Déjà Vu February 26 2017, 0 Comments
Just over five years ago our lives were full of excitement, anticipation and just a little bit of fear as we realised our dream of owning our own coffee roasting business. The final pieces of the jigsaw had fallen into place and we were on the cusp of a new and exciting stage in our lives.
From a personal point of view this excitement was tempered a little as I was to remain in my full time teaching post to ensure the business had the best possible start. Angharad had the responsibility of nurturing our business through those first delicate months1. Each day I drove west along the A66 and was given a fleeting glimpse of the building that was to be our coffee Roastery. No matter how many times we passed that point, the excitement never really diminished.
A lot has happened in the intervening five years and our business has grown beyond our expectations. We’ve won awards with Best New Business and Cumbria Life’s Best Small Producer being major highlights. Our coffee is served in numerous places across the UK, we’ve taken part in the Brewers Cup as well as the UK Barista Championships, and we’ve enjoyed numerous coffee festivals. A couple of years ago Caffeine magazine ran a feature on the best micro roasteries in the UK and we found ourselves in the top 5. More recently this very blog has found its way into a top 40 list of coffee blogs2. All this has happened from the original building, which is now not really fit for purpose.
So it’s time for a move! In the next month we’ll be moving to new premises where we can continue to grow our business and provide even more support for our customers. The new premises is twice the size of our existing one and we’re currently developing the inside so it better meets our needs. As well as a much better storage for green beans, we have a larger production area which will allow for both growth and more efficient use of our time. We’ll have a dedicated workshop to service and repair espresso machines. Upstairs, as well as an office, we’ll have an improved training area which will allow us to further improve the quality and frequency of training we offer our customers. We also hope to organise special events for members of the public.
Earlier today we were driving along the A66 once more, though further east this time. For a brief moment the roof of our new premises came into view and we were filled with exactly the same excitement, anticipation and fear we experienced five years ago.
- I have to admit she did a wonderful job in those first two years, laying the foundations for where we are today. ↩
- Top 40 Coffee Blogs & Websites For Coffee Enthusiasts
On the up February 16 2017, 0 Comments
Over the coming months you can expect the cost of your daily cup of coffee to increase. You might have experienced this increase already, and you might also be aware of price increases across other goods we buy on a day to day basis. We’ve recently increased the price of our coffee so we expect all our customers to add a few pence to the price of the coffee they sell. To bring some transparency to the table I thought it would be interesting to look at what influences the price of coffee.
The first thing to understand is that coffee prices fluctuate all the time. We often hear that coffee is the second largest commodity traded on the Stock Exchange. The two main factors which can influence the price of coffee are climate and supply, both of which are linked. If frost decimates the harvest in a country such as Brazil, for example, the demand for the remaining coffee is going to increase and therefore the price will go up. Similarly if there is a surplus of coffee in the world, price is likely to decrease. Trading on the stock exchange therefore sets a daily price for coffee.
￼The following chart shows the trend in coffee prices over the past 10 years. We’re currently in a period of increasing prices and we’re likely to remain around this price for the rest of this year.
In general the speciality coffee market, which is where Carvetii firmly sits, is less influenced by the coffee market, as quality is often an overriding factor in the price paid for a particular coffee. The market prices above relate to exchange grade coffee which is the third grade of coffee, with speciality being the first.
And this leads us nicely on to the second factor which affects the price paid for a cup of coffee: quality. There have been instances in the past where the quality of coffee on a farm has increased and the price demanded for this coffee has risen to reflect this improvement. Similarly, a farm which gains a significant recognition, such as a Cup of Excellence Award, is likely to want to charge more for their coffee. This can only be good for the farmer and an aspect of the sector which we particularly like. However, there comes a point where the price of the green beans becomes too high and we can no longer buy them. It’s not that we don’t want to buy at the higher prices, it’s just that we don’t yet have a big enough local market willing to pay these higher prices.
The other main factor we have to take into account is that coffee is traded in US dollars and since the results of the European referendum were declared last June, the value of the pound has dropped against the dollar. On the day before the vote a pound was worth $1.4693 while in January 2017 it was $1.2148, a drop of just over 25 cents. Therefore the same bag of coffee purchased prior to the vote would cost more than if purchased recently. If the cost of the raw product increases, then the cost of the finished product must increase. Simple economics.
