FGC’s green coffee buyer, Phil Anacker, recently returned from the Cusco region in Peru, where he discovered what’s possible in the way of fantastic small lot coffees when one of the largest (and not a little corrupt) growers’  cooperatives suddenly dissolves from political infighting. In the small and slightly warm town of Quillabamba, Phil cupped upwards of fifty lots of coffees from small producers who are now free to sell directly to interested buyers willing to pay premiums for high quality. And, yes, the gems were there: 4 of the lots received scores of over 90 points! Keep your eyes open for the arrival of some of these wonderful, high-grown coffees in the next few months. They will be worth every penny!

 

Honduras Cup of Excellence 2014

by Jesse Bladyka

Earlier this month, I traveled to San Pedro Sula to participate in the 11th Cup of Excellence Honduras. Cup of Excellence is a program administered by the non-profit Alliance for Coffee Excellence which aims to identify and promote exemplary coffees within a coffee producing country. These extraordinary coffees are auctioned off in a global online auction, awarding farmers prices which far exceed most other market channels. This process also introduces farmers directly to roasters who may be interested in building long term relationships and purchasing quality coffee at high premiums in future years.

This year 194 coffees were submitted to the Cup of Excellence Honduras. Of these samples 40 were chosen by a jury of Honduran coffee tasters as exemplary coffees to be judged by an international jury. Our international jury was composed of 23 coffee professionals from North America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America, including three cuppers who served on the Honduran National jury. We spent the week calibrating our palates, tasting these 40 wonderful coffees and eventually deciding which coffees would be featured in the auction, as well as which coffees would be awarded top prizes.

Honduras, like almost every coffee producing country, has a diversity of regions, climates and qualities within the coffee that it produces. The volume of coffee produced in Honduras is large and growing, it is the largest exporter of coffee in Central America with total exports of the 2012/13 crop nearly 5.5 million 60 kilo bags. Quality however, has not always been at the forefront of Honduran Coffee’s reputation. Much of the coffee exported is traded through middlemen known as Coyotes who buy coffee from farmers in rural areas at a low price and transport it to a mill to be blended together with the coffees of many other unknown farmers. This business model provides no incentive to farmers to grow better coffee, as there is no traceability or differentiation amongst lots other than the most basic origin denomination. Imagine if our beautiful Sonoma County grapes were all blended together and sold as California Wine: Sonoma County. Cup of Excellence has been trying to encourage farmers and exporters alike to invest in traceable practices which can reward great farmers and great coffees with premium pricing and long term producer-buyer relationships. Along with the growing demand for high end specialty coffee, this has led to more and more Honduran coffees being carefully prepared and sold as Micro-lot coffees.

Throughout the week, all of the tasting was done blindly, ensuring that the Jury had no idea of which farmer or even which region a coffee was from. Scores were collected and compiled and coffees were moved forward or eliminated from the competition. During this process we were able to taste the variety of different flavor profiles that Honduran coffees offer. Some coffees showcased vibrant citrus and tartaric acidity profiles, tart and explosive, while others featured big soft bodies and brown sugar sweetness. The coffees that performed best showed complex acidity with many layers of fruit, sweet and tart, alongside a pillowy mouthfeel and pristine finish. They were among some of the finest coffees I’ve ever tasted. In the end, twenty-three of the forty coffees judged were selected to be auctioned (the auction will take place in June), and the top three scoring coffees were each awarded an average score of over 90 points (a rare occurrence when using the Cup of Excellence scoring system). The highest score was awarded to a woman for the first time in the history of the Honduras Cup of Excellence. Her coffee farm, Mi Esperanza, is located in La Paz, in Southwest Honduras. The award was presented in grand fashion by Juan Orlando Hernandez, the President of Honduras.

Juan Orlando Hernandez, President of Honduras (in Blue), presenting the First Prize to Lucinda Vasquez, the first woman farmer to win a Honduran Cup of Excellence.

