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Hello again!

So, Kim and I just returned from a week in Northern Peru with Cenfrocafe, our cooperative partners who bring us Valle de Santuario and La Frontera coffees. Though this visit included the usual community meetings and talks with agronomists and cooperative leadership, we were also there for a unique reason – celebrating the cooperative's 13th anniversary! So, the end of the week found us inaugurating a new storage center for the cooperative's coffee and dancing to some live cumbia music.

The nerd in me was overjoyed to see a work flow chart (pictured above) on the wall of the community center when we arrived for the meeting earlier in the week.

As you can faintly make out, taped below the plan they also have a printed biography of Valle del Santuario and a letter Kim sent in 2008 telling them what we particularly appreciated about their coffee. The subtitles on the chart read: type of work, what needs to be done, what is the goal, by when, with whom, and how much will it cost?" Topics of interest included maintaining quality coffee, strengthening the primary cooperative, and making home repairs for quality of life improvements.

It appears that it is, at least in part, organization and inspiration like this – naming the needs and making a work plan – that fuels the staying power of the cooperative. We were overjoyed to join in their celebration, and hope you'll enjoy some more notes about this trip.

Abrazos,
Hannah
Good works, good cheer, and great coffee. Our 2012 Holiday Blend!
Each year at holiday time, we create a special, limited-edition coffee dedicated to celebration and good cheer, made especially for holiday mornings and special occasions. We then donate a dollar per pound sold to a special charitable project in the place the coffee was grown, completing the cycle of good works, good cheer, and great coffee. This year, we're using coffees crafted especially for us in Southern Ethiopia and dedicating proceeds to educational projects there.
 
The blend for 2012 honors Ethiopia's coffee history and diversity of flavors, as well as the third year of our relationship with the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmer Cooperative Union (YCFCU) in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia, by featuring coffee from multiple member communities from within this large co-op.
 
Donations from our 2012 Holiday Blend will fund a two-day workshop for agronomists, technicians, washing station managers, and growers from YCFCU – and other cooperatives in the region – on organic compost and good agricultural practices, as well as supporting a pilot worm compost project in one of the member communities that can be replicated in others.
 
Saludos,
Kim Elena
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

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