rd Wave” coffee roaster.

The Third Wave of Coffee refers to a current movement to produce high-quality coffee, and consider coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, rather than a commodity, like wheat. This involves improvements at all stages of production, from improving coffee bean growing, harvesting, and processing, to stronger relationships between coffee growers and coffee traders and roasters, to higher quality and fresh roasting, at times called microroasting (by analogy with microbrew beer), to skilled brewing.

At Fratello we understand coffee because it has – literally – been our passion for over a quarter century!  Hundreds of thousands of people have tasted our coffee without ever knowing it!  With the opening of the Fratello Analog Café in the Calgary Farmer’s market in early 2011 we took the plunge into retail, and we’re delighted we did.   We continue to learn new experiences each month which empowers us with new knowledge to better train/coach our wholesale clients.   Our brand has become more recognized in this city as the leading quality coffee roaster and has enabled us to have a “voice” in the street (away from business to business) of our own, and put our brand in our own hands.

With the 2012 opening of our flagship store on 17th Ave and 7th Street we are again able to begin sourcing coffee an entirely new way!  It wasn’t typical of us to introduce 2 or more coffees from the same growing region at once, but this is something we are starting this year. We find it’s such a great opportunity for our customers to discover different flavour characteristics a country has to offer when you are able to taste different farm/cooperative offerings, from the same growing region, side by side.

Prefontaine Analog Coffee

Therefore, What makes a great cup of coffee?  Simply put, pride!  Pride in how we source our product, by knowing our producers and knowing our regions, and not being afraid to always make the call that quality is more important than quantity.  Attention to perfection then continues back here in Calgary, where we use our many years of roasting/training experience.   Lastly, the magic plays out in our cafes, Analog Coffee, where our amazing staff – who all understand and live the Fratello philosophy  – bring you the perfect cup of coffee every time you order it.  Come and check us out.

Q.3 How do you feel Calgary is benefiting from Analog’s unique approach?

- I definitely see Calgary benefiting from Analog Coffee being opened up.  It’s like a chicken or the egg thing; what came first – the great coffee house or the great city?  At Fratello we’re obviously biased, but we believe that you have to have great coffee houses to make a great city.  And just look around, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Vancouver and Seattle – they all have remarkable cafes.  Take it a step further.  How many movie sets or TV shows profile coffee shops?  Tons of them, and there is a reason for that.  Because great coffee houses bring out the very best in us.  They allow us to appreciate the good things in life; things that often get missed in the hurly burly of our daily existence.

In a great coffee house we socialize, we think, and we somehow become instantly gracious and appreciative.  Perhaps it’s the magic aroma of magnificently roasted coffee, or the professional skills of your barista, but somehow a good coffee shop ‘brings you inside’ and gives you as much value from the experience of the place as from the taste of the product.

Prefontaine Analog Coffee

At Fratello we understand coffee because it has – literally – been our passion for over a quarter century!  Hundreds of thousands of people have tasted our coffee without ever knowing it!  With the opening of the Fratello Analog Café in the Calgary Farmer’s market in early 2011 we took the plunge into retail, and we’re delighted we did.   We continue to learn new experiences each month which empowers us with new knowledge to better train/coach our wholesale clients.   Our brand has become more recognized in this city as the leading quality coffee roaster and has enabled us to have a “voice” in the street (away from business to business).

With the upcoming fall 2012 opening of our flagship store on 17th Ave and 7th Street we’ll be in the heart of the action, helping to sustain the pulse of that vibrant part of town.  Again, great café help build great cities.

What makes a great cup of coffee?  Simply put, pride!  Pride in how we source our product, by knowing our producers and knowing our regions, and not being afraid to always make the call that quality is more important than quantity.  Attention to perfection then continues back here in Calgary, where we use our many years of roasting/training experience.   Lastly, the magic plays out in our cafes, Analog Coffee, where our amazing staff – who all understand and live the Fratello philosophy  – bring you the perfect cup of coffee every time you order it.

Coffee should be all about the people.  The people who produce it, the people who roast/find it, the people who serve it and most importantly at Analog Coffee, the people who come in to enjoy it.  And, great people make a great city!

Q.4 How do you stay current in your business?

- Staying current in this business is a constant battle.  The coffee market is always changing, in the past 5 years has been changing faster than ever.  New brewing methods, and the re-birth of older brewing methods are coming back. The way roasters source coffee is changing and we are pushing ourselves harder then ever to roast these coffees  in ways which extenuate the natural flavours found in these beans.   More than this is the consumer is he much more educated and expect more from the baristas at the best cafes.  To compete in the cafe market at this level is hard work.  Its about constant training and re-trainiing and never being satisfied with what you are currently doing.  Being good, isn’t good enough.

We learn a lot from the roasters from around the world we meet when we are traveling to visit our coffee producers.  We are always bouncing ideas off of each other and then stay in contact with social media.  Twitter and Facebook are great ways to watch and learn from the best roasters/cafe in the world as well as going to different trade shows in this industry.

