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Earth Day is today, so we thought it a fine time to talk about sustainability.

A Short History

The history of Earth Day is pretty interesting – it was started in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, who stepped up after witnessing the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with a consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

Green Coffee

For us, it serves as a reminder to keep pushing to protect the only Earth we’ve got. Admittedly, roasting coffee can use lots of energy. So we’re trying to do our part to minimize our footprint. One of the biggest ways we’ve been able to do this is at our Portland HQ to team up with the Energy Trust of Oregon to purchase and install an RTO, or more formally, a Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer.

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The RTO is essentially like an afterburner, a machine that captures the heat generated by roasting coffee and uses it to burn off the organic particles released during roasting instead of expelling them out into the atmosphere. The main difference lies in its energy use – it uses 70% less gas than conventional afterburners, which annually equates to saving enough energy to heat 209 homes and is the environmental equivalent of 109 cars off the road.

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Share the Road

Speaking of cars off the road, if you biked to work an average of one day per week throughout a year, you would save over 400 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Considering the average American emits between 11,000 and 21,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year, that’s reducing your emissions by between 2-3%, just by cycling to work once a week.

We are a crew of bike enthusiasts at Stumptown, so when we built our Portland HQ a couple of years ago, we wanted to make it as easy as possible to encourage each other to bike to work. Our HQ has a bike room, with lockers and showers, and basic tools to fix flats and work on your bike. Our friends at Sellwood Cycle Repair pop up shop once a season to help get our bikes road ready, and our head roaster Steve Kirbach leads a bike-to-work challenge every year to get us in gear.

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Reuse, Reduce, Recycle

We’re also doing our part to compost where we can. Right now, we’re composting about 24,935 lbs of wet coffee grinds created in our Cold Brew facilities on both coasts. We also compost coffee chaff, a by-product of the roasting process, and we recycle where we can in our cafes, too.

Another thing we try to encourage folks to do to reduce waste is to bring your own mug to our cafes. We even offer 25 cents off your coffee if you do. For further encouragement, on Earth Day this year, we’re offering $5 off our Klean Kanteen online and in cafes. The Klean Kanteens keep your coffee hot or cold for ridiculous lengths of time and are made without BPA, phthalates or lead. Pop by our cafes or pick one up online here. Use the Discount Code: EARTHDAY.

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Happy Earth Day!

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Late night coffee just got a serious upgrade.

We’re very pleased to present our all-new Trapper Creek Decaf. Thanks to new updates to the decaffeination process at Swiss Water Process, we are now able to get unparalleled flavor and cup quality in this decaf coffee.SWP-25

We recently visited Swiss Water Process, a chemical-free decaffeination facility in Vancouver, Canada to check out their processing facility. SWP has undergone huge quality improvements recently and our new Trapper Creek Decaf maintains flavor and origin characteristics in a way we’ve never been able to before. The main changes involve gentler processing, lower temperatures and a more rigorous quality analysis process after the coffee has been decaffeinated.SWP-11-blogSWP-22-blog

These new developments allow the integrity of the coffee to shine through. This involved decaffeination process was patented in Switzerland and essentially uses water and a decaffeinated Green Coffee Extract poured over green coffee beans until caffeine is transferred over and out of the coffee through osmosis.

The folks at Swiss Water Process have similar Quality Analysis labs to ours that ensure that the quality of the coffee is maintained throughout the decaffeination process. This is hands-down the best decaf we’ve ever tasted and we’re very excited to share it with you.

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SHOP TRAPPER CREEK DECAF HERE >>> 

 

EWNOn view April 7th – May 5th
Opening reception 4-6pm Sunday, April 12th

Everything’s Weird Now is a collaborative effort between Porltand based artist/design team Harrison Freeman and Zach Yarrington. The intended goal was to create portraits of people they know using both images and words, and based on experiences they have had with those people. The images are meant not only to capture the subject’s likeness, but hopefully to capture their personality. Whether that is in a facial expression or an action or an outfit, the image is meant to portray the subject as they are known to them. The words were chosen to represent either something the subject says frequently, like a catch-phrase, or, if not a catch-phrase, then a set of words that were chosen to represent the subject. Of course some of these ideas will only be obvious to a few people. A stranger will not necessarily know the person in the painting or what they are prone to saying or doing, but the words were also chosen to create a narrative for the viewer. A choose your own adventure, if you’re not familiar.

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For more information about this show or exhibiting your artwork with us, please contact the curator. wendy@stumptowncoffee.com.

Belmont Stumptown
3356 SE Belmont Street

IMG_9090-blogThe Borderlands project is one of the most groundbreaking Direct Trade projects we’ve been a part of at Stumptown. What started as a way make the coffee trade more profitable and more sustainable for smallholder growers in Nariño, Colombia has since strengthened local economies and galvanized entire communities.

