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June 2007

Greetings fellow cuppers! It has been busy and exciting around the table here at the Stumptown Cupping room. We’ve welcomed several new crop coffees and are deep in the heart of Cup of Excellence auction season. The Stumptown purchased Nicaragua Las Golondrinas on the CoE auction for a record (again!) price of $47.06/lb. We bought this very clean, multidimensional, gorgeously sweet and citric coffee all by ourselves and won’t, therefore, have to share it with anyone but you. This coffee hasn’t arrived yet, so stand by. Not to mention that we still have the Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras auctions on the way.

Not only has the Honduras Finca el Puente returned with flavors of concord grape, stone fruit, sage, lavender and chocolate bunnies(!), it has a beautiful little micro-lot in tow. Finca el Puente Micro-lot #3, or simply “Matilde” is the first of a series of el Puente small (micro) lots that we will be offering over the summer and fall. Matilde received the highest of accolades at our cupping table with flavors of caramel covered red apple and champagne grapes. It’s the best of both worlds!

By now, you may have heard of the ceiling-shattering prices commanded by a certain Panama celebrity Geisha. Well, there’s no need to pine after that lady on the big screen when the Geisha-next-door is every bit as worthy of your love and attention. The Panama Don Pachi has returned and it is every bit as exotic, citric, sweet and silken as one could hope.

The past few weeks have also witnessed the triumphant return of Guatemala Finca el Injerto 100% Bourbon. This coffee consistently cups high on our lists with very creamy milk chocolate, soft, plum fruit and delicate lavender. This is my favorite french-press in the morning these days!

Also our lost CoE Brasil, Fazenda Santa Terezinha, has returned after a very long and strange trip. Silly coffee showed in America with out its papers and sat in customs until it proved not to be a terrorist. The Terezinha is now available with its full complement of bright tangerine and stone-fruit sweetness.

P.S. The #1 Colombian Cup of Excellence coffee you’ve been waiting for just arrived! It will be available soon!

“There is no such thing as specialty coffee, only special coffee producers”

I stole that quote from a good friend in Colombia, but I’ll be damned if it’s not true. After a quick pit stop at the fabled Los Sauces farm in the Sotara region of the Cauca Valley just outside of Popayan, we journeyed south to the Narino province in search of finding diamond in the rough coffees. I had been in Narino just a month prior and was completely stoked to taste the potential the region has on the cupping tables. Nothing was going to stop me from getting back and digging deeper during the peak of the harvest.

After 5 hours of winding through Andean canyons with picturesque landscapes of sheer rock and luscious green vegetation, we arrived in the town of La Union, just across the Cauca border. We were only crossing a provincial border, but it sure felt like a border town. There were buses coming from all directions, truckers carrying cargo, and street food galore in this tiny mountain town tucked away at 1600 meters in the southern Colombian Andes.

We were up early the next morning to cup through several tables of samples coming from producer associations all over northern Narino. The goal at these cuppings is to identify quality coffee and pursue the producers who are making it happen. If we find 5 very good to great coffees out of 30, I’m excited. We found about 6 or 7, so I’m pumped to hit the road!

Before we set off to Cartago de Narino we had the chance to sit down with the producer groups and discuss what we are setting out to do down there. We will pinpoint the best coffees on the cupping table and find the farmers who grew them. We’ll help them improve their technique even further and therefore improve quality and we pay them a hell of a lot more money if they can pull it off. Of course, the producers were all up in arms and wildly enthusiastic to get started. Hopefully they will stay motivated and follow through after we’re gone. Anyway, it’s off to Cartago to get down and dirty on the farms! All of the farms we visited were at 1800 meters + along the side of the Chimayoy Volcano. They were in seemingly good condition, but their processing was adequate at best. Cleaner conditions and more meticulous care are needed throughout the region, but both of those are easily remedied. They need a little bit of work when it comes to picking ripe cherries as well, but I’m hoping we solved that problem on this visit. My fingers are crossed.

I have to admit I wasn’t overly happy waking the next morning after remembering the process from the day before. But, we were moving on to bigger and better things south of La Union in San Lorenzo. After another two hours in the car we crossed into San Lorenzo and made our stops at some of the finest coffee farms I have ever seen in Colombia. A couple of the San Lorenzo farmers seemed poised to place top notch coffee in Portland. Their farms were laden with healthy Caturra, Typica and Bourbon varietals along with clean processing and superior drying apparatuses.

As always, journeying through Colombia is eye opening in both positive and negative ways. This country clearly has the potential to produce some of the finest coffees in the world. I’ve said over and over again that any coffee producer with proper altitude and varietals can produce an outstanding quality. But ya’ll already know there is no such thing as specialty coffee…

-Aleco