Tuesday, October 18, 2016

LA Cafe Crawl - Day 1

Oct. 18, 2017
Today was "day 1" of a three-day exploration of specialty coffee culture of greater metro-Los Angeles.  I'm looking forward to this opportunity to taste and see if they still are the "hottest coffee city" on the Left Coast.

I spent most of the day on Abbot Kinney road in Venice, drawn there by the pop-up by Swiss Water that is there for this week! The storefront is nestled between the street's top restaurants (Gjelina), Intelligentsia and across the street is a Warby Parker store and a boutique sock shop, (boutique socks?!)  As I walked up a friendly barista was serving up cold-brew Colombian (without caffeine) with creamy nitro foam from a pull handle that looks like a beer tap. OK - I've lived in Rwanda the last year so I'm not embarrassed to admit this was my first "cold brew on tap." Delicious! I definitely see how this type of drink will take-off in places where non-alcoholic beverages are preferred, but the cool factor must not be lost. A hot coffee would simply not be the right vibe in social, evening settings, but this would!

Enjoying LA: Mike Strumpf (R), buyer for Swiss Water and Brian Speckman from InterAmerican.

SO EXCITED to have a double shot decaf KENYAN! My favorite...
Next, I was delighted to order a KENYAN Mubuni Estate (near Ryiru) doulbe shot espresso. Then on to the Chemex version of the same coffee. There was also an excellent traceable Colombian on offer. All FREE. All expertly prepared and there were free roasted whole bean samples to take home.

There was a good buzz throughout the morning and late afternoon when I was there. I even conducted a consumer intercept survey with one customer. He's a 'born in the 60s' LA resident who has a routine of coming down Abbot Kinney with his wife to get a gourmet take-away snack and then a coffee at Intelligentsia. He's "self-employed" in the health care field and regularly drinks decaffeinated coffee, typically as a pour-over. He never brews his coffee at home, which isn't surprising since he falls on the 'low consumption' side, drinking an average of 1 cup a day. He doesn't look for certifications or any special roast degree, nor any particular story about origin. He just likes a great cup of coffee, and he pays $4-5 per cup.

Stay tuned for more adventures in "the hottest coffee city" on this blog...

Friday, September 30, 2016

Trials of Transit -- Data on temperature and humidity during shipping from origin

Sep. 30, 2016
Great article [see link below] from our friends at Royal Coffee on their project to better understand the "trials" that coffee goes through during shipping. They put one data logger inside the grainpro liner and one data logger outside the grainpro but inside the jute bag.

Be sure to scroll down to the part where they show the graph of humidity -- there you will see what a difference grain-pro makes. Artisan Coffee uses grain-pro liners on almost all shipments!


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The beauty of having a decaf plant "next door" at origin

Aug. 30, 2016
I'm back in the US after living in Rwanda for a year. Rwanda has some great coffee. So does Burundi. Artisan Coffee Imports will be trying to get some of it decaffeinated for our customers who long for those rare, high-quality decaf East Africans.

Meanwhile, this recent post from our friend Andy Newborn at IP Coffees shares important insights (well-known and understood here at Artisan) about why high-quality decaf East Africans are difficult to find. It is much more efficient to have the coffee located near the decaf plant. http://ipcoffees.com/drink-decaf-coffee/. Thanks Andy for helping the world who appreciates good decaf! I would like to know, though, how well these low elevation, Mexican (variety?) beans stack up against Rwandan Bourbon varieties grown at 1400 - 1600 meters on the shores of Lake Kivu.  Maybe we can arrange a face-off at a cupping some day!

Learn more about the "real" world of decaf. Take the SCAA's course RP104. The next session is next week - Sep. 6, with "yours truly" instructing!

[Author: Ruth Ann Church]

Friday, April 22, 2016

Musical March to Remove Mucilage!

