Hey all, I recently returned from a trip to Costa Rica to visit coffee farms, cup coffees and meet people. This trip was a life changing experience for me, where I learned not only about coffee and how it is grown and processed, but also how the farmers and the people who work at origin are just as into coffee as we are. Without them, exactly none of what we do at One Village would be possible.
My trip starts on an early Monday morning in Philadelphia, with me rushing to the airport to get to my plane before takeoff and boom: 7 hours later I land in the tropical paradise of San José, Costa Rica. Here I meet our translator and soon to be friend, Sebastian, and the director of the Coopranaranjo (a coffee coop in the Naranjo region), a man known as Jose Antonio, but you can call him Tio Vega. Next, to the hotel to eat some dinner and plan our route; we want to make sure we can get the most out of the trip. My accomplices on this trip are Jamie Schoenhut, president of Royal Coffee NY; Ryan Ludwig, manager at Blue State Coffee in Boston; and Bob Garver; owner and roaster of Wicked Joe and Bard Coffee in Portland, Maine.
Tuesday, our first full day in Costa Rica, finds us heading to the Coopranaranjo Headquarters to cup 16 microlots of fantastic coffees. We are met once again by Jose Antonio and his fantastic staff, where we enjoy a mid morning snack, or elevensies as the hobbits would call it, and are shown a short presentation about his coop. We then head off to the cupping room to cup and discuss flight after flight of coffee. During the process we choose several of the very best lots to import and start roasting back here in Souderton.
After the cupping we head out to a typical Costa Rican restaurant where I experienced my first, and definitely not last, chicharrones. The fried pork cubes which are available throughout Central America are a fantastic staple, not a day went by that I didn’t get to have at least one helping of this delectable food. After lunch we headed back to the HQ and met with the directors of the coop. Jamie presented the reason we were there: to find exceptional microlots (micro lotes) of coffee and to develop lasting relationships with the farmers and coops. After the presentation we spent time getting to know the coop members and board outside on the back porch.
Wednesday finds us heading to the other side of the mountains to a region known as Tarrazu where we are going to meet the association members of ASOPROAAA and cup some more amazing microlots. We are greeted at the headquarters by a man known only by his first name Rudy. It went a little something like, “Woody, meet Rudy, Rudy, Woody!!” We then laughed and knew that this is going to be a fun day. We once again commence the cupping ceremonies and are once again blown away by the great coffees and pick several lots to import.
After the cupping we head over to Luis’s house. Luis is the manager of one of the processing plants for ASOPROAAA. At Luis’s house we are treated to what I would call an upscale version of the local cuisine, of course including chicharrones as well as some other local foods. But mostly chicharrones. We get to tour Luis’s fantastic property and finalize our pricing with the association. After the tour we head back to ASOPROAAA headquarters where Jamie shows his presentation to the farmers and staff. We again get to share why we are there, our passion for meeting the farmers and bringing back excellent coffees, and how we are going to use them. We finally head back to the hotel after a long, fun day and get ready for visiting the farms.
Thursday comes early and we head back to the Tarrazu region. The first farm we visit is the Saga Farm which is owned by Francis Monge Campos. Francis recently purchased this lot and has only been working it for one year. The coffee we chose from this farm is a 100% bourbon varietal and is only planted on 3 hectares of the 35 he has available, the rest is caturra. He has started using organic farming principles on the farm, adding many porro shade trees and using organic fertilizers. It is mind blowing to consider that pickers must hang on to the side of steep hills and carry baskets of coffee all day long. Luckily the conditions have improved and the pay scale has increased; making it more rewarding for the hard work they do. After visiting Saga we thank Francis and head for our next visit.
