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Preparing coffee seedlings in Ecuador.
In early 2008, as I compiled data for Counter Culture's first Sustainability Scorecard, I remember wondering whether the information would be interesting to anyone besides me. Some of the metrics in that first report, like the percentage of certified organic coffee we purchase, have continued to grow in relevance, whereas other metrics, like the percentage of delivery fuel replaced by biodiesel, have become obsolete.
 
In spite of metrics that have not stood the test of time, the act of measuring our progress and reporting on it publicly has become more and more integral to who we are as a company and how we define sustainability. We have eliminated a few categories from the Scorecard over the years – in some cases because we have refocused our energy away from an area, and, in others, because we have achieved our target of 100 percent enough times to make continued reporting moot – but for the most part we have added to the Scorecard as we have formalized goals and grown our partnerships and projects.
 
Five years later, I hope that our Sustainability Scorecard has proven to be interesting, and I look forward to its continuing evolution as we learn, focus and grow.
 
Saludos,
Kim Elena
Preparing coffee seedlings in Ecuador.
This was Kim's second trip to Ecuador, and my first visit to the cooperative that brings us the coffee El Gavilán. After arriving in balmy, coastal Guayaquil on a Monday, we made the trek to the cool and mountainous Loja in the south. With Loja as our home base, we then visited producer communities in Quilanga and Palanda.
 
On this visit, we had the opportunity to spend time with two farmer cooperatives that our partner Fapecafes (the exporting cooperative) supports – Procafeq and Apecap. I also had the chance to travel for a second time with the incredibly knowledgeable Alejandro Cadena who works for our export partner Virmax. Together we visited farms, attended a cooperative meeting, spent some time in Fapecafes' main cupping lab, and spent a day cupping with Apecap's cuppers to calibrate on 37 coffees for an internal competition celebrating the co-ops farmers.
 
Last year, we offered El Gavilán for the first time, and were pleased with their high yields and high cup quality. This harvest year was a tough one for Fapecafes for multiple reasons. Coffee plants were particularly hard hit by the rust disease, or "roya," that became so prevalent in Colombia in years past. This upset led to reduced yields, impacted cup quality, and decreased prices – all challenging news for farmers.
 
However, after a week with their members we feel confident that, because of their level of organization and initiative, there will be more good years to come. In the photo included above, Elfredín's family in Palanda is preparing bags for coffee seedlings – an apt metaphor for our growing relationship with Fapecafes in Ecuador.
 
We hope you enjoy these photos and stories!
 
Un abrazo,
Hannah
Coffee Buyer's Agent
This Single-Origin Espresso from the Thiriku Cooperative in Nyeri, Kenya, makes for a deliciously sweet, tart ristretto.
Like most of the producers in Nyeri, Kenya, the producers of the Thiriku Farmers Cooperative are very small, averaging only a few hundred coffee trees on their land. Alongside coffee, producer grow other food crops that are primarily used to feed their families. Over the 3 past years, we bought coffee from Thiriku through the Kenyan auction system and through Kenya's "second window" market, which allows producers to sell outside the auction.
 
This year, our coffee from Thiriku was bought outside the auction, as was all of our coffee from Kenya. And, we were also able to establish a better dialogue with the cooperative chair, Erastus Mathenge, and the cooperative set aside specific lots for Counter Culture from what they felt was their best.
 
In this single-origin espresso from Thiriku, chocolate, cherry, and pomegranate combine for a sweet and tart ristretto with a pleasant cherry-cola finish.
 
Thanks,
Nathan
POSTED IN: coffee
ur Counter Culture Direct Trade Certified Transparency Report aims to give a succinct summary of our financial and personal relationships with our producer-partners.
Today we are proud to present you with our third annual Counter Culture Direct Trade Certification Transparency Report. Each year it continues to be more important for us to communicate, both with our partners in origin countries and with our partners stateside. In this report you will find details about our financial and personal relationships with coffee producers in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
 
This year we welcome back some old certified friends, and we initiate some newer relationships. In total, we have nine relationships that we consider hallmarks of transparency, communication, and quality. 2011 was a year filled with experiments and continued commitments on both the sourcing and producer side.
 
We hope you will join us in celebrating this unique way in which we continue to live our mission – bridging quality, sustainability, and knowledge sharing throughout the coffee supply chain.
 
Saludos,
Hannah
Our new Work In Progress Series debuts with our Fruit Bombs and Fermentation Tour!
Our Fruit Bombs & Fermenation Tour wrapped up last night in Durham with Samuel Penkacik's name drawn from all raffle entrants as the winner of the "Fruit Bombs & Fermentation" custom-edition La Marzocco GS/3. Congrats, Sam! And, huge thanks to La Marzocco for cosponsoring the tour and donating the GS/3!
 
