Each month our green-coffee buyer Oliver writes a brief description of what's going on in each of the countries we partner with on our Direct Trade coffees. Starting this month we wanted to share this info publicly here on the blog and on our Instagram. Read on to see what's happening with your favorite coffees worldwide:
July in Colombia
Our farming partners in Colombia have struggled with an extreme rainy season since March of this year. This has delayed the maturation of coffee cherries, increasing drying times and risk to farmers. During this abnormally wet period, coffee growers face financial pressure to dry their coffee as quickly as possible to provide cash flow. This comes at the expense of the careful and slow drying process which preserves cup quality, improves shelf life, and ultimately delivers higher prices. In an effort to help our producers address this challenge, our partners in Colombia, Caravela Coffee Exporters, decided to make a parody of a global hit song to help spread the word about the importance of patiently and meticulously drying coffee. The name of that song, Despacito (meaning 'slowly' in English), is the way that high quality specialty coffee should be dried. I recommend checking out Caravela's video by searching "Cafe Despacito" on Vimeo.
I last visited El Salvador during harvest in February of this year. We managed to export all of our coffees from that harvest by mid-June, and we're proud to report they have already landed at the warehouse here in Olympia and are ready to be roasted. Even though volumes were lower this year compared to the previous harvest, we were pleased to see that parchment-to-green-coffee yields improved considerably. This means that physical quality was much better compared to last year's harvest. Cup quality was also impressive, and we hope that all our customers are ready to showcase these gems. You may have noticed that over the last three years we have put most of our efforts in Central American into El Salvador. This is a direct result of the awesome partnerships we've built there with our producer partners Melvin Flores and Ricardo Ariz. These partnerships have lead to some of the most innovative coffees we are able to source, and we look forward to continually tapping into our potential together. This month we will see the release of coffee from both of their farms, with quite a few more to follow throughout the Summer. We can't wait to share these with you. On the ground this month, we are focused on encouraging Melvin Flores to prune or "stump" his very old coffee trees. These older trees have lower productivity and an increased susceptibility to rust, which can affect quality and a producer's income. We think this will have great long-term benefits to both Melvin and his coffee's quality, starting as early as next year.
This may come as a surprise to most of you, but we have purchased two small lots from our long time producer partner Juan Diego De La Cerda at his farm El Socorro. Both are Maracaturra varietal lots, one a Honey Process, and the other a fully washed lot from the Santa Teresa zone of his farm. After a few changes this year, El Socorro was able to once again meet our standards for coffee quality and social premiums paid to their workers. They were able to achieve this by drying both of these lots on raised drying beds, and by paying a higher premium to their pickers. I’m glad to be working in Guatemala again, but due to late shipments we don’t expect to release our El Socorro lots until September.
Things are calm at the farm in Costa Rica. It’s the rainy season and in just another week the flowering will start. The mountains in Tarrazu will be filled with the scent of jasmine from the coffee blossoms. Here at home, our coffees have arrived and are ready to release. This is going to be our best year from Costa Rica ever. We spent more time and more effort into developing our relationship with the Esquivel family at La Pastora. This year we solidified the right of first refusal on all the La Pastora lots - a huge step for our partnership. We cupped through every single day of the harvest, including all the different processes, to select our lots for the year. We built a lot of 12 bags (152 lbs in each) of the best-of-the-best from the Kenya Process. Then we have 10 bags of the best-of-the-best Honey Process. Lastly, we had enough of these excellent coffees to build lots for Sweetheart from 87+ point Kenya Process and a second Sweetheart lot of their Honey Process at 87+ points. To top it all off we have a fancy SL-28 varietal from Perla del Cafe. This lot is only one bag, and will be sold as one of our Reserve Offerings in our new boxes. This coffee won 6th place in the Costa Rica Cup of Excellence this year.
The harvest in Burundi is still continuing at both washing stations within the the Long Miles Coffee Project. We have had some good developments at the Heza Washing Station with the water pump finally coming online. This pump has been in the works for over 2 years with many stops and starts. The issue seems to be resolved. Also, some of the very first lots are at the dry mill being prepared for export. While this is not our coffee it’s exciting to see the Long Miles team plow on as every possible challenge is thrown at them. Expect our coffees from this harvest to land in Olympia towards the end of the year.
Kenya is currently in their "fly crop" harvest. The fly crop is a smaller second harvest season that is the result of Kenya being located directly on the equator. Quality can be great from the fly crop but we have rarely attempted to source coffees in Kenya during this season for a number of reasons...In Olympia, all of our Kenya 2017 lots are in the building. We are currently roasting the beautiful peach laden Kuguyu AA and we will likely be sold out of this lot before July is over. Right on the Kuguyu’s heels is another lot from Kuguyu but this lot is an "AB". These are simply designations of the coffee beans size and the screens they correlate to. AA is screen size 18mm and AB is 15-17mm. Sometimes size matters for coffee but most of the time the AA grade tastes a bit more elegant. Everyone can taste and decide for themselves this Summer. Also this month, we will be releasing another of my favorite coffees this year - Kamwangi - on July 17th. Kamwangi is also an AA grade.
It’s a challenging year for us in Ethiopia. Just a reminder for those that have been following over the past six months - our trusted management team at Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU) were arrested in January of this year, actually during my time there. Post shake-down, things at YCFCU are moving painfully slow. Coffee was shipped two months later than usual and communication is poor as the nobody on the new management team knows any English and not many coffee buyers speak Amharic, including myself. Some of our selected lots are almost in the USA though. We should have the first lots in the roastery by the end of July with dates for releases in August. More info on those next month!