Tag Archives: direct trade

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

Happy Holidays from Caffe Ladro!

Ladro Roaster's Reserve

Ladro Roaster’s Reserve

The finest collection of quality coffees.

Roasted only once a week to ensure freshness, this incredible collection of coffees is only available through the end of December. Order online today and choose your preferred roast date. Need a gift for the coffee drinker who has everything? They don’t have these coffees. Boom!


Pie Time!Pecan Pie

The holiday season is in full swing and our bakery’s ovens seldom cool down. Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie are available now in stores as well as for wholesale orders. Pecan Pies are available for wholesale orders only. Our Pecan Pie is the perfect, delectably gooey addition to any celebration’s table! Available as a deep dish pie, it’s studded with whole pecans and stuffed with flavor.

Ingredients: whole pecans, brown sugar, egg, corn syrup, corn starch, salt, butter; (crust) butter, flour, salt, sugar.

Call our bakery (206.938.2271) today and let us know what we can get started for you! We request at least 48 hour advance notice for orders. Please note: cutoff times for orders before Christmas are 12pm noon Monday to pick up pies in stores that Wednesday and 12pm noon Tuesday to pick up pies in stores on Christmas Day. Please see our website for holiday hours.


El Salvador Natamaya

Fireside Tin

A blend of Fair Trade Organic Central and South American coffees, darkly roasted to warm you during the cold winter months. Packaged in a reusable tin, this is a great gift for any coffee drinker!

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October at Caffe Ladro

 

Sustain Your Coffee Habit

What can you do with $2?

Sustain Cup

How about purchasing a Sustain Cup and reusing it for your daily coffee, reducing waste, and saving a few trees? That’s truly a noble purpose for your bucks.

We’re excited to offer our customers $2 Sustain Cups, in stores now. Not only are these supremely affordable—and attractive—reusable cups; they are recyclable when they reach the end of their long and laudable lives.

Did we mention you receive 25¢ off your coffee beverage when you forgo a paper cup?

Save a Tree. Save a Quarter.


Maple GibraltarMaple Gibraltar: Looks Delicious, Doesn't It?

The best espresso drinks are more than the sum of their parts. Real maple syrup, cinnamon, whole milk, and our superb espresso unite in the Maple Gibraltar that will warm you through and through.

Taste the holiday cheer in stores now!


Limoncillo JavanicaLimoncillo Javanica

DIRECT TRADE

Country: Nicaragua
Region: Matagalpa
Farm: Limoncillo
Elevation: 1200m
Taste Notes: Orange Blossom, Delicate Peach, Creamy, and Smooth

Javanica is a rare low-yield varietal we are honored to bring you this season. Drink this delicate coffee slowly and let its subtle peach and orange blossom whisper to you. We think you’ll like what it has to say.


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While selecting the perfect coffee gifts for your friends and family this year, snag yourself a little somethin’ somethin’ too.

In Stores: earn a FREE DRINK when you buy one or more travel mugs or two or more 12oz bags of whole bean coffee. Fireside for Aunt Em. Diablo for Uncle Henry. A Maple Gibraltar for you.

Online: FREE SHIPPING on your purchase of two or more items all holiday season! George needs an AeroPress. Grab him a bag of Limoncillo Javanica too. You’ve been wanting that Clever Dripper and now you’re saving on shipping… go ahead. It’s a special time of year.

9.16.14-Best-in-WA-please-vote

 

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

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