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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.

ISIS FISHER
Entanglement

April 1st – May 5th, 2015

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Departing from her usual watercolor medium, Isis Fisher presents Entanglement, a collection of black and white drawings, at Stumptown Downtown.

“These works focus on interweaving forms, organic pattern, and varying, uneven symmetry.  Although the lines are clean, the symmetry is often distorted which gives it a very human element.  In these drawings, I use the juxtaposition of various textures and patterns to create a tapestry of interlocking imagery, smaller forms creating a larger image.  Often when I begin a piece, I have no pre-conceived notion of the outcome. I allow the work to develop gradually and spontaneously.”

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Isis Fisher is a self-taught artist from Maui, Hawaii who now lives and works in Portland, Oregon.  Her first exhibition opened at Breeze Block Gallery in 2010. Since then, she has shown in many small venues and galleries both in Portland and Hawaii. Most recently, she showed her first collection of black and white drawings at the Flaming Lips’ gallery, The Womb, in Oklahoma City. Entanglement is her first time showing at Stumptown Downtown.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters (Downtown)
128 SW Third Avenue
Portland, OR 

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We are huge fans of filtered pour over coffee around here – and we’re big on experimentation, too. So we decided to do a little coffee filter tête-à-tête with our Coffee Education team to find if a filter affects the final outcome in a cup of coffee. Spoiler alert: It does.

First, a bit about our experiment – one of our main objectives here was to find out how much the filter alone affects the taste of the brew. To do this, we knew we needed to isolate the filter from the brew method.

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For our first experiment, we poured water through the filters to see what the paper tasted like. Then, we poured water through a second time to find what was being imparted into your coffee after you rinse your filters.

Barista tip: you should always rinse your filter before you brew! This rinses out the paper taste and dust and warms up your brewer.

Our second experiment was to taste coffee poured and brewed through each filter. So we brewed all the coffees the same way through each filter to taste the difference.

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PAPER VS PAPER VS SOCK

CHEMEX FILTER

The Chemex filter itself was the cleanest and the most neutral. The Chemex cup of coffee had a thinner texture, brought out the floral notes, and a bit of dryness in mouthfeel.

MELITTA OXYGEN BLEACHED

The Oxygen Bleached Melitta filter had little residual paper taste when rinsed. This cup was a bit heavier with a fuller texture, and no notable paper flavor.

MELITTA UNBLEACHED NATURAL

The natural Melitta filter imparted a notable woody sweetness after the first and second rinse. This filter imparted a papery flavor to the coffee, with a very noticeable dryness.

HARIO V60

The Hario V60 filter was grassy at first taste, but rinsed clean on the second pass. The V60 coffee was bright and very crisp with high citrus notes.

SOCK CLOTH FILTER

The Sock cloth filter imparted the strongest flavor, and let us tell you, it wasn’t pretty.  The coffee had a noticeable finish that was a bit like a wet wool coat. Somebody said it reminded him of “a thrift store in Eugene, Oregon.”

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Our Recommendation?

Choose an oxygen bleached filter, like the Melitta white, Chemex or Hario V60. If you insist on using a natural, rinse the hell out of it. Toss the sock.

Other Findings:

We were surprised how much of a difference the Hario V60 filter made – the paper is a high quality paper made in Japan. It is a lighter weight, with more texture and the result was floral and bright, with a lighter body than the Melitta and bringing out more citrus notes in the coffee than any of the others.FilterSelects_680_6

PAPER VS STAINLESS STEEL

ABLE KONE

The Able Kone is actually a brewer, not a filter. It’s essentially a stainless steel cone with small holes in it.

It is designed to fit neatly inside a Chemex, but you can brew it into anything that supports it. The difference in taste between a Chemex paper filter and the Able Kone is a big one.

The Chemex is one of heaviest paper filters, resulting in a very clean cup, while the Kone’s brew produces a much thicker, chewier cup of coffee with more fines (tiny coffee particles), oils and sediment. It’s actually a brew with the mouthfeel and texture similar to the French Press.

ABLE DISK

Able also makes stainless steel reusable disks for the AeroPress, called The Disk. It comes with two options, Standard and Fine, which have have different sized holes and levels of durability. The Standard Disk brews a fuller body cup of coffee with a bit more fines and can take a bit of a beating – this one should last for years of brewing and is three times as thick as the Fine Disk. The Fine Disk brews a sweet clean cup of coffee with very little fines – it is much more delicate and should be handled with care.

Again, here you’ll find a big difference when brewing paper versus stainless steel. The paper collects much of the fines and oils that you taste when brewed through a metal disk or cone, so your cup will be less nuanced.  If you prefer a cleaner cup, stick with the paper. For a fuller-bodied cup, or if you’re looking to go paper-free, try the Disk.

As always, we’re here to help! For more brewing information, check out our brew guides here. If you have any questions about this or anything else, call us at (855) 711-3385, email us at info@stumptowncoffee.com, or tweet us @stumptowncoffee.

JG_3 On view March 10 – April 6th
Reception 4-6pm Sunday, March 22nd with music by Jonathan Sielaff (of Golden Retriever)

John Gnorski was born and raised in Virginia and lives and works in Portland. He writes and plays music with the band Houndstooth.

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

Division Stumptown
4525 SE Division Street