If we put all this together, particularly the influence of the drop in the value of the pound, we see a sharp rise in the cost of green coffee beans in the UK. We are now paying 15% more for coffee of the same quality compared to June last year. We’ve also seen increases in the price of many of the other items we buy such as coffee bags and cardboard boxes. Over the past five years we’ve not increased the price of our coffee and during this period we have seen an increase in costs. As such, like many other roasters, we have recently increased the wholesale price of our coffee, and this is likely to be reflected in the price you pay for a cup of coffee. The alternative, which is to buy cheaper green beans, would lower the quality of our coffee and risk the reputation we have built over the past five years.
The establishments who serve our coffee work hard to maintain the high standards we expect of them. At this time of year many are refreshing their skills through our barista training programme and many more local baristas are now perfecting their latte art techniques. All of this takes time and effort, and is an added cost. However, this commitment is aimed at creating a positive experience for you, the customer. It is little wonder that 4 out of the 5 finalists for Best Cafe at this year’s Cumbria Life Food & Drink Awards serve our coffee.
If you’ve experienced a price increase recently please don’t be too hard on the coffee shop concerned, even more so if they’re a small independent. Many think the coffee industry is lucrative and continues to boom. In truth, many coffee shops are doomed to fail in their first two years, and many more will find trading difficult. Competition can be fierce at times and there is always someone willing to undercut everybody else to make shortsighted, and short term gains. I believe the survivors will be those who use high quality products and maintain high standards. In order to do so they will need to charge a higher price for their efforts.
Humble Pie February 01 2017, 0 Comments
As our business has grown over the past five years we’ve each taken on different roles and reponsibilities. Among many other plates I spin in the business, I have assumed the role of green bean buyer. This entails developing relationships with various coffee brokers, developing an understanding of the seasonality of coffee and trying to predict sales so we have a continuous supply of delicious coffee on offer. Increasingly, to ensure we have access to the best coffees, we have to work months ahead. In the next couple of weeks we will be changing the components of our espresso blend, and this particular version should last us around three months. Even before we start roasting this particular blend, I am on the look our for coffees to work with from May onwards.
We purchase coffee from many countries depending on the time of year. Currently we’re working with coffees from countries such as Colombia and Rwanda , and we have our eyes on Tanzania in the coming weeks. The bulk of our coffees come from Africa, South America and Central America. We have a particular roast style and as we have to taste all the coffees we produce, we tend to only work with coffees we enjoy. As such there are some countries and regions we generally do not work with, Indonesia being one of them. Of the coffees I’ve sampled from this region none have really impressed me enough to warrant buying them. I remember a discussion with a fellow roaster a couple of years ago with regards to the poor transport infrastructure in this region. When combined with the climate, it was often difficult to maintain the quality of the coffee during transportation. As such I suppose I have developed a form of ‘coffee block’ with regards to Indonesia and I am likely to bypass them altogether when looking for new beans.
I have obviously communicated this bias to a number of people, particularly Stephen, who is our contact at Mercanta, our main coffee broker. For some time now Stephen has been tempting me to try some coffees from Papua New Guinea, with each attempt ending in failure. However, back in November he was given the perfect opportunity to challenge my prejudices. It just so happened that he was organising a coffee cupping session at the Manchester Coffee Festival. We happened to be there at the time and I agreed to blind taste the coffees, of which there were about sixteen, to ensure I wasn’t influenced by the aforementioned bias. I did a couple of sweeps of the table before deciding on my favourites, and potential purchases for the future. To Stephen’s amusement my top coffee was Virgin Mountain, a coffee from a Papua New Guinea!
A couple of months later we received our first delivery of Virgin Mountain and I have to say it has lived up to expectations. I’ve pretty much been drinking it all this week as a filter coffee. It has all the things I enjoy in a coffee: acidity, sweetness and fruitiness. The coffee is grown by smallholder farmers in the Nori Kori Valley, with the size of each farm being around 1 to 2 hectares. As this region is very remote, the farmers rely on ‘collectors’ – businessmen who travel from village to village buying coffee cherries (or in the case of Virgin Mountain, coffee 1). Ben Akike, the ‘collector’ in this instance, is now working with local smallholders to improve the quality in Nori Kori. He is much more than a middleman – he plays a vital role in transporting the coffee from the small producers to the dry mill and is also an important link in the quality control chain. They will not pay good prices for poorly prepared parchment.
