July 2010

For us, summertime is a home-coming. Throughout these months, our menu slowly repopulates with old friends and family. Honduras Finca El Puente, Panama Duncan Estate, Costa Rica Montes de Oro and, the granddaddy of them all, Guatemala Finca El Injerto 100% Bourbon all have returned in recent weeks to our welcoming cups. This week we continue that trend with the return of even more old familiars.

Bernado SolanoAround the cupping table last year there was one coffee that vied for the top slot as our favorite Central American lot again and again. Once more, Bernado Solano has returned to us a lot of La Concepcion Buenavista that could easily be considered one of this summer’s top contenders. Bernado again separated all of his Bourbon harvest before sending the cherry to Luis Pedro Zelaya’s Bellavista mill. This lot is as complex, creamy and balanced as ever. Like the seasonal berries just now showing in our local Portland grocery stores, this year’s lot is dominated by blackberry, fresh plum and complex dark fruit tones.

Cherry selection at Aida Batlle’s Finca Kilimanjaro farmPerhaps the most anticipated and talked about arrival of the summer is Aida Batlle’s Finca Kilimanjaro. The combination of micro-climate, perfect cherry selection, Bourbon with SL-28 varietals and Aida’s meticulous processing has returned a lot that is bursting with juicy berry and grape flavors. Aida constructs this lot by hiring skilled pickers that select both ‘blood red’ and ‘burgundy red’ cherries. The ‘blood red’ cherries lend the cup more complex and fully articulated acidity, while the slightly more ripe ‘burgundy red’ cherries add syrupy body and sweetness. The combination of these two profiles produces a profile with a wide spectrum. Be warned, however, that due to a diminished harvest this year, this coffee will only be around for a few short weeks. Don’t worry too much, because in the coming months we will also release Aida’s Grand Reserve, a lot constructed from the peaberries of Aida’s three farms: Kilimanjaro, Mauritania and Los Alpes.

CaturraYou may remember Costa Rica Don Mayo from previous years. We constructed the Don Mayo Reserva in the cupping room by separating out coffees that scored 90 points and above. Hector Bonilla was able to achieve these scores partly because he produces coffees on some of the highest producing elevation in Costa Rica. Also, he planted Caturra due to its tendency to thrive at altitude. This combination of altitude, varietal and precise processing resulted in a cup that possesses complex aromatics of kiwi, honey and rose petal with flavors cherry, green grape and, yes, Mexican cola. This is a Direct Trade relationship that holds promise for years to come. They have installed a cupping lab and are increasingly focused on improving quality.

Ricardo CalderonThis year marks the beginning of a brand new relationship for Stumptown in Costa Rica with Ricardo Calderon and his newly constructed Los Angeles micro-mill. Until last year, Ricardo took his cherry to a large co-op for processing. Because of his decision to process his coffee himself, we are able to offer exclusive access to three separate micro-lots that would have otherwise been lost at a larger mill. These three farms come from the Dota Valley area of the Tarrazu region. All three (La Estrella, La Granadilla and Los Girasoles) are at or above 1800 meters above sea level and therefore offer a wide swing between cool nights and warm, well-illuminated days that contribute to sweeter and more complex profiles. The first of these, La Estralla (available in Portland and Seattle), is perched at about 1900 meters above sea level and grows a combination of Caturra and Catuai. In the cupping room, we are not normally drawn to the typical Catuai profile, but this particular combination of micro-climate and elevation has provided a perfect environment for this varietal to thrive. In combination with Caturra it has yielded a sweet and viscous cup with flavors of candied berries, canned peach and raw cacao. La Granadilla (available in Portland) is a tiny (just under two acre) farm that is almost exclusively Cataui. This profile is exceptionally clean and transparent with perfumed aromatics and flavors of watermelon juice, raspberry and creme brulee. Finally, we have the first harvest ever from Los Girasoles (available in New York). It was planted with Catuai a mere two years ago, one year after Ricardo acquired it. The first harvest’s profile tends towards darker, more syrupy flavors like blackberry, raisin and dark chocolate.

Parabolic Drying BedAltitude and varietal are also factors in this year’s Colombia La Piramide (available in Portland). In partnership with ASORCAFE, a producer’s association in Pedregal de Cauca in southern Colombia, we have again been allowed access to what has come to be our favorite growing region in South America. The bulk of the 200 plus producers that have contributed to this lot have one to two hectares of farm land which are at or above 1800 meters above sea level. They are primarily planted with Caturra and, most importantly, are situated in a way which allows their cherry to get the bulk of its illumination from morning sun. This positioning allows a rapid and prolonged warming from the long, cool nights that exist at such a high altitude. Also, because of the proximity to the equator and the fact that there is no clear distinction between seasons and rain is almost daily occurrence, the coffee is dried on raised beds with parabolic covering. This has resulted in a cup bursting with juicy red fruits, orange citrus sweet cocoa. The Las Vegas (available in New York) producers association is across the valley from the ASORCAFE association. It is a much smaller association and therefore offers a much limited choice of coffees each year. The coffees selected from the Las Vegas association have a small amount of Bourbon mixed in with the Caturra. This has resulted in sweet cup with added acidic complexity. The cup begins with fruit blossom aromatics before transitioning to a complex of fruit flavors both tart and sweet. El Jordan (available in Seattle) from Tolima has returned again. It is once again a balanced combination of satsuma orange acidity and brown sugar sweetness.

