You are here

Bartolo Concha – Single-Farmer Lot from Valle del Santuario, Peru

Theme

Andean All-Stars

Culturally, climatically and topographically, the communities whose coffees comprise Valle del Santuario and El Gavilán are virtually identical, but an invisible political border separates Peruvian from Ecuadorian territory. I have crossed the border from La Balsa (Peru) to Zamora (Ecuador) and I will tell you that with the exception of a small wooden police station and a sign in an empty restaurant offering money exchange (cambio), nothing differentiates the town on one side of the yellow bridge from the town on the other. Sleepy as it is, though, we have that border to thank for the fact that today we are tasting two coffees and not just one, because for so many people, geographic designations still define and differentiate coffees more than factors like variety, elevation or processing methods that we know have more impact on cup quality and flavors than country of origin. With similar coffee varieties, elevation and processing, Bartolo Concha from San Ignacio, Peru and Luis Camacho from Loja, Ecuador, are like brothers of another mother in the context of global coffee.

That said, while recognizing that other factors play a larger role than political geography in determining coffee flavor, differing political and economic climates in two neighboring countries can influence everything from a farmer’s selection of coffee varieties to plant to the price that he receives for his coffee on the local market. Peru dwarfs Ecuador in economic might (not to mention in square miles) and its accelerated growth in recent decades has led to government investment in the coffee sector. Rural communities like the ones around San Ignacio are a long way from Lima, but the central government makes sure that the roads are in good condition and national banks have supported programs for infrastructure improvements and farm productivity in co-operatives even in the hinterlands. The Cenfrocafe cooperative, of which Bartolo Concha is a member, has more than doubled its membership since we began buying their coffee seven years ago and low-interest loans from government institutions have really made that possible by allowing them to provide more services to growers and pay higher prices than other buyers.

Ecuador, by contrast, has a smaller economy, a president (Rafael Correa) who flirts with the anti-capitalist (or imperialist, or whatever you want to call it) leaders of Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua and not a lot of money invested in coffee. Also, they use the dollar as their currency, which means that most things are more expensive in Ecuadorian dollars than in Peruvian nuevos soles. Fapecafes was formed with international aid money and still relies on aid more than loans to float their operation, which is a much less stable position to be in than Cenfrocafe’s (for them, their buyers, and their producer members). Members of the Fapecafes co-op who visited coffee farms in Peru spoke admiringly about the conditions of farms and the transportation across the border, but they also expressed pride that their farms have more Typica and Bourbon than Peru’s, where Catimor types have been more widely promoted.

Notes on the Coffees

Bartolo Concha

Bartolo Concha grows Bourbon, Caturra and Pache varieties of coffee on two small parcels of land which total 2 hectares in production. The names of his two farms are El Limón (the lemon) and El Cedro (the cedar). He is single and lives in the community of Francisco Bolognesi outside of San Ignacio, Peru. We picked two lots from among the coffees we tasted from the five communities we work with closely this year and this was the second of them that we sold. We have said farewell to Sr. Concha’s coffee this year, but look forward to seeing what next year holds for him and the rest of the Valle del Santuario.

Luis Camacho

Due to leaf rust, poor climatic conditions and the aforementioned instability of the co-op, Fapecafes produced very little top-quality coffee this year. Without enough volume to fill our contract for El Gavilán, we found ourselves in a situation with Fapecafes that we try mightily to avoid, namely, buying micro lots without a main lot to support it. Given our prior relationship with Fapecafes and our hope that things will improve this year, we opted to buy a few coffees from individual farmers and celebrate the quality as we would otherwise, but I’m sure more than a few of you will be wondering where the rest of the coffee is (your answer: Toscano).

Luis Camacho is a member of the Procafeq association of Quilanga, which name inspired us to call our coffee El Gavilán because Quilanga is the Aymara word for a hawk’s nest, and he grows typica and bourbon varieties of coffee on two hectares of land in the village of Changaimina.

Rollout Dates and Availability

Luis Camacho is scheduled to roll out on February 25. We will have the opportunity to enjoy Bartolo Concha on Friday, however, it, sadly, has already come and gone from our offering list. 