 

As a member of the International Jury for this important coffee event. I was able to visit a number of farms and processing plants (Beneficios) to learn more about coffee in Honduras, and to meet some of the people who are working hard to bring the best quality Honduran coffees to market. I visited Beneficio San Vicente in Santa Barbara, a region that is home to 14 of the 23 auction lots. Here I met with farmers and exporters to see first hand the meticulous farming and processing practices that lead to Cup of Excellence lots. I was impressed by the prevalent use of raised bed drying and solar greenhouse type driers, which can help control the temperature and humidity of coffee parchment as it is drying.

A raised bed solar drier for drying parchment coffee in Santa Barbara, Honduras.

 

I also was able to visit a young farm and see how farmers in this area are selecting quality focused varieties and treating them carefully in order to yield the highest quality fruit and seed.

A young Pacas Coffee Shrub in Santa Barbara, Honduras

 

I also visited the coffee growing region of Copan, which borders Guatemala and is home to some of the best Organic Coffees in Honduras, as well as some of the most amazing Mayan ruins! Here I met some amazing people at the Cooperative CAPUCAS, who focus on using sustainable farming practices to produce extraordinary coffees as well as specialty honey. The Cooperative has provided a place for farmers to learn about Organic farming, receive help gaining certifications such as Organic, Rainforest Alliance, or Smithsonian Bird Friendly, and find help marketing their coffee to like minded buyers.

Organic Coffee Growing under the shade of young Spanish Cedar at CAPUCAS

 

One of the most memorable conversations that I had during my visit to Honduras was a brief one with the farmer who would eventually be awarded third place in the auction. We spoke about his organic farming operation in La Paz and about one of the most devastating realities that coffee producers have faced in the past couple years. Throughout Central America there has been a widespread outbreak of the fungus hemilia vastatrix, known as coffee leaf rust or “roya” and it has affected many farms and caused an expected 16% decrease in production. The cooperative that I visited, CAPUCAS has lost nearly one thousand acres of coffee to the rust fungus, which is especially savage on organic farms where no chemical fungicides can be used. The gentleman with whom I was conversing, Armando Bautista, had lost two thirds of his small farm in La Paz and was considering how to move forward for the next few years until newly planted coffee would yield a market worthy crop. He communicated a dedication and love for coffee, for farming and for his land in Honduras, and clearly had no desire for another livelihood. It was so rewarding to see him claim one of the top spots in the auction, knowing that the price he would receive for that lot of coffee would ease the hardship that he has faced, at least this year.

La Roya is not going away, nor are many of the other difficulties that farmers and farm-workers face. However, programs like Cup of Excellence strive to open lines of communication all along the supply chain and help those of us buying the worlds most beautiful coffees connect to and build relationships with those who are growing and preparing it.

The auction is in June, and we may have the opportunity to feature an auction lot, or another lot from one of the outstanding farmers I was fortunate to meet. Keep your eyes on the menu!

Flying Goat Coffee Wins Good here Award and Special Gold Seal Distinction

Good Food Awards Gold Seal 2013

We like awards as much as anyone, but being picked as this year’s winner in the Good Food Awards coffee category was a big thrill for us. Not only was our coffee chosen for cup quality out of 200 entries from the best roasters around the country, it was also designated as a Gold Seal winner, a special distinction for winners that go beyond the Good Food Awards sustainability guidelines.

Our aim, from the first day we started roasting coffee in Healdsburg, has been to find the best coffees in the world, grown by
 

 people who care not only for the crop they grow, Ethiopia GFA Pic_edited-1 (683×1024)but also for the people, animals and land around them. T

his commitment needs to be more than just a certification on paper; it needs to be a way of life. That’s why we spend so much time meeting with coffee farmers, walking with them on their farms, and exploring new and better ways to improve coffee quality and environmental h

ealth on and around their farms. To us, coffee quality and sustainability are mutually reinforcing. The Good Food Award, along with the special Golden Seal designation, is pro

of positive that this is a winning approach to creating the world’s best coffee.

Much of the credit for the award goes to the farmers and managers at the Wottuna Boltuma cooperative in Ethiopia. This winning coffee was the result of a special member-organized project that dedicated extra time to sorting ripe cherries and staffing the drying beds in exchange for a healthy per-pound premium if the targeted quality was achieved. FGC green buyer, Phil Anacker, just returned from a trip to Southern and Western Ethiopia and visited with all the farms we work with, including the Wottuna Boltuma co-op. He came away impressed as ever with the work being done there.

