August 2007

Finca El Injerto 100% bourbon is hitting on all cylinders again. It brings its lunch pail and hard hat to work everyday and continues to impress us with its yeoman-like work ethic. El Injerto bourbon is a beautiful, versatile coffee. This year, we’ve made two additions to our lineup from Finca El Injerto. The maragogype is an electrically bright and floral coffee that has blown Stumptown employee mind after mind with its intense and complex nature. The Pacamara is a toned down hybrid version whose orange, apricot and heavy chocolate flavors mesh seamlessly with each other to form a perfectly balanced cup of coffee. I suppose it’s the Voltron of coffees.

We’re sure many of you folks lustfully remember our Wild Forest Limu coffee of last year. Guess what? It’s back and equally as stunning. Well, stunning if you’re into strawberry lemonade, plums, milk chocolate and hibiscus tea. My apologies if I’m getting ahead of myself again. Look for this coffee under its new name, Tega & Tula. We’ve done our homework this year and traced this coffee back to two plantations in Bonga, home to the original wild coffee forests of the Kaffa Kingdom, where it’s produced.

Last of all, the cleanest, sweetest and most complete of Nicaraguan coffees- Los Delirios is back this summer, and he brought friends. This group of five isn’t raucous and rowdy but a rather laid back and easy going group. The sweetness and balance of the Los Delirios has made it my staple morning press pot coffee this summer. Check out our rotation of 5 Nicaraguan micro-lots through our cafes and website from now until the rest of the year, assuming there’s still some left!

After the airline debacles in Malawi and Kenya we were equally as equally excited not see another airport for a week as were to cup through the 30+ washing stations samples we had waiting for us.

It’s a constant struggle to find the right people to work with in supply chain. Sometimes it just feels right. Burundi is one of those cases. From the cuppers at the coffee board to the exporter to importer everything has just felt right since our initial visit in April.

Our exporter partner had 31 samples lined up for us to cup upon arrival to Bujumbura. Of course we couldn’t take our grand old time with it either as we had to be in Butare, Rwanda that evening in order to be on time for the Rwanda Golden Cup cupping competition that opened the following morning.

We made it through the first table of 10 coffees. Even though a couple of coffees were decent, there wasn’t anything worth purchasing yet. As the QC manager for the coffee board finished grinding the 2nd table’s samples, I began to stick my nose in the cups to smell the fragrance of the coffees. BINGO! Sweet citrus and floral notes had me wide-awake from the prior table’s daze. I’m completely entrenched in thought as to how that coffee is actually going taste when I’m struck with very similar sweet citrus and floral notes again. This is why I suffered through the tumultuous travel torture! I was about to cup two diamonds in the rough and bring home something great for the Stumptown.

Not only did these coffees hold their own with grace through the cupping process, it turns out that they come from processing stations right next to each other, in Northern Burundi. This is exactly the sign we’re looking for. Not only are the varietals superior in Burundi, with abundant plantings of SL28 and Bourbon, but the terroir of this region seems to be particularly special. Look for a little taste of two wonderful Burundian coffees this winter and whole lot more of them for years to come!

After a quick lunch with the Burundian ex-Prime Minister, and exporters, we jumped in our rig and made our journey across the border to Butare for the 1st ever Rwandan Golden Cup cupping competition!


The Warm Heart of Africa?

It seemed like it was just the other day that I had boarded my flight in Lilongwe, making my 40-hour journey home to Portland four months ago. It was only this past April that we traveled north to Mzuzu from the capital city of Malawi in search of the much sought after geisha varietal. Now I’m making the trek again, the Stumptown’s third Malawi visit in 12 months. It’s not an easy one, to be honest, considering Malawi is just about as far south as a coffee buyer can get in East Africa. After the 2.5-hour flight from Nairobi it’s another 5 hours by car to Mzuzu. One can only hope that there is gold at the other end of the coffee rainbow.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. We were anxiously awaiting the 24 geisha samples our friends from the small holder’s association had prepared for us. After a restless night’s sleep, we made our way over to the cupping lab eager to dip our spoons into something lovely. Even though the samples were under-roasted, we saw everything we needed to. The geisha quality was just not there. This is the other side of the coin when it comes to purchasing quality coffee and something we always need to be prepared for. Sorry to say it folks, but this will be another year without Malawian coffee.

We awoke the next morning, slightly disappointed with what had transpired on the cupping table a day earlier, but looking forward to Burundi. So we hopped in the car and sped off to Lilongwe to catch our afternoon flight. Our friends from Mzuzu decided to take the scenic route, along Lake Malawi and it was truly a sight for sore eyes. Lake Malawi, 365 miles long by 52 miles wide, essentially mimics the shape of the country itself and provides a border between Tanzania and Mozambique. The water is blue and full of the kind of swell meant for body surfing. Tempted as we were to pull over and throw on our bathing suits, we continued down the dusty road committed to catching our flight. Or so we thought.

