As the year comes to a close, we want to look back at the highlights that made 2011 great! 2011 brought much success in our sourcing efforts, and we were able to get our hands on many Award Winning coffees. Whether it be the Best of Panama, Cup of Excellence, or even something from the States, we have had a little bit of everything this year.
GUATEMALA FINCA EL VALLE
As we look back, one coffee stands out for the relationship we were able to develop, and the story behind the coffee. We introduced Finca El Valle early this year, a farm in Guatemala. Finca El Valle is a family farm Cristina Gonzalez inherited from her grandmother. She is continuing the tradition handed down from past generations. One thing that was apparent when we visited the farm, was their initiatives involving social and environmental responsibility. Walking around the farm, they have signs showing the diverse species living in the forests surrounding the area. It seems as if they have an intimate relationship with the environment. They reuse the pulped cherries, and make compost to fertilize and replant. The water from the wet mill is also reused, and functions as an organic fertilizer.
In addition to their initiatives and the environmental responsibility of her family, they have a philosophy that places a high value on relationships.
“I feel that it could be very simple for us: I send you coffee, you send me money, and the story ends. But the fact that I know your family is very beautiful, because that is more than business, it is affection. And that is more important. The money is indispensable, but the relationship is priceless.” – Cristina Gonzalez
We couldn’t agree more, and Finca El Valle is now our newest Direct Trade partner! We are proud to be working with Cristina and are looking forward to visiting her and her family in the years to come.
BEST OF PANAMA
We were very excited to have four offerings from the 2011 Specialty Coffee Association of Panama – Best of Panama Competition this year. Finca La Valentina took first place in the competition. We were in attendance when Benjamin Osorio accepted the award. We introduced ourselves, and were able to meet later that week and talk coffee. The Aristar Agrario is the first coffee, of what we hope will be a long relationship with the Osorio Brothers.
Hacienda La Esmeralda took second place in the competition this year. Yet again their coffee went to auction for what would be another successful and extremely competitive auction. We were able to land our hands on the Hacienda La Esmeralda Montaña lot. This was the first year the Montaña lot was available, and it represents the highest grown micro-lot at Hacienda La Esmeralda.
We also had a small amount of Don Pachi Geisha Natural. Unfortunately, we only had this coffee available for about two weeks! It was the first place winner of the Natural division in Panama.
With all this talk about Geisha, it is hard to remember that there are other great coffees in Panama. Panama Kotowa Don K, Micro-lot Reserve, is located in the Boquete region, that produces some of the most sought after coffees. Kotowa Don K took fifth place in the Best of Panama competition, and represents the highest ranking, non-geisha varietal, in all of Panama.
FINCA EL SOCORRO
Juan Diego de la Cerda and his family, have proven to be one of the best coffee farms in Guatemala. In 2011, their Maracaturra variety won 1st place in the Guatemala Cup of Excellence Competition. Unfortunately, we only had a limited amount of the Maracaturra micro-lot. A separate lot on their farm, was the Bourbon. We took this coffee, and found a good roast profile that made it ideal for use as a Single Origin Espresso. Finca El Socorro Bourbon Espresso is one of the most balanced Single Origin Espresso’s we have ever encountered.
It is no secret that we have been working closely with farms in El Salvador. We have very close relationships with three farms there, and this year they all produced another great harvest.
Finca Los Planes took 6th place in the El Salvador Cup of Excellence competition with their Lote la Lagunita micro-lot. This micro-lot has shown steady improvement over the past couple of years. Their Pacamara variety is one of our personal favorites which produces a creamy and juicy cup with hints of brown sugar and caramel.
Finca Las Mercedes had a particularly good year as they have benefited from extraordinary weather patterns that have helped the crop obtain an exceptional quality. The El Pepinal 1 is also one of our personal favorites. This is the second year that Finca Las Mercedes has produced a special lot, or we should say 3 lots, for us, that we have blended to create the Don Roberto Seasonal Espresso blend. The blend consists of two honey and one washed processed coffee from different lots on their farm.