Really the bottom line for us to continually improve is the realization that we do not know all the answers.  We have yet to perfect the art of roasting and the skill of customer service.  We are striving to get there, but know we can never reach that goal, but by reaching for this goal we will continually improve what we do.

Prefontaine Analog Coffee

Since opening our doors at Analog Coffee 17th the main thing we have learned is that there has been a hunger for this level of cafe in Calgary.  There are many cafes in Calgary that are doing a great job, but Analog has tried to create a very friendly and approachable atmosphere.  We do not want anyone to feel intimated to ask questions and order beverages from our baristas.  We want to give the information to the clients who are interested in it, but not be over bearing or “coffee snobs” to clients who are just starting to explore coffee of this quality.  Our clients are really enjoying this and continue to support us as we perfect our systems in this new venture.

Stop by for a unique coffee experience and you might just end up staying longer than expected, savour an exquisite pastry or sandwich from one of the carefully chosen partners like Sidewalk Citizen and La Boulangerie, it will most certainly be an enjoyable stop that might end up being your favourite.

Devastation Throughout Central America - Roya Leaf Rust

What a terrible time to be a coffee producer in Central America.  An aggressive, widespread attack of the coffee-eating roya fungus is causing more damage and devastation throughout Central America's coffee plantations than was expected and is inflicting high costs on producers at a time when international coffee prices have fallen sharply.


Just when you think it looks like coffee producers were beginning to be more profitable in their business’s through getting better prices for their coffee, the NY Commodity Market decides to decline sharply.  Typically when you see the NYC Market go higher, you have a softening on the differential market.  The opposite is then true when you see a down turn in the NYC Market.   This is a stressful and risky way for coffee producers to sell coffee.

The differential market varies completely from origin to origin and often reflects quality levels as well as supply and demand with in an origin.  The NYC market is a global benchmark for pricing, but does NOT reflect any sort of quality.  The NYC Market fluctuates rapidly and has many variables, which make this commodity move.  Years ago it was weather, the crop sizes in Brazil and supply & demand which caused the fluctuations, but today the biggest factor in this are the large Fund companies who buy/sell commodities everyday.

Due to Direct Trade, our pricing remains fairly consistent year over year with the coffee producers we work with.  We reward them for the quality and care they put into their coffee, typically paying 25-35% more than what Fair Trade would pay them.  Through this method of working with coffee producers they are ensured they will be profitable, gives them a secured customer, gives Fratello incredible quality and takes the pressure of the NYC Market away from the producers we work with.

All of this sounds like it gives everyone security; however, what this does not do is protect the coffee trees from environmental conditions which greatly impact the amount of coffee cherries produced each year.  What we are seeing this year through out Central America is devastating, and will impact us all for the next 2-4 years.

The Roya, a leaf disease (a fungus also called Leaf Rust) is currently spreading extremely rapidly through all of Central America.  The tree killing fungus is affecting the entire area, from Costa Rica to Mexico.  For example in Honduras, Central America's largest coffee producer, are talking of a 20% loss in this current crop this current year.   All coffee producers were taken by surprise and were unprepared to combat this disease.  Now the alarms are sounding!!  This year yields throughout Central America are down as much as 30%, but the major impact will come the next 2 to 3 years depending on how well governments assist farmers to combat this disease.  Major pruning of all trees, having to replace aging trees with new ones and most important is the requirement to fertilize adequately. It will be a major task requiring serious financial assistance. Today with these low NYC Market prices could potentially be devastating.

El Salvador is predicting coffee yields to be 50% lower next year, and the smallest harvest in 73 years!  Guatemala is seeing 40% of their trees infested, Costa Rica is predicting a crop 25% smaller this year and 50% smaller next year.  The same news is spreading north and is said to be the same outcomes in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras next year.  

Colombia already went through what Central America producers are going through now.  Production is recovering 4 years later.  The biggest issue in Colombia is that the low NYC prices combined with a strong local currency (compared to the weak US Dollar) is creating a cost of production which is estimated to be 20% to 25% higher than what their current selling prices are.  The government is in discussion today with Colombian FNC and key producing states to extend an assistance program.

Meantime, sellers are mostly withdrawn waiting for a better evaluation of crops and also better prices.  Coffee exporters at origin are sitting on their inventories waiting for better news before selling. The C market has steadied for now and differentials are beginning to get higher.

The next 2-4 years are going to be a bumpy ride.  Roasters are going to have to be aggressive to find and secure the top quality coffee.  Fratello Coffee Roasters are hard at work visiting with coffee producers and exporters to ensure we have the most current information and to ensure we have the supply to pass on to our clients.

Calgary Herald's Review of Analog Coffee 17th Ave.