Good Food Awards Winner Seal .O.2013A special thank you also goes out to the judges who flew into San Francisco from the far corners of the globe to contribute their renowned cupping skills to the grueling process of blind cupping and scoring nearly 200 coffees. This rigorous and well-

Before this season’s crop is gone, we encourage you to try a bag of our certified organic Wottuna Boltuma and support the great coffee work being done in Ethiopia.managed cupping is why everyone in the Specialty Coffee Industry takes this competition so seriously. It makes the win that much more valuable.

GR no 5

The Healdsburg café is currently showing tintype prints created by talented Bay Area photographer Caitlin McCaffrey. The prints are of Greek and Roman statuary and were made using the painstaking collodion process, a printing method popularized in the 1850s. They’re big, beautiful and worth a look, especially in afternoon light. They’ll be showing through the end of April.

Good Food Awards Finalist Seal 2012

We’re very happy to announce that Flying Goat Coffee was chosen this week as a national finalist in the second annual Good Food Awards.

There were hundreds of entries from across the country, so we consider this a great honor and a testament to exceptional coffee farming, dedicated sourcing and skilled roasting.

The winning coffee was our Ethiopia Moredocofe, produced by Haile Gebre in the Guji province near the Kenyan border.

While we’re always pleased when our coffees receive recognition, the Good Food Awards are special for a number of reasons. The bar for participation is set very high. Quality, of course, is imperative: the food or beverage must be authentic and “delicious, bringing joy to those who consume it.” Equally important to the GFA organizers, however, is “responsible” production; all food products must meet a long list of environmental, ethical and social standards in the way they are grown, manufactured or produced. The coffee category, in fact, required third party organic certification.

We’ve been advocates for the twin goals of quality and sustainability since we first opened our doors over 15 years ago. We’re pleased that there is now a venue to reward all like-minded food and beverage producers and we’re thrilled to be on the same list with them.

Here is a list of all the finalists and categories.

FGC’s green coffee buyer, Phil Anacker, just returned from Boquete, Panama, where he participated with 15 other international jurors in the Best of Panama Competition.

As a producing country, Panama’s output is tiny; in terms of quality, however, it’s a giant. The discovery of the now famous Gesha cultivar on the Peterson Family’s Hacienda La Esmeralda in 2004 was the spark that generated international interest in Panama’s potential. As the Peterson Family’s understanding of the magnificent Gesha varietal grew, so did the quality, demand and the price, which topped over $100 per pound a few years back in the annual BoP auction.

Since then, much more Gesha has come into production from other Panama farms. Many have since questioned whether anyone else could produce anything close to the exceptional coffee grown on Hacienda Esmeralda.

This year, the Gesha question was answered: 4 Gesha samples ended up on the final judging table with the top score going to Benjamin Osorio’s farm with an average judge’s score of 92.30. The Hacienda Esmerala Gesha was a close second with a score of 91.70. A second place finish is a new experience for the Peterson family, but the overall consensus is that the “upset”  is a good thing for Panama coffee. We know first hand that Price, Daniel and Rachel are already at work with a plan to regain the top spot in 2012. If this year is any indication, BoP 2012 may produce some of the highest scores ever given to a group of coffees — some have suggested that the only fair way to proceed is to hold a separate competition exclusively for Gesha varietals! Either way, the final table at the BoP competition is a coffee cupper’s dream.

A final note, one of Phil’s top scores actually went to a non-Gesha coffee: Ricardo Koyner’s Caturra/Typica blend from Finca Don K, which took the 5th spot. With luck, we hope to see some of this great coffee at FGC sometime soon.

Enjoy the video!

BohoBestOf2011LogoSm_edited-2Recognition in any form for the work we do is always great to receive. It’s particularly rewarding when it comes directly from our customers. Thank you to all the FGC fans that again voted us Best Coffeehouse of the North Bay! Expect even more from us in the coming year.

Happy AccidentTonight: March 19 from 8 to 10 PM

Come to Healdsburg tonight to meet all three artists whose work is currently on display in the original FGC cafe.

