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Source Trips

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Adam McClellan, Coffee Buyer

We talk a lot about quality around here. But what does that mean beyond the cupping table, brew bar, and espresso machine? Since we base our green coffee purchasing on the best of the best, we want repeatability and investment on the source side to get to that quality year after year, so what type of work and measurement is needed to get to that cup quality to have positive social impact and long term benefits?

For us, the combined work and investment of Ethiopia Duromina co-operative together with Technoserve, shows the clear path and model for this coffee quality/social/environmental benefit equation.

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We are thrilled to be able to serve you this stunning coffee, now a standard part of our annual line up of incredible Ethiopia offerings, and to be investing even heavier in this great partnership as the new harvest begins in Ethiopia. This year’s Duromina continues to exhibit flavors of pineapple, green grape and candied citrus.  For us, it remains one of the most emblematic cups from Ethiopia to date.  Also, it’s in the running for our single origin espresso of the year. Enjoy.

SHOP ETHIOPIA DUROMINA HERE >>>

fb_mixteca (1)Summer 2014, Oaxaca, Mexico
Adam McClellan, Coffee Buyer

I’m used to being awakened by cranky roosters and dogs barking at the crack of dawn when visiting the small coffee communities across rural Latin America. There was nothing unusual about those sounds on this particular crisp morning, but the peculiar noise that rustled me awake this time was different. Once I came to I could make out a muffled, echoing human voice projecting on a loud, crackling P.A. system – the morning news and announcements for the town. The news was mostly communicated in the local indigenous Mixteca dialect, but there was enough Spanish mixed in on one featured point that I could make out some of that message. The voice was announcing a reminder to the village: “Our coffee buyer is in town today, and he wants to meet with all of the local coffee farmers at 11 AM in the town square community center.” I distinctly remember thinking nervously, oh man, this could get interesting. This sure was shaping up to be an exciting day in the remote mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico.

After driving six hours or so over hot, dusty roads from Oaxaca city, we had arrived in the darkening evening just after sunset. It’s always fun to arrive to a place you’ve never seen in the evening. The excitement builds as the light of day reveals a new landscape. I rolled out of bed while the rest of the quiet, clean, organized town was still slowly waking up to their morning routines, and walked out to see an incredible sunrise and stunning view from the town which is high enough to look out over the rugged, morning mist-shrouded Sierra Madre Mountains, all the way to the Pacific Ocean in the distance.mixtera (8)pacamaramixtera (10)

I started the day with a hearty breakfast of fresh steak, eggs, tortillas, and salsa with tomatoes from Cecilio’s garden. Then spent the morning visiting several inspiring farms with thriving, pure, heirloom Bourbon and Typica plants. I walked to the farmer meeting which started right after the local youth brass band rehearsal finished. I wanted to bring a clear message to the assembled farmers: let’s start something special here together with Stumptown and La Sierra Mixteca, a newly formed small group of 100 or so focused hard-working small holder farmers eager to access a new market that rewards quality with top price premiums.

Still buzzing from the community discussion, we walked out of town to spend the afternoon under the hot sun checking out plant nurseries, worm composting stations, and more farms. We finally sat in the shade outside the breezy storage warehouse and polished off a few crates of Corona while sharing stories with several farmers. Sometimes it just all clicks, right place, right time.

I couldn’t be happier or more excited to present the fruits (well seeds, actually) of this pilot project in its first year. This soft, mild, pleasantly citric coffee with lingering chocolate sweetness, is best served at dawn.

Get more information on Mexico La Sierra Mixteca here.

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Colombia Nariño Borderlands – A Closer Look

We casually talk about Direct Trade on a regular basis, probably since it embodies just about everything we do here at Stumptown Coffee Roasters. The one question folks ask that we’ve never really addressed is how does Direct Trade begin? Like so many things, the answer can be a bit complex since each country has nuances that affect the way we purchase coffee and each farm or washing station has unique goals, needs and challenges. And yet, each relationship rests on a few basic tenets: improving coffee quality, incentive based rewards to the farmer and transparency of the supply chain.

We’ve just embarked on a journey that marks what we hope are the first few steps for a long-lasting Direct Trade relationship and we want to share the experience. We’d like to introduce Colombia Nariño Borderlands. This is a cool opportunity to hop in and examine the relationship at the inception.borderlands-(2)

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This year’s harvest is the first from the Nariño Borderlands Coffee Project, started by Catholic Relief Services. The project began in 2013 as a way to empower local farmers, encourage quality coffee cultivation and improve livelihoods in the Nariño Department based on new relationships built upon mutual commitment to quality. CRS plans to research the impact of Direct Trade on a farming community with empirical data collected over a period of years.borderlands-(3)borderlands-(5)

CRS invited six leading US roasters and importers to work with the project. The project has begun by providing the opportunity for buyers to pay premiums for high quality coffee. The price incentives will encourage community members to take the risk to focus on quality. The participating farmers will regularly complete extensive surveys on everything from schooling and occupation of family members, to healthcare access, diet and non-coffee crops cultivated – not to mention the very detailed questions about coffee cultivation. The project seeks hard numbers on the impact of Direct Trade and price premiums on the livelihood of farmers and the surrounding community.

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The Nariño Borderlands project began by helping to establish a new farmer organization. In the next stage, the project will build the first farmer-managed washing station in Nariño. Over the next two years, they plan to install a second centralized washing station which will purchase and process cherry.

