Tag Archives: coffee

EL SALVADOR: Days 4-6

Jack (CEO) and Dismas (Head Roaster) are on a coffee buying trip to Central America. These are notes from their journey.

Sorting Coffee Cherries.

Sorting Coffee Cherries.

Feb 12, 2015

The alarm rings all too early but about 5 cups of AeroPress coffee get us to our flight on time. We arrive in El Salvador very early and Juan Luis, the Ortiz family driver for the last 42 years, meets us. He doesn’t speak much, but his welcoming eyes and smile are the perfect greeting. We hop in the car and drive to Talnamica, two hours away. El Salvador is beautiful with many volcanos that scatter the horizon.

Farmer with his coffee cherries.

Farmer with his coffee cherries.

About 10:45am, we arrive at Finca Talnamica, where the Ortiz family home is located. Nena and Hermann, husband and wife who represent the family in all decisions, greet us with big hugs! We have been working with them for over 4 years and have become very close. After catching up, we go inside for lunch. Sadly, our usual caretaker, Tita, is home recovering from surgery. Nena informs us Tita was incredibly upset she couldn’t be there for us and apologized. She is simply the sweetest! So, without Tita, we have lunch and head out to the farm. Miguel Angel is the manager of the farm and is essentially the Michelangelo of Talnamica. His attention to detail is completely amazing and has become the standard for all the Ortiz family farms. We see the harvest in full swing, with the patio full of people delivering cherry, sorting, and weighing their day’s pick. It is a wonderful time and kids are playing and eating ice cream. It’s getting late so we decide to visit Tita. We gently and happily give her a little hug and share some photos. Now our stay at Talnamica is complete. After dinner, we sit on the porch and drink some Flor de Cana rum, discussing the incredible day. It’s breezy and cool. We all sleep like babies.

Boy with ice cream at the harvest.

Boy with ice cream at the harvest.

Feb 13, 2015

Jack and Dismas cupping.

Jack and Dismas cupping.

We wake up and have a typical breakfast of huevos, beans, and tortillas. We talk of getting to Natamaya, but it isn’t likely we’ll have time. I brought another nice check to present to the remote village Canton Ojo de Agua above Natamaya. We raised almost $2,000 dollars this year! Nena promises to give them the check and to get pictures of the soccer field they built with last year’s donation. We pack up and wave goodbye to Talnamica.

Our next destination is CuatroM, the best mill in El Salvador, where the Ortiz family has its coffee prepared. Dana Foster, an old friend, is now the head of quality control and does all the cupping and scoring of coffees. During the harvest, she works 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 3 1/2 months! We arrive about 10:30am and Emilio Lopez Diaz, the owner of the mill, greets us. He’s also under a tremendous work load during this time. Not only does he run a very busy mill, but he has Finca El Manzano and is on the executive council of Roasters Guild.

We’re cupping the Ortiz coffees so we have ten to consider. We’re looking for a blender coffee for our Queen Anne and Espresso blends and we hope to find some micro lots for our Daring single origin line. The table is very strong, with coffee scoring a full point higher than last year. The micro lots are cupping 86.5 and our blender is a solid 85. The Ortiz family is doing an impressive job! We were their first specialty buyers and now they have many direct trade customers. They used to sell coffee cherry to mills that put all the coffee together and paid a price based on the C market. This year, they would have received approximately $1.25/lb. By selling specialty coffee, they will earn between $2.70 and $4.00/lb. That remarkable increase is allowing them to put more money back into the farms.

CuatroM drying patios.

CuatroM drying patios.

We enjoy a nice lunch next to the drying patios. It’s an amazing view and if you look at any Caffe Ladro store menu you’ll see it in the background. Next, we tour the Beneficio and walk Finca El Manzano. It’s rewarding and humbling to be this close to the coffee and involved in this amazing process. It’s 6:30pm when we get back to the house for an awesome night with plenty of grilled meats, ron (rum), Cervezas, and—most importantly—lots of coffee stories. Dismas was holding court for sure but I managed a few lies too. Bed came very late!

Feb 14, 2015: Dia de los Enamorados.

We wake with a start. Bang, bang, bang on the door: “Get up, you’re late! Malacara B is here to pick you up.” It’s 7:20am and we’re supposed to be ready to go in ten minutes! Roberto Dumont picks us up and we head for Beneficio Bourbollon. Roberto is very easy to like: he’s tall, gracious, and doesn’t show his 60-plus years. We drive about 1 1/2 hours to the mill. When we arrive, we greet Roberto’s son, Rodrigo. We’re friends from last year’s trip and he came to the SCAA conference in Seattle last April.

Jack cup-fainting.

Jack cup-fainting.