If you’re a fan of traditional Indonesian coffees be prepared for something a little bit different with Virgin Mountain. It is now available to buy on our website and if you try a bag please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below.
- Parchment: the coffee bean is surrounded by a hard layer of ‘parchment’ inside the coffee cherry. The skin and pulp of the cherry are removed during the first stages of processing, and at this point the coffee bean is referred to as ‘parchment’. This parchment layer is then removed by dry milling. ↩
The Cost of a Cup of Coffee December 01 2016, 0 Comments
I recently watched a food related programme on TV which had a focus on the coffee scene in the U.K. As part of the programme, the cost of producing a cup of coffee was calculated along with the amount of profit for the business. I often have discussions with local coffee shop owners with regards to the price of their coffee and in many instances I feel they could charge a little more. As such the figures quoted on the show caught my attention and I set about a number crunching exercise of my own.
Much of the information available with regards to the cost of producing a cup of coffee relates to high street chains so I’ve merged this data with my own knowledge of costs. The following is based upon an 8oz latte selling at £2.40, which is a price I typically see locally.
First and foremost let’s get rid of the 20% which is going to make its way to the Government through VAT. I often feel business owners underestimate this amount as it accounts for 40p in this instance.
Then there’s the cost of the ingredients, which is coffee, milk and possibly sugar. The coffee will be around 10% (24p) of the cost. The cost of the milk is going to very much depend on the type of milk used and the skill of the barista. A well trained barista will minimise milk wastage, so based upon the price of a typical 4 pint bottle of milk, we’re looking at around 3 to 4% (7 to 10p) of the cost.
In a well managed catering business staff costs should account for no more than a quarter of the income generated. Research by Allegra Strategies1 suggests staff account for 24% of the cost; in the case of our cup of coffee that’s around 58p.
So far our cup of coffee has cost us £1.46 to produce and we’re still not finished with the costs. The same study by Allegra concluded that 15% of the cost will be needed to cover rent and rates, and a further 15% for administration, which is 36p for each. The total cost by now is £2.04, leaving just 36p as profit for the business.
Granted, the aforementioned study was centred around high street chains where rent and rate costs can be high but in my experience many small coffee shop owners struggle to keep their staff costs below 25%. Even allowing for local variations, the overall profit per cup is relatively low. My rough figures suggest a figure of around 15%.
If we now factor in takeaway provision, we need the cost of the cup and lid, as well as maybe a stirrer and sugar. Many local businesses utilise compostable packaging and these work out at around 11p for a cup and nearly 5p for the lid. As the study by Allegra discovered, the cost of the packaging can be almost as much as the ingredients used in the beverage. In this example that’s 7% of the cost for packaging, leaving us with a profit of 8% or around 20p2.
So what can we read into this? I think the consumer is getting a good deal at £2.40 for a latte, particularly if they are being served a good quality coffee. Factor in the ability to relax over that cup of coffee, perhaps with a newspaper, book or free wifi, and the cost really is very low. I think prices need to increase from where they are now and I don’t think it will be too long before we see a 20p increase on the cost of a cup of coffee.
In terms of the coffee shop owner there are a few things to be aware of. An obvious approach, and very common in this part of the country, is to reduce costs to increase the end profit of a coffee. Buy a cheaper coffee and spend less on milk are two obvious approaches but this could easily have the opposite effect. Consumers are more discerning and have access to an increasing array of coffee producing gadgets at home. As such they are becoming more demanding of the coffee they enjoy when out and about. By all means manage costs but increasing spend per transaction is equally important. Similarly getting on top of milk wastage3 can save some extra pennies without impacting on the quality of the coffee. Finally being more aware of costs is vitally important. I still see the occasional establishment who charge less for take away drinks while the numbers clearly show that the margins are already very slim on these beverages.
