Pre-Sale: Luis Ortega / Gesha - Colombia March 07 2017
Luis Alejandro Ortega has a long history of producing Caturra and Castillo varieties in San Agustin. Our Green Buyer and Director of Education had the opportunity to visit his farm, La Cabaña, while sourcing coffees from the Los Naranjos producer group this past November. Luis graciously hosted a meeting of the association members along with Cafe Imports and Fairfield Trading. The three groups have worked together for over seven years, developing a strong and fruitful relationship. Following the meeting, Luis showed us his farm. Just beyond a small plot of pineapple, which were only beginning to show fruit, stood a portion of his farm that declared its uniqueness to us immediately. Compared to the neat rows of densely packed Caturra and Castillo, this parcel, with its wild, reaching branches, looked like a jungle forest.
Gesha is packed with wildness. The original seeds were taken straight from the native coffee forests outside the village of Gesha, Ethiopia. Its limbs grow long and spindly. The cup characteristically possesses an equal wildness, with high floral aromatics and bright citric acidity. Luis processes his harvest in a traditional washed method, with one unique modification. He strains the honey from the pulp before adding it back to the parchment, creating a cleaner honey process before sending it to the raised beds.
This coffee jumped off the cupping table in San Agustin with all the vibrant notes of sweet florals and citrus that Geshas are known for. What really drew us to this coffee was how much the fuller body rounded out this selection, completing the cup.
* Our production of this offering is limited to forty 8-ounce jars. This offering will be produced, packaged, and shipped on Tuesday, March 14.
Pre-Order Luis Alejandro - Gesha / Colombia Here
Kayon Mountain / Ethiopia - Good Food Award Winner January 23 2017
We could not be more excited to announce our 2017 Good Food Award winning coffee: Kayon Mountain / Ethiopia.
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Ato Esmael and close family friends came together in 2012 to establish the Kayon Mountain coffee farm with the aim of producing superior quality coffee and exporting in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. The shareholder members of the group had spent the previous thirty years submitting their coffee to the local auction system. With the establishment of their own farm, they have been able to build their own washing station, dry mill, and exportation system — allowing them to take complete control over the quality and handling of their product. Additionally, they are able to directly export their coffee, bypassing the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange, and increasing transparency. The farm is nearly 500 hectares, divided in equal parts with heirloom typica and a mix of cabbage and indigenous shade trees. They manage the farm with biodynamic principles and are certified organic.
Kayon Mountain starts with floral aromatics with citric overtones, similar to elderflower liquor. The flavor then transitions into fresh green apple skin before finishing with flavors of chocolate-dipped shortbread. This coffee carries many of the citric and floral notes that washed Ethiopians are known for, but gains an additional complexity from the terroir of its Southern growing region. It is the perfect coffee to share with friends and toast your accomplishments, large or small.
Purchase Kayon Mountain / Ethiopia Here
La Bendición / Nicaragua December 28 2016
We are very pleased to introduce the latest addition to our lineup: La Bendición / Nicaragua.
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This Maracaturra lot from La Bendición was produced by Luis Alberto Balladarez Moncada amidst the Dipilto-Jalapa Mountains in the northern portion of Nueva Segovia. This specific lot was produced in a portion of the farm known as El Bosqué, or “the forest.” The farm employs forty people in the pre-harvest season and increases to one hundred during picking. The entire farm is nearly 440 acres; 183 of which are planted with six different varieties of coffee, with the remaining 256 dedicated to natural pine and broad-leaf forest. Luis is proud that his farm is able to support a diverse range of indigenous plants and wildlife.
The El Bosqué lot is planted exclusively with maracaturra on just over twenty-seven acres in the northwest portion of the farm. Coffee from this lot carries the annual characteristics of being very juicy with notes of ripe citrus, possessing fruity sweetness, and having medium body with a creamy mouthfeel. In the last Nicaraguan Cup of Excellence, Luis was a finalist with coffee from this farm. We are excited to bring this offering to our customers for the first time this year.
La Bendición starts off with bright citric tones of pineapple, lemongrass, and lime before developing a fruited baking spice tone that wavers between apple pie and peach cobbler. The finish holds onto that butteriness and picks up notes of vanilla that reminds us of a well-refined Chardonnay. This coffee has nice elegant overtones while still having a very balanced foundation. It is the perfect coffee for these cold winter mornings.
