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The Big Eastern regional competition is coming to Durham, NC. The 2013 Southeast Regional Brewers Cup Champ – and Counter Culture sales team member – Jonathan Bonchak is competing again. At this year's Southeast Regional Brewers Cup, Jonathan's using a combination of Buziraguhindwa Natural Sundried from Burundi and Idido washed from Ethiopia. And, for a brewer, he's using Counter Culture's Classic #2 Bonmac drip cone!

"My lady gave this to me as a Christmas present years ago," recalls Jonathan. "It was the first time I ever tried to use a pourover cone. I only needed a few tries to make some truly tasty coffee. I still come back to it today as my favorite drip cone, and I recommend it to all of my friends looking into making great pourover coffee at home."

Asked why, Jonathan explains, "It has one small hole that the brewed coffee passes through, and this is helpful if your pour is quick or if your grinder isn't great. I like this slower flow because it can help you extract a little bit more since it prolongs the coffee and water dwell time."

And, of course, we have these available in our store, if you're interested.
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
 
Counter Culture Coffee recently joined forces with Chapel Hill, NC's HOPE Gardens for their fall fundraiser.
 
Initially conceived as an agricultural education space for the University and Chapel Hill community that would produce seeds for marginalized farming communities abroad, HOPE Gardens quickly developed into a community space with a local purpose. In the fall of 2008, students from UNC's HOPE (Homeless Outreach Poverty Eradication) committee of the Campus Y developed HOPE Gardens as a tool for social justice right here in our community: a transitional employment program for homeless individuals and an inclusive community garden, each meant to facilitate relationships and dialogue among the student, homeless, low-income, and broader Chapel Hill communities in a side-by-side work environment.
 
In essence, HOPE Gardens creates a community space that fosters relationships, educates the community, and addresses barriers to food access through shared efforts in sustainable agriculture. Counter Culture was pleased to be able to support with a such an important initiative in one of our local communities by donating a Farmhouse subscription to their fundraising raffle.
 
On November 17, some 57 individuals gathered at Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe to support HOPE Gardens for their fall fundraiser. The three-course meal, which was prepared and served entirely by volunteers with Vimala's guidance, included local grass-fed beef, pumpkin soup, and sweet potato custard. After the dinner, Alice Ammerman from the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention spoke about the importance of emphasizing social justice through food equity and read the poem that she wrote for HOPE Gardens' ribbon cutting in 2009. The evening concluded with the raffle and live jazz performed by UNC students.
 
In total, the event raised over $2,500 to support programs such as HOPE Garden's free cooking classes and sponsored plots.
 
If you think your organization might be a good fit for Counter Culture's partnership, and you are located close to one of our eight Training Centers, don't hesitate to get in touch here.
 
Thanks,
Hannah
Bilal Sarwari works with adolescents in psychiatric crisis through therapeutic gardeningOur own Emily Davis in Atlanta made a fruitful connection with a local partner, Bilal Sarwari, who works with adolescents in psychiatric crisis through therapeutic gardening. The group is located in Decatur and, as Bilal says, the "program has been a great source of stress relief for our clients, and we even have adult clients who come down from our other facilities [who] volunteer."
 
Here's a little bit more from Bilal about exactly how our Atlanta Training Center's coffee grounds help:
 
Coffee grounds are essentially prepped for use in sustainable agriculture: they are wet (bacteria and fungi need water to grow), they are ground (provides increased surface area for microorganisms to attach), natural deoderizers, and rich in nitrogen (seeds contain a great deal of DNA per capita and DNA consists of nitrogen base pairs). Essentially, coffee grounds make great compost and worms love it – and I love earthworms.
 
Secondly, your coffee grounds provide a natural defense against ants. After two years of hard work, our soil is rich and loose. Ants love to build their colonies in our garden beds. Last year, I read an article from that suggested using coffee grounds against ants. I tried it on an ant pile and two days later the ants were gone. I was amazed. Now the gardens smell like finely-roasted beans, and I don't have to worry about the health effects of dangerous pesticides on our clients' growing bodies.
 
Our hope is that other local groups close to our various training centers feel similarly inspired to use our excess coffee grounds. The possibilities are endless!
 
Thanks, Bilal, for truly multiplying the good that can come from what has previously been considered a waste product.

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!
 
....
 
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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.


Learn more about our transparency efforts in our 2013 Transparency Report.
The closing event of our Sustainable Summer campaign last Friday and the long Labor Day weekend have me looking ahead to fall, and it's around this time each year that I begin to reflect on the progress we have made and what we can accomplish before the year's end. Our progress has also been much on my mind as I've reviewed the Sustainability Annual Report for 2012, which we publish today in conjunction with the Direct Trade Transparency Report. Readers of our three reports and six scorecards of the past years (hello, fellow sustainability nerds!) will see some changes to the format of this year's report, which highlights some of our more significant accomplishments and adds context to some of our statistics. I hope you enjoy this year's reports and can learn from our experiences, and as always, thanks.
 
Sincerely,
Kim Elena
 

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