- This research dates back to 2013 and was initially reported the Daily Mail online in September 2013 ↩
- The aforementioned Allegra Strategy research suggested the profit was around 13%, which echoes the findings of a Speciality Coffee Association of America study in 2011 ↩
- By managing wastage I do not mean reusing milk, as this is a practice which irritates me. With a little practice, a barista should be able to accurately judge the right amount of milk needed for each of the coffees they are making. ↩
Then and Now (Part 2) November 21 2016, 0 Comments
Five years ago we launched our very first espresso blend which utilised a pulped natural coffee from Brazil, Fazenda Passeio, with a fully washed coffee from Costa Rica, Cafetalera Herbazú. We’ve used this original blend as the inspiration for our most recent version, and while the components have some similarities, the approach we take to roasting has evolved somewhat . . .
Now: November 20161
While the approach we take to roasting has changed, our core principles and beliefs have remained consistent. When a customer drinks our coffee they should get a sense of its origin; it should reflect the combined efforts of all those involved in growing and processing the coffee bean. Our role is to ‘not mess it up’.
We still buy the majority of our coffee through our broker, Mercanta. The relationship we have with them, and in particular our main contact, Stephen, has helped lift our roasting to the level it exists at today. Emails, phone conversations and the occasional face to face contact, has enabled a level of understanding and mutual respect which mirrors how we aim to work with our customers. Stephen knows what coffee we like, has secured some outstanding lots for us and occasionally breaks down prejudices2.
From the outset we merged the precise use of measurements and data with less objective methods, such as taste. This aspect of our business has grown beyond the basic pencil and paper method we relied on in those early days. A second, more accurate probe has been added to the roaster, new controls on the burners allow a greater degree of accuracy and new gauges allow us to quantify the energy we apply to the roast. Each of these additions has come about as our understanding has grown; we have created a coffee roaster specific to what we want to achieve and we still have plans to develop it further. Every roast is now tracked by software though we still rely on pencil and paper to scribble down notes and comments on each profile.
When we take delivery of a new coffee we now plan our approach in much more detail. As well as information provided by our broker in terms of varietal and altitude, we also take our own measurements of green bean moisture and density. We can delve into our database of similar roasts to help us determine how best to roast that first batch.
A big development which occurred soon after we started was a realisation that only one of us was really going to be good at roasting coffee. All our coffee is now roasted by Angharad and while I have a strong input into creating the initial profiles, I actually spend very little time around the roaster. Angharad has the concentration span and attention to detail that I do not possess and these traits have helped her produce some amazing coffees.
Once a coffee is roasted it undergoes more rigorous examination and this is again an area we have developed over the years. The impact of water on coffee was something which caught our attention way back in September 2012 and we wrote a blog post which summarised our thoughts. We revisited this again in December 2015 with another couple of posts and by today we have developed a very good understanding of the relationship between water and coffee. We now create our own ‘ideal water’ to ensure all our cupping takes place under the best conditions possible; we believe that some types of water can hide defects in the roasting and we want our coffee to be enjoyable and accessible no matter where you are located.
This desire for our coffee to be accessible to all leads us on to another characteristic of our coffee which might not have existed in those early days3. We want our coffee to be ‘well developed’. In simple terms we want it to extract relatively easily for the end user. We feel there is no point producing a coffee which is difficult to handle. We are even at the stage now of testing the solubility of individual components in a blend – there is no point in roasting a couple of amazing coffees if they each extract differently when combined together4. Developing our espresso blend is becoming more complex as we aim for higher and higher standards.
In 2011 we embarked on a journey of discovery and along the way have been fortunate to foster some amazing relationships; we’ve had bad times, we’ve had some amazing ones and we’ve enjoyed some delicious coffee along the way. We laid out our principles on day one and have pretty much remained true to those early beliefs. We’ve never sold a bag of ground coffee! A simple enough statement but one which was difficult to adhere to in those early days. Losing sales because of a principle can be hard but I’m glad we managed to battle through. Even today, with so many new roasters emerging onto the scene, all keen to make a sale, it would be easy to lower our standards. But that’s just not the Carvetii way.
- you can read part 1 of this blog here ↩
- most recently I have rebuffed all attempts to consider a coffee from Papua New Guinea, only to pick it out as a firm favourite in a cupping session ↩
- this statement is hard to qualify. Feedback on our coffee from industry peers would suggest that it was well developed. The difference now is that this is by design rather than luck ↩
- one part of me thinks the growing trend in single origin espressos is related to a lack of knowledge with regards blending. ↩
Then And Now (Part 1) November 13 2016, 0 Comments
Five years ago to this month we were roasting our very first espresso blend, a 60:40 mix of Fazenda Passeio from Brazil and Cafetalera Herbazú from Costa Rica. I remember launching it to an unsuspecting Cumbrian population and the initial positive, but surprised, feedback we received. So many people we unaware that coffee could produce such flavour, and were equally surprised by the lack of bitterness in the finish. We worked extremely hard on that first blend, a work ethic we have applied to each subsequent version of our espresso blend, in order to ensure it met the high standards we had set ourselves.