Theme

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
Hello, cuppers!

What a week it has been; I hope you're all staying warm. Life continues apace and there are coffees for us to taste, so let's hop to it!

There's not a lot I can say about Valle del Santuario that you haven't all heard before, given the number of times it has appeared on our cupping tables over the past seven years. Our relationship with the Cenfrocafe co-operative of San Ignacio, Peru, is one of our strongest, but it hasn't always been that way - in late 2008, after our second year buying coffee from the five communities of the valley, the coffee department had a serious conversation about whether to continue working with the cooperative because we had heard rumors that they hadn't distributed price premiums in a timely fashion and growers felt dissatisfied. We opted to continue because we were able to address our concerns with the cooperative and, five years later, I'm glad that we didn't react to a rumor we heard through an importer and opted to be patient, work on the relationship, and commit to better, more frequent communication in the future.

Our next coffee is a good one to follow on the heels of that story because Remera represents a long-term bet still in its early stages. We have known Epiphanie and her son Sam, owners of the Bufcafe and Remera mills, for many years, but it was Tim's trip in 2012 that opened our eyes to the family's potential as a collaborator as opposed to simply a supplier. Last year's Bufcafe Natural Sundried was a runaway hit and a subject of much curiosity, especially - judging from online ordering records - among coffee industry folks, and although the washed coffee we're buying from Remera is more in line, flavor-wise with what you might expect from another very good Rwandan coffee, it's still a treat and it's got a lot of potential for growth. Sam is a regular fixture of coffee department discussions as someone who represents the next generation of producer-leaders both in terms of his youth and his vision for quality. His quality improvements and his experiments with sundried naturals continue (we have our fingers crossed that we'll have some sundried natural coffee from Remera in a couple of months). Also, Sam plans to attend the conference on potato defect that we'll be sponsoring with a portion of the proceeds from sales of our holiday coffee, which we are hopeful will help us make progress against this frustrating obstacle.

Last but not least, we have Buziraguhindwa Natural Sundried, which we've been brewing more than ever since it showed so well in competition last weekend. We have been waiting two years for this coffee experiment to materialize and while it paid off handsomely, we have certainly had fits and starts along the way and questioned whether or not the potential was worth the time, effort and, one year, the financial hit of the coffee arriving unsellable. The clean but intense fruit in the flavor of this coffee, however, makes it all feel worthwhile because despite the fact that we don't buy a lot of this style of coffee compared to washed coffee, we do want to have more options than just Ethiopia for this flavor profile and in order to get there, we have to build it patiently and take the long view.

Enjoy the coffees, please!

-Kim

 
We're super-proud of all of the competitors at this year's Big Eastern coffee competitions – which included the Southeast and Northeast Regional Barista and Brewers Cup competitions. And, we are, indeed, incredibly honored to have 29 talented folks representing our coffees. In addition to two top place finishes – see below – eight competitors made the finals of the Big Eastern competitions using our coffees.

Erika Vonie of Ultimo Coffee in Philadelphia took second place in the Northeast Regional Barista Competition (NERBC) with coffee from our Tairora Project from the Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea. Corey Reilly of Everyman Espresso in New York finished in third place in the NERBC using Mpemba from Kayanza, Burundi.

In the Northeast Regional Brewers Cup (NERBrC), James Klapp from Ultimo Coffee in Philadelphia came in second with Idido washed processed coffee from Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia. And, Alyssa Azizi of Pavement Coffee in Boston rounded out the NERBrC finalists in sixth place with La Golondrina from Popayán, Colombia.

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. Tim Jones of Jubala Craft Coffee in Raleigh came in fourth in the SERBC using a blend of Idido washed and Biloya Natural Sundried. And, Nathan Nerswick of 5&10 in Athens, GA, rounded out the SERBC finalists in sixth place.