We tour the Beneficio and observe evidence of great sorting and quality control, then we sit down to cup Malacara B’s coffees. We’re there to explore their micro lots. From the big table, I choose two standouts that both show astonishing sweetness and balanced acidity. I’m happy to learn the coffees are the orange Bourbon we bought last year and its sister coffee, a yellow Bourbon. These coffees are still being harvested, so quantities aren’t available yet. Hopefully we can get some! We thank Jorge, the manager of Bourbollon, then we jump in the trucks and head for Finca Malacara B. Malacara has a rich history in El Salvador. Rodrigo is a fifth generation coffee farmer. His great grandfather famously led El Salvador into the world coffee market, making the Malacara brand synonymous with El Salvadoran coffee. When Roberto’s father passed away, his mother split the farm into three separate farms, Malacara A, B, and C, giving one to each son.

Yellow Bourbon.

Yellow Bourbon.

When we arrive, we see a lot of the pickers delivering their cherry to be weighed. While touring the farm, we discuss their pruning and fertilization strategies. New trees take three years to produce cherry. They explain how replanting 15-20% of the land each year is very important since new plants fight the Roya (Rust). Though replanting isn’t cheap, old plants are more susceptible to this fungus.

We go for a drive and look at the housing and soccer field they provide for all their pickers. They also provide three meals a day and have a clinic and school for the families. Their workers return year after year. We stop at the original house where Roberto was born and enjoy some delicious soup and pupusas on the porch for lunch.

Dismas helping out.

Dismas helping out.

The next part of our journey is a wonderful surprise. Roberto takes us to his house on Lake Coatepeque, in the middle of a volcanic caldera. Eruptions 72,000 years ago left a huge basin in the mountain that’s now a stunning lake encircled with mountains. He treats us to an amazing meal of seafood paella and banana cream pie. While so thankful for the nice break, we must say goodbye and drive back to the hotel. Morning—and our trip to Costa Rica—will come quickly.

– Jack

September News from Caffe Ladro

The women who run the Ortiz farm together

Granitas de Altura del Ortiz

Country: Costa Rica
Region: Dota Valley – Tarrazu
Elevation: 1900m
Taste Notes: Honey Dew, Golden Raisin, and Melted Butter

Curently 70% of our menu is Direct Trade coffee, sourced from our multiple trips to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil.

One of the sisters who runs Ortiz

It’s incredibly rewarding to experience the whole coffee journey: from picking all the way to arrival in our warehouse in burlap bags with a big Ladro logo! We take this relationship seriously and are like proud parents when new coffees arrive.

Dismas and I traveled to Costa Rica last March and tasted some amazing coffees. One special coffee we chose was from the daughters of Omar Calderon. They started and currently operate Beneficio Granitas de Altura del Ortiz. Their family has won the Cup of Excellence competition in the past and we were excited to have the opportunity to try their coffee. The daughters manage all One of the sisters who runs Ortizaspects of Beneficio and their attention to detail stands out in the cup. Dismas and I tasted over one hundred coffees on our trip and this was one of the best. We hope you enjoy this remarkable coffee.
– Jack

 Need coffee? Purchase our Granitas de Altura del Ortiz!


New Signature Drinks on our menu!

Shakerato-sm

Shakerato: lungo espresso shot combined with lots of ice and a teaspoon of raw Turbinado sugar shaken together violently and strained into a small glass. This traditional Italian beverage is lightly sweet and frothy.

Gib-sm

Gibraltar: a perfectly extracted 19g shot of espresso combined with 2oz of lightly steamed whole milk. Named after the glass it’s served in, this little beverage is basically a bridge between the macchiato and cappuccino.

Cooler-sm

Cold Brew Cooler: cold brew cut with sparkling water and poured over ice. Surprisingly different and refreshing, it’s perfect for a hot day!


Robin Williams: A Story Never ToldGMVwilliams - sm
by Dismas Smith, Head Roaster of Caffe Ladro

It was the day after the First Canadian Barista Championships, which I had judged. During the weekend I was introduced to Sammy Piccolo, who won the competition. The next morning many of us had gathered for coffee at Cafe Artigiano, the cafe owned by Sammy and his brother Vince. I was sitting with my back to the bar area and Sammy was sitting four or five people down from me. At some point Sammy says in a loud whisper “Dismas! Don’t look now…”

Read the story here.

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

Matagalpa, Nicaragua

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

Airport AeroPress

Airport AeroPress

Friday morning started at 4:30 am at the airport. We converted a charging area at the gate into an AeroPress bar and made some delicious Gikirima and La Cacica. Other than that, it was an uneventful trip down. We arrived in Managua at 7:30 pm and went directly to the bar. After more AeroPresses the next morning, we were on our way to the Mierisch Beneficio in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, by 8:30 am.

Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Matagalpa, Nicaragua

They gave us a tour of their facility, including about 3 – 4 acres of land, multiple buildings for sorting and quality control, and a huge coffee warehouse of approximately 20,000 square feet. Coffee was stacked inside 35 feet high. It’s an impressive dry mill. Each of their farms has its own wet mill.

From there we moved on to the cupping lab. We split our focus between micro lots and estate coffee. Across the board, the quality is much better this year. The highlights of course were the micro lots. The Mierisch family has improved their pulp natural and natural processing and those cups showed amazing fruit and clarity. The estate coffee was delicious as well. Placeres estate and Limoncillo are our favorites so far, but we will make our final decisions today. After cupping, we went to visit Finca Mama Mina and Los Altos. Long day.  We arrived at our hotel around 7:00 pm.

Dinner at 7:30 pm. Drinks and music after at the “monkey” bar and the smart folks were home by 11:30 pm. We went home at 2:30 am. It’s 7:00 am now and we are AeroPressing our butts off, looking forward to more cuppings and farms today!

Jack

Fireside

FiresideWeekends away in cabins, community and family, evergreen forests, mist-covered snowcapped mountains, Puget Sound ferry rides, and warm apple cider with bourbon are the inspiration for Fireside.  It is an homage and accouterment to the beauty of our region. For 2012, the blend also celebrates our first full year of sourcing and roasting our own coffee!

We searched high and low to develop a profile for this special release to be both adventurous and classic. With seasonality as our guidepost, we picked out two plush and lively coffees hailing from Cauca in the southern part of Colombia.  The first coffee provides a base of chocolate and apple cider notes while the other component brings the additional spice and body.  We then tailored a roast profile that would draw out these delicious flavors and also add an underlying nuttiness to the cup.

This coffee is best enjoyed amongst friends, preferably where it’s cold enough to see your breath.

Enjoy the holidays and stay tuned for more seasonal releases.

-Jared Linzmeier

Director of Coffee

Fireside

The Ladro Story

Espresso Shot

Caffe Ladro originated in 1994 with a combined café and bakery on top of Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. Our focus was to provide a quality cup of coffee and a venue for our neighbors to gather and forge local community relationships. Our growth began with our second café just down the hill, followed soon after by our locations in West Seattle and Fremont, along with a move for our expanding scratch bakery.

Capitol HillBanana Bread

The next phase of Ladro’s development, in the early 2000’s, included the development of more cafés in Seattle, our ever-expanding craft bakery, as well as a mindful shift at the core of our business and ideals. In 2002, Caffe Ladro made the decision to offer only organic and fair-trade certified coffees. We continued with a sense of environmental and social responsibility, while still providing the highest quality product possible. By opening an average of one new café each year between 2002 and 2008, and another expansion of our bakery, Caffe Ladro was able to share our coffee and pastries with more neighborhoods in and around Seattle.

So then what?

Well, that’s when things got really interesting. On a very basic level, our mission has always been to get better. Heading toward 2010, we looked inward. It quickly became apparent that what we really needed to do to be able to provide the best product and, just as importantly, the best complete Jared in El Salvadorexperience for our customers was to develop Ladro from a retail-based group of coffee shops into a top level coffee roaster. By late 2011, Caffe Ladro launched Ladro Roasting and, concurrently, our Ladro coffee wholesale program. So far, much of this development has occurred behind the scenes, though it’s probably the largest scale evolution and improvement Ladro has undertaken in our nearly 20 year history.

Dismas with the Probat roaster

 

Early on, we found that while the organic and fair-trade systems were great steps toward responsible farming and coffee production, both models came with potential problems. Our goal now is to trace our coffees all the way from their farms of origin, through production and to the hands of the consumer. Taking over our roasting enabled us to control all aspects of our coffee production, from the content of our blends and roast levels for each coffee, to the sales and distribution of our coffees.

 

Most important to us, though, is the ability to tell the story of the coffee and the people who spend their lives working to put it in our hands. The best way we know to do this is to travel to the farms, create relationships with coffee farmers, and share those experiences with our customers.
Cupping Coffees
We’ve got plenty of other irons on the fire these days. We’re building a world-class barista training program for our staff, we’ve just begun wholesale distribution, and we’re working to make Caffe Ladro coffee available in restaurants, bars and  grocery stores in your neighborhood (you can help us out by telling your local bar or restaurant manager you want Ladro coffee). In our cafés, you can look for more public coffee tastings, opportunities for coffee education, and many other great events in the coming months. We hope you’ll join us for the ride—it’s been a very exciting few years for Ladro, and we’ve got a lot more on the way.

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