Five years on, and we’re about to launch the latest version of our blend. We’re revisiting the same origins as our original blend, and although we’ve not quite managed to source the same farms, we’ve stayed true to the 60:40 mix. From Brazil we’ve chosen Fazenda Capim Branco and the Costa Rican component is shared between Finca La Manzana and Hacienda Sonora. Our intention as a coffee roaster is to harness the origin characteristics and flavours in our roasting, and while this is as true today as it was five years ago, the way in which we set about achieving this has changed a lot.
Then – November 2011
We were very fortunate in our early days to receive a lot of advice and support from some key figures in the coffee industry. Will Corby, our account manager at Mercanta, our coffee brokers, gave us some sound advice on the coffee for our initial blend, and we will always be grateful to James Hoffmann and Anette Moldvaer of Square Mile for their advice, support and feedback on those early roasts. The choice of components for that initial blend was very much down to the aforementioned people.
Our approach to roasting was very simple: roast a batch, taste it and if it wasn’t good, roast it again. On reflection the use of the word ‘good’ in the previous sentence probably does us a disservice as we set ourselves very high standards. Over the years a number of batches of roasted coffee have never made it into bags having failed to meet the Carvetii quality standard. In the early days this was particularly painful as a batch of coffee is worth a decent amount of money but there was no way we were selling a below par batch of coffee!
The responsibility for roasting was very much shared by the two of us, with both of us huddled over the (sensitive) burner controls, probably more out of a desire to get warm than anything else. There was much debate as we watched and listened to the roast carefully, with time, temperature and other comments meticulously recorded in a note book. We’d had the foresight to equip our roaster with a digital probe so we had a precise reading of drum temperature throughout the roast. While I recording of temperature and time was undertaken with precision, the documentation of burner setting was less so – I distinctly remember terms such as ‘a quarter turn clockwise’ being used.
Our desire to record the stages in roasting was not only to learn more about the art through a ‘cause and effect’ approach’ but also to ensure we provided our customers with a consistent product. We both had numerous years in the hospitality industry under our belts and knew that consistency would be one of the key elements to our long term success. Some of the items in that first notebook we a precursor of things to come; on some of the early pages I recently came across some density calculations which were an initial attempt to determine the density of the green beans using techniques I’d learnt in school.
How our coffee tastes has been important to us from the outset and each roast was carefully analysed for flavour. Samples were kept from every batch and we spent a long time tasting our coffees. Initially we cupped the coffees to gain an insight into the flavours and their character but we also tasted them as an espresso, which is how we expected the coffees to be used. At the top me we knew how important the grinder was in this process so we splashed out on a Mazzer Major grinder, leaving little money left for an espresso machine. Luckily our friends at Square Mile stepped in and loaned the a La Marzocco GS3 single group espresso machine. It became apparent from the outset that each of us brought something different to the table when it came to tasting the coffees. Angharad had the ability to quickly identify fragrance, aroma and flavours in the coffee, a skill which even today remains a dark art to me. I have always been able to identify flaws in the roasting, and from the outset adopted a very critical approach.
Five years on, and while our ethos and beliefs have remained constant, the way we approach our roasting has evolved. ‘Evolved’ really is a good fit in this instance as we have developed our skills over time, continually pushing ourselves to learn more, and to adapt this learning to suit our circumstances. What our roasting looks like now is for part 2 of this blog post.
- Will later made a move to Pact Coffee where he now holds the role of Head of Coffee ↩
Complain or Not Complain? September 26 2016, 0 Comments
On a recent day out I made a couple of enquiries as to the likelihood of getting what I would describe as a decent cup of coffee. I tend to drink less coffee these days and if I do part with my hard earned cash, then it’s fair to say I have high expectations.
In this instance the response I received was positive and I was given accurate directions to a particular coffee shop, I was even given the name of the coffee roaster they used. Things were definitely looking up.
