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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
 
Our production of roasted coffee has continued to increase, which is truly great. As a result, the needs for the infrastructure necessary to process all of the coffee have also increased. Here at our headquarters in Durham, this has meant added personnel and added technology on our production floor. Thomas Nickles, our IT manager, is always looking toward green and sustainable options for growth. Most recently, he began to explore what it would take to do more with less – employing the services of NComputing. Here’s what he has to say:

"After finding some greener laser printer alternatives and moving all our our main infrastructure to the cloud, I wanted to significantly reduce the amount of physical computers needed on the production floor for both sustainable and logistical reasons. I didn't just want to keep adding desktop computers wherever needed.

"So, when I was doing some local volunteering for the Obama campaign and saw they were using this great technology from NComputing that enabled them to get many workstations out of a single desktop, I thought that was perfect for Counter Culture but needed to test it a bunch for the wear and tear of our production floor. I've been super-pleased with the results of this technology plus our operational and managerial IT costs for roasting and production have been significantly reduced."

So, what does this look like? With NComputing's vSpace virtualization hardware and software, we can now have many workstations running from a single desktop. Each one of these green workstations runs on less than 10 percent of the electricity used by a normal PC. In Durham, we'll be able to reduce the amount of actual desktop PCs needed by 75 percent. Normal PCs are being replaced by this newfangled excitement as we speak!

-Hannah
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
Michael Hession and the Gizmodo team stopped by our Manhattan Training Center for a look around with Team NYC's Tommy Gallagher.
 
 
Photos of our New York Training Center by Alan Tansey.
 
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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.


Welcome to Sustainable Summer, a month-long community effort dedicated to making small changes on big issues.On Friday, August 30, we're celebrating #SustainableSummer at each of our Training Centers (following our weekly cupping) with organic snacks, lively conversation, and a panel discussion about climate change and the future. Of course, there will also be plenty of coffee. Click here for details.

The get-togethers will revolve around a panel discussion with sustainability luminaries Scott Marlow of the Rural Advancement Foundation International and Mausi Kuhl of Selva Negra/La Hammonia coffee farm in Nicaragua. The panel discussion will be broadcast on our YouTube channel.

Join us, as well as our friends at Rishi Tea, Taza Chocolate, King Arthur Flour, Patagonia, and TS Designs, as we send this summer out with a sustainable bang in this final week of #SustainableSummer by taking the pledge to conserve resources on Facebook or e-mail us for more information.

Thanks,
Nathan
Farm51 started as a vacant lot and is now host to vegetables, chickens, and cut flowers.Many of you are already familiar with the initiatives we decide to invest in abroad, known as our Seeds projects. This year, we have heightened our emphasis on local investing as well – uniting both local and international efforts under the banner of sustainable agriculture and hunger prevention. Since our staff are scattered throughout the US, we have asked them to investigate the meaningful work being done in their communities around these two areas. Then, they bring them to the table for us to assess and collaborate.

One of our regions, Philadelphia, has taken this charge quite seriously. Early on, they began connecting with farm51, a small-scale urban educational farm founded in 2008 in West Philly. Most recently, Chelsea Thoumsin, our Customer Representative in Philly, decided she'd like for us to help support a fundraiser the farm will be hosting on September 6. The farm is a place where community is built and strengthened, where many hands make light work, and where people can connect directly with their food source. What started as a vacant lot is now host to vegetables, chickens, and cut flowers. You can learn more about this innovative and industrious farm on their website. And, if you find yourself in Philly on September 6, check out their fundraiser.

Our hope is that our knowledge of and ability to support similar groups in all of our regions will only continue to grow. If you know of any we should know about, don't hesitate to be in touch.

Til next time,
Hannah

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