Krisann Freilino of Peregrine Espresso in Washington, DC, earned the fifth place spot in the Southeast Regional Brewers Cup with Tsheya from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Other dedicated coffee professionals who used our coffees, included Patricia Bruce of Pavement Coffeehouse in Boston; Matthew Bryce of Peregrine Espresso in Washington, DC; Steph Caronna of La Farm Bakery in Cary, NC; Andrew Cash of Jubala Craft Coffee in Raleigh; Seth Cook of Northside Social in Arlington, VA; Couper Cox of 5&10 in Athens, GA; Helen Flowers of The Morning Times in Raleigh; Tommy Gallagher of Counter Culture Coffee, NY; Jennifer Hall of Sola Coffee Café in Raleigh; Tery Honeyghan of Peregrine Espresso; Dylan Jung of High Five Coffee Bar in Asheville, NC; Dylan McFatrich of The Morning Times; Trevor Patton of The Morning Times; Joe Quinlan of High Five Coffee Bar; Katie Rant of Sola Coffee Café; Bobbi Jo Vandal of Pavement Coffeehouse; Amanda Whitt of Everyman Espresso; and James Yoder of Not Just Coffee in Charlotte.

And, as mentioned on Monday, we are extremely proud that Team NYC's J. Park Brannen won the Northeast Regional Barista Competition and Team Durham's Jonathan "Peaches" Bonchak won his second straight Southeast Regional Brewers Cup!

Thanks,
Nathan
Good afternoon and happy new year to all! I am really excited about the possibilities held by 2014 and we are starting the year off on a good foot with this week's single-farmer lots from Bartolo Concha and Nelson Melo.

I wouldn't blame you for calling these coffees microlots on Friday if that's a helpful term, but a few months back we made the decision to drop microlot as a marketing term because it's amorphous and subject to different definitions and qualifications even within a single company. We realized that more specific terms are better indicators for what makes a given coffee noteworthy, given that sometimes microlots denoted individual coffee farms within larger groups, sometimes coffee from one area of a large farm, sometimes coffee from a particular day of harvest, sometimes coffee of a single variety and so forth and so on.

Cup quality unites all of our microlots to some degree, of course, but even that gets tricky because a microlot of 500 pounds from a grower in Nicaragua might score 90 points and blow us away, whereas we expect our coffee from Idido in Ethiopia to score a couple points higher still and at 37,000 pounds, there's nothing micro about it.

Bartolo Concha and Nelson Melo are both members of associations of smallholder farmers we work with and these two individuals' coffees have been separated out, which makes them single-farmer lots. Make sense? Bartolo Concha is one of the seventy – some farmers whose coffee comprises our Valle del Santuario coffee. He has been a member of the co-op for as many years as we have been working with the five communities of the valley and coffee from his two farms, El Limón and El Cedro – named for lime and cedar trees growing on those parcels of land – has always met our minimum cupping score for purchase (an 85, for us), but this is the first year that we have selected it as a single-farmer lot.

The other single-farmer lot from Valle del Santuario, Moisés Vicente, has a similar story, and in fact, so does every other co-op member whose coffee we have selected to stand on its own in years past: they do well consistently but hit that highest-tier mark only once. When Hannah asked Bartolo at a meeting last month what he did differently this year to improve the quality of his coffee, he struggled to pinpoint anything unusual. This seems like a glitch in a system that was designed to both reward quality and to provide incentives for better agricultural practices, and it's one that we wouldn't be so aware of if it weren't for our survey of this co-op back in late 2011 and early 2012. You've all heard plenty about this research by now, but I'll include the link just for kicks.
 
Our research in Peru led to a stronger relationship and more trust with the growers of Valle del Santuario and the Cenfrocafe co-op, but it also left us with questions about why growers weren't achieving repeated success in Peru when we knew it was possible. Hannah and I decided to do a follow-up study focusing on the agricultural practices and behaviors most associated with repeat success and we took up that study with smallholder farmers in southern Colombia including, but not limited to, the members of the Orgánica association behind La Golondrina.