I found the coffee shop easily and was instantly taken by the friendliness, the cakes looked appealing and the menu was noted for future visits. The breakfast menu in particular sounded delicious. More good signs: the espresso machine was a very good make although the accompanying grinder was a little disappointing (more thoughts on this in a future post). I ordered a flat white and cappuccino, and was pleased to be asked whether I wanted chocolate on the cappuccino (a definite ‘No’ by the way). The machine was a three group and had a shot timer visible on each. Yet more good signs: the read outs were 25s, 24s and 25s.
The order before mine involved the brewing of a single serve filter coffee (V60 for those interested). The barista dealt with this order in a confident manner and I eagerly anticipated our order. Then came the first hint of disappointment. The next espresso ran at 19s. I had a brief flicker of hope – perhaps this particular shot was for another customer! But no, it was made into a take away cup and we were the only customers waiting in line. I was willing the barista to discard this particular shot and make another. Surely they could see the shot time and would rather serve a better coffee. Unfortunately they chose to use the espresso and while I did have another momentary flicker of hope (the espresso was used in the cappuccino – not my drink), the next espresso ran at 20s.
So we were served two coffees which we knew were probably not going to be that great. To compound matters the cappuccino was sprinkled with chocolate, in spite of my earlier response. I am now faced with a dilemma. Do I accept the two drinks knowing that they are likely to disappoint or do I go through the awkward ritual of pointing out to the barista that their shot times weren’t good enough and I would like them to make my coffees again?
Natural Processed Coffee May 09 2016, 0 Comments
This week we’ve been roasting our first ever Cup of Excellence coffee, Fazenda do Brejinho, a natural processed coffee from Brazil. We’ve used a number of natural coffees in the past five years, from Brazil, Central America and Africa and I have to admit I’m quite partial to coffees processed in this way. On a number of occasions, however, these types of coffees have divided opinions.
‘Processing’ is the term given to the method used to remove the coffee bean from the coffee cherry. There are three main methods, though there are many variations in each case. The natural method of processing has been around for thousands of years and involves allowing the coffee cherries to dry in the sun with the beans still inside. Once fully dried the beans are removed by dry milling. During the drying process the cherries impart fruity flavours onto the beans, and the resulting coffee is often much sweeter than coffess processed by other methods. A simple analogy is that of red wine where the skin is left on, imparting different qualities to the finished wine. This analogy is explored in this article, which also discusses natural processing in more depth.
A disadvantage of this method of processing is that the cherries will ferment during the drying process and this can add a negative flavour to the coffee itself. Many of the coffees we’ve tried over the past few years have exhibited a fermented characteristic to a certain degree. This is often most obvious in the fragrance of the green beans – think boozy, fermented, grass-like tones. Natural coffees also have a lot of sweetness, fruity flavours and often have a thick mouthfeel.
We were really excited to try Fazenda do Brejinho as, having been through a thorough examination in the Cup of Excellence competition, it was likely to be a very good example of what can be achieved by this processing method. We were initially struck by the fragrance of the green beans: less boozy, fermented tones this time. In the cup the fruitiness was much more balanced than other natural coffees we’ve experienced. We picked out hints of cranberry and orange when the coffee was warm, both flavours more evident in the finish. As the coffee cooled a hazelnut flavour became much more apparent. The thick mouthfeel and sweetness reminded us of a chunk of nougat. We always enjoy coffees which change in character as they cool, and this one was no exception.
If we’ve whetted your apetite, we have a few more bags of this coffee left. It was a very limited release and the majority was snapped up straight away. You can buy a bag by clicking below:
Finca La Lucha March 22 2016, 0 Comments
Finca La Lucha is our latest coffee offering from Colombia, following hot on the heels of La Gallineta. Both coffees originate from the Antoquia region of the country, an area regarded as the birthplace of coffee production in Colombia. The farm is owned by Berta Lucia Buitrago, having been passed down by her parents who originally purchased the farm.
You can purchase this coffee from our online store here.
Finca La Lucha is a 7.5 hectare farm high in the hills of Antioquia in Colombia. The family work hard to ensure their farm yields only the best quality coffees. ‘La Lucha’ means struggle and reflects the family’s struggle to work on the farm, to make it profitable and self-sustaining. The farm is very much family run though a few additional workers are employed at different times of the year, particularly at harvest time.
