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El Salvador and the fruits of our labor.

Posted on September 22, 2016 by Oliver Stormshak | 0 Comments

Hand sorting only the ripest red cherries in El Salvador, cherries in foreground are rejected.

We are now five years into our sourcing program in El Salvador. In our five years, El Salvador has been hit with the worst case of coffee leaf rust in the world. Causing annual coffee production to decline by over 50%. On top of this, El Salvador a stable Central American country when we started working there, has spilled into one of the most violent and dangerous countries in the world. Leading statistics on high gang related violence and homicides. Sadly, the country as at a low point.

Ricardo Ariz one of our best farmers in El Salvador

We have also had our share of trials and turbulations working there. We started, working with one family in the Apaneca area where the producers understood quality in every aspect but had so little available quality coffee that we had to look elsewhere. Working through our relationships in El Salvador we met producer Ricardo Ariz three years ago. At the time Ricardo did not have a track record for quality, but his farm El Aguila had all the potential for producing beautiful coffee. Ricardo a business man, with little experience with coffee, except for growing up on the farm and hearing about the family business had at this point been asked by his father to take over running the coffee farm for the family. The first year we bought coffee from Ricardo the coffee was good, but could be better. We worked on a plan with Ricardo to make some key quality improvements that would easily bring the coffee up in quality each year. The story of our partnership with Ricardo Ariz is a full success story. Every year the coffee gets better and better. So much of buying great coffees is about finding the right producer partners who are ready and willing to do the hard work. This work is rewarded with long term partnership with increased buying capacity and much higher prices directly to the farmer.

Small scale coffee farmers like Melvin Flores might only produce a few bags of coffee each year. Our system in Chalatenango keeps these small Micro Lots separated through the supply chain, rewarding producers for exceptional quality coffee.

Four years ago we also had the opportunity to jump in on the development project of building the infrastructure and systems of buying coffee in the region of Chalatenago. I believe we were the first roaster to sign on to buying coffee in this region. Our plan with Exporter-Importer Caravela would be built on their model in Colombia of working with the often forgot small farmer to isolate their small lots, cup them, grade them, buy them, offer premiums, transparency and agro support back to the farmers we are buying from. This system is sustainable and promotes delivery to our station and improve value and pricing to the farmers. Win win for farmers and Olympia Coffee.

Getting established in this area with the parchment reception-buying warehouse has been slower than ideal. At the end of last year operations were fully complete.

Melvin Flores, stands with his coffee pulper. Quality coffee is based on the people who grow the coffee and process the coffee. Keeping our supply chain transparent and rewarding those who produce high quality is a sustainable solution in El Salvador.

This year marks the first of a five year development process to recieving super high quality from El Salvador. Our labor has finally come to bare fruit. These fruits are in my opinion, the best example of a collection of coffees from El Salvador from any roaster in the world.

This year we will feature the following awesome El Salvador coffees.

Ricardo Ariz Bourbon- Sweetheart

Ricardo Ariz SL-34

Ricardo Ariz Pacamara

Melvin Flores Pacas

Melvin Flores Pacamara

Samuel Luna Honey Pacamara

Decaf Asterisk -Ethiopia Gidibona: Release and Sourcing Notes

Posted on September 14, 2016 by Oliver Stormshak | 0 Comments

Coming into this year we knew that Ethiopia was going to play a major role in terms of where we were going to focus more time on sourcing coffees and telling the stories behind them.

I spent a day cupping with the team at Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, looking for potential blenders for Big Truck or stellar Micro Lot quality coffee. Cupping dozens upon dozens of lots in a tiny room making some of the biggest decisions you might make in a year is something that I'm used to at this point.

SCFCU small crowed cupping room in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.

In the end, I ended really liking three samples and booked based on Pre ship samples. Long story short only one of the three samples I cupped in Addis Ababa ended up being of truly good quality. This one lot was from the Cooperative Gidibona Sheicha. 

Over the last year I've been tasting more and more quality decaf's but primarily from a chemical process done in Colombia. Honestly I cupped some of the best Decaf's I had ever had up to this point. I really humbled me that we had some work to be done our decaf program. However I still felt passionate about offering an Organic Certified Decaf and no question I wanted to do a chemical free process. After talking with Importers to see if they would partner with Olympia Coffee to do an Organic Ethiopia toll decaf, they all said we were crazy. The price of Organic Ethiopian coffees adding on the price of tolling a decaf process would bring the per lb price to over $5. nobody would do it and they thought we were crazy to even try they said "no roaster would ever pay that much for a Decaf". 

But in the end, that's exactly what we did. We purchased a high quality Micro Lot quality Certified Organic Ethiopia from Gidibona Sheicha Cooperative, then hired Swiss Water Process in Canada to do a custom decaffeination process on this amazing coffee. Yes, it's a little more expensive but tell me if it is not the best tasting decaf you have ever tasted.

Traditional Sidama home


Tegu Reserve - Kenya: Release and Sourcing Notes

Posted on September 14, 2016 by Oliver Stormshak | 0 Comments

Oliver Stormshak building the Tegu Reserve Lot at Central Coffee Mills in Karinyaga Kenya.

It's no secret I love Kenyan coffees. Actually If I were to bet I would say that most coffee professionals would also say they love Kenyan Coffee. One could and do argue that Kenya producers the best coffees in the world. Kenya tends to dominant the category of high acid coffees, a characteristic in coffee that reminds one of a sensation of fresh citrus or more often than not a wine like sensation.