Adam McClellan of our Green Coffee Sourcing Team was invited to be a part of the Borderlands Advisory Council in 2013, which is a group of folks from the specialty coffee market invited to develop a buying strategy that initiates a long term commercial relationship with the growers there. Nariño is one of the most geographically remote, yet interesting and physically stunning landscapes producing coffee in all of the Americas.

Adam sat down to talk to the Borderlands project director Michael Sheridan from his home base in Quito, Ecuador to give us some insight and updates on the project.IMG_9084-blog

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be working with coffee farmers.

Like most other people working in coffee, I fell into it by dumb luck.  I earned an undergraduate degree in International Politics, and went back for a Master’s in International Development, and I have been living in Latin American on and off for nearly 20 years, but I don’t think any of that particularly qualifies me to lead coffee projects.  

On the other hand, I feel like everything I have ever done has helped prepare me for this work. The point where it all started to come together was when I volunteered in the coffeelands of Nicaragua after college. I knew then that I wanted to work in international development and gradually worked my way into a job with CRS [Catholic Relief Services, the organization who heads up the Borderlands project.] In 2004, I led the creation of our Fair Trade Coffee Project in our headquarters, and I have been working on coffee ever since.   IMG_9034-blogIMG_3443-blog

Who started the Borderlands project and what are the project’s main objectives? How does it work?

We developed the Borderlands concept together with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, a key partner in our work in the coffeelands around the world. The main idea was to find ways to make the coffee trade more profitable and more sustainable for smallholder growers in Nariño, Colombia. We didn’t know exactly how we could do that until we got our boots dirty in the field and started to understand the region’s coffee sector better.

Now it is very clear: help growers effectively separate their coffees for different segments of the market and help them connect with buyers in each of those segments. When we started working in Nariño, some of the growers in the project were producing coffees scoring 87, 88, 89 points. But the value they were creating with their commitment to quality evaporated the moment they sold it in the plaza to be bulked.

Growers failed to capture the value they created: quality-obsessed roasters lost out on sourcing opportunities, and consumers never got to taste these amazing coffees. This project is trying to change that.IMG_9029-blogIMG_9023-blog

In its third year of the project, what types of responses are you seeing from farmers at this stage?

Sheer excitement. I can’t begin to convey the degree to which this project is generating excitement in Nariño. The growers have been unbelievably motivated by the contact with Stumptown and other members of the Advisory Council and the new opportunities they are seeing in the marketplace, but they’re not the only ones. The Governor of Nariño has gotten personally involved in the project. Mayors have donated land for washing stations.  Non-profits have contributed their time and insights.

The University of Nariño has created a degree program in specialty coffee for the children of coffee growers. Students from local universities have been showing up to do free internships. It is really gratifying to be associated with something that has been so embraced by so many different local actors.IMG_3483-blog

Why did you decide to begin working in Nariño and take on the Borderlands project? What about the region was inspiring regarding specialty coffee opportunities?

Nariño stands out in a few ways.

Nariño’s coffee has extraordinary potential, of course. The conditions for coffee production in Nariño are just about perfect, and there is plenty of room for expanding coffee production if growers can make coffee more profitable. But growers haven’t been able to cash in on the region’s potential as effectively as they might because they have lacked access to some important segments of the market, including markets for quality-differentiated and certified coffees.

We did an intensive baseline study when we started the project that generated some pretty remarkable findings. Only 4 percent of growers reported ever having earned premiums for quality. Only 2 percent had ever marketed their coffee collectively. And only 2 percent of the region’s coffee goes into Stumptown’s segment of the market. I have never worked before in a region with so much potential and so much room for improvement.

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How are roasters like Stumptown engaging in the project and its advisory council?

Um…awesomely?

The Advisory Council has been, for me, one of the most exciting aspects of the project. It creates a platform for ongoing communications between roasters, exporters, project staff, partners and growers so we can align our vision and our actions for the benefit of everyone. That is the essence of our value chain approach.

What I like most about the Advisory Council is that Stumptown, Counter Culture and Intelligentsia compete in the marketplace but everyone collaborates in this space. Why? Because if the project succeeds, everyone wins.  

Growers have higher incomes, stable organizations and more options in the marketplace. Roasters have access to traceable, differentiated lots from an exceptional origin.

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What other social benefits are the most impactful in the coffee communities as a result of the Borderlands project work?

For eight years running, Nariño has been the leading coca producing department in the leading coca producing country in the world. The areas where Stumptown’s coffees were grown are coca producing communities. And where there is coca, there is violence. That creates a challenging operating environment in some of the communities where we are working, but it also means that if we can make coffee farming profitable for these families we may be able to help them avoid the temptation of the coca trade.