Finca El Molino and Jose Antonio Salaveria produced another great crop of Orange Bourbon this year. Las Ranas Estate, also operated by Jose Antonio, generously donated the first 150 lbs of Bourbon to help kick start a joint effort between the Prodigy Youth Soccer Association and PT’s Coffee for a scholarship fund for Topeka area youth. Flor Del Sol was created in honor of our former Barista and friend, Jonathan Kaspar. We will be donating $1, for every 8 oz. bag sold, directly to this association in support of youth soccer in our community. We hope to raise $1500 in this effort for the PYSA.
FLYING MONKEY CAFE OPENS
Flying Monkey has been a work in progress all year, and finally opened its doors in November. The Flying Monkey is an eclectic cafe featuring a diverse menu with Direct Trade coffee and espresso. Chef Jamie, has created a unique food menu, with a variety of Soups, Salads, Sandwiches, Quiche, and Baked Goods. We are also serving a variety of micro-brewed beers, including options from the Blind Tiger, here in Topeka, Kansas.
Local Artists display their collections in the cafe, providing a fun ambiance and atmosphere to just kick back, relax, and enjoy a great cup of coffee with a friend.
In August of 2010, a mammoth arrived at our loading dock. This wasn’t a prehistoric beast, however, it was our newest coffee roaster. The Gothot is a 90 kilo roaster! This is perfect for our espresso, and other coffees that are roasted in large batches. After a team of mechanical engineers coordinated the installation, it was finally set to roast in February of 2011. The Gothot is unique in many ways, and one is the fact that it utilizes a roasting software, to ensure consistent results. The roast profiles are 100% customized by our head Coffee Roaster, Adam Ross. The software on the Gothot is not fool proof though, and Adam has to monitor every aspect of the roast to ensure we are getting the results we set out for. Our other two roasters, the Diedrich IR-12 and Diedrich IR-24, are still used everyday, for those smaller micro-lots. Roasting coffee is an art form and science. Our roasters have to monitor everything during the roasting process on the Diedrichs, and they are operated by brain power, ingenuity, and experience, and not by computer software.
One of the newest additions to the PT’s Team, is Maritza Taylor. Maritza and Jeff met at origin, and were married in 2010. Brazil Doce Boda is in part a celebration of our trip to the farm that followed Jeff and Maritza’s wedding in August of 2010. After a long wait, Maritza and Jeff could finally be together in the United States. Maritza is the head of our quality control, and brings a multitude of expertise and experience from her past career in coffee in Colombia. She is constantly monitoring our coffee profiles, and evaluating every roast for consistency and quality. She is also in charge of roast development, and before we release any coffee, she is testing roast temperature, time, and taste. Maritza has proven to be an invaluable member of our team, and will be helping Jeff source coffees at Origin in 2012.
Needless to say, 2011 was packed full of memorable events. It isn’t until the end of the year, when we look back and reflect on all of the great accomplishments we had. A few coffees that weren’t mentioned above were great surprises this year. We had a small micro-lot of Rusty’s Hawaiian in July, and sold out of it the same week we got it. Although it was disappointing, only having it for a week, it is the kind of coffee we dream about, and are looking forward to their next Harvest Season. Finca Kilimanjaro was also a pleasant and short lived surprise this year, extremely well balanced with a nice juicy sweetness.
2012 will bring more surprises. A few things to look forward to are the 2012 harvests from our Direct Trade partners. Many people have been asking about Panama Elida Natural, and it will be coming back! We are getting to the point where some of our Central American coffees will start running low on inventory in the next few months. We typically see the arrival of those Harvests between April and August.
A new Colombian coffee is coming soon. Pending its arrival and approval, we have sourced a great coffee from the Nariño Department of Colombia, high in the Andean Mountains. This new coffee will be a Direct Trade partner, and we will keep you posted on the full story in the next couple of weeks!
Happy New Year, and may 2012 be the best one yet!