GESHA - Acatenango / Guatemala - Limited Release December 17 2016
Guatemala, Acatenango, Gesha is NOW available online, and in our cafes, for your Holiday shopping fever!
Limited Edition of 75, 8 oz jars, $50.
Flavor Notes: Rose / Honey / Lemon Tea
Available for purchase here
Gesha, the most sought-after variety in specialty coffee today, has an epic story to match its legendary status. In 1936, the Kenyan Director of Agriculture tasked Captain Richard Whalley with collecting ten pounds of wild coffee seeds from around the Gesha Mountain, in what is now Ethiopia. These were to be contributed to a census of the hundreds of regional micro-mutations of the wild coffee in its place of origin, the forests of Ethiopia. The ultimate goal was to find the most viable genetic strains to spread throughout Britain’s colonies in the New World. The seeds were eventually spread to Costa Rica, via Tanzania.
The contemporary legend begins on Finca La Esmeralda where, in 2004, the Peterson family won the Best of Panama competition for what was the first 100% Gesha lot ever produced. Previously, the family had discovered that their Gesha trees, which were mixed in with other varieties, were showing the greatest resistance to coffee leaf rust. Daniel chose to spread the variety throughout the farm, and as a result planted it at higher elevations than ever before. For the 2004 competition, they chose to separate lots by region of the farm — one of which was a high-grown pure Gesha lot which went on to win the competition and set a record price for coffee.
These events led to the discovery of Gesha as we know it today. It is a variety marked with unparalleled aromatics. The cup is generally very bright, with sparkling citric acidity. The low supply and uniquely rare cup experience have driven the market for this variety incredibly high.
This lot we are offering comes from a farm in Acatenango, Guatemala. It was grown on a family-owned farm established in the 1940s. Gesha seeds were first planted on this farm in the 1990s, well before the legendary events of La Esmeralda. These seeds likely were spread through the same channels that lead them to the Petersons. The producers of this lot own 350 hectares — 150 of which are dedicated to coffee production, with the remaining 200 left as natural forest.
Post-harvest, this lot has been washed using disk-depulpers and allowed to ferment for 24 hours. It was passed through long washing channels for density separation before heading to the patios for drying.
This offering carries all the typifiers of the classic Gesha. The aromas are highly floral, with notes of rose and jasmine. In the cup you will find notes of white grape and honey with a sparkling citric acidity that reminds us of lemon tea. The body is slightly higher than what is found in many newer Gesha crops, which aids in supporting the brighter tones.
* Our production of this offering is limited to seventy-five 8-ounce jars. The final roast will be done on Monday, December 19. All online orders will ship from this batch.
Gatuyaini / Kenya December 17 2016
We are very excited to introduce a new coffee into our rotation this winter: Gatuyaini / Kenya.
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The Gatuyaini coffee factory is a member of the Othaya Farmers Cooperative Society Limited in Nyeri. The combined group of 19 mills has produced some of our favorite lots, and this mill has been the stand out one for us year after year. The group is comprised of 785 members, 591 men and 194 women. Together the group grows predominately SL28 & SL34 across nearly 70 acres. The Scott Laboratories varieties are the most sought after in Kenya, however we have found that a small percentage of the other two round out the cup profile, bringing more balance to the extreme nature of Kenyan coffees.
Gatuyaini's starts off with complex berry flavors ranging between red currents, wild raspberry, and strawberry bon bons. The flavors continue to develop notes of whipped honey and sweet, herbal white wine, similar to sauvignon blanc. This coffee carries all the complexity that Kenyan coffees are known for with a round, rich body and dense sweetness, making it more approachable than many. It is the perfect coffee to add a little brightness to these short winter days.
Ohh...Fudge! Holiday Blend December 17 2016
Happy Holidays to all! It is the season of giving, and quite honestly, who wouldn't want to be the recipient of a bag of delicious coffee? Our holiday blend, Oh...Fudge!, is equal parts comfort and whimsy. Like a warm blanket knitted for you by your "fun" aunt.
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Ohh...Fudge! was designed to highlight the nostalgic flavors of winter holiday traditions. We crafted this offering to create an approachable yet delicately complex chocolatey cup. San Isidro / Guatemala provides a dark berries and subtle mulling spice tones over a foundation of chocolate morsels. Kunjin / PNG brings a bright citrus and sweet savoriness over a base of milk chocolate, similar to hot cocoa.
