Yemen Haraaz Fundraiser

A short note about our Yemen Haraaz Coffee Fundraiser.

While our country is snarled in the arguments of security, personal rights, the ethos of America’s welcoming borders and the limits of presidential powers; there are families across the globe struggling for survival. They are trapped in civil wars, insurgencies, natural disasters and religious persecutions. If they are fortunate enough to escape, it has always been through the kindness of strangers that they have been able to restart their lives. In these selfless acts we both fight our tribal human nature and realize the greatest potential in our humanity.

In view of these larger issues of our world, the notion that our work in coffee is of any real importance feels trivial. In part, this is probably a healthy reminder for us all. But truly we can play small but important roles no matter our position. Our work at Deeper Roots affords us a particularly global view. Every day we share a story of someone else’s work from a place far away from our own. Whether we’ve personally built that relationship or feel very distant from them, we are able to connect to people from around the world through coffee everyday.

We’ve never offered a Yemeni coffee in the past and very few have ever landed on our cupping table. We don’t have any direct, long term relationships with growers there. However, what a great opportunity we have now to make a positive impact, small as it may be, to the lives of those both struggling to survive in the country growing coffee, as well as those who have fled their homes to refugee camps. Thus, we’ve chosen to give 100% of the sales of our Yemen Haraaz coffee to assist with the refuge work of International Rescue Committee. We chose IRC as the recipient of our funds because of their history of good work all over the world and their broad reaching impact both abroad and for refugee resettlement here in the US.

If you haven’t read much about the civil war in Yemen or the issues facing refugees in the area check out this and the UN’s info here.  Let’s make it our aim to take the negativity that has caused the issue of refugees to rise to the top of the news and turn it towards positive action to support our fellow humans that are in crisis. 

Thanks for your participation in this project!

Deeper Roots Coffee

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Origin Trip: Colombia

IMG_0070Recently Deeper Roots Coffee had the opportunity to visit Colombia as International Expertise for the Expoespeciales this year in Bogota as guests of Castle & Co., coffee importers based in California. We were honored to visit five coffee farms, cup coffees with the farmers who grew these coffees, attend lectures at the expo, and be guests of the FNC (Colombia Coffee Growers Federation) throughout the trip.

While in Tolima, there were two farms that really stuck out as uniquely different experiences. The first farm, owned by Jairo Lopez, was quite small as far as coffee farms are concerned. In Colombia, 95% of all coffee grown is grown on 5 hectares (12.36 acres) or less; Jairo’s farm was one of these. Jairo and his family take great pride in the product they grow and special care to produce specialty grade and even micro-lot quality coffee. Jairo trains his pickers to pick only the ripest cherries, which means visiting a single plant two to three times during peak harvest season. He also keeps a close watch on processing times, equipment cleanliness, and drying times and procedures. Jairo is known in his area for growing high quality coffee, it was truly an honor to meet him, cup coffees with him, and have lunch with him and his family.
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The second farm that peaked our attention was that of Daniel Melendro. Daniel’s farm was purchased by his family in 1896 and has been producing coffee since 1906, with Daniel working to improve the quality since taking over the operations of the farm. Daniel’s farm is 33 hectares (81.5 acres) which is a larger scale farm as far as Colombia is concerned. Daniel’s approach is different from Jairo’s. He produces much more coffee and he’s refining his picking and processing methods to obtain better coffee by the year. He has even been able to invest in satellite imagery of his farm to identify areas of biomass concentrations in order to help them apply fertilizers more strategically. We were able to spend some time with Daniel at his farm as well as at Jairo’s farm where we cupped their coffees side by side. It was humbling to see Daniel take notes on how Jairo was executing his processing in order to make suggestions to his employees to possibly obtain better coffee next season.

While at the expo we were also given the opportunity to meet the coffee farmer who grew the micro-lot we recently purchased through Castle & Co. Elver Guzman is a Tolima farmer who participated in the micro-lot project through the FNC for the first time this year. He purchased his farm in Planadas with his brother several years ago and started paying more attention to coffee processing when his brother placed in the Cup of Excellence competition. It inspired him to produce better coffee since he knew he was working with the same coffee varieties as his brother, on effectively the same land with the same processing equipment. Now, Elver is producing an amazing quality coffee from his four hectares (10 acres) that we’re proud to present in a just few weeks.

