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Source Trips

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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.

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Bolivia Buenavista is our featured coffee this month. Completely unique compared to other South American profiles, it is elegant and distinguished and worthy of a close taste. It’s elusive, yet rewarding, and as comforting as the day is long.

Andrew and Steve from our Coffee Sourcing & Roasting team recently visited some of our producer partners in Caranavi and came home with some incredible coffee, bundles of coffee flower tea to share and some interesting takeaways.

Caranavi, Bolivia
Late August 2014

To get to Buenavista in Caranavi, Bolivia, you take a 9-hour flight to Peru from Los Angeles, get up at dawn the following day and hop another 2-hour flight from Lima, Peru to El Alto, Bolivia, flying over Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America.  El Alto lies just above the very dense city of La Paz. The climate is cool and humid to semi-arid; just right for growing potatoes, which are a staple crop here.

By the time you land in El Alto, you might be struck with altitude sickness–you are 13,325 feet above sea level, after all. It’s basically like being dropped out of plane on top of a mountain. Couple that with the quick transition to speaking Spanish, and navigating work visa logistics can be tricky.Source_Bolivia_Aug14_SK-1Source_Bolivia_Aug14_SK-12Source_Bolivia_Aug14_SK-4

After arriving in El Alto, we met Pedro Rodriguez and his daughter Daniela, who along with his son, operate five coffee farms and the Buenavista wet mill in Caranavi. They also own and run Agricafe and Agrinuts, exporting coffee and peanuts.

After our hellos, we began the long, treacherous drive down to Caranavi, which is the main source for coffee production in Bolivia. To get there you must drive a formidable road, wide enough for only one car to pass at a time.

It took us five hours to go about 100 miles.

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The Altiplano looks harsh and barren. As you descend slowly the landscape begins to change. It starts with small ferns, which gives way to larger ferns and azalea-look-alikes growing out from the rocky walls. When you start to get closer to the Yungas valley, the vegetation bursts into lush greenery.

It was dark by the time we reached the Buenavista Mill in Caranavi. We sat down for a classic Bolivian dinner with Pedro and his family, which was a spicy chicken dish called Sajta y pollo con aji and chuno. Chuno is a dried potato from the Altiplano, with a rich earthy flavor.

We stayed in rooms in the “villa” behind the mill. As we drifted off, we could hear the sound of the slow, cyclical churning of the drying coffee in the drum dryers called gaurdiolas.

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We woke up to a beautiful breakfast spread of crepes with caramel and scrambled eggs with cheese and went straight to work.

Pedro runs a tight team. He told us we’d start at 9am, and he was ready. We cupped through three tables of coffee that day.

The cupping lab is perched above the valley looking over Caranavi – a beautiful place to spend the day tasting coffees. After each cupping, we’d break, eat some fruit, adjourn to a separate room and we’d all view our scores and notes on a screen.

There was a constant bustle of taxis bringing cherry to the mill – the farmers hire taxis to deliver the cherry. Pedro pays for the taxis, and the farmer usually stays, has a cup of coffee and watches his lot being cleaned.

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Pedro has created a mini-school here, where farmers can cup, learn about best practices, enjoy lunch, and even brew coffee, all within the mill.

The next day, we arrived at Pedro’s farm, and he showed us his unconventional method of growing coffee. The forest has been mostly cleared except for some tall canopy of shade, which is counter to the tangles of wild growth in the jungle that we usually see.

Despite our surprise at his approach, what he was doing was working.

We saw some Caturra varieties planted 7 months ago at a year old, that were already producing flower. Usually it takes two to three years.  The flowers of the Caturra plants smell (and taste) like jasmine and the sweet smell hung heavy in the air around us.

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We sipped cups of French Press coffee from the farm in the chilly, misty morning, which is the way most of the coffee was brewed while we were there.

Pedro and Daniela laid out coffee cherry for us to taste. It was an unusual treat for us to taste each of the different varieties produced at Buenavista separated out.

The SL28 was sweet but simple and pulpy. The Bourbon cherry was less complex with a candied sweetness, while the Yellow Caturra was floral. The Java variety and the Caturra were our favorites: the Java was juicy and very tropical and the Caturra intensely sweet and complex.

The Bolivian Buenavista now on our menu is made up of Caturra, Typica and Catuai varieties. The profile that we are getting from this season is incredibly delicate and nuanced. It is not a heavy coffee. It is elegant, with lots of champagne grape, lime, cocoa nibs, clove, honey and a buttery mouthfeel. The sweetness is like a sprinkling of white cane sugar.