The Brothers Navarro, Juan Carlos and Jose Luis, run three coffee farms. We first visited one called La Guirra (it was one of the better lots we tried at the cupping). After that we headed to El Higueron, another of their farms, and possibly the most beautiful coffee farm I have seen, stretched out in rows all along the hillside and interlaced with lemon, orange, banana, India cane and porro trees for shade and to add organic nutrients back into the soil. Our final stop with the brothers Navarro finds us at their home farm, El Llano, where we are greeted by the entire family and are invited in for a hearty lunch. While we were there we found out that this year was the first time they actually drank the coffee they produced. In years past they would just drop it off and get paid for the beans, but now, thanks to ASOPROAAA and their microlot initiatives, they are drinking what they produce and they are so happy with how good their coffee is. After the wonderful lunch and family time we head to Naranjo to visit Guapinol farm. This one is well established and has been in the family for years. We toured the grounds with Eduardo Calvo, who has been farming since he was a boy with his father and grandfather.
Thursday evening we head over to the home of one the Coopranaranjo board members for a goodbye and thank you dinner. We are treated to some amazing grass-fed beef steaks and some fantastic chorizo from the grill; as well as some of the local beverages. It was a great cap off to the week and a chance to get to know some of the farmers and coop members even better. I don’t think I will soon forget the hospitality and warmth we received, nor the friendships that have started as a result.
This trip has taught me many things; most of all it is that coffee is a precious thing that touches many lives along its path to our cups. We should never take for granted the process by which we are able to drink this amazing beverage. I highly recommend visiting a coffee farm, getting to know those who work so hard for their craft and, when we get this product, to treat it with respect knowing how hard the people have worked to make it all possible.
Well winter is here, the days are shorter and the nights are colder and we are here to help keep you warm and motivated during these times. We have just released our new quarterly coffee list and I wanted to highlight a few of the changes we have made. First of all, our wintery Nor’easter is still out and available. It is a viennese roast (lighter than French, but a bit darker than full city) of Indonesian coffees blended with just the right amount of a lighter bodied Central American coffee. It is roasty, chocolaty, and a tad on the smokey side, perfect for those cold/mild/unseasonably warm winter nights. But it won’t be around for too much longer and you won’t be seeing it again until next year, so stock up now.
We also have 6 new single origins we are quite proud of, a Rwanda Gatare Washing Station Bourbon, an organic Bali Blue Moon semi washed, and some delightful little numbers from Colombia, Ethiopia, more Ethiopia (this one’s decaf), and Honduras. The Rwanda is lighter bodied with grapefruited notes a nice snappy acidity and a creamy english walnut finish. The Bali Blue Moon is syrupy, full of warm spices and cocoa. And I’ll let you discover the others. It looks like we’ll also have a late arrival or two which I (or possibly Jacob) will be blogging more about when the time is right. Hint: think decaf thoughts.
That’s all for now so until next time, good night and good coffee.
Maybe the best part about being involved in the specialty coffee industry is working together with other passionate people and uncovering something new at seemingly every turn. Simply put, coffee has a way of teaching you things. Moreover specialty grade coffee, being particularly difficult to produce, demands constant attention and care from everyone along the chain of production. These truths became very relevant to me on my first trip to origin, visiting both Marcala and Santa Barbara in Honduras and crystallizing what I have come to love about coffee.
We have been sourcing quality high grown coffees from these areas for about as long as we’ve been roasting but the entire team has been eager to build a true “relationship” coffee line that we can be proud of. I flew into Tegucigalpa with hopes that I could get to meet some of the producers and learn more about the ways that they ensure cup quality year over year. If all went to plan, I was hoping to cup some of the best coffees Honduras had to offer and maybe begin a long-term relationship with a farmer that would grow over time.
Suffice it to say that the trip exceeded my wildest expectations. Anyone who has been to Central America can tell you how beautiful the landscape is (though I would argue that it doesn’t get much more breathtaking than the view from the coffee farms in Santa Barbara, over a mile high and framed by a picturesque lake.) But what really made the trip worthwhile was how welcoming the producers were and how willing to answer questions about their craft. Even better, they really seem to grasp the importance of their role in cup quality. Their commitment to improving every year is evident, from the pickers to the sorters to the workers at the wet and dry mills all the way to the exporter.