You know those idyllic coffee shops you see in advertisements for really expensive jewelry or high-tone perfume? The kind of place where tall windows spill light across hardwood floors onto shiny espresso machines, and where hip customers lean into each other, deep in conversation? Thats the new Analog Coffee (740 17 Ave. S.W.) in a nutshell.

Stepping out of 17th Avenue traffic through the corner door of the former Buy Rite grocery store is like crossing into a slightly amplified — and caffeinated — world. The December light glows golden at midday and the air is filled with the intoxicating aroma of espresso. Buy Rite lives on in its old metal sign letters hung over the coffee bar (Free Delivery is there too) but otherwise the space is fully updated. Herringbone hardwood covers the floors while those light-spilling windows are sealed against winter’s blast. Long black banquettes line the walls and a handful of tables fill the small room.

A long bar hosts a Fratello Slayer espresso machine — one of the best on the market — and a pour-over section for those wanting a longer coffee. For the fly-by crowd on the run, there will soon be larger coffee carafes at the ready for take-out. And for those feeling a bit peckish, there’s fresh baking from La Boulangerie and Sidewalk Citizen. That includes some of Sidewalk’s creative sandwiches built by talented chef Colin Metcalfe.

Analog Coffee is the second shop created by Chris and Russ Prefontaine, the brothers behind Fratello Coffee Roasters. Their first Analog opened in the new Calgary Farmers Market last year and always seems to have a lineup. Now the brothers have taken their concept uptown.

So what is their concept? Good coffee of course, using responsibly grown, direct trade beans (sourced directly from the growers) and a combination of technology (the Slayer) and handmade (pour-over). Combine that with service by baristas who know their product and you get a good cup of coffee.

Then there’s the Analog name, referring to their desire to hand-craft every cup of coffee and serve foods that are equally hand-crafted. Look along the back wall of Analog, under the Buy Rite sign, and you’ll see a long row of LPs, records collected from numerous sources around town. Although Analogs soundtrack is now distinctly digital, they plan to install a turntable and crank out old analog tunes from the disks. Perhaps that will make the coffee even tastier and the light just a little more golden.

John Gilchrist’s new Eat Canada restaurant app is now available at the App Store. He can be reached at or 403-235-7532.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

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Colombia, Huila Coffee Sourcing Trip - 2012

In Early November 2012 I had the opportunity to go back to Colombia.   This was a great trip, again in Huila, where we focused our attention in the micro-regions of Acevedo and San Agustin (You can view photos on our Facebook page).    This was my 5th trip to Colombia and am finally confident in working in these two areas for the foreseeable future.    Colombia has always been a challenging country for me to work in for a few reasons.

Reason 1 – Colombia is a huge country and the distances between the coffee growing regions is great.  A lot of our past trips have been in cars/planes/buses traveling from one region to the next.  Each region is unique in standardized flavor profiles, and It was important for us to know that Huila was our most desired region (Tolima is second for us).

Reason 2 – Even the region (or province) Huila is huge and very diverse with MANY micro-regions, each giving you a different elevations, land scape and coffee culture.  The past 2 trips before this one were all focused in Huila as well.   Within Huila we traveled to these following micro-regions (keep in mind, this isn’t all of the micro-regions in Huila, but the main ones we visited):

  1. El Pital
  2. Quituro
  3. Gigante
  4. Garzon
  5. Suaza
  6. Guadalupe
  7. Tarqui
  8. Agrado
  9. Acevedo
  10. San Augustin

Each of these regions offer a “unique profile”, let alone how each coffee producer with in these micro-regions grow different varietals, different elevations and different processing techniques all of which achieve unique cup profiles.

Reason 3 – The average farm size in Colombia has 3 hectares of land.  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.

Our challenge 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 makes 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.

Our newest Direct Trade partnership is going to be with Elias Roa who has 2 farms.  One in El Pital called Finca Tamana.   Fratello Coffee Roasters purchased 1 Lot of coffee from him last year from Finca Tamana and our goal was to continue to work there moving forward.  Unfortunately for us, but starting this year, 100% of all his production is going to Tim Wendelboe now.   However; Elias’s other farm is located in Acevedo which continues to be my favorite region for cup quality in Colombia.   This farm is called Finca Recuerdo (Translates to “The Memory”) and is located in the micro-region Primavera in Acevedo.   I will have a separate blog post on Elias later.

Another very special lot of coffee we are bringing in is from Arnulfo Leguisamo.  We are fortunate to be getting Lot #1 which is grown in San Agustin.  Arnulfo holds the record in Colombia for highest ranking coffee, as well as most expensive Colombian coffee when he won first place in the 2011 Colombian Cup of Excellence competition getting $45.00 / lb.  This is among the best coffee I’ve ever cupped in my life, and we will have this in early 2013.

We are proud to say that we are making big progress in Colombia, and are happy that our hard work is finally paying off.   The producers we are going to be working with are 100% dedicated to achieving top quality lots harvest over harvest, so you can be assured that the quality of our micro-lots are only going to improve moving forward.