Last year’s trip to Guatemala included visiting two farms from which we directly source our origin coffees – Finca Vista Hermosa in HueHuetenango and La Laguna in Fraijanes. After spending time at both farms I was fortunate to be involved in researching farms for sale in other growing regions and a Cup of Excellence project selecting the country’s best coffees for export.
Following on, ‘we’ ventured back to Guatemala this past month to visit with the Zelaya Family in Antigua, along with a freelance foray into Atitlan to look at organic farms.
“Who is ‘we’,” you ask? While many families join in on business trips, they may not include packing hiking boots and pepto bismol. With the amenities being a bit challenging, Becky and our sons Ben and Adam hit the road with me to participate in this coffee sourcing trip to Guatemala.
We visited Finca La Follie, Hacienda Carmona and Finca Bella Vista. The Thompson boys especially liked our time at the end of the day as the ripe, red cherries were being received at the wet mill. A uniquely energetic and colorful scene as Mayan families converge into the receiving area.
We finished our trip with a cupping on the finca, from which we have selected a classic Antigua profile coffee with a tangy, milk chocolaty, full bodied flavor you are sure to enjoy. This coffee should arrive from Guatemala in May. We will keep you posted.
We will continue to search out great coffee for you. In the meantime, visit our home page as you may enjoy the slideshow featuring Guatemala.
Breast Cancer awareness month! An opportunity to recognize the impact of breast cancer on our lives and the challenge to find a cure. We, at Cravens Coffee, thank you for joining us in honoring the survivors in the war against breast cancer with a special blend created by the beautiful women of our local chapter.
Survivor Blend is an organic-fair-traded coffee with a buttery upfront flavor and bold, rich finish. This unique blend combines rich full-flavored Sumatran and fruity Ethiopian varietals, featuring a special Nicaraguan from a women-operated co-op in Segovia. We honor these women from war-torn Segovia as fellow survivors. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Survivor Blend benefit the Eastern Washington Affiliate of Susan G. Komen. Find Survivor Blend in your local grocery store the entire month of April. Visit http://race.komenspokane.org to learn more about being part of the cure!
One of the many wonders of espresso extraction is its ability to magnify the attributes of coffee.
The fineness of the grind, combined with high, stable water temperature and 9 bars of pressure allows for the complete extraction of the most flavorful, dissolvable compounds the coffee has to offer.
Which is why…
…espresso is either really, really good…or really, really bad (neutral and inoffensive coffee counts as bad, as it has nothing to offer in the extraction process, which means it is not true espresso).
The best espressos, which are usually blends, but can be single origins, range from being crisp, clean, bright, wine-y, citrus-y, snappy and vibrant to heavy, thick, rich, fruity, musty (in a good way!), bittersweet chocolate-y and complex. Plus many other descriptive terms – smoky, spicy, apple-buttery etc.
Whatever the combination of flavor sensations, the espresso should be able to make a statement and exhibit a “punch”. If the extraction is dull, flat, lifeless, woody, vegetal, medicinal, harsh and astringent there is trouble in paradise.
My objective with each of our espresso blends – and we have a broad range from light to dark roasted, and crisp and clean to fruity and chewy – is to magnify the two central tenets of ALL Cravens coffee, which is sweetness and body. From there the additional complex elements of sweetness, and myriad variations of body, are amplified.
As usual I have a “why?”. In this case…why do espresso-based businesses choose to serve low quality, low cost espresso in their businesses, knowing the end product is not a magnification of the magnificent?
In coffee, maybe more so than any other sector of the beverage business, you (at best) get what you pay for. Buying cheap coffee from a discount warehouse or wholesale roaster who sells on nothing but price (because that is all they have to sell on) guarantees an insipid, watery extraction of bean juice.
Espresso at its best is magnificent…and challenging to achieve on a consistent basis.
But it is enormously enjoyable and satisfying when it all comes together in a nectar of the gods.
Which espresso blend is my favorite? Email me.
In 2008 the Susan G Komen For The Cure Eastern Washington Affiliate and Cravens Coffee came together to create the Survivor Blend. A tasting panel sampled blends based upon various single origins and roast levels, deciding upon an Organic Nicaragua Segovia based blend of half dark and half lighter roasted coffee.
The components of the blend are the afore-mentioned Organic Nicaragua, from the Nueva Segovia region and Prodecoop, the original Transfair USA certified Fair Trade Co-operative, along with Indonesian and African origins to dark and light roasts respectively.
The result is a chocolate-y, lemon-y and buttery profile, with Cravens’ signature sweetness and body, in all forms of brewing – drip and French Press – and extraction – as espresso. Suvrivor Blend is Organic and Fair Trade Certified.
For all Survivor Blend sold wholesale, 8% is forwarded to the Komen organization. In 2008 Cravens committed (bravely or foolishly – you choose) to serve coffee to every participant in the Race for the Cure. By brewing on large scale brewers starting at 4am in the morning, a sizeable Cravens crew was ready by race time. This culminated in over 4,200 cups of coffee served over the course of the event.
In 2009 we are game to ambitiously serve coffee to the anticipated 9,000+ participants, race workers and attendees.
