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Don Fernando Lima at Finca Santa Elena in Santa Ana, El Salvador.
Every year, we have worked increasingly well with Don Fernando Lima – owner of Finca Santa Elena in Santa Ana, El Salvador – to keep perfecting his coffee. This year, he built an impressive area for raised bed drying based on some feedback from us and even implemented fermentation and processing techniques that we had seen used successfully at other farms. One lot using these techniques placed 5th in the El Salvador Cup of Excellence this year. We are super-proud of Don Fernando and Finca Santa Elena this year, and think it is the best coffee the farm has output for us yet: an extraordinary Bourbon variety coffee with notes of pear, nougat, and orange.
 
Banko Gotiti happened to be shipped to our cupping lab by an exporter working in Ethiopia. We have never been to the farm and don't know the producers, but we know through taste alone that some great things are happening here, and we are looking forward to learning more about the area and producers around Banko Gotiti. It is likely you will see a few more coffees from this tiny village offered from Counter Culture this year. This particular lot of coffee comes from a private washing station focused on quality and offers notes of honeysuckle, lemonade, and raspberry-peach that simply wowed us.
 
Thanks,
Nathan
 
POSTED IN: coffee
Growers in Ethiopia at our compost workshop in March 2013.At the end of March, coffee buyers Kim Elena Ionescu and Tim Hill traveled together – which they almost never get to do; with so much Coffee Department travel, they usually travel separately – to Ethiopia for a compost workshop funded by our $1-per-pound allocation from our 2012 Holiday Blend and attended by 30 farmers from Haru, Idido, and Biloya.

"I was really excited about this trip!" acknowledged Kim Elena. "I was also really nervous, however, because I had committed Counter Culture to hosting a workshop in a place I had never been, in a language I didn't speak, on a subject outside my area of expertise."

Read Kim Elena's full trip report on Flickr offering annotated photos offer an overview of the two-day workshop, as well as a few glimpses into the activities at these cooperatives this time of year.

The Ndaroini Cooperative in Nyeri embodies the very definition of a great Kenyan coffee.
In Kenya, great geographical conditions – bright-red, iron-rich soil and high altitudes – combine with excellent processing techniques to produce some of the most sought-after coffee in the quality-coffee world.
 
One of the most famous co-ops in all of Kenya, the Ndaroini Cooperative in Nyeri has long been a Counter Culture favorite. Over the years, Ndaroini and its sibling cooperatives built systems to ensure excellent cherry selection and processing that help to make their coffees among the best of the best.
 
Ndaroini refines the classic Kenyan flavor profile and embodies the very definition of a great Kenyan coffee. Look for lime, blackcurrant, and blackberry above a round, juicy body, with hints of sweet savoriness.
 
Thanks,
Nathan
 
POSTED IN: coffee
Hannah with Calixto, the go-to guy for receiving coffee and quality control with Triunfo Verde co-op in Guatemala, weighing coffee for cupping.Coffee Buyer's Agent Hannah Popish was in Mexico and Guatemala at the end of March and filed a trip report from her visit with three separate cooperatives – one in Mexico from which we do not currently purchase coffee and two in Guatemala that are active partners.
 
Hannah reported on efforts to address "leaf rust," the implementation of Seeds projects, and some of the goals that the cooperatives are working toward to improve the coffee and quality of life of their members.
 
 
Thanks,
Nathan
 
Marysabel Caballero from Finca El Puente in Marcala, Honduras.
Spring has sprung here in Durham, NC, and, along with favorite seasonal vegetables – like the crazy amount of arugula in my little garden – it's exciting for northern hemisphere favorites Finca El Puente and Finca Nueva Armenia to return, as much because they are remarkable coffees unto themselves, but also because of the months of richly diverse offerings that will inevitably follow.
 
When visiting Finca Nueva Armenia in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, the Recinos brothers, Jorge and Javier, are effusive about the baby coffee trees funded in part by our 2009 Holiday Blend project – for which $1 per pound was donated to a reforestation project on their farm and in the surrounding area, watch a short video of the nursery in action at the time of its inception. As ever, their coffee is fantastic: clean, clear notes of green apple, grape, and almond above a crisp acidity and juicy body.
 
Marysabel and her husband, Moíses Herrera, continue the refinement of their exploration of varieties at Finca El Puente in Marcala, Honduras, making improvements at the mill, and so on. Their main lot from Finca El Puente offers lighter purple-lavender and plum notes, black cherry, sugar cane sweetness and toast nut in the finish. And, of course, we're eager for the future, when the building momentum of their variety exploration yields new and different microlots, as well.
 
So, please join us in welcoming fresh harvests of these two familiar favorites, and, happy spring!
 
Sincerely,
Nathan
 
POSTED IN: coffee
Brewers Cup Champ Erin McCarthy (right) with second-place finisher Jonathan Bonchak!
Congratulations to 2013 US Brewers Cup Champ Erin McCarthy! One of our Team NYC techs, when he's not brewing award-winning coffee, Erin (on right in photo) helps to make sure that our wholesale customers have well-tuned gear to make great coffee for their customers. Erin was a finalist at the Northeast Regional Brewers Cup Competition earlier this year and took top honors in Boston this weekend with an incredible Gesha variety coffee from Hacienda Esmeralda in Panama.
 
