March 2013


Sarah Allen delved into the barista underground from an unlikely entry point: “I became a teenage boy for six months,” she says. As a grad student at U of O in Eugene, Sarah focused on subcultures and sought out to follow the type of teen that fits the profile of those who have become high school gunmen. She volunteered in a classroom, and chose a boy and his group of friends to shadow. In such a study, the researcher shouldn’t typically affect her subjects,  but she says, “having that attention on him actually made him gain confidence.”  Lucky for us, her effect has been much the same on the coffee industry.

“I feel exceptionally happy as a writer to live and work within the community I write about,” she says.

Sarah grew up in Berkeley, California and worked as a music critic for a paper in the Bay Area for a time until she went to grad school. In 2001, she started writing for the trade magazine Fresh Cup, and later became further enmeshed in barista culture when she became a trainer at Zoka Coffee in Seattle for a year, helping baristas prepare their presentation element for barista competitions. “This was the time when everyone thought baristas were college kids who were trying to buy beer and didn’t really give a shit about what they were doing,” she says. “Then there was this group especially from Seattle and Portland who were really invested in [being baristas] as a career, and that was what I was really interested in.”

Sarah and her husband Ken Olsen, who is also a writer and acts as Barista Magazine’s publisher, quit their day jobs and founded the publication in 2005. “We decided in the beginning we weren’t going to rely on professional freelancers. I wanted all of our writers to work in the coffee industry.” (more…)

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We are stoked to team up with the storied Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip, known for legendary performances by rock icons like Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, Warren Zevon and David Bowie. Lou Adler, Elliot Roberts and David Geffen opened the intimate 7,500 square-foot venue in the fall of 1973. The Roxy is also home to the infamous upstairs bar, On The Rox, which has refreshed and restored fellas like Carlin, Lennon, Belushi and DeNiro. We’re in good company.


Cenicafe Visit, March 2013
Darrin Daniel, Green Coffee Buyer

I’m in Pereira, Colombia (a one hour flight west from Bogota) for the 2013 Cup of Excellence. This northern region of Colombia is home to thousands of coffee growers, as well as one of the most prestigious coffee research organizations around the world: Cenicafe. Yesterday afternoon I was lucky enough to tour their research facility, participate in a variety cupping of two new experimental varieties along with their Tabi (a cross between Typica, Bourbon and Timor Hybrid) and the well known Castillo variety (a cross of Caturra and Timor Hybrid). After the cupping we went to Naranjal Central Station located in Chinchiná Caldas, which has a large variety garden focusing primarily on research of Castillo.

As luck would have it, heavy lightning and rain did not allow us out to head into the field, but we enjoyed an excellent presentation about the work done on Castillo. For those who don’t know, the Castillo variety was developed out of research dating back to 1968 and was originally known as Colombia. In 2005, it was renamed in honor of the head researcher, Dr. Jaime Castillo, after he spent many years on trials and progenies to find the right size, production, resistance to leaf rust, volume and cup quality.

The presentation addressed the specifics of trials, results from different research stations and even the hybridization process of taking pollen from the male Timor Hybrid and supplanting it onto the Caturra female flower in order to get the next generation. After the progenies F3, F4 and F5 began to show their effectiveness in 2005, it was renamed. Many questions followed about why Caturra was chosen, how can cup quality be improved and is Cenicafe trying other varieties to pair with the Timor Hybrid. It was clear there are many research projects that are in the works and once conclusive data is defined, Cenicafe will most likely be introducing new disease resistant strains that hopefully will have even better cup qualities than what we know today of Castillo. Though many buyers feel Castillo to be inferior to Bourbon and Typica, even my own tasting of Tabi proved to be pretty bright and sweet. On our way back in a thunderous storm we stopped to briefly look at some of their Ethiopian heirloom varieties in the experimental gardens (which we know to be resistant to leaf rust).


Cenicafe is one of the most celebrated coffee experimental labs in the world and in many ways the future of coffee belongs to their bright and talented scientists and researchers. I’d put a bet down that those Ethiopia varieties will birth something we can all talk about and hopefully embrace as the future of specialty coffee.