Historically, coffee from this area was sold as a bulked lot at a baseline price, which prevented any traceability to individual farmers or incentives for quality. This year, some of the more established farms in the area received premiums to begin establishing the correlation between quality and incentives. Next year, when the first washing station is built, we hope to see more participants in the wet mills. Cupping at the washing stations will encourage a greater understanding of cup quality. The project employs agronomists and technicians who will assist with education and other support in the field. They will design the washing stations and select the best spots to build them.borderlands-(7)

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Currently, farmers deliver parchment for payment. Payment for cherry is inevitably cheaper than for parchment since the cherry still needs to be processed. One of the challenges of this project will be to communicate how much time, energy and resources the farmers will save by delivering cherry for sale, rather than processing the coffee themselves. They will then be able to invest their extra time, energy and resources into cultivating high quality coffee on their farms.

Like the beginning of any relationship, this is an exciting time. We all get to know each other. We know they have the materials and passion to grow and process great coffee. They know we have years of experience working with farmers and the determination and incentive to build a lasting relationship along with the ability to pay more for great coffee. We look forward to the outcome of this exciting project.

 

fieldnotes1 Adam-Ethiopia_5193 Adam-Ethiopia_6295 Adam-Ethiopia_5238 Adam-Ethiopia_5324Adam-Ethiopia_5223Adam-Ethiopia_5338 Adam-Ethiopia_5352 Adam-Ethiopia_5471 Adam-Ethiopia_5795Adam-Ethiopia_5628Adam-Ethiopia_5880 Adam-Ethiopia_5995 Adam-Ethiopia_6093 Adam-Ethiopia_6125 Adam-Ethiopia_6275 He says this:

Ethiopia is a land of many contrasts: magical, mystical, heartwarming, heartbreaking, fertile, dry, lush, ancient, modern, fascinating, frustrating, tragic and triumphant.  One of the coolest things about it is that coffee is part of the lifeblood here, intertwined as ritual in the daily life of everyone. Driving through the towns you smell coffee being roasted everywhere.  When you arrive to a new farm or community washing station, you are greeted with a cup of freshly roasted and brewed coffee. I cupped some early harvest lots the day I left and there were some serious stunners. In short, we are really stoked for our Ethiopia offerings once again this year.  

 

Over the past month and a half, I have spent over four weeks traveling in South America checking in on the harvest there with our producing partners, and am currently on the road again for another stretch. Much of the recent travel has been focused on Colombia and I’m truly excited about what Stumptown is working on there to bring to you this year, so I wanted to share some of the best images and prime moments from some of those visits.blog-pic-01These are the hillsides of the Tolima region, near Planadas where our El Jordan coffee comes from. I’m always so amazed how steep the slopes are where coffee grows in Colombia.

blog-pic-02 Motorcycles are the primary mode of transportation around town and out to the farms. This area of Tolima is one of the most remote, isolated producing areas in the country, previously known more for the guerilla activity and conflict. Quality coffee is helping to change that.

blog-pic-04The small scale farmers here in Planadas are increasingly investing more in quality and organizing together to share ideas and knowledge.

blog-pic-06blog-pic-08High prices are really going a long way here, farmers are able to invest in more land and expanding infrastructure on the farm–though the the roads and other basic services are lacking and far behind other parts of Colombia, making moving the coffee out a huge challenge.blog-pic-09 blog-pic-10Looking out at workers picking coffee, the sound of ripe cherries hitting the buckets echoed up the valley.

blog-pic-11Controlled, meticulous drying systems are fundamental for quality here in Tolima. Changing climate patterns are bringing rain all year, so farmers must adjust and adapt, but stay focused on quality to maintain a viable business.

blog-pic-12An example of the reality of producing coffee in Colombia: on one single branch of the same plant you can see ripe cherry, green unripe cherry, and flowering that will soon become cherry.

blog-pic-50This is what we mean when we say “manual depulping” equipment. It’s very traditional, and is capable of helping to produce some of the world’s best coffee.blog-pic-15Farmers in and around Planadas are on average much younger than in other areas of the coffee producing world.

blog-pic-17 blog-pic-18 I’ll never get tired of these incredible views and landscapes in Colombia.

blog-pic-22 blog-pic-23Tasting the local fruits with producers of our La Piramide coffee.

blog-pic-25A coffee tree trunk sprouting new life.blog-pic-29Covered, ventilated drying at San Isidro.blog-pic-30The one and only Isaias Cantillo, model coffee farmer, Finca La Esperanza, Suaza, Huila.blog-pic-32Isaias is a dedicated, hard working, farmer totally committed to proudly producing outstanding quality coffee, a great model for small scale farmers around the world.blog-pic-36The Cantillo brothers and their proud papa. The fourth generation of farmers in this great family is coming up and excited about a positive future producing coffee thanks to their model for sustainable production and focus on quality.blog-pic-37Brothers Cantillo and the mother shrub.blog-pic-38The appropriately named Cantillo variety, a genetic mutation they came across on their farms almost 20 years ago and decided to keep propagating.blog-pic-39Looking out over the valleys below from La Esperanza with the Nevado de Huila looming in the distance.blog-pic-41If it rained after you went down the hill, it might be a little sticky getting back up.  blog-pic-42A coffee farmer in Loja, Ecuador tending the seedlings with his daughters.blog-pic-46Magic moments in the Andes. Quillabamba, Ecuador.

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Bringing down the day’s cherry harvest, Vilcabamba, Ecuador.