March 2011

Caffeination Stations

Espresso is Portland’s lifeblood. With hundreds of vendors throughout the city, it’s impossible not to fuel up pre-sightseeing with a flawlessy pulled espresso shot. Seattle may have made coffee famous, but Portland perfected it.

Case in point: Stumptown Coffee Roasters. This modest shop opened in Portland’s southeast neighborhood in 1999, and its personal approach to roasting hand-picked beans created the “third wave”of coffee – a movement that prizes coffee as a refined luxury rather than a commodity.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters: Kenya from Stumptown Coffee Roasters on Vimeo.

In November 2010 Stumptown Coffee Roasters sent a two person film crew, Trevor Fife and Autumn Campbell, to Kenya to shadow their green coffee buying team. Travelling north about 100 miles from Nairobi into the Nyeri district of the Central Province, their cameras focused on two factories (washing stations) that have developed long term working relationships with Stumptown. Both Ngunguru Factory in the Tekangu Cooperative Society and Gaturiri factory in the Barichu Cooperative Society are exquisite examples of high quality washed processed Kenyan coffees.

Many thanks to Charles Kanwitu, Eluid Kimotho, Jeremiah Muraya, Ngatia Kanyoge and all of the people at Ngunguru, Gaturiri, Central Kenya Coffee Mills, and C. Dormans.

filmed and edited by Trevor Fife

We’ve been visiting a lot of familiar faces lately: the Caballeros from Finca El Puente, Aida Batlle from Finca Kilimanjarothe Aguirres from Finca El Injerto.  We’ve also continued to forage for new producers who meet the exceptional quality standards we have. Gerardo Flores is one of these exceptional producers.

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I visited Gerardo last week. I drove from Antigua where I busily cupped day lots, to Guatemala City, and then on to his farm, Finca Florencia. The farm is in Santa Elena Barillas, south of Lake Amatitlan and just south of Fraijanes, a Guatemalan coffee growing appellation. This year, the harvest was short but intense since last year’s rains induced even flowering across the farm. Gerardo hired 250 pickers for his harvest which lasted about 40 days. Still, he was excited to show me some of the last picking, so we hurriedly drove off to an area of the farm called El Zapatillo where harvesting of Bourbon 300 was in full swing. Bourbon 300, also known as Borboncito or Bourbon Enano, is essentially the result of selecting small Bourbons over time, rendering a variety that produces a cup similar to Bourbon, but is considerably easier to manage and even easier to harvest. The selection was nice, I saw scant cherry that was less than radiantly ripe red, and when I did, an educational chat usually followed.

Finca Florencia is mostly planted with Bourbon (and its brethren, like that mentioned above), in addition there are plots of Caturra, and some scattered Typica and Catuai. Even though the farm reaches a steep 1600 meters, the terrain is mostly flat which is a blessing both in the efficiency of agricultural practices and in the ease of harvesting. As you can imagine, removing only the ripest cherries from a branch is easier when the ground beneath you is not acutely slanted. Inputs such as the worm-composted coffee pulp that Gerardo uses are much more likely to enrich the soil if the rain washes it deeper into the soil rather than down the hillside away from the coffee. It is also easier to manage necessary shading, and as such, Finca Florencia is one of the shadiest farms I have visited.

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The intelligence of Florencia’s design does not end with good varietals and fertile, flat land though. Gerardo also built a wet mill worth every drop of his pride. He processes his coffee with Penagos de-pulpers followed by a 24 hour fermentation, soft-mechanical washing, and dried on patios. Additionally, Gerardo built a new covered drying area complete with raised tables. The temperatures are still incredibly warm due to the transparent plastic covering this new drying space, which produces an environment that will be both well-ventilated and well-heated. I had the opportunity to cup many day lot samples from Florencia, and can already attest to the difference between the patio-dried and raised bed dried coffee.  While both produced softly sweet coffees which are supple in body, the raised bed dried coffees were just slightly more articulated, leaving a cup that was sweet and juicy, with notes of honey and raspberry.

We’re always blown away by the progress of our oldest relationships, but it’s just as much fun developing new ones, and even more so imagining them five or six years away.

Ryan Brown