Our "Work in Progress" series kicked off Monday, September 17, at our Boston Training Center with the inaugural tour, titled "Fruit Bombs & Fermentation." The twice-yearly Work in Progress series will be a showcase for ongoing projects and collaborations by our incredible staff – with diverse talents and interests – and our peers in the coffee industry.
 
"Fruit Bombs & Fermentation" focused on Coffee Buyer Tim Hill's experimentation with coffee processing in Ethiopia and New York Coffee Trainer and 2012 United States Barista Champion Katie Carguilo's fermentation-inspired, USBC-winning presentation from 2012. Attendees tasted exotic and experimental Ethiopian coffees along with Katie's awarding-winning signature beverage.
 
Thanks to everyone who attended each stop on the tour!
 
Sincerely,
Nathan
POSTED IN: regional events
Our carbon nuetrality off-sets in action. Photo by Trees, Water, and People.
After a fascinating and surprising first foray into carbon-footprint measurement at the end of 2009 – a project to track the carbon footprint of Finca Mauritania's coffee from seed to cup – Counter Culture decided to commit wholeheartedly to carbon neutrality for the company. We set a target date of 2015 because, to tell the truth, we weren't entirely sure what we were signing ourselves up to do.
 
In a serendipitous turn of events, we were able to reach our five-year goal in only two years and achieved carbon neutrality at the end of 2011 by offsetting our 576-tonne greenhouse gas footprint through tree-planting and fuel-efficient stove construction in Central America.
 
We arrived at that 576-tonnes-of-greenhouse-gas figure with the help of Vancouver-based Climate Smart, a foot printing organization that takes a unique approach to auditing by empowering businesses to measure themselves.
 
Having established a baseline, we turned our attention to potential areas of reduction. We started reaching out to providers of offsets and reconnected with Trees, Water, and People (TWP), which manages offset projects ranging from tree-planting and stove construction in Central America and Haiti to wind power in the American west. They distinguished themselves from other offset providers by offering to implement a project building fuel-efficient stoves with Organic Coffee of Marcala, S.A. de C.V. (COMSA), a cooperative that Counter Culture works with in Marcala, Honduras. After enthusiastic planning with TWP, AHDESA – a development organization in Honduras – and COMSA, the team built and installed 86 clean cookstoves in 2 weeks, impacting a total of 626 family members! We are grateful for this successful partnership!
 
-Hannah and Kim
POSTED IN: sustainability
Welcome back Los Cipreses from Marcala, Honduras.
Our commitment to organic agriculture has gotten stronger every year. We're working toward only buying organic coffees, and, in 2010, we were at 77 percent – data for 2011 should be ready very soon. We also recently launched the Save Our Soil campaign to encourage people to become advocates for organic agriculture. So, it is with particular enthusiasm that we welcome back Los Cipreses, which, in addition to being organic, is also in incredibly delicious coffee.
 
In the five years we've worked with Marysabel Caballero and Moises Herrera in Marcala, Honduras, for all of the experiments and the successes we have experienced together, one obstacle has remained: their farm, Dulce Nombre de Jesús (better known as Finca El Puente), is not certified organic. Strong encouragement for organic certification has become a regular feature of our conversations with them.
 
So, we were more than just a little surprised when they told us that they had been managing the highest area of their farm – a parcel called Los Cipreses after the cypress trees that grow on that portion of the farm – organically for the previous three years. Thankfully, an organic coffee cooperative in Marcala made it possible for the pieces to fall into place for Counter Culture to purchase the first-ever certified organic coffee from Dulce Nombre de Jesús last year. And, we're excited to offer it again this year.
 
Los Cipreses offers vibrant flavors of citrus and peach perfectly balanced by a juicy body. This is clean, sweet Latin American coffee at its best.
 
Thanks,
Nathan
POSTED IN: coffee
Boston and Philly Training Center planning materials.
We're thrilled to announce the opening of new training centers next month in Boston and Philadelphia. The two new regional training centers extend our network of spaces dedicated to cutting-edge coffee education curriculum, wholesale customer support, and hands-on training for coffee and food professionals, as well as home coffee enthusiasts.
 
"Philadelphia and Boston are amazing cities with incredible coffee communities, and we are proud to be a part of each," notes company President and co-founder Brett Smith. "We look forward to sharing what we know and learn about coffee with the many talented folks who live and work there."
 
In welcoming local communities to these new outposts, each new Training Center will host a a Saturday open house in September.
 
The Philadelphia Training Center – located at 2149 unit B Catherine Street in Philadelphia – Open House will be held on Saturday, September 8, from noon to 4 p.m. RSVP via Facebook.
 
The Boston Training Center – located at 374 Somerville Avenue, in Somerville, MA – Open House will be held on Saturday, September 15, from noon to 4 p.m. RSVP via Facebook.
 
Look for additional details coming soon via Facebook and sign up to get emails about Boston or Philadelphia via our newsletter.
 
Sincerely,
Nathan

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