B.L.T. is the ongoing Collaborative Painting Project of Bob Stang, Lisa Beerntsen, & Tony Speirs. Their work will be up through May, but tonight will be the only in person appearance by all three artists. High pop art!

barriclaw

Grinding whole bean coffee just before brewing is an indispensable step to experiencing its peak flavor and aroma.  Once coffee is ground, and its delicate flavor oils are exposed to air, it is almost immediately affected by staling and oxidation.  Even the best coffee is vulnerable to losing crispness of flavor and aroma just minutes after grinding.  We believe so strongly in the virtue of grinding just before brewing that we sell our coffees in whole bean only.  After everything we put into finding the world’s best coffees, roasting them perfectly and shipping them to you just hours out of the roaster, we wouldn’t feel right about selling our coffees any other way.  If you don’t own a grinder, we recommend buying a good one (personally, we consider the grinder the most important piece of coffee equipment you can own). Email us for our list of FGC-recommended grinders.

Panama.honey.product

We’ve received a number of customer questions regarding the term “honey process” used to describe some of the Central American coffees on our offering page. Since we will be bringing in a number of these coffees this year, we thought a detailed explanation was in order.

“Coffee processing” refers to the method of removing the cherry pulp and parchment from the coffee seed (bean), with the finished result being the hard green beans ready for roasting. Generally speaking, there are two methods for processing coffee: Wet-processed (or “washed”) coffees are brought to the mill soon after picking, where the coffee cherry is de-pulped, allowed to ferment for about 20 hours, washed of all pulp and then dried (usually on cement patios). Dry-processed (or “natural”) coffees are whole, intact cherries dried directly on patios, raised beds, tarps or rooftops; once dried, the hard cherry pod is hulled to remove the skin, pulp and parchment in one step. There are over 70 countries in the tropic zone that grow coffee and, as you can imagine, many variations of these two processing methods have evolved over the years based on tradition, climate, economy, quality and so on.

About seven or eight years ago, we began to see coffees from Costa Rica and Panama called “honey-processed.” This is a variation of the “pulped natural” processing method in which the skin and pulp are removed, but the sticky, sugary “mucilage” is allowed to remain and dry on the bean. The name is derived from the honey-colored appearance of the beans after they have dried for a day or so. If performed carefully, with ripe cherry, this process can add perceptible sweetness and body to the final cup character of the coffee. Drying techniques are critical in the honey process, as mold and fungus defects can easily develop if the coffee is not properly and uniformly aerated. African-style raised beds have become the standard for drying honey coffees, as these allow for good air circulation and easy access for turning the coffee at regular intervals. Proper drying requires that the bed depth of the coffee never exceeds two inches. Even for a small farm and mill, honey processing necessitates quite a bit of square footage dedicated to raised beds. Along with the added labor involved for proper drying, this means that honey processing can be more expensive for the producer. The added costs, however, can be well worth the effort when the result is a sweet, clean and full bodied cup.

The honey coffee trend began when small, quality-oriented roasters in Japan and the U.S. developed relationships with small producers in Costa Rica and Panama who were willing to process quality “honeys” for a premium. From Costa Rica, look for honey coffees from the following small (“micro-mill”) farms: Brumas el Zurqui in the Central Valley, Herbazu in the West Valley, Don Mayo in Tarrazu and Puente Ecologico Tarrazu, also in Tarrazu.

In Panama, look for honey processed coffees from Elida Estate, Mama Cata and Los Lajones, all located in the Boquete growing region. The Los Lajones farm, operated by Graciano Cruz, deserves a special mention. Graciano was among the first Central American farmers to experiment with honey (as well as natural) processed coffees – traditionally, Central American coffees have always been processed by the wet method. While quality has always been his goal, Graciano was also motivated by ecological issues concerning the use of water. Today, he has become a dedicated advocate of honey and natural coffee processing using very little or no water. Sustainably speaking, this is far superior to wet-processing coffee, as it does away with the polluted water by-product that wet mills can create. While controversial to some, natural and honey-processed coffees may offer an economical and sustainable alternative to many small farmers throughout Central America, as long as the quality is kept high. Graciano has recently been working with farmers in El Salvador, so look for the first-ever honey coffees from that country to arrive sometime this year.