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They ain’t what they Llusta be

These coffees should taste familiar, but pay attention! Take notes! Today’s tasting is the last hurrah for Toscano as portrayed by Nueva Llusta from Bolivia and Haru in the role of Apollo. Just Wednesday we began roasting and selling new versions of these well-loved coffees: the Toscano shipping now is comprised of a just-arrived lot from Union El Triunfo in Chiapas, Mexico and Apollo of Suke Quto from Sidamo, Ethiopia.

Notes on the Coffees

I get excited about new iterations of products like Toscano and Apollo because change typically means fresher components (not to mention that I love adventure of all sorts, including of flavor). In Toscano’s case, though, I will admit to feeling a twinge of wistfulness today because Toscano (NL) has been so loved and appreciated in this current form, which is especially interesting given how bright it is and how seldom we think of Toscano for brightness. That said, we bought Union El Triunfo’s coffee last year thinking it would taste good in Toscano and it did, and I’m glad to have it back this year for Toscano. This is one of the strongest co-ops in Chiapas from social and environmental perspectives, and they have great cup quality potential, too.

Haru has held steady in its role as Apollo for many months and if we had more of it to sell, I’d feel comfortable continuing to do so, given how well it and Idido have held up. Alas, we finally reached the end of last year’s Haru and this year’s lots are somewhere between Yirgacheffe and Durham, so we went looking for alternatives and found Suke Quto. Suke Quto is a delicious organic coffee from Sidamo, Ethiopia that shipped early, and that is pretty much all we know about it. We are eagerly awaiting our coffees from our long-time supplier co-ops within the YCFCU but meanwhile, Apollo’s citrusy, floral flavor profile makes it hard to substitute coffees from other parts of the world.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same (but are they the same?) coffees on the table next week or the one to follow, so as I said, take notes!

Rollout Dates and Availability

These lots rolled over Wednesday, April 16, and we should be working our way through them over the next month to two months.

Next week, hard-working, super-talented coffee professionals from around the country—including our very own 2014 regional winners—will compete in the 2014 US Brewers Cup and Barista competitions (Seattle, April 24–27).

In January, Mid-Atlantic sales rep Jonathan Bonchak won the 2014 Southeast Regional Brewers Cup Championship (SEBrC) for the second year in a row and will compete at the US Brewers Cup Championship again this year. J. Park Brannen—a customer rep from Team NYC—won the Northeast Regional Barista Championship (NERBC) with a polished, confident presentation and will compete in the US Barista Championship in Seattle, as well.

Erika Vonie of Ultimo Coffee in Philadelphia took second place in the NERBC in January with coffee from our Tairora Project from the Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea. Erika will use this coffee again in Seattle as she competes for the national title. Corey Reilly from Everyman Espresso in New York finished third in the NERBC and will also compete again in Seattle.

In the Southeast Regional Barista Competition (SERBC), independent barista Dawn Shanks from Washington, DC, used Counter Culture's Biloya Natural Sundried to earn a third place finish. Dawn will compete in Seattle with Idido Natural Sundried. Tim Jones of Jubala Coffee in Raleigh came in fourth in the SERBC using a blend of Idido washed and Biloya Natural Sundried, which he'll use again in the national competition. And, Nathan Nerswick of 5&10 in Athens, GA, rounded out the SERBC finalists in sixth place. Nathan will use our Baroida coffee—also from the Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea—when he competes in Seattle.
Nuova SimonelliTogether with the crew from Nuova Simonelli, four-time Irish Barista Champion Colin Harmon will introduce, demonstrate, and discuss the brand-new Mythos One espresso grinder, with Clima Pro technology. Is this grinder the future of espresso?Does temperature in grinding really make a difference? How quiet can a commercial-grade coffee grinder be?

Join us for coffee, conversation, and light refreshments on Tuesday, April 22, at 3:00 pm, at our New York Training Center and hear what Colin has to say about this new barista tool.

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Late Bloomers

Luis Huayhua (pronounced WHY-wuh) and Justina Ramos are two members of the Cenaproc co-operative whose coffees we have isolated from that of other coffee growers in and around the town of Nueva Llusta. Our current offerings from Nueva Llusta hail from the second half of the harvest, but Justina’s name should look familiar, as we sold an early harvest lot of hers at the end of 2013 along with a single farmer coffee from Irene Gomez.

Notes on the Coffees

We are always thrilled when we find exceptionally delicious coffees and that excitement is compounded when we can attribute multiple standout coffees to the same producer, not to mention the same producer twice in a single harvest! One of the realities of working with small-scale coffee farmers, even in ideal geographic conditions, is that many of them don’t exercise the level of control or monitoring of their processes necessary to create top-notch quality day in and day out. After only one year, we certainly don’t know Justina Ramos, her farm or her processes well enough to make sweeping pronouncements, but years of experience buying (and researching!) single-farmer lots have taught us that feedback is important, as is drawing a clear relationship between farming practices and taste quality. We have ten years of history with the Cenaproc co-op and we hope for at least ten more, so we are deep into our thinking about how to support members with standout coffees - Justina Ramos, Irene Gomez, Luis Huayhua (of whom we have more pictures than of all other Bolivian coffee producers put together, I’m certain) - and bring more growers, and more coffee, to a level of quality that is consistent. In our departmental cuppings, the Huayhua lot has nudged out the Ramos, but it’s anyone’s game on Friday and I’d love to hear your votes.