So much effort is put into each precious burlap sack that we can’t help but show the coffee the same respect that the producers have. I am very excited to say that in a matter of weeks we will be roasting a very special Micro Lot from Gerrado Penalba’s “Finca Las Flores”, our first true relationship coffee. We can’t wait to hear your reviews and even better, to be able to tell him how much you enjoyed his hard work when we see him again.
- Maximum size: 12 inches high, 10 inches wide
- Format: vector PDF or EPS (see more about this acronym nonsense below)
- Color: Your entire design must be printed in a single color. You may suggest an ink and shirt color with your submission.
- Deadline: 12/30/2011
So what are we looking for in a shirt? Just show us what One Village means to you. Good coffee. Local connections. Global community. Whatever you love about us. Beyond that, we tend to like submissions that somehow incorporate something that traces back to our company (our name, our website, a sketch of Woody’s face), but don’t worry too much about it. If we really love your design, but we just want to add something to it about our company, we’ll be in touch with you about that.
Apart from fame beyond belief and superhuman strength, the winner will receive every single one of the following:
- Your winning design printed upon a wonderfully soft T shirt! We’ll send you one.
- Your shirt will also be available for sale at our online store.
- A 3 month supply of our coffee. That’s 4 12oz. bags of your choice of coffee every single month. And a brand new One Village Coffee mug to drink it in. Yeah. Over $200 worth of liquid awesomeness. Boom goes the dynamite.
Ready to submit? Let’s do this.
- Email your submission as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day on December 30, 2011.
- In your email, include your name and a color suggestion for both the ink and the shirt fabric.
- You’re welcome to include a phone number or different email address if you’d prefer that we contact you that way.
Got a ton of great ideas? No problem, multiple submissions are totally allowed. Please just submit them each in a separate email. If you have any questions at all about the contest, the rules, your design, or life in general, please send those over to email@example.com and we’d love to answer them or let you know if anything’s up with your design before you submit it.
Oh, and about that EPS/PDF stuff. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, it means your design must be a certain format called a vector graphic, rather than a regular image. Basically, a vector is made out of shapes, lines, and colors so that it can be resized to any size, while a regular bitmap image has a specific size. In general, if you’re using a program like Photoshop, GIMP, or Microsoft Paint you’re probably not creating a vector image and we won’t be able to print it and it will be very sad. There are a few programs that are great for creating vector images. Some good ones are Inkscape (totally free) and Adobe Illustrator (totally not free). But we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about any of that or double check anything you’re working on. Just shoot your question and/or attached work in progress to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you ASAP to let you know what’s up.
Note: It’s not just a caffeine high. That date did actually change from what it used to be. We pushed back the deadline due to some site issues that prevented many people from reading this here blog post. So you should now have plenty of time to start over after that horrible coffee spill incident involving your winning design sketch.
Those of you who didn’t think the idea of pairing coffee and cheese together was a particularly good one obviously missed the highly anticipated event with our good friends (Rebecca, Lisa and Kirk) at Wedge and Fig in Old City last week.
Woody and Rob prepared 3 unique and special coffees (our micro-lot Costa Rica, natural-processed Bali and Nordico Espresso) in 3 different brewing methods (Chemex, French press, and espresso) and paired them with 3 very flavorful and nuanced cheeses and desserts.
The results were dramatic. Not, “Oh God what if Shelley wears the same dress as me to the semi-formal? I’ll just die!” dramatic. But “I had no idea these two things I love so much could complement each other so well!” dramatic. Which, happily, is the type of drama we prefer at OVC; the kind we take part in all the time.
In fact, it was such a hit that there’s already talk of a repeat performance on the horizon. We’ll expect to see you at the next one. Just don’t be mad if we’re wearing the same outfit as you. Shelley told us you wouldn’t mind.