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What can we look forward to with the Borderlands project? 

Over each of the past two harvests, we have helped make commercial connections between growers in Nariño and four members of the Advisory Council, including Stumptown. This year will be the third harvest for the project, and we are planning to continue to grow the volumes and increase the quality.  

But the really important stuff comes in 2016, when the washing stations we are building start operations. Building them is easy, of course. Building farmer-owned enterprises strong enough to manage them after the project ends is harder. These businesses are central to what we hope to achieve with the project — the thing that has me most excited and the thing that keeps me up at night.

We have enlisted the help of the experts at Root Capital who know a thing or two about how to run coffee enterprises. We have found support for our vision from some unlikely investors: we just got funding from the Government of Nariño to help make these businesses hum. And we are talking with other investors about potentially expanding this approach.IMG_3395-blog

Talk a little about costs of production and what it takes to get to the level of quality the high end specialty market demands?  How are smallholder farmers able to make it work?

Well, I don’t think it’s entirely clear that smallholder farmers are making it work. The economics of smallholder coffee farming are tenuous at best. The Colombian Coffee Commission just released a report recommending reforms to the coffee sector that included some good analysis. It said coffee gives smallholder growers  “enough income to survive, although not to overcome poverty.” That is a depressing observation, but in our experience it is often true.

We are working with researchers at CIAT (the International Center for Tropical Agriculture) to study costs of production in Nariño and get a better grasp on smallholder profitability. The preliminary results suggest that given the low yields in the region, the only segment of the market that is currently profitable is the high-end specialty segment. My colleague Mark Lundy will be presenting these results during The SCAA Event later this week during a panel on costs of production.

This year, we are offering a micro-lot from Piedra Blanca in Samaniego, led by producer  Nelcy Villota’s fantastic quality. Can you talk a little about her leadership in that community and some of the dynamics and challenges in Samaniego?

Nelcy is a force of nature. The first time I met her, I was struck by how passionately she talked about her farm and her coffee, and how desperate she was to learn. She was getting technical assistance from the project, but was practically begging for more—for any kinds of resources that could help her improve her yields or her quality. She is a leader in her coffee association—she runs a roasting project—and in her community, where she leads a community savings group. She sets a powerful example for others.

Samaniego is complicated. Coca, guerrillas, illegal armed actors. There are some pretty significant challenges there, but they haven’t stopped Nelcy and her neighbors from organizing. This year they will market their coffee collectively for the third straight year. Before the project started, they had never sold coffee collectively.

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Also, I couldn’t be more stoked to have been able to select, purchase, and share the incredible Yellow Maragogype coffee from producer Corona Zambrano. You posted a blog about this curious case. Seeing as how it has now come full circle and we are offering this tiny micro-lot coffee in our Seattle cafes right now, what are you most excited about it?

This is an amazing story and I am so delighted that this particular chapter had a happy ending. If you will recall, Corona was going to tear out her Maragogype and replace it with Castillo when we took you to visit her farm. You helped save that coffee when you offered her a premium to separate it, and you created incentives for Corona and her neighbors to pursue this opportunity further.  

We have helped Corona select Maragogype seed from her farm and students in the local public school are propagating it. Soon Corona will renovate her Maragogype grove, and her neighbors will begin planting it on their farms. With any luck, this tiny lot you are releasing today will blossom into something much bigger—a community-level Yellow Maragogype lot to start, but perhaps more.  A community-wide commitment to quality. A process for continuous innovation.  And an entrepreneurial brand of coffee farming that reads the signals the market is sending.

Thank you Michael! Learn more about the Colombia Nariño Borderlands coffee HERE.

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Spring has officially sprung, and we’re getting geared up for warm weather road trips. We know better than to rely on roadside diners and gas stations to get us where we’re going. Here are some of our favorite brewers and grinders that are best suited for the suitcase.

Road-Trip-Blog-2 Rambler Brew Kit 

We created this kit largely based on our own dream travel set-up. Required qualifications? Functionality, quality, and good looks. The kit includes everything we would take on a road trip, campout, bike tour, or weekend getaway.

Road-Trip-Blog-5 AeroPress

There are 1001 ways to brew an AeroPress and that’s just one thing we love about it. The portable and lightweight AeroPress brews a sweet, full-bodied cup wherever you find yourself.

Road-Trip-Blog-3 SnowPeak Dripper

Traveling light? Japanese-designed Snow Peak pour over folds flat and is a reliable on-the-go brewer. Found in camp kitchens and glove boxes everywhere.

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Porlex Mini Grinder

A sleek and lightweight little powerhouse. The Porlex mini is a favorite around here to pack in our camp & road coffee kits. Its ceramic conical burrs stay sharp and won’t rust.