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January 2011



I grew up in the wilds of Michigan, playing out in the woods behind my house every day and cultivating a love of animals and bird watching. I would spend seemingly endless days observing and watching the plants and animals around me. My parents were bird watchers and every family vacation revolved going to some distant place to see a bird with an exotic sounding name. I was lucky enough to have an early education that also cultivated my imagination and I always had a love of fairytales and magic that I could find in the real world though nature and history. It’s these experiences that have had the greatest effect on my work.

Though the fairytales and folktales I grew up on I felt like I could understand a universe that was confusing and often frightening, but beautiful and mysterious. I didn’t believe in fairies or elves but I firmly believed that everything, animals, trees, rocks, had a voice, and that if I listened hard enough they would be guides for me. Today I may look at the natural world more rationally than I did then I was a child but I don’t think it can be reduced to a set of abstract principles. There is a human element that is essential to our understanding of the non-human world. Intermingling with facts are patterns and traces, lingering echoes of childhood stories, of folklore and fairy tales.

Harvest. It’s what drives the Green Coffee Department here at Stumptown, and in turn, our roasting company. Everything we do is in anticipation of a harvest, when we get to evaluate the success of everyone’s work, pushing ourselves and our producers to new heights in quality and inviting our customers to share in the uniquely delicious coffee that results.

If the waiting was killing us, we were lucky this year, as early rains in Central America last year triggered an early harvest, shifting most harvests a month early. Nervousness that a pumped up market might discourage our producers from delivering exceptional quality did not bear out, and the Green Coffee Department has been exchanging sheepish grins and whisperings that this could be a harvest for the ages. What I’m trying to say is: THE COFFEE WILL BE AMAZING.

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But enough of this generalizing–you want the details, and we got ‘em. The season kicked off in the waning days of November in Kenya, Aleco and I boarding our plane with belts expanded and burping pumpkin pie. We spent a lot of time with Ngunguru and Gaturiri, and also visited with Karindundu, Karatina, Gatomboya, Tegu and Kagumoini. In short time, Aleco had cupped hundreds of samples and found three that immediately stood out–a delicate but gorgeous lot from Tegu, lush with tropical fruit notes and navel orange, a balanced, articulated lot from Kagumoini with flavors of honey and lime, and a juicy Ngunguru laden with blackberry and lemon cake. It was an invigorating way to start the season, and we left optimistic about at least one country on the menu.

I took off for a quick trip to El Salvador in developing a relationship with a group in Metapan, and joined Aleco in Costa Rica to visit with Helsar de Zarcero, Torres Villalobos, Marvin Robles, Montes de Oro, Verde Alto, Brumas del Zurqui, Don Mayo, (I’m sure I’m missing some here). In the early days of harvest, we were pleased with the ripe, red cherry being picked and the clean processing at the mills. While it was too early to cup many of these, we were able to further justify our long relationship with Emilio Gamboa as some of his early pickings cupped fantastically and are almost ready to ship from Costa Rica! Aleco continued on to Guatemala, where he cupped nearly 100 samples from the likes of Bellavista, Santa Clara, and Candelaria, and had a chance to meet up with Arturo Aguirre Sr. and Jr. who say that everything is on track for this coming harvest. We look forward to having the Bourbon, Maragogype and Pacamara Peaberry from Finca El Injerto this year!

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In January, I returned to Kenya and cupped hundreds of samples, finding a few more that stood out: two Gatomboyas, one a Peaberry and the other a flat bean, both creamy and heavy with currants, and another Tegu, this one floral and bright with pomegranate flavors. Aleco returned to Costa Rica to cup and to see more harvest. He spent a day with the Calderon family at Los Angeles micro-mill, their farms extending above and beyond 2000 meters, as well as time with Helsar de Zarcero, and Don Mayo. The superstar of the week in Costa Rica was a lot of Caturra from Marvin Robles, a coffee that Aleco described as being like a glass of strawberry-pomegranate juice. A harvest for the ages, indeed.

Which brings us nearly up to date. Last week I left for a four-country tour in Central America: Starting in Honduras with a new relationship in Pena Blanca, Santa Barbara, continuing on to El Salvador where I was able to cup the very first samples from Metapan, and writing to you from Nicaragua.