Sourcing great coffee from this region is getting harder and harder because of competition with Coca, which is easier to pick and often more profitable. Change in climate is proving to be problematic, too – rainfall patterns are changing, which is complicating harvest and delaying coffee shipments.

We’ve also seen poor infrastructure and training, with most producers relying on old trees and a prevalence of Roya (coffee rust) destroying established coffee trees.

Pedro and his team at the Buenavista mill are helping us to remain hopeful, though, with impeccable processing and extensive education.

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“If you love coffee, you have to watch this film. If you want to understand what makes coffee freaks so passionate about their brew, you have to watch this film. If you want to understand the global coffee economy, watch this film.” -Boston Globe Review, A Film About Coffee

 

Get 30% off the film with the code : STUMPTOWN.

Our Rwanda Huye Mountain coffee has just landed back on our menu this week, coinciding with the On Demand release of a beautiful film we’re very proud to be featured in called, coincidentally, A Film About Coffee. The film is an informative deep dive and a love letter to our favorite thing. Director Brandon Loper traveled the globe offering a peek behind the curtain of the specialty coffee industry, revealing how and why we go so very far and wide to source, process, roast, brew and drink it.AFAC_6AFAC_12AFAC_5AFAC_13

The specifics of the global coffee economy and the complexities of how we source coffee are often difficult to explain on the back of a bag card or in a source post. But here Loper and his team get it right: The filmmakers caught up with our green team traveling in Rwanda and filmed the coffee harvest and the Huye Mountain washing station, where coffee is grown in the surrounding mountain highlands.AFAC_7AFAC_4

The Huye Mountain company works towards economic, social and environmental sustainability, and with help from Stumptown premiums, they also reinvest in the community through social payments. A Film About Coffee shows the effect of one such payment – a water station which provides fresh water to the community and a flush supply of for washing coffee, too. Before this station was built, folks in the community had to walk two kilometers to collect fresh drinking water. This year’s social payment was a food security payment through a distribution of cows.AFAC_8AFAC_3

The film successfully and thoughtfully captures how many hands and hours of work go into that pristine bean before it ever even reaches the roastery, let alone your Americano.

If you love coffee, watch this movie.

Watch it here. For more information on Rwanda Huye Mountain, click here.

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We have big love for Guatemala Finca El Injerto – perhaps made obvious by the fact that we have been partners with this six-time Cup of Excellence winning farm for 11 years. (The Cup of Excellence is a competition which brings top quality coffee and producers to the forefront of the global coffee community, and this farm is the cream of the crop.)

Finca El Injerto is tucked away in Huehuetenango at the top of the mountain in a deep, lush canyon looking out over Chiapas in the distance. It represents best in practice and is an incredible business model for “vertical integration” in coffee; in other words, they control everything, and they do it to the highest of standards. It’s also worth noting, that they opened a successful roastery and cafe in Guatemala City called El Injerto Cafe Coffeeshop that has produced a national barista champion.injerto-(8)pacamara-9

The Pacamara variety entered the broader coffee scene with fanfare in 2008 when Injerto placed 1st at Cup of Excellence with a mind boggling cupping score of 93.68, and a record auction price of $80.20/LB green. Of the last 9 COE auctions, Injerto placed 1st six times.

Three years ago, a hail storm swept through Huehuetenango and devastated half of the Aguirre’s Pacamara plants. These plants can take years to recover from such a thing. That year, Stumptown increased the price per pound we pay to Injerto to help compensate for the storm damage. Happily, this year, their production finally reached full volume.pacamara-4injerto-(1)

After three long years, we celebrate the return of Injerto’s Pacamara to our menu. This year, the Aguirre family sold this lot of Pacamara directly to Stumptown, rather than auctioning it all off on their private auction and we’re honored to serve it again.

Pacamara, a hybrid seed variety of the Pacas and Maragogype seed strains, retains the large size of Maragogype and presents an intricate, lush cup. Flavor wise, the Pacamara consistently displays intricate, transparent and nuanced flavors spanning from sweet to savory.

Guatemala Finca El Injerto Pacamara’s intensity of flavor, complexity and acidity would balance well with the rich and diverse flavors on a holiday table. It offers enough weight and body to act as a counterpoint to sweetness. And it tastes great with savory dishes, too. We hope you’ll enjoy this variety as much as we do.  Learn more about Guatemala Finca El Injerto Pacamara here.injerto

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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.