Monday, April 30, 2018

Roaster of the week: Kristina Madh - Cloudland Coffee

Roaster Kristina Madh and I connected on several levels when we met at CoffeeFest Baltimore.
Serving and showing Rwandan beans.

I was amazed with her story of opening her micro-roaster company, Cloudland, in Atlanta, Georgia on pure guts, passion and inspiration! She found a space in a shared kitchen where the other entrepreneurs, bakers and other culinary folks, don't mind the aroma of roasted coffee in the air. Then she found customers at the farmers market, on the web, and elsewhere in town. Her customers are people who seek out great-tasting coffee and appreciate businesses like Cloudland, which source their coffee with care for social consciousness and positive impact for the producers who grow the coffee. "Fair trade and beyond" is one way to put it.
Kristina puts it this way on Clouldland's website: We strive to responsibly source our coffee from importers who engage with coffee farmers through programs including Fair Trade, Sustainable Farming Practices (including organic farming), the Women Coffee Producers program and more. Our coffee comes from smaller lots and is seasonal, so you will see a rotation of our coffee throughout the year.

The fact that the producers of this Rwandan coffee are the women of the Ejo Heza cooperative adds an extra "sweet note" for Kristina to this coffee's fruity, berry-like flavors. As a female roaster, she has experienced how the male-dominated coffee industry can ignore women's skills and contributions, but she has also seen how the industry as a whole is moving fast to embrace and empower female professionals in the supply chain. Kristina and I are both proud that this coffee is an example of this good direction, given the traceability to females at the farm, and at the importing, roasting and brewing stages. Way to go, Cloudland!

As Kristina serves up this aromatic coffee at the Farmer's Market in Atlanta, her customers tell her they love the cup! Many also love the story and the satisfaction that Kristina can assure them that the coffee producers received their premium payment. (Click here for a throwback post on that topic.)
Rwanda packaged - who wouldn't want to buy some heaven?!

Farmers' market display.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Roaster of the Week: Master Roaster Tom Isaia

Tom Isaia, owner and founder of wholesale roasting company, Coffee Express, is like the "village
elder" of coffee in southeast Michigan. Since 1982 he has been roasting specialty coffees and supplying cafes across the region with a wide variety of roasted coffee and excellent customer care. He's the one everyone in this corner of the state talks to when they are first thinking of starting a coffee business. You name 'em: Zingerman's, Mighty Good, Espresso Royale, Espresso Elevado, yours truly (Artisan Coffee Imports) and at least half a dozen more -- we all got some of our first learning and encouragement from Tom Isaia. 

Tom loves community. First, he has built a community with his dedicated staff at the Coffee Express roasting plant in Plymouth, MI. Genevieve, Sue, Walt, Doug and Scott are the friendly people I get to see when I visit. In addition to fostering the coffee community in southeast Michigan with his ad hoc advising, Tom was the key organizer of a Michigan Coffee Conference (the "MICoffeeCon") back around 2011 and 2012. This was a well-organized coffee conference held on University of Michigan's campus, attracting professionals from three states and Ontario.

His proudest moment as a roaster? I'm guessing Tom would tell you it was when he was part of the 1st place winning team at the  2015 Roaster's Guild Retreat in Lake Delavan, WI. I had the opportunity to be there, also, coincidentally, and I was not on the winning team. Tom will tell you how there was some great chemistry between his style of roasting and the other roasters. They were able to blend their skills perfectly to achieve the "best roast" -- and they had a lot of fun doing it. The fact that this retreat is a community-building event, also, is one reason Tom enjoyed it so much.

A further tribute to Tom's dedication to the craft is the fact that he established the first SCA-certified lab in the state. He has the Agtron reader, the moisture readers, stellar brewing equipment, and my favorite - a wall-size map of the world, but only the latitudes between Capricorn and Cancer! In this lab he is able to host a variety of SCA courses and instructor-led workshops on-site at the roastery.

So needless to say, Artisan Coffee Imports is proud to have Coffee Express as a customer. Take a glimpse of the video below where Tom is roasting up 1 pound of the Rwanda Ejo Heza on his latest toy - a Giesen W1A, 1 kg roaster.

Despite Tom's long history and success in the coffee industry, he is far from "done" with innovating and trying new things. His next venture - gelato! As in the truly Italian type! He was in Italy last year training to create an authentic product and the samples I got to taste were delicious!
RGR 2015 - Winning team!

Getting the profile just right - a team effort.

MI Coffee Con 2012

Trevor Corlett at MI Coffee Con

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Producer Concerns Addressed at Upcoming Farm Profitability Panel

Specialty Coffee Association's Expo in Seattle is just around the corner, Apr. 19 - 22. It's touted as the largest annual global meeting of the specialty coffee industry. Come join this amazing convention of producers and buyers from all over the world!

Part of the draw is the high-caliber learning opportunities attendees have. Among the 30 lectures over three days, Artisan Coffee Imports will be proud to represent Michigan State University and the Feed the Future Africa Great Lakes Coffee Support Program on one of the them addressing farm profitability from a global research perspective:

"Farm Profitability: Impact of Best Practices." Friday, Apr. 20, 9:00 - 10:15am (PST), TCC Tahoma 5, Washington State Convention Center in Seattle

Come to this lecture to gain insights on a topic near and dear to producers hearts -- does it pay-off to invest time and money in best practices (e.g. pruning, renovation, mulching, careful weeding, applying fertilizers and pesticides)? Will the farmer make more money? This is often an underlying assumption in farm-related projects large (e.g. World Coffee Research, Starbucks) and small (a small roaster trying to help their direct trade partner).

So "come on down" to hear what the recent research on this topic says. Yes, you got it right. We will be sharing and discussing facts and data -- because in coffee, we value facts and research!

This global panel brings together a moderator and presenters from five corners of the world:

Paulo van der Ven, Managing Director, RD2, based in Saint Mathieu de Tréviers, France

Mark Lundy, Senior Researcher, Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, CIAT, based in Cali, Colombia

Paul Stewart, Global Coffee Director at TechnoServe, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,

Ruth Ann Church, President, Artisan Coffee Imports, Ruth Ann worked in Rwanda from 2015 - 2016, and now resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Our moderator is Kraig Kraft, Agroecologist at Catholic Relief Services, based in Managua, Nicaragua
Farmer Field School in Rwanda

Learning best practices

Producers in Burundi participating in course to improve quality.

Applying fertilizer in Rwanda