The farm is planted with Colombia and Castillo trees, the latter being a varietal new to us at Carvetii. Developed as a rust-resistant varietal by the Colombian Coffee Federation (FNC), Castillo now forms the bulk of the coffee plantation at La Lucha, and there are a further 4,000 baby trees in their nursery.
All coffee on the farm is selectively harvested by hand and then pulped and fermented for between 24 and 48 hours, with cochadas (different pickings) from different days being mixed. Each day’s picking is pulped separately, of course; however, the coffee picked on the second day is added to the first after 24 hours fermentation and then left to ferment in the tanks for a further 24 hours. Through this method of fermentation, the second batch raises the ph level of the fermentation tank, permitting longer fermentation times without the acetic acid produced by bacteria at a lower ph level. This process is common among small farmers throughout Antioquia and Huila, whose farms are so small that one day’s picking is often not sufficient to make up an entire lot. While a consequence of circumstances, when done properly and with attention to detail, the process results in a distinctive, even and controlled fruit-forward cup.
After fermentation, coffee is washed several times using clean, cool water and is then delivered to dry on the farm’s concrete patios. There is no sorting during the pulping and washing processes, but once the coffee is dried, it is hand sorted to remove any beans with broca damage and/or other damaged and lower sized beans.
Berta is a passionate member of her local growers’ cooperative – the Cooperativa de Caficultores de Andes, through whom all her coffee is commerialised. Cooperativa de Caficultores de Andes (Cooperandes), a Colombian cooperative that works in communities across Antioquia to promote and support the production of high quality coffee in the region, has contributed greatly to Berta’s development as a producer of speciality coffee.
This coffee was sourced by Mercanta, a coffee broker based in London and with whom we have a very close working relationship.
Here are our thoughts on this coffee:
Acidity: expect a brightness at the front end, softening nicely as the coffee cools
Sweetness: that of soft brown sugar
Body: the coffee has a light mouthfeel
Flavours: we found flavours of peach with hints of summer fruit
Overall this is a very smooth and easy drinking coffee with a long finish
Farm: Finca La Lucha
Varietal(s): Castillo & small amounts of Colombia
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried on patios
Altitude: 1,700 metres above sea level
Owner: Berta Lucia Buitrago
Town: Verdún, Jardín
Total size of farm: 7.5 hectares
Area under coffee: 7.5 hectares
Cup of Excellence March 17 2016, 0 Comments
April will be an exciting month for us at Carvetii: we have just committed to our first Cup of Excellence coffee and we are expecting delivery at the end of March. This is the first of a number of small lot coffees we’ll be exploring and making available in 2016. The Cup of Excellence programme is essentially a competition which coffee farms can enter, with the winning lots being sold by auction. The concept of the Cup of Excellence is best described by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence who organise the programme:
Cup of Excellence is the most prestigious competition and award for high quality coffees. The level of scrutiny that Cup of Excellence coffees undergo is unmatched anywhere in the specialty coffee industry. Each year, thousands of coffees are submitted for consideration, with winning coffees sold in global online auctions at premium prices, with the vast majority of auction proceeds going to the farmers.
The competition is rigorous, with cupping evaluations conducted over a three-week process by industry experts: first by a National Jury of about a dozen qualified jurors from the origin country, and then by an International Jury, comprised of approximately 20–25 experienced jurors from around the world. A competition with 300 entries yields an average of 9,000 analyzed cups, with each “Top 10” coffee being cupped at least 120 times.
Our Cup of Excellence lot will be Fazenda do Brejinho, a farm from the Minas Gerais region of Brazil. The lot scored 85.87 (out of 100) and was ranked 30th in the competition. It is a natural processed coffee and was described by the judges as follows:
Aroma/Flavor: Apricot, jasmine, dark chocolate, papaya, cranberry, orange, vanilla, nuts
Other: Smooth, round, dense
As the lot size for this coffee was only 23 x 30kg bags, we only have a very limited supply of this coffee available. Some of it will be served in coffee shops around Cumbria and we’re making a small number of bags available to the public via our website. If you’d like to be in with a chance to buy a bag of this coffee, please register here. We’re only offering this coffee to those who have pre-registered.
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