This blend was created to fit into your holiday traditions, pairing well with a wide variety of season desserts. It also holds a strong enough foundation to match many breakfast foods. We see this a a drink-throughout-the-day kind of coffee.
We feel that this is a "crowd pleaser" in the best sense of the term. If you are looking for a gift for that coffee lover in your life or want to bring something more unique to a holiday party we suggest you consider Oh...Fudge! This coffee lands in that beautiful sweet spot that will go over well with just about anyone.
Boots on the Ground: Honduras October 26 2016
Our Honduran offerings have proven to be some of our most exciting and longest running producer relationships, having been established in the first few months of our roasting operation. Christian (owner and founder of Spyhouse) and I traveled down there this past spring to spend time with each of them, and to look at further opportunities within the region. With these coffees just beginning to arrive in our cafes, we wanted to fill you in on our experience there.
All three of the Honduran producers, Otilio Leiva, Amado Fernandez, and Osmin Reyes, are on Santa Barbara Mountain and have their coffee milled at Beneficio San Vicente. The San Vicente mill was founded by the Paz family, and as it has grown throughout the years, each generation has taken up their own specialized task. Benjamin manages specialty producer relationships, and is our primary contact for the group. He also served as our host, making sure we were properly filled with the best local food and well-caffeinated at the cafe he runs just up the road from the mill.
Amado Fernandez is one of the two standing relationships he had established before this trip. He inherited his farm from his father, Don Amado, and shares a centralized mill with his mother and brothers, who all grow coffee alongside each other. Amado has a deep history of producing exceptional coffee, including a Cup of Excellence win in 2010 and a sixth-place finish in 2013. Over the past couple of years, he has been fighting abdominal cancer and has gone through two surgeries. He is now fully healed and is able to once again direct his full attention on the farm.
Otilio Leiva happened to be on the same table, just a few cups away from Amado when I selected their lots on my first trip. Otilio jumped off the table with notes of dried fruit and a creamy mouthfeel. That first year, he produced just three exportable bags—his first specialty lot ever. Each year working together, we have seen his production quantity and cup-quality improve with each lot. This year, in his primary harvest he has produced over thirty bags. Otilio's trademark creaminess and peach tones have carried through as the cup quality continues to improve.
While visiting with Otilio, we noticed a few simple improvements he could make to directly improve his cup quality. While covering the plan with him we committed to a premium, based on cup quality. We were able to see the pre-ship score increase two points and increased his premium by over 10%. His coffee has become one of our staff favorites and a single origin espresso we dream about year-round.
As we were about to leave Otilio's home, Osmin Reyes arrived with a sample for Benjamin of the very first pickings from his new farm. He has a small farm in El Cedral at 1650 meters, but just began harvesting his new plot at 1900 meters, the highest on the entire mountain. We excitedly cupped the sample the following day and immediately committed to both lots. When a coffee as special as this—located at the highest elevation, on the best face of the best mountain in Honduras is presented to you—you jump on it. Sometimes magic just happens.
All of these producers' coffees have recently landed in the United States, and we are just beginning to rotate through featuring them in our cafe and wholesale accounts. These have been some of our annual favorites and we are looking forward to sharing them with you.
- Tony Querio, Director of Coffee / Green Buyer
Boots on the Ground: Brazil October 26 2016
I recently had the opportunity to spend eight days traveling through three distinct Brazilian coffee regions. The trip was led by Ally Coffee as the Origin Trip Prize Sponsor for the United States & World Coffee Championships. The trip included the first and second place winners in the United States Barista, Brewers, and Roasters Championship, as well as the World Brewer's Cup Champion from Japan. It was great to travel with people from so many different perspectives on the service end of our industry, as most of my travel experiences have been exclusive to importers and other roasters/green buyers. Having a broader range of professionals opened up questions that just don't jump to the mind of people within my parallel roles.
Brazil carries a reputation for exclusively producing one style of coffee on virtually identical, massive estates: dry, low elevation farms, planting row-after-row of coffee trees as far as the eye can see. While this type of farm certainly exists, this trip opened all of our eyes to the fact that this is certainly not the exclusive rule.
