Latest Posts

  1. Video: Guatemala 2019 Coffee Clips

    Video: Guatemala 2019 Coffee Clips

    A few fairly low tech clips and some thoughts on coffee processing and coffee buying in Guatemala.

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  2. Podcast Episode #21 - Burundi Conversation with Alistair Sequeira - Part 1

    Podcast Episode #21 - Burundi Conversation with Alistair Sequeira - Part 1

    Part 1 of 2 - Talking about the coffee supply chain among other topics

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  3. Colombia: Early Harvest in Nariño

    Colombia: Early Harvest in Nariño

    Harvest in Nariño comes at a time that is somewhat in between the middle and main harvests of our other primary sources of Colombian coffee, namely Urrao and Caicedo in the north, and La Plata and Inzá down south.

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  4. Guatemala: Proyecto Xinabajul

    Guatemala: Proyecto Xinabajul

    For years we have thought about working in a more direct way with small-scale farmers in Guatemala, and in the 2013 harvest year this effort came to fruition.

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  5. Another Home Roaster Takes the Leap

    Another Home Roaster Takes the Leap

    Sweet Maria's customer jumps into his own coffee business

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  6. A Path to Food-Grade Cascara at the Helsar Micro-mill

    A Path to Food-Grade Cascara at the Helsar Micro-mill

    Cascara beverages are popping up everywhere these days.

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  7. Day after Day Job

    Day after Day Job

    Many home roasting enthusiasts dream of starting their own roasting businesses.

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  8. Fundamentals: Roasting Guatemalas and Washed Central American Coffees

    Fundamentals: Roasting Guatemalas and Washed Central American Coffees

    High grown washed Central American coffees are practically the control coffee when it comes to roasting, the coffees that roast just like they should.

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  9. Decaf Fundamentals - Updated 1/2017

    Decaf Fundamentals - Updated 1/2017

    When thinking about how to make an excellent decaffeinated coffee you have to first focus on the coffee before decaffeination.

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  10. Introducing the Quest M3s Drum Coffee Roaster

    Introducing the Quest M3s Drum Coffee Roaster

    The Quest M3s isn't necessarily bigger than our other home machines, but perhaps more closely resembles a production roasting experience.

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  11. Taste and Price: When Values Shift

    Taste and Price: When Values Shift

    I recently caught glimpse of this and found it very thought-provoking.

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  12. Day After Day Job Part 6

    Day After Day Job Part 6

    Part 6: Dream Machine- choosing a roaster.

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Do Origin Countries Make Sense?

Do Origin Countries Make Sense?

(01/20/14)

Before coffee was sold by the name of the source country, it was listed by the nearly mythic names of the port city from which it shipped. Names like Mokka or Kalossi or Rio or Mandheling were not where the coffee was grown, nor was the name of the country the primary identifier.

Contrary to modern concepts of "waves" in coffee innovation (as if pouring water from a kettle through a paper filter was just discovered), for me the most monumental shift in the coffee trade developed in the trading house of C.E. Bickford and a handful of others, where instead of evaluating the quality of coffee by where the ship came from and what it looked like, they began to "blind taste" coffee. Suddenly, the value order of coffee became intrinsic to the substance itself, not a matter of provenance.

But even in the 1920s the Tea and Coffee Trade Journal offering ads from brokers would list an extensive list of origin countries. Coffees like Mokka and Java that had sold for 5x to 10x a Santos Brazil coffee dropped in value. The fetishism behind aged coffee, which would include all the distant origins that traveled largely by sail, slowly faded away. And refreshingly, Hawaiian "Kona" coffee was listed as a reliable mild, a good blender. And a new appreciation was born for the Hard Bean coffees of Central America.

But as I look at our offering list now, and see that, by following cup quality where we truly find it, we end up with a lopsided listing, I start to wonder if the logic we inherited has much merit. For me, it's no longer about whether Guatemala is a better coffee than Costa Rica or Honduras. Who cares? And who in the world can compare a Copan coffee versus an Ocotopeque coffee, or a Fraijanes versus a San Pedro Necta coffee? They stand as distinct as their flavor profiles, and the coffee shrub has no concern if it's roots are in El Salvador or Panama or Chiapas or Cuilco.

Should a roaster care if all their coffees at a given time come from Africa, because that is where all the good samples came from? Or their entire menu is from, say ... Guatemala and Colombia? When customers ask for coffee from Bolivia, do they just want to chat, or show off what they know? Or do they actually know the flavor profile of Bolivia and believe they cannot find that from somewhere else? Right now we have an amazing list of Rwanda coffees, sparkling fresh. Does it matter that Rwanda is no where near Central America, or is it more important that in the landscape of taste, you can find compelling relationships in these coffees?

I was video chatting with Dan and Schooley and that's the thoughts that percolated up from our conversation. I would like to hear yours. -Tom