Monday, December 19, 2022

Agaseke women hold their 2022 general assembly

On Dec. 3 the Agaseke women of Kopakaki Dutegure cooperative held their general

assembly in Karongi district of Western Province, Rwanda. Among other decisions taken by the group of about 10 leaders, they decided they would use the women's premium from Artisan Coffee Imports to buy land this year. Artisan's customers, who pay $.136/lb green for the women's premium, paid a total of $1,080 to Agaseke this year, the highest amount ever.

On Dec. 1 a few leaders of the Agaseke women had an exciting field trip together. They visited their neighbors, the Ejo Heza women's coffee group. They learned a lot from this educational trip, for example Agaseke would like to plan to distribute the women's premium to each woman's own bank account in the future. The also appreciated seeing how the Ejo Heza women meet together once a week to cultivate their community plots of coffee. Agaseke is going to consider a similar program. 

Monday, December 12, 2022

Ejo Heza Women hold ther 2022 General Assembly

On December 15, 2022, about 375 of the 400 members of Ejo Heza met at the

cooperative's big hall in Mushubati cell, Rutsiro district of Rwanda. Here they held their general assembly, an annual meeting held by cooperative groups like theirs to review the past year, discuss the new year and take questions from members. 

This is the one time during the year when all the farmers are informed about Artisan's program to pay premiums on the microlots purchased from the Ejo Heza women. In 2022 our premium amounted to 50 Rwf/kg cherry. The women decided to keep the funds from the 2022 premium (total $1,620) in their account and be added to the amount available for members to borrow. In this way, the premium will grow as interest is added.

The Ejo Heza officers also reported on the production from the women's community plots in Sure and Mushubati, and the cash amount paid for cherry was also reported as "farmer income." The work hours that the women had invested in the community plots was also reported, and the status of the women's microlending program. The lending program had earned 352,500 Rwf in interest during the year (approximately $355).

Queen’s Kape Catorce honors coffee with mindful sourcing and roasting

Kape Catorce (or KC14 for short) is a women-owned and operated coffee company based in Queens, NY. The name celebrates the Filipino-Colombian heritage of owner-partners Jewel and Jesica Martin-Ballard.

Founded in 2021, KC14 is focused on transparency, traceability, sustainability, women’s empowerment and mindfulness.

“Our sourcing process begins with research,” Jes shares. “We research all our business partners and trace every aspect of the coffee’s journey — from the hands that planted the seeds, cultivated and harvested them to those who export and import the beans. We reach out directly to importers and producers, verifying their ethical practices and ensuring they meet our standards of accountability.”

Jes and Jewel believe that coffee quality is about so much more than beans. “The best coffee is made with fair labor and transparent business practices,” explains Jewel.

It is this belief, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion, that make Jes and Jewel perfect partners for Artisan Coffee Imports. 

The partners learned about Ruth Ann Church and Artisan Coffee through a fellow Artisan roaster, Amaris Gutierrez-Ray of Joe Coffee, who also founded Women in Coffee Project.

After delving into Artisan's mission and sampling our green, Jes and Jewel purchased a Rwanda microlot from the all-female Rambagira group of the larger DUKUNDE KAWA cooperative. They also purchased green from Dehab Bitewlign, whose farm is located in the buffer and core zones of the UNESCO Kafa Biosphere Reserve, Ethiopia.

Roasted with Intention

From the first sample roast, Jes and Jewel were inspired, and their goal was to honor the women who produced the beautiful beans. ”Our roasting process is as mindful as our sourcing practices," shared Jes, who roasts for the brand.

"Our roasting process aligns with the values of our company," Jewel added. "We believe the best coffee is ethically sourced and mindfully consumed. We're committed to honoring the work, talent and creativity of the people involved in every step of coffee production: from soil to cup.”

The roasting process for each coffee reflect that mindfulness:

  • Rambagirakawa: "We did four different sample roasts and fell in love with the subtle peach black tea notes we were experiencing in a few cups. We knew we wanted to accentuate those notes. For our final roast, we took our gas up to 85, did two big jumps and then started to to taper down by fives. We finished at 8:37, which brought out the lovely notes of peach and black tea that we enjoy."
  • Dehab's Diamond: "We approached this green very differently. It was a long, slow roast. Dehab's Diamond produced such a lovely clean cup, which is unusual for a natural. We fell in love with the strawberry and blueberry notes. Ethiopian coffees are so honest with their fruits, and we wanted to highlight those fruit flavors with a slow, gentle roast that honored the sweet berry flavors.”

Once roasted, the beans are packaged in bags featuring a short producer story and information on bean variety, origin, elevation, processing and tasting notes. “We help convey the coffee producers vision for their product,” Jewel shares. “We want consumers to understand that they are participating in an ethical sustainable supply chain.”

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Mighty Good Ethiopian Natural from Dehab's Diamond

Nov. 28, 2022

David Myers (right) at CRG retreat.

Mighty Good Coffee has been roasting up some of Ann Arbor's finest coffee since 2006 when David Myers and his friend, Jim Levinsohn, started the business. They offer beans from select farms, mills and co-ops, which they visit when they can. They roast in small batches on their Loring, and package quickly to preserve freshness. They're coffee is mighty good, we're sure you'll agree, but you'll also love their business philosophy. David and his partners try to combine family traditions, artisanal craft processes, local community and fantastic coffee. 

The business philosophy led Mighty Good to become one of the first customers of our Dehab's Diamond, Ethiopian natural coffee in 2021. It was Artisan's first year to import from Ethiopia and it was Dehab's first year to export to the USA! Her company had only exported to Europe in the past. David knew his customers love Ethiopian coffee, so it was a reasonable bet to think this one, from another Ann Arbor small business, would gain a fan base.