April 22, 2016
I had the pleasure of being shown three Dorman's washing stations in the Nyamasheke district (Western province) today. Each one taught me new things and overall re-enforced the dedication to excellence that Dormans has for coffee processing. I am so glad that they have brought their decades of coffee processing and marketing skills from elsewhere in East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) to Rwanda! Artisan Coffee Imports looks forward to working them as a partner at origin to source great-tasting decaffeinated green coffee.

I've thought of three strikingly beautiful things I recognized or learned on this trip.
1. The first and most beautiful was the "musical march to remove mucilage" at Birembo washing station. Play the video below to see & hear!

 2. One of the Dorman's staff  pointed out to me at COPROCA how the workers were highly attuned and trained to the weather and everyone knew exactly what to do about 15 minutes before the rain started. The women who were sorting parchment under the shaded roofs all left to go to the tables to help the other workers covering the parchment on tables with vinyl (nylex) tarps. See video below. Notice the yellow-ish parchment is covered first with the black netting that lines the tables (i.e. is under the parchment when it's drying), and then rolls of black, waterproof plastic are unfolded on top.

These two images, the march-to-remove-mucilage and the rush-to-cover-parchment before an approaching downpour, illustrate examples of teamwork at the washing station.

3. Longin, Dorman's Operations and Logistic Manager, helped me notice a lovely phenomena that happened around 3pm when were were at Birembo. When you look closely at the hills surrounding the washing station, you can see at least a dozen people coming towards the coffee station carrying the white bags of cherry on their heads. It's a little like ants carrying a crumb of food to the mouth of an anthill, only somehow more beautiful. You catch glimpses through the greenery of  spots of white slowly descending on paths towards the station.

4. A forth item I recognized this day doesn't quality for the "beautiful" list, like the vignettes above. It's just another simple realization for a foreigner like me of what real life is like for a coffee farmer. While we were watching farmers getting their bags of cherry weighed, Harry Bindloss Gibb, the Dorman's intern who helped Longin with the tour, estimated the weight of one of the big bags of cherry a woman had brought in at 40kg (88 lbs). That would mean she got 6,000 Frw (40kg x 150 Frw/kg) which equals US$7.82, for her day of picking and carrying cherry. A pretty small wage for a day of labor on steep slopes with heavy bags.

Smiles as she shows her payment record card (called a "fiche").

Heavy loads coming in at Birembo.

An average day's wage in rural areas of Rwanda, however, is 1,000 Frw ($1.30). So as a Westerner, I am and should be humbled by how little farmers are paid for their work. But it is also true that relative to their neighbors who do not have coffee trees, coffee farmers are often better off than their non-coffee-farming neighbors.
Ruth Ann (L) - happy and thankful for the guidance of Harry (center) and Longin (R).

Coffee farmers we talked to on our way to COPROCA washing station. COPROCA gives training to farmers to help them earn as much as possible from their coffee.

Luis NIGABONZIZA (in the orange shirt), manager at Birembo, with farmers who seem to appreciate him.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Decaf Option in Vietnam

April 18, 2016
The May issue of Coffee & Cocoa International came out today with our column on the decaf option in Vietnam. (Page 44 - 45.)
Pg. 44 - 45 in the May 2016 issue of Coffee & Coca International
My original text (CC&I's editors improved it).

