Friday, January 28, 2011

Decaf Kenya AA to shout about

OK. Maybe shouting would be a bit extreme, but an enthusiastic blog is certainly in order! Artisan Coffee Imports has just decafed a fine microlot of Kenyan AA from the Meru region - Riankune cooperative. This coffee was bought at auction in Sept. 2010, so it's fresh crop. It landed in CA Dec. 10 and was decafed the second week of January 2011 at Coffee Process in Houston (solvent method with very careful and precise handling - i.e. original flavor preserved as much as possible.)

It offers an enticing dry aroma of chocolate and casis berries. From the surface of the wet grounds a bursts a joyous combination of sweet honey and nuts. The first flavor has that carmel-cashew baked brownie taste with a medium acidity. The aftertaste lingers on the palette with soft tones of citrus and toasted bread.

Artisan President and Founder, Ruth Ann Church, will be traveling to Kenya in February 2011 and plans to visit the Riankune cooperative. This will be in conjunction with a Millennium Development Goals project where she helps support education for low-income children in the Meru community. Meru is one of Kenya's premier coffee-growing regions, but it harvests the little known "fly crop", or "second-season" of Kenyan coffee. The people of Meru are also generally from the less privileged tribes of Kenya's complex history of colonialism and post-colonialist economics and politics. But now I'm venturing into areas where I really know very little (and it probably shows...)

Back to coffee:
19 bags still available for sale from the Annex (Bay area, CA) and a warehouse in South Bend, IN. Samples available from Artisan Coffee Imports (call 734-717-6278, or email

Monday, January 10, 2011

Measuring decaf sales and gross margin

Discussions with roaster/retailers inevitably seems to come to a point about how decaf is such a small part of the business. X, y and z just don't make sense. X being a focused marketing promotion, Y being a prominent place on the menu and Z being a pricing strategy that ensures good margins, etc. etc. The list could go on with other things that companies routinely do for other product categories, but not decaf coffee, because decaf is "only" 9-12% of the business.

Usually I end up agreeing. My partner in such discussions has usually been in the business 10+ years and certainly knows what he/she is talking about, right? And, unfortunately, I don't have numbers to back up my argument. But then I think, "wait a minute, do they have numbers to back up their argument?"

I would invite anyone who has some numbers for either side of this argument to comment. First, have you measured carefully what % of your revenues comes from decaf? Or is it just an estimate? Do you have costs and revenues for decaf and regular coffee split in your accounting system, so that you can measure your decaf margins separate from the margins you're achieving on regular coffee? If anyone is doing this, it'd be very interesting to hear what you're typically seeing...

Please share!
(or contact Ruth Ann Church, President at Artisan Coffee Imports by going to the website.)