Rollout Dates and Availability

The Ramos lot will be available for ordering on Friday! Depending on how quickly we move through that lot, we may sell the two coffees side-by-side or we may begin selling the Huayhua lot when we run out of Ramos’s coffee. We have a total of four single-farmer lots from this shipment of Nueva Llusta to roll out, so you have even more to look forward to!

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Thrice is nice

Our late harvest lot from Nueva Llusta is holding strong as we prepare to shift our attention from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere.

Notes on the Coffees

Counter Culture ended up with more coffee from Nueva Llusta than we expected from 2013’s harvest, which almost never happens, and was especially surprising given that we spent years struggling to get anything remotely good, much less great, from the Cenaproc co-operative. We put pressure on Pedro Patana, the manager of Cenaproc, to ship coffee early and succeeded in getting the earliest arrival from Bolivia that we have ever experienced (and the best-tasting coffee from Nueva Llusta we have purchased, to boot). In the midst of emails about shipping the early lot, Pedro mentioned that twenty of their members beyond the twenty-eight contributing to the first lot wanted to submit coffee from their farms to us. We are pleased and proud that our project has gained such traction in Nueva Llusta that farmers are hearing about it and looking for ways to get involved, and we are already planning how we can do more in Bolivia in 2014.

Rollout Dates and Availability

We just began selling this second lot and we expect to keep them in stock through the month of May.


A crew from Counter Culture went to Chico, CA, for Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp in February: company president Brett Smith, Head Roaster Jeff McArthur, and Coffee Buyer & Quality Manager Tim Hill.

Counter Culture's beer team collaborated with our friends and neighbors at All About Beer Magazine—in anticipation of their 35th anniversary later this year—to brew a coffee-infused beer with Sierra Nevada as part of the brewery’s Beer Camp program.

Cold-brewed Haru coffee from Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia, was added to an India pale ale brewed using hops that would impart tropical fruit flavors—Mosaic, Calypso, and an experimental hop currently known as 291. (This last one sounds a bit like SL-28 in name.)

Thanks to All About Beer and Sierra Nevada for having us. Check out All About Beer's video from the trip and stay tuned for more information on this over the next few months.


Meister had the opportunity to use Food and Wine's GoPro Cappuccino Cam to make a cappuccino in Counter Culture Coffee's New York Training Center. See an up-close view of how she makes a cappuccino.

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Building Toscano

This week we are hoping to give people a glimpse into the development of our year-round products, in particular Toscano. The focus of the conversation will be around the idea of flavor profile, as well as the idea of building year-round products at the farm level. Increasingly, we are working with skilled farmers who are manipulating processing, variety, and doing specific lots to make very specific flavors. This is our mission in coffee: to make producers into craftsmen. This also allows us to focus on single-origins that may or may not be single coffees.

Style of Tasting

Cupping

While, of course, pulling this as espresso would have seemed logical, it is good to remember that Toscano is a good coffee option for those looking for something full-bodied, nutty, and chocolate-y.

Notes on the Coffees

Toscano Ecuador

First on the table will be coffee from Ecuador. This coffee is from our partners at Fapecafes in Loja, Ecuador. This year, the coffee did not meet the standards we set for our El Gavilan coffee, and that is why we will not see an El Gavilan main lot offering. While the coffee didn’t meet the single-origin standards, it was still good and had great notes leaning towards cocoa, nut, and also with less acidity. Based on that, we worked with the cooperative to buy this lot solely for use in Toscano, and this roast is the first attempt. It is roasted to an Agtron 60. Overall, this is a good attempt, but it is not all the way there. We will likely slow the roast down a minute or two and lighten the roast by about 2 points. 

Toscano Bolivia

Second on the table is the coffee from Bolivia. One of our favorite trial versions for Toscano in 2013 was with Illimani, from Caranavi, Bolivia. NOTE: this coffee does not come from Nueva Llusta, but rather a different area and group. This particular lot is a total experiment. It is 70% washed and 30% pulp natural processed from a single producer named Silverio Nina around the area of Illimani. We contracted this coffee solely as an experiment – hoping that the pulp natural would bring some sweetness and body to the the mix. Overall, we are happy with the sweetness, but think that the fruit notes are too far from the profile we hope for for Toscano. We will likely go back to the drawing board on the blend, and introduce yet another washed coffee from Bolivia into the mix to make this ready for production.

Rollout Dates and Availability

The Ecuador version of Toscano is going to start being roasted on February 6, and will continue to be Toscano for approximately 5-6 weeks. The Bolivia version of Toscano will actually go into production likely in April. So, you are likely asking what will be in the middle: Costa Rica. Say what! Yes, indeed – but you will just have to wait for that story.

– Tim

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