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Our host for the week, Henry Martinez from the FNC, taught us a lot about the organizational structure of coffee in Colombia. The FNC is a government affiliated non-profit and is the largest exporter of coffee from Colombia. It controls the quality standards for exportable coffee from the country whether it is exporting it or not. This means that they set the minimum standard for quality and if a coffee doesn’t meet that standard then it doesn’t leave the country and will be used in the internal marketplace. Local coffee committees help the FNC with the dissemination of information for farmers, promotion of the micro-lot project, and cupping the coffees from the surrounding farms. The co-ops in Colombia also serve a different function than ones we’re more familiar with a little north in Central America. The co-ops in Colombia do not process the coffee but serve as a resource for farmers to purchase equipment, fertilizers, etc. as well as act as a drop off point for already processed coffee. Almost every single farmer in Colombia has on-site processing and delivers parchment coffee (dried coffee with parchment still on) to drop off points and to co-ops any day of the year. The co-ops have a 100% purchase guarantee 365 days a year. This means that if a farmer has one bag of coffee to sell or 100 bags the coffee will be purchased. At the co-op when farmers drop off coffee the coffee is visually inspected and put into one of three categories if the coffee is not a specific micro-lot. The farmer is then paid based on the quality of coffee they produce. Micro-lots are different in that they are tracked and kept separate through the whole process and once the lot is purchased the farmer is handed a check for the premium that the coffee was sold for. The FNC is very excited about the micro-lot project, driving the quality of coffee in Colombia higher. The premiums go directly to the farmer with the FNC helping the farmer to get their high quality coffee into market.

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Our team learned a lot on this trip and is encouraged by the increasing quality of coffee in Colombia. We’re keeping an eye on emerging areas in Colombia that aren’t quite as popular as the well known Santa Marta, Huila and Tolima and constantly in contact with our friends there who are trying new and interesting things. Keep an eye out for the release of our Colombia Los Guayabos from Elver Guzman!

Brazil Direct Trade Relationship

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Brazil is huge!! And its easy to be overwhelmed by the shear size of the coffee farms there compared to our usual travels in Central America. That’s what makes Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF) such a wonderful place for us. Located in the region of Mococa near the southern border of Sul de Minas, FAF is the sustainably managed farm of the Croce family. We first met the Croce family, Marcos, Silvia and sons Felipe and Daniel on a visit in 2012. The 800 hectare farm is 1/3 organic coffee, 1/3 cattle ranch and 1/3 old growth forest. The Croces inherited the farm when no one else in the family was interested in running it any longer. Not having any experience themselves in farming, Marcos relied greatly on his sense of respecting the environment and listening to the experience of his neighbors. They since have created one of the greatest models of sustainability, from soil and ecosystem to business and community, that the coffee industry has.

IMG_1415Quality drives their business at FAF. While their farm doesn’t grow nearly the yields other farms in Brazil do, their quality and commitment to organic methods mean their coffee fetches very high prices. They don’t keep this model to themselves either. They have been hard a work over the past years to encourage and assist their neighbors in the high, rugged hills of Mococa. A lot of this work has been done through their Bobolink coffee project.

We’re really excited to be working with such great farmers and visionaries in their community. We look forward to supporting their efforts and sharing their coffees with you over many years to come.  This year we are offering a few different micro-lots from FAF.  July 8th we’ll be introducing the FAF Red Bourbon, a natural processed coffee. Then later in the month we’ll be introducing a tasting series of 3 other micro-lots. Stayed tuned…

Baristas That Can Swing a Hammer

Don't we all...

Don’t we all…

One of our biggest joys at Deeper Roots Coffee is connecting farmers with the baristas who serve their coffee every day. We get to do this pretty regularly, taking small groups of coffee-pilgrims to Guatemala during harvest. But, from time to time, we also bring whole teams of coffee professionals and coffee lovers to Guatemala to get their hands dirty as well. In May, Greyhouse Coffee in West Lafayette, IN came to Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala with 14 people to meet the La Armonia Hermosa farmers, learn about coffee farming and help build parts of our new processing mill there. Before coming, Greyhouse ran a campaign with their customers to raise funds for a generator for the mill. Through their generosity, together they raised enough to purchase the generator and buy some additional supplies for the mill.

The roof is going up on the new wet mill.

The roof is going up on the new wet mill.

During their trip the baristas, and other students from Purdue University, had the opportunity to help construct the roof for our new wet mill, start seedlings for the new coffee nursery, and work on some small engineering projects. One of those projects was to install and train on a water filtration system so they can collect rain water for drinking from the roof of the mill.