Check in went rather smoothly, a little too smoothly to be honest. We were up in the bar drinking Kuche Kuche, no that’s Malawian beer folks, within 20 minutes of arriving at the airport. After an hour we headed to the gate to await boarding. A few moments later we were informed that our flight was late leaving Johannesburg and that we’d be an hour late leaving Lilongwe. That’s no big deal. If you’re not prepared for flight delays in Africa you just shouldn’t come. So, two hours later, the flight shows and we’re ready to board. As the flight attendants begin their safety routine we notice a blast of what looked like steam, or smoke, come from the front of the cabin, followed by the first class passengers sprinting towards the back of the plane. Nope, no terrorists aboard this Air Malawi flight, just a loose pin in the cabin door pressure system. After a quick search of the tarmac using cell phones as flashlights, the attendants couldn’t come up with the missing pin. We’re spending the night in Lilongwe!

I could continue boring y’all with the drama to follow at the airport the following morning as well as the next two days in Kenya when we found out that the Air Malawi Manager didn’t actually re-book our flight to Burundi, but I won’t. It’s off to Burundi and in the quickest way…


I’m back in Africa and its energizing! Although it was nice to recalibrate with my quality crew in Portland and “settle in” for a little while, it has become quite clear to me that my home is on the road. I feel stronger, more confident while on the move directing our operations at source.

Kenya is the first stop on a five country East Africa tour. You folks have become used to our top lot offerings year after year and we remain committed to bringing you nothing short of the finest quality Kenyan coffees. We’re going to take a slightly different route from here on out. For those of you who have kept up with the source report reading, you’ll remember that I met with the good folks at Dorman’s in April to discuss possibilities for 2nd Window purchasing. You’ll also remember that the 2nd Window is a direct avenue to the cooperatives and estates. The auction system, still alive and well and part of our purchasing strategy, was an impenetrable wall, keeping buyers from sourcing coffee directly from producers. Which is not to say that producers were/are not receiving fair due for their coffee, quite the contrary to be honest, as Kenyan coffee farmers command some of the highest wages of any coffee producing country in the world. Dorman’s deserves the bulk of the credit for getting those prices back to the farmers. The auction system does, however, keep us from establishing relationships and having any impact at the farm level. That’s all about to change with the advent of the 2nd Window.

We cupped through the top 8 Dorman’s lots of the year on day 1, which are always Kenya’s best, targeting cooperatives and estates for possible direct purchasing. Interestingly enough, an old favorite at the Stumptown, the Gaturiri washing station, jumped up and smacked my lips with its magical raspberry flavor and heavy, brothy mouth feel. It was decided then that we needed to visit these folks, along with a few others from the Barichu and Tekangu cooperatives.

We headed out to Nyeri, home to Kenya’s finest coffees, at the foot of Mt. Kenya, bright and early the following morning to meet with the cooperative leaders. We stopped off at Mathira Mill first to check out the dry milling operation and the brand new SL28 nursery that CMS, Dorman’s and the Stumptown are collaborating together on to ensure quality coffee production in Nyeri for years to come. Ruiru 11, an inferior, Robusta/Arabica hybrid has saturated farms in the area for the past few years. This will inevitably lead to a drop off in quality so we are looking to stop its progression dead in its tracks. The SL28 seedlings will be disseminated to producers at a very minimal cost making it the best option when farmers look to replant. We’re stoked to make a positive impact in Kenya!

The next stop was the Barichu Cooperative to meet with the Coop leader as well as the leaders of the Gotambayo and Gaturiri processing stations. I told them about the Stumptown’s interest in pursuing the 2nd Window and making efforts towards purchasing some of their coffees direct. Richard from the Gaturiri Factory told me he had been praying for a company like our’s to show up since the advent of the 2nd Window several years ago. He told me that this has been his dream and a dream of the farmers. I think time stopped for a second or two. Richard had my heart in his hand and the Stumptown’s commitment to his farmers. We can’t wait until after the harvest to taste the new crop!

After touring the processing infrastructure at Gaturiri we high tailed it over to the Karagoto washing station to meet the leaders of the Tekangu Cooperative. I spoke to them about the Stumptown and our commitment to coffee quality and quality of life for every participant in our supply chain, particularly our producers. They told me about their commitment to their farms and farmers and said they were up to the challenge.

We’ll be back for the harvest in November to work with these producers. The Stumptown won’t settle for anything less than excellent quality and we’re more than prepared to roll up our sleeves and get to work side by side with our producers in order to procure it. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for producers to sustain a direct sales relationship with a roaster prepared to pay top dollar for top quality. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Stumptown to be at the forefront in bringing our customers 2nd Window, direct trade Kenyan coffee. We’ll keep you updated.