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Arriving in Nicaragua Sunday morning, I traveled to Jinotega, hometown of Stumptown roaster and Green Coffee Department QC cupper Francisco Javier Valle. Javier’s wife and brother-in-law hosted me, and the latter motorcycled me to Javier’s farm in Las Cuchillas. It was a fantastic trip, and all the more emotional and exciting because I’ve worked closely with Javier for the last six months, and because Javier will be returning to his wife and family at the end of February. His farm was finished with harvest, but I had the pleasure of drinking coffee (and a bit of rum) with FJ’s father, Leonardo Valle, and teasing his siblings and nieces and nephews. I transported to Esteli and spent today with the Canales family in Pueblo Nuevo, home of the famous Los Delirios farm and mill. It’s far from Stumptown’s first visit, we have worked with the Canales family for years, but I was nonetheless thrilled to see the terroir and trees that have produced all those amazing coffees.

Tomorrow I leave for Guatemala. Meanwhile, after a quick jaunt through Costa Rica to check in on peak harvest season and diagnose the first day lots on the cupping table Aleco was off to Kenya and Ethiopia.  Both he and I have cupped and purchased the very finest lots that they can remember buying in the past few years from Kenya.  Notorious washing stations like Gaturiri, Ngunguru and Kangunu are tasting as good as ever with succulent blackberry and strawberry notes headlining flavor profiles laden with buttery caramel and viscous, raw honey.  The past few days have seen Aleco heading deep into the wild, literally, west of Ethiopian coffee land.  We’ve begun a new project with producing groups in the Jimma and Ilubabor regions of the country and are tasting some exquisite new flavor profiles along the with elegant, floral profiles we’ve come to expect from the birthplace of coffee.  More to come on all of this in the spring.  In the meantime Aleco and I will regroup for a week in Portland before heading south to catch more harvest action in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

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It’s been a busy couple of months, but we’re just getting started: next month we’ll be returning to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala for extended visits with Finca El Puente, Finca Kilimanjaro and Finca El Injerto, and we’re keeping our ear to the ground for March. You can count on us to let you know every titillating detail of the continuing harvest and future cupping tables.

Also, if you’d like to read about–as well as see photos of–our visits as they’re happening, you should follow us on Twitter!

–Ryan Brown

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Artist Statement:

I set out to create a peaceful contemplative setting, paintings that illustrate the relationship between man and nature, a reminder of our state of being and the simple aspects of life. Regardless of outcome the natural world is a presence beyond human control and I have great respect for that. I use formal qualities and objects of nostalgia as the prime vehicle to convey this idea.

I have been involved in the arts my whole life and have slowly narrowed my focus to painting. I work primarily with oils on canvas. The process begins as a drawing from direct observation of my subject matter. I enjoy the labor of painting, the sounds of brushes on canvas, smells of fresh paint on the palette, and the crisp brilliant colors that can be achieved.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters
2376 Southeast 45th Avenue – Portland, Oregon.

On view January 5th – 31st, 2011
Opening reception First Thursday January 6th, 6 pm – 8 pm

Country Portraits is the new exhibition of paper collage portraits from folk artist Marian Rose Lucas.  Her deep-rooted love of classic country music served as inspiration for this 36-piece survey.  Drawing from Appalachian, Bluegrass, Blues, Country & Western and Folk genres, Marian has captured the voices that have spoken to her loudest. The pieces are backed and framed with found barn wood, re-purposed from an old structure on the 100-acre property outside Sheridan, OR where Marian lives.

Working primarily with paper collage and found wood, and drawing from themes of patriotism, rural family life, nature, and the role of spirituality in music and art, Marian Rose Lucas has been creating original works since 2003.  Raised in the Appalachian foothills of Georgia, she was encouraged to express herself through art by her mother, herself a folk artist.  Marian found inspiration in the clean lines and colorful characters of children’s author and illustrator Tomie dePaola, and in the spiritual depictions of visionary artist and Baptist preacher Howard Finster.  In the mid 2000s, Marian relocated to the Pacific Northwest and found fresh inspiration in the natural surroundings and the unique flora and fauna of the region.  She began to show her works more extensively around Portland, OR.  In August 2009, Marian completed her first major themed exhibition, consisting of paper collage portraits of all 44 U.S. Presidents.  The entire exhibition was acquired by a private collector within an hour of the show’s opening.  In March 2010, her Portraits of the American West featured such folklore figures as Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, and Geronimo.  Of her work, Marian says, “It’s an obsession.  Everything I see I turn into paper in my head.  For me, it’s deconstructing the world and then constructing it back into simpler things, because it’s complicated here.”

For all inquiry, please contact may@wp.stumptowncoffee.com/