Decaffeination Option in Vietnam
By Ruth Ann Church, Artisan Coffee Imports
Through a chance meeting with Will Frith (www.willfrith.com) at Roasters Guild retreat in August 2015, I learned about a new option in Asia for decaffeination. Thanks to Will’s travels and explorations in coffee in Vietnam, he was able to easily introduce me to a relatively new player in the decaffeination world: Hiang Kie Industries Limited (HKI). HKI began operations in 2007 and was the first decaffeination plant set up in the Long Thanh Industrial Zone in Dong Nai Province, Vietnam, (about an hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City). They process using methylene chloride (MC) for a solvent.
The company runs two decaffeination plants, one can handle smaller batches than the other. They process beans from all coffee regions: South America, Africa and Asia. The minimum batch size is 2.5 MT, or about 5,500 lbs., which is about 42x 60kg bags. What intrigued me about their service is their transparency. With relatively little effort, their sales representative answered my questions about process details and costs. It is a “direct” MC process, meaning the beans soak in the solvent, and then the solvent, with the caffeine, is removed. Of the different MC processes, this one has always been my favorite. It seems the simplest and “cleaner” than the indirect process. It seems to offer the best chance that original coffee bean is left intact as much as possible.
Hiang Kie offers two types of dryers. A drum dryer takes about eight hours to dry the coffee and a vacuum dryer takes about three hours. Total processing time about is about 14 to 16 hours depending on the type of beans.
I was eager, so Dinesh Bhojwani, Hiang Kie’ sales representative, arranged to send me three samples: a Colombian, a Brazilian and a Vietnamese Arabica. All were decaffeinated at Hiang Kie and they all cupped quite well. I admit I was surprised, having lived my entire “coffee life” believing Vietnam can only produce low-quality robustas. The Colombia was my favorite. It retained a lot of its acidity and fruity notes. The Brazil had typical earthiness and body of a Brazil natural. The Vietnamese Arabica had brilliant aroma with sweet cherry and dark chocolate. Admittedly, much of this amazing aroma was tempered in the brewed cup. But this decaf Vietnam still had smooth body and minimal bitterness in the aftertaste. So if you’ve been wondering whether to try decaffeination in Asia, HKI would certainly be worth considering.

Ruth Ann Church is President of Artisan Coffee Imports (www.ArtisanCoffeeImports.com), an importer and trader of specialty green decaffeinated coffee. She can be reached at rachurch@artisancoffeeimports.com. Artisan is now offering consulting at origin for work related to sustainability and impact assessment. Ruth Ann has advanced IDP training and is Q Grader (in the process of re-calibration). She is currently studying for a second master’s degree focused on the coffee value chain and sustainability at Michigan State University. http://artisancoffeeimports.com/about/

Monday, March 7, 2016

Transparently Traded Coffee Website

Mar. 7, 2016
You know the feeling... it's a version of deja vu.  You see something, and you say,  "hey, I had that idea!" And now someone else has gone and implemented it! It's not regret. At least for me, it was joy that I did have a good idea and it was relief that someone else had implemented it and I didn't have to do all the work!  Today that "great job guys" pat-on-the-back goes to Transparent Trade Coffee, http://transparenttradecoffee.org/home.  They are providing third-party transparency on pricing in the coffee value chain. You can go to their database of self-registered roasters who are boasting about two numbers in particular: the per pound price paid for green coffee and a somewhat blackbox percentage called the "Effective Grower Share." This is a really laudable effort and I salute the folks at Goizetta/Emory University for pulling this off as well as they have.

TRANSPARENCY is one of the big issues that got me into the coffee business, and many others, obviously. Fair Trade is nice, but it requires putting a lot of faith in one single organization's ability to solve a lot of very big problems. The principal of transparency seems more elegant. The thought behind it simply, can we make it easier to find out how much the farmer made on this coffee? And if the farmers get more of the value through this improved market knowledge of everyone in the supply chain, then certainly the farmers will be able to work more effectively than any one organization on solving their own problems.

Thank you Transparent Trade Coffee for bringing us a step closer to this elegant way of conducting trade!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Counter Culture Creates Exciting Colombian Decaf

Dec. 14, 2015
At Artisan Coffee Imports, we are proud of our decaf Colombians. Because of our partners, Virmax, who work consistently year after year, helping the farmers understand quality, they are able to produce a high-quality, decaf coffee.

Today Counter Culture announced they they have created a decaf out of the Borderlands project. At Artisan Coffee, we're excited to hear that the Borderlands project included an effort to improve quality for specialty decaf consumers, too!  Click here to learn more about decaf Urcunina.