I love traveling to Kenya, it's one of my personal favorites. This year marks our third year sourcing Directly. Honestly it is also one of the most frustrating places to source coffee. The system of using a "Marketing Agent" really lends itself to many buyers showing up on the same couple of weeks that coffee are arriving into the Marketing Agents Inventory. These weeks are filled with some the very best coffees in the world being cupped with dozen of International Buyers in the same room at the same table trying to select that one lot they might deem the best Kenyan offering this year.

Over a three day period we cupped over 300 micro lots of the best Kenyan offers to bring home only 5 lots this year.

We have always known of the Tegu Factory (Washing Station) they have had a stellar reputation over the years. This year we cupped dozens of Tegu lots, we selected two this year to bring home to Olympia. One of these lots (our favorite) we have called Tegu Reserve It is comprised of only 30 vacuumed packed 30kg boxes and is simply stellar. After finding this coffee on the cupping table we traveled up country to meet and negotiate pricing for the lot we discovered. 

Tegu Factory drying tables as the season closes on another year of harvest.

We work in a manner that is equitable and transparent to our producers, exporters and Importers. After pricing was agreed upon with the cooperative we work to select an exporter and importer. This lot was brought into the United States by a joint effort with InterAmerican Coffee, and Nordic Approach.

Thousands of bags ready for export at Central Kenya Coffee Mills in Kirinyaga Kenya.

Adame Garbota - Ethiopia 2016: Release And Notes On Sourcing

Posted on September 10, 2016 by Oliver Stormshak | 0 Comments

I've been in love with coffee from the Adame Garbota Cooperative for many years. Actually I've loved their coffee before they were even called Adame Garbota. You see I first tasted their coffee in 2006 when the Coop was called Kelo, and the Kelo Cooperative had just won the Africa Taste of Harvest Competition. I worked for a roaster that bought their winning lot, and I never forgot about it. After the competition, the cooperative received some loans and big financing that sadly organizationally they were not prepared for. In 2008 the Coop defaulted on loans and closed. In 2011 they reorganized and joined up with Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU). We started cupping their coffees that year and by 2013 we were buying small exemplar lots from the Coop.

At this point, hopefully you all know that in 2016 we won a Good Food Awards with Adame Garbota! Visiting the cooperative this year was especially sweet to be able to bring them a bag of their coffee with that Good Food Awards sticker on it. We are lucky to be able to work with YCFCU and our Importer for our Ethiopian coffees Royal. Royal has been kind enough to let us cup through all the lots from the Cooperative In Ethiopia and pre book the lot's that we find to be the best. This year we've contracted a extra level of milling and preparation of hand sorted and machine sorted grade 1..Dorky way of saying we got the best of the best in terms of Export Quality.  I'm going to be honest and say that our lot from Adame Garbota was hands down my favorite coffee from Ethiopia this year.

Washed Ethiopian coffees tend to be favorites of Industry Folks and Customers, I believe that some of the reasons for this are the distinct flavors these coffees lend to. Floral, clean, bright, lemony are some classic Washed Ethiopian flavor descriptors. I think Adame Garbota is a great example of the type of coffees we are really passionate about Olympia Coffee.

Posted in Direct Trade, Ethiopia, Olympia Coffee, Specialty Coffee

Ethiopia Banko Natural 2016: Release And Sourcing Notes

Posted on September 10, 2016 by Oliver Stormshak | 0 Comments

2016 will mark our most serious year working in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia tends to be our most popular Origin we source from. Customers and Baristas gravitate to it, I believe because of it's easy to identify flavors. The coffees of Ethiopia are totally unique to Ethiopia, no other origin could be confused with it in terms of flavors. Typically flavors lean to the fruity and floral side of the coffee descriptions. 

Over the last six years we have been purchasing through two very large Cooperatives which represent thousands of small holder farmers. All our coffees are Certified Organic and Fair Trade. These Cooperatives represent smaller cooperatives who use the umbrella Cooperative to act as a Dry Mill, and Exporter and offer Agronomy and Technical Support to the Farmers. In Ethiopia these Cooperatives are Called Unions. As opposed to "Privates" the Unions are all Farmer Owned and Operated. So long story short, we work with Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (SCFCU) and Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU). You will see these acronyms used when we write and speak about our Ethiopian Coffees.The board of directors of the Banko Gotiti Cooperative

Banko Natural - Ethiopia

It's easy to say that the most anticipated coffee for us at Olympia Coffee is Banko Natural Ethiopia. It's also easy for me to understand why. It's a great if not the best Natural Process Coffee out there, and for many a Natural Process Coffee is the first love of specialty coffee. For me and most others the "ah ha" moment in coffee came with the first sip of a delicious Natural Process Coffee crossed ones lips. Hit with sweetness, that you maybe have never tasted coffee before, and easy to taste fruit flavors. For the first time you might be able to taste what it the description on the bag says.

The picture above hopefully will help illustrate what a "Natural Process" is. Simply put it's coffee cherries laid out to dry. After a good month or so of drying in the sun every day, hand turned about every hour, the coffee cherry is sufficiantly dry and ready for the dried fruit to be milled off the bean. 

One of the most powerful memories for me this year is sharing some brewed Banko with cooperative. I brought them a bag roasted by us at Olympia Coffee. Sitting there with a few bars of Theo I shared we had our producer meeting sharing our goals, hurdles together. Over coffee, chocolate, and toasted barley we made our plan for the next year and agreed to buy all their coffee this year.

Posted in Direct Trade, Ethiopia, Olympia Coffee, Specialty Coffee

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