Arismendes Vargas, Gloria Tejada and Manuel Melenje are all members of that group who have received quality premiums multiple times over the years, but no farmer has produced microlots more consistently than Nelson Melo, and your faithful coffee buyers could not possibly be more tickled to have this grower's coffee to share with all of you after many years of knowing and admiring Nelson, his family and his leadership in the Orgánica association. Nelson's coffee has gone to another buyer since 2005 – predating our connection to Orgánica – and every year that we have tasted it, Nelson's coffee has been exceptional even among Orgánica's many laudable single-farmer lots. We have waited patiently for seven years and that patience paid off, but the tiny amount of this coffee we have will only be available to order online. Sales will begin later this month sometime, though I'm not sure quite when.
 
Enjoy, please, and as always, send your questions and feedback my way.

– Kim
Good morning, cuppers!
 
Sorting at Mpemba.With 52 weeks in a year and three coffees (on average) in each of our weekly cuppings, it stands to reason that we have read, spoken, and learned about – not to mention brewed and tasted – 156 coffees together since this time last year! Of course, one could argue that we have repeated coffees, but anyone who has cupped as long as you all have knows that our understanding of coffee grows through repetition. In the depth-versus-breadth debate, I fall firmly on the side of depth. In any case, it has been a heck of a year in coffee, and it means a lot to me to have gotten to share thoughts from the Coffee Department on all 156 of 'em.
 
The last of 2013's Friday cuppings showcases three stellar coffees from Burundi. Our story begins with the washed coffee from the Buziraguhindwa washing station in Kayanza, which we have been purchasing since 2010, making it our longest-running relationship in Africa. Is that surprising? Given how new the whole country is to the specialty coffee industry, I'd say it's kind of surprising, and we certainly have longer track records of purchasing from washing stations like Ndaroini in Kenya, but those purchases haven't been in consecutive years. The strong relationships we now count on to bring us awesome coffees – see: Haru, Idido, Remera, etc. – have been built on the model of Buziraguhindwa and the lessons we have learned in the years we have been working with them.
 
We were really excited to get to buy coffee from Mpemba in 2012 because we weren't the only buyer interested in the Kazoza N'Ikawa cooperative's first coffees from this washing station. Good elevation, solid infrastructure, and a well-respected manager are universally appealing, but we were especially committed to getting connected to a cooperative because most of our successes in Burundi, including Buziraguhindwa, had been with privately owned washing stations. Elsewhere in the world, almost all of the coffee we buy from small-holder farmers comes to us through producer cooperatives, which come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of effectiveness but, at the end of the day, share a measure of accountability to the individual, as well as potential for empowerment that private washing stations don't.
 
After last year's lot of Mpemba arrived tasting fantastic, we were doubly pleased with our decision to grow, and in 2013 the washing station's coffee took fourth place in the Burundi's Golden Cup Competition. In most of our cuppings this year, Mpemba's coffee has been the more complex of the two in flavor and brightness, but I'll be curious to hear whether you find them to be distinctly different, and how.
 
Finally, the coffee that will inevitably generate the most discussion is Buziraguhindwa's sundried natural coffee, which is, as far as we know, the only sundried natural coffee exported from Burundi. Despite similarities between climate and geography across the coffee-producing countries of East Africa, Ethiopia has remained the only producer of sundried natural coffees for export – which is a way of saying that all countries make them but they're mostly not good. Buzi Nat – as I know this coffee will be nicknamed – is the result of curiosity and of our ability to experiment within our supply chains.
 
I feel like a broken record when I say that our strong relationships and our persistence are the foundation of innovation, but it's true, and it's important to understanding who we are and what we do. The reason that Ramadhan, one of the owners of Buziraguhindwa, was intrigued by the prospect of sundried natural coffee wasn't because he got some tip that it's a market poised for massive growth but because we were excited about it and committed to it before it even existed (which was the case with our first coffee from the washing station back in 2010, as well). The story of our sundried natural coffee from Bufcafe in Rwanda last year bears many similarities to Buziraguhindwa's and now Sam, the mill manager, wants to produce an entire container of sundried natural coffee for us– which is, like, 10 times as much as we bought from him in last year. I don't know if we'll actually want that much, but it feels like a testament to Counter Culture's ideas and our approach.
 
Though this story is far from complete, I can never fit everything I want to say into a single e-mail and I've got 52 e-mails to write in 2014, I'll leave you now with the hope that today's cupping is a great conclusion to this great year.
 
