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Despite the widespread perception to the contrary, any roasted coffee can be brewed with pretty much any brewer to make great coffee as long as you start with high-quality coffee and pay attention to your brewing parameter. We put together a short video with Team NYC's Meister to elaborate.

And, for the month of February, we're hosting an Instagram offer with a chance to win a bag of our current featured coffee, Remera. Check out the #anycoffeeanybrew page for more information.
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
These dudes are awesome. Park + Peaches, congratulations!We're 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 – for continuing to elevate the craft of coffee. We're incredibly honored to have many, many talented folks representing our coffees. And, we are extremely excited 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!

Park and Jonathan will advance to the US Barista Competition and Brewers Cup in Seattle in April 2014. Congratulations to both of you and thanks for all of your hard work – along with the many other inspiring coffee professionals making us proud with our coffee in Durham this weekend.

Big thanks to our Big Eastern co-sponsors Dallis Bros. Coffee, as well as the Barista Guild of America, The Specialty Coffee Association of America, and everyone who helped to make the Big Eastern coffee competitions such a great showcase for dedicated and talented coffee people. Thanks especially to all of the hard-working staff, judges, and volunteers.

We'd also like to thank Dallis Bros. Coffee, Nuova Simonelli, and Dalla Corte for the Saturday night dance party featuring DJ Pez and DJ Sprudge.

And, thanks also the city of Durham and the lovely people from this part of the world who made visitors from up and down the East Coast welcome and gave them a glimpse of why we love to call this place our home!

Sincerely,
Nathan
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.
As we say in our Direct Trade report, Cenfrocafe is truly a model among cooperatives, and they are a joy to visit and learn from each time. This visit included all of the usual elements – from producer meetings to meeting with cooperative leadership, cupping, and, in general, hearing about highlights and challenges currently facing the group.
 
Cenfrocafe has grown by almost 30% this year in its volumes. The coffee we received from this group and sell as Valle del Santuario and La Frontera has been exceptional this year. Our hope is to continue to hone in on even greater volumes of this quality coffee. Already on the larger side with 2,680 members, they have 240 more members going through the one-year trial period. They are, after 12 years of operation, getting to be a well-oiled machine. In addition to the business of coffee, they are intentionally working on helping producers with diversification efforts, health resources, and continued integration of youth and women in the cooperative. Of course, they still have kinks to work out in stabilizing volumes, lot separation, and best representing the needs of cooperative members.
 
Leaf rust is beginning to prove challenging, and some producers have lost up to 3,000 trees or more as a result. Conversations about how to prevent and renovate are serious. And, continuing to have the conversation about producing quality coffee alongside conversations about protection and disease resistant varieties is inevitable. The hope is that Cenfrocafe can continue to take a proactive role in regard to producers' needs for prevention training and on-farm investments.
 
Coffee quality this year was lagging in July and August at the beginning of the harvest, but they had higher hopes as they saw great improvements in October. I believe our coffee this year reflects that change. And, it again emphasizes the benefits of being by the cooperative's side – as true partners – not just for one harvest or one great run, but through the ups and downs.
 
I hope you'll enjoy these photos of my last week in Peru!
 
Abrazos,
Hannah
 
From the embed above, click [full screen] and [show info] for Hannah's annotated notes on each photo. You can also view Hannah's trip report on Flickr.
 
We are compelled – driven, some have said – by a commitment to creating cutting-edge coffee people and a dedication to real social, environmental, and fiscal sustainability. We're also adding to our ranks in the following positions:
 
We're also looking for a Graphic Designer in our Durham, NC, headquarters. Please email a resume, portfolio, and cover letter to apply.
 
And, we're looking for a Retail Coordinator in the Production Department at our Durham, NC, headquarters. Please email a resume and cover letter to apply.
 
Please check the Careers section of our site under Contact for future job listings. Thanks!
 
Michael Hession and the Gizmodo team stopped by our Manhattan Training Center for a look around with Team NYC's Tommy Gallagher.
 

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