After a series of flights, the team gathered in Vitoria for a traditional coastal, seafood dinner, and to stop by a new cafe, opened just for us, to fuel our drive into Espirito Santo. Here, we visited a series of small farms managed by Italian immigrants before heading to a dinner with members of the local cooperative. These small, homestead farms carried on the traditions of their family's villas in Northern Italy before immigrating to Brazil. Coffee was just one of their crops, grown alongside fruit and vegetables. Each family operated their own dairy. At each farm we visited the family's shop where they sampled and sold housemade cheese, cured meat, pasta, roasted coffee, wine, and various forms of cachaça.
These small producer farms were set on steep, green, rolling hills that looked nothing like the impression we all had of classic Brazil. The coffees from this region were nuanced and possessed complex acidity—far from the stereotype of Brazil we all had entering this trip.
Next we headed into Minas Gerais, starting in the Caparaó region. This area is full of small producers, many of whom are just beginning to apply improved practices to increase their cup quality. As a group we were able to see farms just beginning to produce specialty grade coffee, and encourage them to continue striving for greater quality.
One of the many farms we visited here was Ninho de Aguia, run by Clayton Barrossa, which has won the Best of Brazil in 2014 and 2015. Clayton carefully produces beautiful naturally-processed coffee and operates a small roastery alongside his patios. He joined us in a local producer event that evening to inspire the members of his community to strive for the same excellence he has achieved.
We also had the opportunity to stop by a Cafeteria where Fred Ayres runs a small roastery and cafe on his farm. Fred and his team served the whole group samplings from his menu as we shared our techniques with each other.
Following our time in Caparaó we flew to Finca Primavera & Finca Matilde, a pair of farms owned by Ally where they run the majority of their experiments. We arrived to a reception with the Governor of Minas Gerais as well as the head of the International Coffee Organization.
That evening we were able to witness mechanical harvesting and see some of Graciano Cruz and Ally's innovative experiments they are developing at Primavera. The following day consisted of a multidisciplinary coffee challenge at Finca Matilde with a roaster, espresso machine, and brew station all set up amongst the coffee trees. The event culminated with a latte art throw down judged by farm workers.
The trip ended with a few days in Belo Horizonte where we visited Wäls brewery which made a special coffee-infused saison for our group and attended an Athletico match for a real Brazilian fútbol experience. The last morning we had the honor of being hosted at Academia do Cafe, a cafe that also houses a certified training label with two Q level instructors, a roastery, and a coffee garden all in one location.
Thank you to Ally for being an exceptional host and opening all of our eyes to the diversity of Brazilian coffee.
- Tony Querio, Director of Coffee / Green Buyer
Introducing: Spirit Tea October 21 2016
At Spyhouse Coffee we apply care and consideration to every detail of our operation. From sourcing and roasting, to packaging and cafe design, we attempt to provide a product and an experience that both comforts and excites. In keeping with this ethos, it is with great pleasure that we announce a new phase of tea service. To help expand beyond our selection of Tea Source herbal options, we are excited to be adding a fresh set of offerings from our friends at Spirit Tea, beginning Monday, October 24th.
Spirit operates out of Chicago, IL, and offers an eclectic selection of handmade teas. A passionate team works tirelessly to ensure their offerings are seasonally sourced, sustainable, directly traded, and additive free. In fact, this is the core of their mission and philosophy. Spirit is dedicated to naturally uncovering the beautiful flavors inherent in the tea plant. This aligns very closely with our mission to find exceptional coffees, and pull from them the depth and sweetness that comes with skillfully grown, picked, and processed coffee cherries.
As is the case with our coffees, our tea lineup will rotate seasonally, while still maintaining a consistent selection of flavor profiles. This rotation will include a variety of exceptional white, green, black, and oolong teas, and will launch with the following selections:
A partially shade-grown and rested Japanese green tea, this offering has a lively character. A deep, rich cup, highlighted by notes of nori and sea air; with pleasantly broth-like umami tones.
Daliensis Silver Needle
A rare white tea, native to Southern China. This selection features sweet notes of eucalyptus, sweetgrass, and vanilla frosting, with a creamy mouthfeel.
A descendant of the oldest phoenix oolong varietal from south-central China. Here we see delicate floral qualities, and notes of gardenia, dandelion root and elderflower liqueur, with a smooth mineral mouthfeel.
A signature breakfast blend, inspired by teas of east China. Full-bodied, with prominent notes of sweet potato, pepper and cocoa, growing more rich with each sip.
We look forward to this opportunity to grow the conversation and elevate the service of tea in our cafes, and hope you'll join us.
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