June 2016 Newsletter
Wow. End of financial year 2016 is rapidly approaching, as is our
31st anniversary of being in the coffee business. Who would have
thought that our tiny syphon bar would have lasted so long and
morphed into this? I've been wracking my brain to think of the
single biggest difference I've seen in the whole coffee industry
between 1985 and 2016, and I think I've picked it.
It's the ability to buy specific lots of green coffee rather than
generic ones. Doesn't sound like a really big deal until you really
think about it, but it's the foundation of the whole specialty
coffee industry. When I started buying green coffee on a wholesale
basis, the beans were often identified only by country and port of
origin. I could get a Brazil Rio or a Brazil Santos and that was it.
I could get a Kenya AA (big beans) or a Kenya AB (smaller beans) but
apart from the fact that it came from Kenya, that's all I knew.
Every once in a while I'd get a rare lot of incredibly expensive
coffee that was trackable back to a single farm in say Zimbabwe or
Hawaii. These lots became the starting point for our monthly special
coffees, although at the time it was more like half yearly specials.
However, these were rare exceptions to the generic naming of most of
At the time the generic descriptions were a fair representation of
the reality of the coffee industry. Huge numbers of lots from all
over a country might be received at a port, blended together, sorted
to remove faulty beans and then sorted again by size. At this point
the green coffee beans would then be decanted into hessian bags with
such informative descriptions as "Colombia Supremo, net 69kg."
The first time I became aware of a single farm specialty bean that
wasn't over the top expensive it was from Costa Rica. Instead of
lumping his coffee in with all the other Costa Rica SHB suppliers,
Bill McAlpin of the La Minita farm in the Tarrazu valley started to
sell his beans as a single origin coffee. It helped that the quality
was spectacular as well. Costa Rica La Minita Tarrazu beans became
the byword for the best quality coffee coming out of the country.
A few years after this there were many growers in other countries
trying to do the same thing, without much success. Then came the
first "Best of Brazil" competition and auction and the name
recognition and pricing structures it created swept the specialty
coffee industry. (We got some of the 3rd placegetter from Fazenda
Lambari, and it was pretty good.)
All the things that followed, like the first Panama Geisha, a
specialty microlot segregated by bean varietal, terroir and
altitude, flowed from that first auction. That's why I can offer you
this month's special, Costa Rica Dota Tarrazu Coopdota R.L. Honey
Prep Microlot, otherwise known as
Costa Rica Tarrazu Miel
It comes from (obviously) the Tarrazu valley and is grown by a
member of Coopdota R.L. cooperative. As usual it's full bodied and
full flavoured with a tiny bit of sweet acidity and a rich and
fragrant aroma, a perfect cup of coffee.
The only downside to being able to get specific coffees is that
there are now a whole lot more roasters chasing them, making them so
much more difficult to get. Which is why it's been a long time
between drinks for the Tarrazu Miel, since April last year in fact.
Until next month