We're happy to see that so far, it seems to be working out that way. With the recent arrival of the 2022 season coffee, Mighty Good is one of handful of roasters who have purchased Dehab's Diamond Ethiopian Natural two years in a row now. We're mighty glad to see this coffee becoming an Ann Arbor favorite thanks to David and his team!


Dehab first started learning about coffee in 2021 and found she loved it! She truly enjoys developing the farm and the quality of her coffee. Today she continues as a an example of how more and more Ethiopian women are leading coffee businesses, whether it's producing, exporting or roasting in-country for Ethiopia's large domestic demand for coffee. Dehab is not a roaster, but her company, Diamond PLC, is a producer and exporter.

Her story in coffee starts when the farm was purchased in 1999 and Dehab’s husband and his friend started the business. She stayed out of it at first. But after 12 years years, when Dehab’s children were older, she took over the friend’s role and bought his shares. Now the farm is 27% and 73% owned between Dehab and her husband.

Dehab fell in love with the farm, farming and coffee. In every home in Ethiopia, the first meal is coffee. She remembers boiling the coffee for her mother. To get up to speed on agronomy, she employed a business consultant and an agronomist and spent two years “learning coffee.” In 2014 she started managing the company. In 2015, she started exporting to Germany. Since 2021, Artisan Coffee Imports is proud to be counted among her partners.  

Tommy - ready to roast on the Loring
Fresh roasted Dehab's Diamond

Packaged beans, brewed cup, ready to go!

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Coffee Roasters Guild Retreat Returns!

Aug. 25 - 28, 2022: 

For the first time since COVID, the Coffee Roasters Guild returned to the peaceful shores of Lake Delavan in Wisconsin for a weekend of fun designed specifically for coffee roasters. 

The core event running throughout the three-day event is the team challenge. This year it was named "Shapeshifter", since the challenge was to pick a single origin green coffee and roast it to perfection for an espresso and for a pour-over. To provide the roasters maximum options, another key feature of the retreat is the roasting tent, equipped with a roaster from probably twenty different manufacturers. It is truly a sight to behold! 

 There are side-events throughout the weekend. Some serious, like the workshops. Each attendee is allowed to go to three or four. I chose two that included cupping. These two workshops in addition to the cupping I did with my team for the roasting challenge made it a great experience for cupping.
I felt fortunate to be invited to assist with teaching a cupping class, "Identifying Defects" led by Todd Arnette, director of education at CQI and owner/founder of Academy of Excellence in Williamsburg, VA. He and his co-instructor, Camila Khalife, put in tons of time to find the quantity of defects needed to produce enough cups for two sessions of 30 students each to have this amazing opportunity to taste and identify defects in the cup. 
The experience culminates, appropriately, around the campfire on the final night when the winning team is announced. The suspense has been building all weekend, as many yearn to have their names engraved on the trophy. A few roasters' names are even on the trophy three times already! This year it was "6th sense" which won -- by only a fraction of a point, putting my team, "the Reactionaries" in second place. I'll have to return next year!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Q Grader Calibration Passed!

 June 14, 2022

It's nerve-wracking, no way around it, but a dozen of us coffee professionals found our way to Atlas Coffee Importers in Seattle, Washington last Friday, June 10, 2022, for an Arabica Q Grader calibration. We submitted ourselves to scrutiny by our instructor and comparison to our peers to see if we are qualified to be dubbed again as "licensed Q Graders" -- coffee tasters who can be trusted to identify defects and describe coffees using internationally accepted language and scoring. Ultimately, to be qualified to evaluate fair prices for coffee.

The good news: I passed!! But there's a lot more behind this story.

I first attempted to become a Q Grader in 2011 with Kelly Peltier-Amoroso at SCA's (former) office in Long Beach, CA. I remember it well. She was a great instructor, but as is common on "the first attempt", I failed about 5 of the required 21 sensory tests. I paid for and traveled to re-take exams and eventually successfully passed all tests in 2013. Since you have to re-calibrate every three years to stay certified, in 2022, I am on my third calibration. I failed my first attempt in October 2021, when I tried to calibrate immediately following SCA New Orleans. I needed to practice identifying "CQI defects". The only tastes that qualify as defects at CQI are phenol, ferment, mold and potato. 

After I scheduled my re-calibration for June 10, I started practicing in April. I bought 'low grade' specialty coffees and a few commercial grade coffees. I started brewing and tasting cups next to each other. At first I used sets of two and three (for ease and speed), and towards the end, I set-up sets of five to be ready for the exam. In May I started spiking a cup with my hacked "recipes" for defects. Phenol = Maxwell House Light Roast; Ferment = brine from sauerkraut, etc. Thanks to family members for helping me with "cup mixing" to create blind tests!

I got in touch with long-time coffee friend and customer, Teresa Pilarz, founder of Espresso Elevado, who kindly leant me her Le Nez du Cafe set. I practiced intensely with eight of the vials of "bad smells". 

What helped the most was advice and tips on defect "detection, identification, description" from Todd Arnette, CQI's director of education. I wrote to him after my unhappy result in October 2021, explaining what I was pretty sure had been my downfall (defect identification), and appreciated his support.

My instructors for Q training have also been supportive. Drew Billups, director of education at Atlas, was awesome. Other previous instructors include Jodi Dowell, Rob Stephenson and, as mentioned above, Kelly Peltier-Amoroso.