–Kim Elena
 
The team out on the road for The Variety Show shot video footage along the way to share the goings on of our second Works in Progress tour. Stay tuned here or on our Facebook page as the last few videos are posted. And, thanks to everyone who attended!
 
New York City – 10.19.13
 
Boston – 10.17.13
 
Philadelphia – 10.15.13
 
Trailer for 2013 HOST in Milan, Italy

(Thanks kindly to our 2013 Works in Progress sponsors Kalita USA, Bonavita, Baratza, and ESPRO.)
 
Washington, DC – 10.13.13
 
Chicago – 10.11.13
 
Asheville – 10.9.13
 
Atlanta – 10.7.13
 
Durham – 10.5.13
 
Tour Teaser:
 
Big thanks to Christy Baugh (from our marketing department) – whose birthday is tomorrow – for making these happen despite the bustle and motion of the RV; thanks also to Thomas Costello (aka The Human Eyes) for much of the music for these!
 
....
 
CC_WIP_LOGO_FINAL_Color_600x600.gif
The Variety Show – the second installment of Counter Culture Coffee's annual Works in Progress series – will explore botanical coffee varieties with the owners of Finca El Puente, Moisés Herrera and Marysabel Caballero, and celebrate the championship of Erin McCarthy at the 2013 World Brewers Cup!
 
The Variety Show team will travel from city to city stopping at each Counter Culture Training Center along the way over the course of two weeks in October – starting this weekend in Durham and ending in New York at our new flagship Training Center.
 
Along the way, we'll be selling raffle tickets to benefit World Coffee Research, and each stop will include drawings for prizes like Kalita brewers, Baratza grinders, Bonavita kettles, and custom Counter Culture wares – a winner for the Grand Prize drawing from all entries gets a personal coffee brewing experience in your home – or coffee shop – with 2013 World Brewers Cup Champion Erin McCarthy [some restrictions apply*].
 
Light food + beverages. Free + open to the public. #CCCVarietyShow
 

All events 7 - 9 p.m.

Saturday, October 5 – Durham Training Center
Monday, October 7 – Atlanta Training Center
Wednesday, October 9 – Asheville Training Center
Friday, October 11 – Chicago Training Center
Sunday, October 13 – Washington, DC Training Center
Tuesday, October 15 – Philadelphia Training Center
Thursday, October 17 – Boston Training Center
Saturday, October 19 – New York Training Center


Big thanks to event sponsors Kalita USA, Bonavita, Baratza, and ESPRO!


*Continental US only. Subject to availability.


CC_WIP_LOGO_FINAL_Color_600x600.gif
The Variety Show – the second installment of Counter Culture Coffee's annual Works in Progress series – will explore botanical coffee varieties with the owners of Finca El Puente, Moisés Herrera and Marysabel Caballero, and celebrate the championship of Erin McCarthy at the 2013 World Brewers Cup!
 
The Variety Show team will travel from city to city stopping at each Counter Culture Training Center along the way over the course of two weeks in October – starting this weekend in Durham and ending in New York at our new flagship Training Center.
 
Along the way, we'll be selling raffle tickets to benefit World Coffee Research, and each stop will include drawings for prizes like Kalita brewers, Baratza grinders, Bonavita kettles, and custom Counter Culture wares – a winner for the Grand Prize drawing from all entries gets a personal coffee brewing experience in your home – or coffee shop – with 2013 World Brewers Cup Champion Erin McCarthy [some restrictions apply*].
 
Light food + beverages. Free + open to the public. #CCCVarietyShow
 

All events 7 - 9 p.m.

Saturday, October 5 – Durham Training Center
Monday, October 7 – Atlanta Training Center
Wednesday, October 9 – Asheville Training Center
Friday, October 11 – Chicago Training Center
Sunday, October 13 – Washington, DC Training Center
Tuesday, October 15 – Philadelphia Training Center
Thursday, October 17 – Boston Training Center
Saturday, October 19 – New York Training Center


Big thanks to event sponsors Kalita USA, Bonavita, Baratza, and ESPRO!


*Continental US only. Subject to availability.


Pages

FAQ