Tuesday, April 24, 2012

West Coast Cafes -- Stumptown's Decaf

Cupping @ Stumptown during SCAA
April 19, 2012
It was drizzling rain as I scooted out the door of the trolley-like train that had brought me into downtown Portland from the convention center this Friday morning. "Very appropriate," I thought, as I wound my way on the outskirts of Chinatown to third street. "I'm finally in Portland, OR, going to Stumptown's cafe and it's a perfect Portland rainy morning."

Inside the non-pretentious building the atmosphere was warm, welcoming and spacious. With high ceilings, and a long coffee bar, the cafe had the feeling of a large atrium. Near the back, the staff had set up a great selection of bourbons from 3 different continents for cupping. As I got started, other guests arrived for the cupping. A couple that had just opened a cafe near San Diego, and veteran roaster from Colorado who had been on the road for 8 weeks or so. Portland was just his latest stop.

The Stumptown staff was incredibly friendly and helpful. When I talked with the head trainer about decaf coffees, he generously pulled one of their bags off the shelf and gave it to me. "Cup it at home," he suggested.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Single Origin Decaf Cupping

Sunday, April 22
Cuppers at the "labeled" table
The Single Origin Decaf Cupping hosted by my company, Artisan Coffee Imports, took place Sunday morning in a traditional conference room. (No tents or other adventures in a park!)  We had lower than expected attendance -- could it be that the very warm and clear night (after days of rain) kept most attendees out much later than originally planned? Very, very likely, I think!
Cupping the "blind" table

Nate Palmer - BJ's Coffee
Anyhow as the Germans say, the event was "klein aber fein" -- in other words small but high quality with about 8 guest cuppers. We cupped Bolivian, Ethiopian, Colombian and Sumatran coffees -- both the regular and the decaf. One table had the coffees labeled, the other was blind. I was surprised how difficult it was for me to pick out which was which on the blind table (I think I got < 50%). One of the Q-Grader cuppers who came said he was surprised by how little difference there was between the regular and the decaf versions of each offering.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ethiopian Cupping Caravan in Portland

Willem Boot at the Ethiopian Cupping Caravan
Fri. and Sat., April 20 and 21
I've always been a fan of the innovative projects Boot Coffee pulls together. So this year I just volunteered my time to help with whatever they were doing -- this worked great. It gave me an up-close and behind-the-scenes view of Boot's very innovative Ethiopian Cupping Caravan. A few years ago this was innovative just for its format of bringing together N. American roasters directly with Ethiopian producers with SCAA certified cupping.

THIS year, Boot the Ethiopian trip took place in Feb. 2012 (click here for a great video). The best 30-40 coffees were selected by the cuppers and brought to Portland for many more cuppers to enjoy. To maintain some of the atmosphere and character of the caravan, the cuppings were held outdoors under a tent! So I was helping to set up all the gear that is used in Ethiopia (Coleman stoves, folding tables set with grinders, and stacks and stacks of glasses packed in cardboard.)

Pedi-cabs brought participants

Set-up time with Daniel Humphries

Cupping in the Park - totally Portland!
Participants in the cupping were brought to Holladay Park by Pedi-cab (taxis on bicycles) and Willem Boot or Daniel Humphries would introduce the event and the coffees. 3 cuppings on Friday and 5 cuppings on Saturday were held, each with 16- 20 participants.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

SCAA Volunteer Day

All day Thursday I volunteered at the Event in Portland -- this is a great set-up the SCAA has worked out. If you volunteer enough hours, your expo badge is free. I've always found the volunteer jobs enable me to meet so many interesting people it's more than worth the time.

Machiatos by Public Domain
Volunteering for the roasting lab in the morning I met Anne Loewisch of Mitka (Berlin, Germany) and Brad, a new roaster from PA (sorry to have lost the last name!) prepared the 2 lb. bags of several coffees the roasting classes would be using. Also got re-connected with Bob Arceneaux (Orelans Coffee Exchange). We also took the opportunity to try the fine espressos Public Domain was preparing in the lobby (see photo).

Linda Smithers and Allen Leibowitz
In the afternoon I was a porter for the "Roast of the Year" cupping session - where the cuppers' scores for the coffees were determining the "top 5" coffees. The top 5 were then available for "the people's choice" out on the activities floor during the show. The best part about this volunteer job was sharing a cupping with the leaders of the Roasters' Guild (this event is a RG event): Phil Beattie (Dillanos), Tim Dominick, Allen Leibowitz (Zingerman's) and Linda Smithers (Daterra Estate).
April 18 and 19 -- SCAA Conference in Portland, OR
Arrived Wednesday afternoon in Portland. The Hilton where the Symposium was taking place was downtown not far from the Willamette River. Started meeting people I know (Christian Schaps from Guatemala) as I walked up the sidewalk. It is fun how over the years so many people from all over the globe become friends!  Another great spontaneous meeting was when I saw Michael and his wife from Berlin Germany! Michael and I met coincidentally at the BGA Championship at SCAA Houston (2011).

Portland World Trade Center
During the Welcome reception on Thursday evening, I visited with a QGrader instructor and friend from Korea. Also picked up a few insights on the topics discussed at the Symposium. Apparently the editor of the New York Times food page said that specialty coffee as an industry should stop comparing themselves to wine.  In his opinion the best wines are so much better than the best coffees, that they're not even comparable. Wonder what our industry said to that?!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Single Origin Decaf Cupping - 2nd Annual

April 15, 2012
Artisan Coffee Imports is getting ready for another innovative, never-done-before Single Origin Decaf Cupping at the industry's biggest trade show: the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Event. It'll be in Portland, OR, Apr. 18 - 22, at the Oregon Convention Center.

Last year Artisan offered a cupping where coffees from 4 origins were decaffed using 4 different decaffeination processes. So for example, you could cup a Colombian decaffeinated with ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, CO2 and/or water. (see photo)

This year we're doing it different -- there will be coffees from 4 origins: Colombia, Sumatra, Ethiopia and Bolivia. Each one is a micro lot coffee with  transparency to the cooperative level, i.e. we know who grew this coffee and that it was treated with care throughout the supply chain. Each one will be presented as a decaf and as a regular coffee.

One table will be blind. This table is for those who think they can always pick-out the "weaker" taste of a decaf - and those who have the years of experience to identify different origins by taste and aroma (no labels needed). They can test themselves.

The other table will have the coffees labeled. This table is for the roasters who are serious about buying. When they put this decaf Sumatran or decaf Colombian in front of customers, will it convince? Does it have the flavors and notes that their customers expect of the coffee's origin?

The coffees to be presented are:
  • Ethiopian Sidama ARDI - decaf and caffeinated
  • Bolivia "Rico" (microlot) - decaf and caffeinated
  • Colombia AA Los Idolos (Huila microlot) - decaf and caffeinated
  • Sumatra Mandheling - decaf and caffeinated
For more information, go to www.ArtisanCoffeeImports.com.