Julio running the new water filteration system.

Julio running the new water filteration system.

The mill has been a dream for many years now and will greatly increase the production capacity for the Santa Marian farmers which means more and even better La Armonia Hermosa coffee for us here in the States! Construction started last summer with another group from Mississippi having come down to pitch in as well.

Greyhouse Coffee baristas

Greyhouse Coffee baristas

The project is the work of many hands, and though we “gringos” may not be the most skilled laborers, the relationships forged while working together with Julio Cuy and the community of Santa Maria has made a great impact on both sides of our coffee chain. You’ll no doubt be seeing many more updates on the progress of the mill and its inaugural use in this coming year’s harvest. In the meantime, fingers crossed, our fresh crop of La Armonia Hermosa will be here in a few weeks!!

Ripe for the Picking

Why does the variation in coffee processing matter? You drink your morning cup of coffee and wonder how a bright red cherry became a roasted bean that made such a delicious drink. You wonder about the farmers that picked the coffee, processed the coffee, and the roaster who roasted it. Behind every roasted bean is a story about processing, which is the method of removing the cherry and drying the seed to send to roasters as “green” coffee. There are 3 common ways to process newly picked coffee; Washed, Natural, and Pulped Natural. All of which, affect the final taste in the cup.

The first I want to discuss is the Washed processing method. This method is the quickest in time before it reaches the U.S. In all high quality coffee, the farmers are out in the fields every single day picking only the ripe coffee cherries. If the cherries are not ripe, then they are left to ripen. Once they are picked, the processor then hulls the cherry from the seed. After separation, the seeds are left with mucus that is made up of a complex of pectin and sugars. At this point the mucilage needs to come off of the seed, for certain coffees, and there are two different types of fermentation; dry and wet. For dry fermentation, the seeds sit in a large tank for 18-36 hours. For instance, our La Armonia coffee from Guatemala uses this method to ferment. For wet, the seeds sit in a tank with water for the same amount of time. This is mainly found in Kenyan coffees, like our Kenya Ruthagati that we offer. After the fermentation, the coffee is then washed to remove any left over mucilage. Once the seeds are washed, they are dried on raised beds or patios for a few days.

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In a cup of coffee that has been washed, the drinker will find that the cup is cleaner, brighter, and fruitier. This process is very particular and the point of it is to have the seed drying without the mucilage because the pectin and sugars would cause different characteristics than desired. The Washed method is generally preferred for high quality coffees.

The next method is the Natural process. This method is often used in countries where rainfall is scarce and long periods of sunshine are available during the growing season. For example, our Amaro Gayo from Ethiopia is offered in a Natural. During this method, instead of hulling and washing the coffee, the coffee cherries are picked and laid out to dry. The drying period for this processing method is a few weeks because the cherry and the seed inside of it need to be completely dry before it is hulled.

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The Natural process is not labor intensive and there is room for mistake. It becomes easier for fungus and over fermentation to invade the coffee cherries. Since the cherry is still on the seed during the drying process, the seed will inherit characteristics from the skin that make the coffee heavier in body, sweeter, and more complex, much like our Amaro Gayo from Ethiopia.

The last method that I want to mention is called Pulped Natural or Honey Prep. This meets the two disparate methods in the middle, where the processor will hull the cherry from the seed, however, instead of washing the coffee, will dry it with the mucilage still on. This method can only be done in countries where humidity is low and the seeds can be dried rapidly without fermenting. Pulped Natural mainly happens in Brazil, where the coffees are cleaner and have a brighter acidity, which are made from the seed allowing the pectin and sugars from the mucilage to create characteristics.

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The method that is most commonly found in higher quality coffees is the Washed method. Our Ethiopian Amaro Gayo Washed is a great example of this method as it is very clean and transparent tasting with floral, citrus, and orange marmalade flavors and a very nice, bright acidity. The other two methods are not as commonly used, however, they are accepted in Specialty Coffee because they bring something different to the table. For example, our Ethiopian Amaro Gayo Natural, which has the characteristic fuller body, sweetness and fruit notes of a natural processed coffee. We really find it to be full of blueberry, shortbread, and port wine character. They are the same coffees from Ethiopia, just processed differently, which creates a huge difference in flavor profiles. Setting the two coffees side by side at your café for customers, or even at home for your own enjoyment, can be a fun exercise to practice the taste differentiation between the two processes.