Monthly Archives: March 2014

Seattle Coffee Companies Give Back

Direct Trade Roasters Partner to Improve El Salvador Community

Seattle, WA — March 11, 2014 — On their recent coffee buying trip, the owners of Caffe Ladro and Zoka Coffee Company delivered a check for $3,000 to the school in Canton Ojo de Agua, El Salvador to build a much-needed soccer field.  The idea originated when Jack Kelly and Jeff Babcock visited the region a year ago to taste coffees and trade directly with local farmers.  The donation solidified what will be a long association between these Seattle roasters and this community in one of El Salvador’s best coffee growing regions.

Kelly and Babcock donating $3,000 to school in El Salvador with the students, teacher and Mayita Mendez of Finca Talnamica.

Kelly and Babcock donating $3,000 to school in El Salvador with the students, teacher and Mayita Mendez of Finca Talnamica.

Jack Kelly of Caffe Ladro and Jeff Babcock of Zoka Coffee feel responsible to support the communities that farm the coffees they buy.  “When we visit farms, and stay with the owners and workers, we develop lasting friendships with the people who grow our coffee.  The experience is powerful,” explained Kelly.  Last spring, when they first sold the Natamaya coffee to Seattle customers, the owners agreed to donate a portion of the sales to aide a school associated with that farm.

NatamayaMeeting the children, visiting their one-room schoolhouse and talking with their teacher deeply moved the owners.  “Our hearts are full,” wrote Kelly.  “This is why Zoka and Caffe Ladro practice Family Direct Trade coffee buying—to help farmers improve their communities,” said Babcock.  During the donation celebration, Kelly and Babcock discussed providing school security fencing or solar lanterns for the electricity-free village.  The community will make the final decision, and the people are grateful for ongoing support.

Jack Kelly and Nena Mendez, the Matriarch of the farm talking with villagers.

Jack Kelly and Nena Mendez, the Matriarch of the farm talking with villagers.

Coffee farmers in El Salvador face another hardship.  Coffee production fell 50% this year due to late rains and a damaging outbreak of Roya (a fungus that causes coffee rust, destroying the season’s harvest on affected trees).  Caffe Ladro and Zoka bought coffee from Finca Talnamica that will help offset the effects the fungus had on El Salvador’s harvest.  Because of the relationships Kelly and Babcock formed with the people of Finca Talnamica, life in one remote village is improving and Caffe Ladro’s and Zoka Coffee’s customers will enjoy the amazing Natamaya coffee again this spring.

For more information about the donation trip and Direct Trade coffee buying, see the story.

Caffe Ladro is a coffee roaster with 14 neighborhood cafes in the Seattle area also serving wholesale and online customers.  Founded in 1994 and dedicated to profound service, Caffe Ladro provides scratch-baked goods and thoughtfully sourced coffee.

CaffeLadro.com

@ladroroasting

Zoka Coffee’s three cafes are mainstays of their Seattle and Kirkland neighborhoods.  Pioneering Family Direct Trade Coffee for nearly two decades, Zoka is proud to offer its coffee to its local cafés, wholesale and online customers.

ZokaCoffee.com

@zokacoffee

Last Day – Costa Rica and Home

Jack and Dismas are on a 10-day coffee buying trip to Central America. These are notes from their journey.

Our last day in Costa Rica, we felt the effects of the long days but were excited about making our final day a great one.

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We woke to a beautiful clear day with rich blue skies. On the way to breakfast, we saw a shimmering swimming pool, completely unnoticed when we arrived late the night before. A swim under those panoramic views would have been the perfect start to this day, but our guide, Francisco, hurried us along.

We spent the next couple hours driving to Santa Rosa 1900, a mill and farm perched precariously on steep side slopes 1900 meters above sea level. We anticipated the quality would be great. Efrain Naranjo bought this farm 10 years ago when others proclaimed it unfit for a coffee. Now his son helps manage and his daughter tends the drying beds. With the help of Francisco Mena and Exclusive Coffees, they have been selling to specialty for 5 years. This is a great success story of specialty coffee and Costa Rica! This farm was truly a dream. The views were astonishing and the picked cherries were so sweet and ripe they tasted like candy.