Haile GabreWe have been lucky this past year or two and have still managed to maintain our connections with several fine Ethiopian coffees in spite of the vagaries of the Commodity Exchange (ECX). We have had the Michelle for several weeks and now have the return of the Mordecofe Organic. This is the fourth year we have had Mordecofe and the second that we are able to offer it as a Direct Trade coffee. Partially due to Haile Gabre’s extended washing technique (up to 6 hours!), this year’s lot is a model of transparency and cleanliness. Ripe peach, melon and lemon are all accented with floral and hops notes within a body that is both creamy and nearly perfectly balanced. Look for this coffee to get even better as it settles into its new environment, as is often the case with many of our quality Ethiopian lots.

Rachel PetersonAnd finally, Panama Esmeralda Geisha is back! The lot we purchased this year comes from a micro-climate, north of the creek on the Peterson’s farm, Jaramillo de Boquete in Panama, which consistently yields some of the most prized Geisha in the world. The cup I have in my hand at this moment is dominating the cupping room with the scent of blooming jasmine, the aroma of tropical fruits and the flavors of tangerine, marmalade, champagne grape and perfectly brewed black tea. It is difficult to imagine a more balanced arrangement of sensations.

- Jim

Saturday July 17, 2010


To the delight of Dutch coffee drinkers, in May STUMPTOWN COFFEE opened its first pop-up store on Amsterdam’s Albert Cuypstraat – the city’s famed market street. STUMPTOWN has been making quite a name for itself in the US for its dedication – bordering on obsession – with making the perfect cup of coffee. For them, this means exhaustive daily tastings and trips to their suppliers in Africa, Indonesia and beyond. Though for readers in the Amsterdam area, enjoying great coffee is not nearly as demanding. It’s just a shame their temporary store shuts again in two weeks’ time.

The Tana Toraja growing region of Sulawesi, Indonesia is one of the world’s lost coffee origins. For decades this area produced some of the most sought after coffee anywhere in the globe. Sadly, the beautiful coffees that made Toraja famous became tremendously difficult to source. There isn’t a clear-cut explanation but there is no question that a good part of it is due to the arduous journey a buyer must undertake just to arrive. I set off from Portland on a Monday morning and arrived in Rantepao, the largest town in the Toraja region, 44 hours later. It’s easily the longest trek to source in our repertoire. This is the third trip I’ve taken to Sulawesi in the past 18 months or so and after having finally gotten our mitts on a few spectacular lots last year it will certainly not be my last. The Toarco lots were succulent in the truest sense of the word.

These were some of the juiciest, sweetest coffees on our menu last winter. The ripe black cherry flavor was encompassed with fresh maple sweetness and bound together by a huge mouth feel reminiscent of the biggest bordeauxs. I could go on and on about these coffees from their clove-like fragrances to their honey finishes. They were true masterpieces. You all can see why we were itching to get back during the harvest this year.

After finally arriving in Makassar, the capital of Sulawesi located along the southern coastline, we immediately jumped in a van and started off for the mountainous interior of the island and Toraja. One of the bonuses of visiting Sulawesi in the harvest season is that it coincides with funeral season. While this may seem morbid to some it’s actually the most important ritual rites in the Toraja culture. Families save money over the course of their entire lives for the cost of putting on the funeral festivities for their loved ones. The processions are elaborate and stunningly beautiful. Large wooden vessels are crafted just for the transportation of the body from the site of the funeral to their final resting ground.

The landscape is equally stunning. The mountain slopes are emerald green and covered in palm trees and bamboo shoots. Tongkonan, the Torajan traditional homes, are luminous structures dotting the valleys. As we climbed above the town of Rantepao we entered the coffee growing region which reaches altitudes around 1900 meters above sea level. One of the most important dynamics in coffee production is the cultivation of high quality varietals. Toraja seemed to be planted mainly with Typica and S795 varietals which are a recipe for success.

Ripe cherries are depulped manually with old world style wooden machines. The coffee beans are then left to ferment submerged underwater for two to three days before being washed of any remaining fruit. At that point they are dried to roughly 40% moisture before being transported down the mountain to Rantepao where they will be dried to 10-12% moisture on patios or the Japanese rice driers which are entirely unique to Toarco.

There is a world of discovery still to be made in Toraja which makes this project as exciting for us. We plan to lay the necessary groundwork to make this a Direct Trade coffee which means guaranteeing a great price, well above that of the current market or Fair Trade, to the farm level. It’s a work in progress. In the meantime look forward to more excellent Torajan coffee this fall through winter. I know I will!

Reception Thursday July 1st, 6-8pm

Large-scale ink paintings on Mylar and smaller format paintings on backing paper explore journalistic images of extraordinary events, objects, and experiences. The clear and frequent representation of these subjects can lull viewers into believing that they understand the real events that prompted the representation, or that the representation has directly communicated something. Obscured uses these subjects and the interruptive artifacts of the medium as an attempt to challenge the viewers’ assumptions of what can be communicated by representation.

Ním Wunnan
On view July 1st – August 3rd, 2010

Stumptown Coffee Roasters
128 SW 3rd Avenue
Portland, OR