Southeast Regional Brewers Cup Champ (and SE regional sales rep for Counter Culture) Jonathan Bonchak was the second-place Brewers Cup finisher with a meticulous preparation of fresh crop Haru from Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia. And, Everyman Espresso's Sam Lewontin placed fourth in the US Barista Championship with an engaging presentation.
 
Huge congrats to all of these guys for their hard work, along with many other inspiring coffee professionals making us proud with our coffee in Boston this weekend.
 
Big thanks to everyone who pitched in to make the national coffee competitions such a great showcase for talented and dedicated coffee people. Thanks as well to all of the hard-working staff and volunteers from Counter Culture and our Boston-area wholesale partners – special shout-out to Counter Culture DC's Alex Brown and Durham's Matt Souza! And, we'd like to once again thank Prima Coffee Equipment, La Marzocco, and Sprudge for co-hosting (and deejaying) a really kind-of-crazy party at our Boston Training Center.
 
Sincerely,
Nathan
 
POSTED IN: regional events
Takele Mammo, manager of Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union.
A week remains before our organic composting workshop in Ethiopia! What workshop? You know, the one that we're sponsoring with the $1-per-pound donation from our Holiday Blend sales! You had forgotten? Well, I suppose I can't blame you, because a lot has happened since the holidays!
 
Find out how your support of our Holiday Blend Program is helping to bring organic agriculture into action with this workshop in Yirgacheffe.
 
Thanks,
Kim Elena
 
POSTED IN: organic
Takele Mammo, manager of Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union.
A week remains before our organic composting workshop in Ethiopia! What workshop? You know, the one that we're sponsoring with the $1-per-pound donation from our Holiday Blend sales! You had forgotten? Well, I suppose I can't blame you, because a lot has happened since the holidays!
 
Every year we create a unique product for the winter holidays and choose an environmental or social cause to benefit from the sales of that coffee, which we refer to as the Holiday Blend even when it's not a blend – more on that in a second. Historically, we have sought to link the cause to one of the coffees in the blend. For the past two years, that blend has consisted of coffees from a single cooperative, the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmer Cooperative Union, based in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia.
 
Nine thousand dollars raised by our 2011 seasonal promotion went to support the building of a school in Idido, which is a small village on the outskirts of the somewhat-less-small town of Yirgacheffe – and the provenance of two of our favorite coffees, Idido washed and Idido sundried natural.
 
In anticipation of the 2012 holiday season, we decided to feature YCFCU's coffee for a second year and identified supporting organic agriculture as the cause we wanted to advance. The focus on teaching organic composting to coffee growers and co-op managers grew out of conversations with YCFCU's general manager, Takele Mammo, who expressed great enthusiasm for Counter Culture's (then-newly–installed) worm composting bins when he visited our operations in April and mentioned that the Ethiopian government had been encouraging co-ops to put more resources toward making compost. We had just launched our first advocacy campaign, Save Our Soil, to raise awareness about the benefits of organic agriculture, and it felt like the stars were aligning for a collaboration around environmental health and soil building through compost with one of our most important producer partners.
 
The Haru washing station near Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia.
With all of that context in mind, I'm excited to tell you a little bit about what we're planning. March 28-30, between 30 and 40 members and managers of YCFCU will assemble at a hotel in Yirgacheffe to listen to lectures on the philosophy and benefits of organic agriculture, share their experiences, and participate in hands-on training on composting led by a local expert. Attendees will include managers of co-op mills like Idido, Haru, and Biloya – our coffees are so called after the mills where growers bring their coffee for processing in towns of those names – as well as coffee growers, with a particular focus on members of the Haru cooperative. In discussions with the umbrella co-op, YCFCU, we agreed that Counter Culture has a firmer partnership with Haru than with any of the other farmer groups and that focusing on them would deepen the impact of the information.
 
As we developed this program, I thought often of the success of La Serie Profesional: Organic Agriculture and Quality Experimentation, the event that we hosted for all of our Central American suppliers in the summer of 2011 in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras. That event was definitely part of the inspiration for this one, but a key difference in Ethiopia will be the level of knowledge brought to the topic. Instead of relying on Coffee Buyer & Quality Manager Tim Hill and me to create, deliver, and translate all of the material as we did in Honduras, this time we have hired professionals to speak on conditions particular to Yirgacheffe, conduct the training with materials in Amharic as well as English, and lay the groundwork for a compost operation at Haru.
 
It is exciting to be working as a part of what feels like a direct collaboration between customers who so faithfully supported the Holiday Blend and one of our strongest producer partners, YCFCU, to address an issue that we all recognize as crucial to coffee and quality despite the fact that we aren't compost experts ourselves. Tim and I will be attending the workshop, but I imagine we have as much to learn as any of the growers, if not more!
 
Thanks,
Kim Elena
 
POSTED IN: organic, sustainability

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