When you meet Trevor Fife, you begin to understand how the filmmaker gets the shots he does — his work is warm and alive, full of grainy and gritty sunbursts, weighty with time-lapse shots of rolling clouds descending over valleys, bright beautiful days from sun-up to sundown, and earnest long-shot video portraits of his subjects. Trevor himself has an easiness about him, and a humble sincerity that filters into his honest slice-of-life portraits of people and communities.

“I try to have pretty small footprint,” he says of his approach to shooting a subject. “You are asking something of them. It helps to be warm in your gestures and thoughtful in your glances and to be polite.”

Trevor is a longtime Stumptown collaborator — he first started making Stumptown source videos in 2006, traveling with Duane to Guatemala, El Salvador, Rwanda and Ethiopia, visiting several farms, and shooting a combination of clean video footage and grainy Super 8 and 16mm film. “A lot of [the use of film] is to bring texture to the project. There’s an inherent rawness to a lot of these places. You’re out in coffee growing areas. There’s an organic quality to everything out there.”

An early project shooting his 80-year-old grandmother on a three week tour of the Mediterranean opened him up to the possibilities of film. “It was a way of connecting to her a little bit more and doing extensive interviews with her. That project definitely informed my overall sensibility and sense of style and approach to a lot of things.” (more…)

March 2013, Marcala, Honduras
Adam McClellan, Green Coffee Buyer

Heading out to San Pedro Sula on the red eye from PDX, I was slightly weary and sleep deprived, but running on the adrenaline and excitement of my first source trip as a green coffee buyer on behalf of Stumptown. Let’s just say these are big shoes to fill and high expectations to meet. I couldn’t imagine a better farm and producer partner to start with, given that the relationship between Moises Herrera and Marysabel Caballero of Finca El Puente and Stumptown goes way back and both have been able to successfully grow together over the years. Also, the Marcala region is one of my favorite places to travel as the genuine warmth and hospitality from folks here is some of the best I’ve encountered on the coffee trail.

el_puente-(6)Moises and Marysabel picked me up at noon and after lunch we headed straight out to Marcala to catch the tail end of the day’s cherry processing. On the three hour drive out, we passed a mountainous landscape which changed to hot desert, then to higher altitude pine forest, which is where you start to see coffee growing. We had a great discussion on ‘La Roya’ – the current looming, gloomy news topic of the coffee world – which is the leaf rust epidemic spreading through Central America and its potential impact on this and next year’s crop. Thankfully, their farms are largely unaffected due to their diligent farming practices and proactive approach to addressing the plants’ needs to defend against the Roya. However, many of the neighboring farms are totally devastated with mere skeletons of coffee plants remaining. Upon entering the outskirts of Marcala, we picked up a few friendly faces for a lift into town, and then headed up to Chinacla where the wet mill and drying patios are located.

At the beneficio in Chinacla, they just finished rearranging and refurbishing the depulping/fermenting tank station to use gravity flow better and drastically cut down the amount of water used.  A new elevator turbine carries the cherry pulp up and away to the compost area so it doesn’t have to be moved by hand. They also enclosed the ceramic tiled tanks area to better control the temperature and added more efficient lighting. At the moment we arrived, a part of the demucilaging equipment had a slight malfunction so Moises dove straight into it and dug out the problem right away – pretty awesome to see these guys operate with such attention. The days picking looked so solid with pure red ripeness in the hopper. Then we drove back down into Marcala town and enjoyed some delicious pupusas at the ever-popular Pupuseria del Campo spot before hitting the sack after a long day.

el_puente-(5)The next morning after some delicious El Puente French pressed coffee (it will never get old to have a farmer serve you his or her own coffee) and baleadas to power up, we headed back up to Chinacla to see the coffee being washed. Several lots this year are going through an additional 24 hour soaking step after the initial dry fermentation and wash. Initial cup quality results are quite encouraging. The biggest highlight of the Chinacla mill is seeing all of the raised bed drying – most of it shaded by covered and ventilated beds. We’re very happy to see this added investment to this incredibly important step and look forward to more and more of our coffee being dried this way to continue to see positive improvements in the cup. (more…)

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In honor of our new extra hour of heartening daylight, Kate Brack brings us this sunny mix. Kate manages our New York wholesale office and helps with events, plays drums in Bushwick, and is a great parallel parker. She also writes for the online pub Brooklyn Based, leaves her heart with the street musicians of Union Square, and has a taste for the finer things, like music and dancing. We want to spend our life with a girl like you, Ms. Brack.