Omar Calderon's daughters help manage the farm

Omar Calderon’s daughters help manage the farm

We drove on to Beneficio Los Angeles. This is owned and operated by Omar Calderon. He wanted to improve his living and give his children more opportunity, so with lots of hard work and sweat they built their own mill. In 2011, it paid off when he won the Cup of Excellence. They used some of that money to build another mill, Beneficio Granitos de Altura del Ortiz.

After a 3:00 pm lunch of amazing barbecue pork and plantains, we headed back down to San Jose for more cuppings and our final decisions. We cupped 3 tables, one hour per table, and made our selections. Our celebration dinner with Francisco Mena was an amazing meal, with discussion of Costa Rica and Exclusive Coffees’ future. The next day, we were back home in Seattle.

Cupping at Exclusive Coffees

We’re thrilled to have chosen a Costa Rican Coffee from the Coop Aprocetu, micro lots from Beneficio Granitos de Altura del Ortiz, and some impeccable coffee from COE winner, the legendary Don Mayo.

While Costa Rica has the strongest economy and highest standard of living in Central America, coffee production is down from over 4 million bags to 1.5 million bags. Pressure from encroaching development and diseases has put huge pressure on the small farm. With a 97 percent literacy rate and subsidized college, the youth are not choosing to work in coffee. Thanks in large part to Francisco Mena and Exclusive Coffees, the micro-mill is providing new opportunities. In many of these micro-mills, the sons and daughters are now excited, passionate, and staying to run the family farms. Many are returning after college to bring new ideas to the coffee business. I’m proud of Caffe Ladro’s role in this process. With specialty coffee and roasters seeking these amazing coffees, the future of the small coffee farm is not just hopeful, but viable.

Coffee is truly amazing.  Pura Vida!

Jack

Dismas and Jack

Dismas and Jack

Costa Rica – Tarrazú Region

Jack and Dismas are on a 10-day coffee buying trip to Central America. These are notes from their journey.

Hello, once again from Costa Rica! It’s 7:00 am, Saturday, March 1. We are in the quaint town of San Marcos, high in the mountains of the Tarrazú region, one of the most famous coffee producing regions in Central America.

Cupping at Exclusive Coffees

Cupping at Exclusive Coffees

Yesterday, we checked out of our hotel in San Jose and went straight to the lab. Exclusive Coffees has their own first class dry mill where they process and bag for many of the micro mills. Their beautiful lab is approximately 3,000 square feet. Every week, they cup and score all the lots of all the micro mills they work with (a huge task)! In addition, they host buyers like ourselves for daily cuppings.

JD (Oslo) and Jack

JD (Oslo) and Jack

When I walked in the door, I saw a good friend sitting on the reception couch. He’s from Brooklyn and my jaw hit the floor. His name is JD and he has 3 cafes and a small roaster in Brooklyn named Oslo. Small world! We laughed and reminisced for few minutes before getting to work. We cupped two tables of 15 coffees each. This was a big table and a challenge to manage. It took awhile for me to hit my stride but 30 minutes in I felt good. Three coffees on the first table stood out and six on the second. Tomorrow, we’ll bring those into another rotation to be sure they stand up. One particular coffee we loved was a Geisha varietal. Popularized about 10 years ago by the Peterson family of Bochete, Panama, it is now regarded as one of the most unique and demanding varietals. When it’s right, it’s truly amazing. The coffee we cupped was one of those. It tasted sweet, creamy, and very balanced, with notes of orange blossom and jasmine. I only had a few sips but I will remember it for a long time. Wow. Of course, it was not available for sale, only a sample. Maybe next year!

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After the cupping, we headed for Tarrazú, the most famous coffee producing region of Central America. Tarrazú has over 150 micro mills. We went directly to Don Mayo micro mill, winner 2009 and 2011 COE, as well as many other awards. They are one of the most established mills in all of Costa Rica. One of their unique approaches is picking incredibly ripe cherry–almost too ripe. This creates heavy fruit notes in their washed coffees.

Another very cool thing we saw was an extended slow drying process. They built African drying beds, then stacked them about 10 feet high. This slows the drying to 21-plus days which will extend the shelf life of the coffees. Standard centrals last approximately 5 – 6 months. With this slow drying process they expect over a year!

20140228_021825By this time, it was very late and dark. We were happy little hotel was close. A quick stop for beers, bar food, and laughs and then to bed.

One more day.

Jack