It’s cold, dark and wet outside again and time to warm ourselves with the bright and sweet arrivals recently added to the menu. Among the new additions is the Colombia El Jordan from central Colombia’s Andes Mountains. This coffee comes from one of the most verdant and fecund micro-climates in all of Colombia. The presence of an active volcano, Nevado de Huila, great elevation and ideal daytime illumination are all clearly evident in a profile that is heavy, syrupy sweet and juicy. The previous lot of this coffee that we had on the menu was clearly dominated by a mouth-watering acidity akin to satsuma orange. This lot has gained notice in the cupping room not only for that characteristic, but a berry aspect as well. Memories of our late summer and fall berry-picking excursions are re-animated each time we encounter the ripe blackberry or boysenberry accents in this coffee. We are also offering it as a single origin espresso to our wholesale clients. In the lab, we have been astonished again and again at how intensely sweet this coffee is when extracted as espresso. This coffee is made even more precious because of decades of conflict between the government, leftist guerillas and narco-traffickers that has made it impossible to visit this area until recently. At this writing, Aleco, one of our Green Coffee Buyers, has managed to visit our producer partners on their own farms twice. In the past, the producers, the exporter and Stumptown had to meet at a town safely distanced from any danger. These face-to-face visits are keys to maintaining and strengthening our Direct Trade relationships with producers at origin.
There is also a single origin Colombia decaf new to the menu. The Decaf Colombia La Piramide comes to us through our work with Virmax and their Las Mingas project. This lot was built through the same method employed to construct the Colombia El Jordan. That is, Virmax solicits samples from small producers (typically with less than 3 acres of land and coffee trees) and forwards the best of these to our cupping table for blind assessment. Those scoring 86 or above (according to the Cup of Excellence scoring system) are approved and bulked into the final lot. This incentive system, where producers are paid higher prices for higher coffee scores, has allowed us to experience what might be the best decaffeinated coffee most of us in the cupping room have ever tasted. It has been fun to give someone a cup of this coffee without telling them what it is and then to witness the astonishment when the name of the coffee is revealed. We like it best as single-cup cone pour-over or through an AeroPress. The pour-over balances caramel and orange candies whereas the AeroPress heightens the body and yields a cup filled with even more caramel, Hershey’s chocolate syrup and graham cracker pie crust.
The Indonesia Sulawesi Toarco is another returning coffee that is an ideal candidate to counter these short, dark days. We’ve found its long, honeyed finish balanced against its bright, crisp and pear-like acidity is the ideal counter-weight to the rain. For decades, the Japanese-owned Toarco mill made this coffee available only within Japan. In the past few years, however, they have begun to sell more and more to the West. Because of our exclusive rights to the highest grown coffee that the mill processes (and their focus on strict cherry selection) we are once again able to release a lot that is of the highest caliber. The quality of this year’s profile is especially extraordinary when you consider the rudimentary means that the thousands of small producers must employ in order to process their cherry. Although final drying occurs at the mill on patios or in large rice dryers, each producer uses wooden de-pulping tools to remove the cherry skin and small plastic buckets or wicker baskets for fermentation and washing. Each time we taste this coffee and consider its origins, we are humbled.
1. Stumptown Coffee Roasters
1115 12th Ave., First Hill
Just a few years ago, this new kid in town popped up to share a taste of Portland with Seattle natives. Thank God it did. Stumptown sits in the middle of a Venn diagram surrounded by indie rockers, artists, college coeds and sophisticated professionals. It serves all of the above with one hell of a latte. Ousting a hometown favorite from the number one spot, this sixteen ounce mug of perfection smells as distinctive as it tastes. Mild and basic it is not, with flavor profiles spanning Indonesia all the way to Panama (to name only a couple). The 12th Avenue crew grinds it, pulls it and steams it to highlight the best each bean has to offer, so if you have particular likes (floral?), dislikes (acidic?), or curiosities about where to start, ask before your order, there’s a jolt for every palette. This latte might be life-changing, or at the very least make you to drive an extra five minutes out of your way.
I am deeply attracted to the visual and physical experience of the natural landscape. The wide array of colors, textures and variety of complex organic forms that I observe in my surroundings are endlessly inspiring. This being said my gravitation towards the natural is followed by an equally strong pull towards the sleek, minimalist imagery found in modern design and architecture. Given the disparity between these two types of images one might suppose that the two could never reside harmoniously in one space. This in fact is where my work begins to take shape, within the space of contradiction, wherein two inherently opposed ideas intersect.
This theme of jarring dissonance and unlikely juxtaposition has been a central focus of my work for some time. However, my interest in exploring this imagery extends beyond the aesthetics of contradiction into the implications these images have for our experience of reality. For, within this space of contradiction, a reflection of our own deep-rooted dysfunction and brokenness as human beings begins to take shape.
With this in mind I have painted a series that I intend to be, at its basic level, full of hope. For it is my strong belief that, despite the disharmony we all know to be real in the world, there will come a day when forces once thought irreconcilable will be brought into alignment with one another and equilibrium will be achieved. This being said, I intend that the viewer would beg the question, “who or what will set in motion the paradigm shift that will ultimately restore order to a fundamentally broken world?”
Heidi Keith is a painter and art educator. Raised in Bozeman, Montana, Heidi moved to Oregon in 1997, where she attended Pacific Northwest College of Art and Portland State University. She now lives and works in southeast Portland.
Opening Reception Friday, November 5th from 4:30 – 6:30
2376 Southeast 45th Avenue – Portland, Oregon.