Cravens is honored to be involved with Susan G Komen and the Race for the Cure.
Survivor Blend is currently available for the month of October in area Yokes, Rosauers, Super One, Huckleberry’s and Trading Company Stores.
The “Spokane Gold” Dark Chocolate bar from Hallets Chocolates, based in Spokane, now features Cravens Coffee as a key ingredient.
Roasted coffee beans from Guatemala Finca Vista Hermosa, Colombia Huila and Sumatra Mandehling are coated in rich, bold, dark chocolate. We have been “taste-testing” at the Roasting Facility to ensure they taste great – and they do.
The bars are available at Halletts Chocolates and Coffee House in Riverwalk, on Trent and Hamilton where they serve Cravens Espresso beverages and Freshly Brewed Coffee.
In the August/September 2009 issue of Barista magazine, former World Barista Champion, James Hoffman, extended a dialog with reference to the role of crema on (and in) espresso. His suggestion is with crema by itself being “ashy, powdery and bitter” (mouthfeel), it could (should?) be removed, and the espresso stirred. This prompted experimentation at the Cravens Tasting Bar.
I am a staunch proponent of espresso retaining its primary structure of “flavor in suspension” through as little agitation in the beverage building process as is feasible. So to stir the crema-less espresso shot, albeit gently(!), was contrary to the very nature of my being (too melodramatic?..maybe…). The “stirred shot” was okay. More like a very strongly brewed, high acidity Central or South American single origin. The unstirred crema-laden shot was intense, complex, full-bodied and effervescent (think champagne).
In summary, espresso without crema is like champagne without the bubbles.
The softening of the economy has created a fork in the road for restaurants, cafes and drive-thru’s. They are asking themselves – do I take the path of quality at a value and retain my business, positioning myself for the future, or do I “cut and run” sacrificing quality, going with price and hoping I survive. Those are the two paths at the fork in the road.
Interestingly, the consumer is not seeing the same fork in the road. Our deduction, evident through sales, is that Specialty Coffee, at its very best, is a great value, therefore the choice it is not an issue. The informed consumer is seeking, purchasing and enjoying high quality coffee at a reasonable price despite a recessionary environment.
When I see so called “fine dining” and supposedly “high quality casual dining” establishments buying low quality, low price coffee, it makes no sense. They are terribly out of touch with the consumer.
People are still eating out, just maybe not as often. But when they do it has to be spot-on. And if they finish with a lousy cup of coffee, these days there is minimal forgiveness for preaching quality, yet brazenly having bought on price, which sadly many establishments have done.
The businesses who are committed to quality, and take that path when the road forks, are being rewarded with loyalty. And customer loyalty is priceless.
The current economic conditions are defining for the coffee business. In recent years (known unofficially as the “good times”!) there was a wide gray area for coffee categorization. The designations of Specialty, Gourmet, and combinations of the two, were banded around without any real meaning. We even had “super-specialty” at one time.
This has been followed by roaster-created designations such as farm-direct, farm-friendly, eco-friendly and many others. While some are genuine, many are false and frivolous designed to mislead the customer into believing the roaster is buying direct while visiting the farm and shaking the farmer’s hand. Not so.
The reality is customers are knowledgeable, informed and discriminating with their evaluations. With money a little tighter, the customer is activating their discretion.
In the “good times” a customer would try out a new place, resulting in the purchase of an espresso beverage. If it was sub-standard, no big deal. Pitch the beverage and seek a replacement from a proven retailer. No longer.
The differences between Specialty (we will keep this one) and Commodity coffee are clear. Basic Commodity coffee has always been presented in a can. In the gray area there is what can be called “pseudo-specialty”. It is Commodity coffee masquerading as specialty, usually in a bag as opposed to a can. It is amazing these roasters think the consumer is that gullible.
In tighter economic conditions, pseudo-specialty should be called what it is – Commodity coffee. This is coffee purchased on price NOT quality, even if the “marketing messages” tout otherwise. This is bad karma and they are heaping it upon themselves. Quick side-note – when farm families have to sell worthy, quality coffee at a commodity price, they do not eat, nor come close to having access to any form of medical care.
Customers are making their choices. They know Specialty (it is the taste – consistent high quality) and they know Commodity (it is the taste – raspy, low quality). And they know good companies – Coffee Roasters who operate within a set of values and standards, who value the human component of coffee farming and whom are involved in their communities.
Trust the Customer – they know their coffee. Convey your position of quality, service and community and your regulars will continue to support you…and new customers will find you.
Whew…it is hot…!
But it is still coffee drinking weather.
Is anything better than freshly brewed coffee on a warm, if still early, morning before the heat index has started sending bank signs haywire? A crisp, clean, tangy or spicy, full-bodied cup of coffee seems to bring the day into perspective. And when the bank signs DO hit triple digits, is there anything more refreshing than an iced espresso beverage or espresso-based granita?
I find that coffee on a warm morning accentuates the aromatics of the cup – floral, apple-y and delicate for lighter roasted coffees and orange chocolate-y notes for the darker roasts.
So how about cold mornings?
Lets talk about that in November…
Keep you posted.