Storytelling Beyond the Cup
My first real introduction to Bufcafe was through Coffee Common at TED by Detour, a Canadian Roaster based in Ontario. I spent a week working alongside talented baristas cherry-picked from around the world. We enthusiastically and obsessively brewed coffee. We empathetically served our guests at a dizzying speed, exposing them to a number of different coffees selected for taste and transparency with stories of growth and inspiration.
Now, Counter Culture's Bufcafe is herbaceous and bright with a lip-sticking sweetness. Pair this coffee with a pear tart, apricot glaze, and lavender ice cream? Well, then you have something almost too obscene for words … one might say memorable. But, the question always arises, what exactly makes a cup memorable? What makes a cup of coffee inspiring? It can be argued that it is the flavors in the cup itself, but I believe that flavors and tastes that we remember are ultimately things that we ourselves can internalize or perhaps personalize. Read the full story on facebook.
Note: Our supply of this coffee went much faster than expected, so, thoughtful Allie's reflections on Bufcafe serve as a fond farewell of sorts. Thanks!
Bienvenidos a La Golondrina
There isn't a ton of organic coffee coming out of Colombia – a country often associated by the general public with bulk production of commodity coffee. Most of the Colombia's certified organic coffee cultivated by small producers comes out of the southwestern region of Cauca. The growers from the Orgánica co-op in Cauca all belonged to larger, regional cooperatives before joining Orgánica in hopes of finding recognition for their high-quality product and more accountability from the organization.
We've been buying coffee from Orgánica for about five years now. During this time, these talented producers grew from a budding organization through agricultural upheaval – leaf rust reduced their output by 75 percent in 2009 – to a period of strong rebuilding.
We named Orgánica's coffee La Golondrina, the Spanish word for a swallow, and we use the bird as an icon to represent the ability to cross frontiers and make connections between people at great distance from one another. Throughout our growing relationship, La Golondrina remains a perennial favorite. And, so, we are delighted to welcome its return with this fresh, new harvest. Notes of cherry and caramel and hint of savoriness supporting La Golondrina's classic citrusy brightness.
P.s. we we have a limited number of La Golondrina T-shirts to offer while supplies last.
A Hand Grinder for Home or Travel
We're always on the lookout for brewing gear to help make great coffee accessible at home and on the go. One of our coffee buyers, Tim Hill, came across the Porlex hand grinder a while back and mentioned it to Brian Ludviksen.
Before leading our customer support team, Brian was our long-time tech manager with a knack for putting gear through its paces to objectively evaluate performance. One of the key measurements of any coffee grinder is the consistency of particle size (to encourage even extraction). Tim and Brian are especially keen on the amount of torque on the ceramic burrs in the Porlex because of its resulting grind consistency.
Lightweight, stainless steel, and extremely portable, the Porlex grinder is perfect for home use and travel for any of the handcrafted coffee methods we recommend in our brewing guide.
Creating Quality One Small Lot at a Time
By providing incentives to farmers for improving quality – along with information to help them do so – we can help growers sustain and improve the quality of their lives, the environment, and their coffee. An obvious incentive is to pay more for higher quality coffee. Which, of course, we do, though the process is anything but simple for producers and our home office alike.
Our coffee department identifies microlots – small lots of coffees selected to provide unique, exquisite taste experiences – by cupping many, many small lots which have been hand-separated and catalogued by our grower partners, and selecting the very best, often tiny lots. A microlot may come from one grower within a community or cooperative of small growers, or it may represent a small lot separated from a larger farm's lot.
Last week, we welcomed a special microlot from Palanda, Ecuador. The coffee was the produce of a single organic farmer, 75-year-old Luz del Carmen Alverca.
Over the years, we have had our eye on Ecuador, and last year we were finally able to establish a relationship with a group of small, organic coffee farmers based in the mountainous province of Loja. The name El Gavilán (the hawk) perfectly suits their coffee – independent and courageous – just as the small farmers of Loja province are independent, heroic, and dedicated to quality and organic agriculture. This was our first El Gavilán microlot, and we are excited to have the opportunity to get to know coffees from individual farmers in the region.
This exceptional Luz del Carmen Alverca Microlot wasn't around for long, but the premium paid for its incredible quality will, we hope, have long-term benefits among El Gavilán producers.
Congratulations to Katie Carguilo, NERBC Champ 2012
We're super-excited that our own Katie Carguilo won the Northeast Regional Barista Championship (NERBC) in New York this weekend! Congrats to Katie and to Brady Guinn from Boston's Pavement Coffeehouse who finished second in the NERBC Brewer's Cup using El Gavilán. And, big-big thanks to the many talented competitors who used Counter Culture Coffee in the competition. Please join us in wishing Katie luck at the United States Barista Championship, April 19-22, in Portland, OR.
In addition to her high-scoring espressos and cappuccinos, Katie's signature beverage was comprised of nectarine and lemon juices combined with jasmine green tea, sparkling water, and vinegar topped with an espresso preparation of Haru (from a cooperative in Yiragacheffe, Ethiopia) and served in a grappa glass.
"All of those flavors are in the fermentation water," notes Katie, referring to the production process of ripe coffee cherries in Ethiopia in which coffee beans (seeds) are submerged in water to help to remove the fruity mucilage.
The Haru espresso component for her drink was specially sorted for pre-roast bean size consistency by our roasting department. "It helps the coffee ultimately taste better," observes Katie, "because it can be roasted more evenly." For her espressos and cappuccinos, she used Idido Natural Sundried.
"Winning is really exciting," Katie acknowledges, "but even the other times I've competed and not won were very informative and rewarding. It's one thing to make beverages and taste them and to hone your technique but it's another experience entirely to have other people give you feedback that's completely honest. It was so much fun."
Check out Meister's annotated photo set from NERBC on flickr. And, here's an interview with Katie about coffee in general from WNYC radio in New York.