February 2014 Tasting Box

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Olympia Coffee Roasting Co.

Olympia, Washington

In Spanish the word aguila means “eagle,” and at Finca El Aguila (“eagle estate”) in the Santa Ana region of El Salvador, third generation farmer Mauricio Ariz grows coffees as sharp and distinctive as the farm’s namesake. This particular offering, from Olympia Coffee Roasting Company in Olympia, Washington, is one of the best coffees from El Salvador that we’ve tasted in a long time and the first Salvadoran coffee we’ve featured in nearly a year. As if that weren’t enough, El Aguila was named one of the best coffees of 2013 by the venerable Coffee Reviews, receiving an impressive overall rating of 94 points. We love supporting family-run growing operations like the one at Finca El Aguila, which is now in its fourth generation of Ariz family ownership with Mauricio’s sons. The estate covers a vast 64 hectares, making it considerably larger than the typical individually owned farm you’d find throughout the region. Of the 64 hectares, seven are devoted to the production of the Pacamara variety, a unique hybrid that was developed by Salvadoran coffee scientists in the ‘50s. The coffee cherries were carefully sorted on the farm to ensure only the ripest and highest quality beans made it through to processing and into the bag in front of you. Pacamara beans often prove difficult to roast, but Olympia’s owner and head roaster Oliver Stormshak makes it seem effortless. This coffee is bursting with with sweet tropical fruit up front, but it has a beguiling character that makes you wonder what’s hiding beneath its sugary sweet exterior.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    El Aguila, farmed by Mauricio Ariz
  • Origin
    Canton Ojo de Agua, Santa Ana, El Salvador
  • Varieties
    Pacamara
  • Elevation
    1,600 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed
  • Our Notes
    Juicy, jammy and packed with tropical fruits - strawberry, guava and mango lead through intense refined sugar sweetness into a caramel and toffee finish.

Tony's Coffees & Teas

Bellingham, Washington

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the Tana Toraja region of Sulawesi one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The landscape is dominated by breathtaking mountains swathed in lush vegetation, set against tranquil valleys dotted with rice paddies. The Toraja people have a strong cultural history that percolates through modern society, which you can see in their elaborate funeral rites and ornate boat-shaped houses called tongkonan. They even follow customs when it comes to coffee processing, embracing the traditional “wet-hulled” method in which the outer protective layer of the coffee bean is removed while the bean still has a high level of moisture. This method produces coffees with a rich body and round acidity, giving it a comforting character that many people look for in their morning cup. You may notice that these beans are much smaller than the other beans in your box this month. That’s because this selection is made up of peaberries, which we like to think of as the quirky, lovable runts of the coffee litter. Whereas normal coffee beans grow as two separate seeds pressed together inside the coffee cherry, peaberries are the result of a natural mutation that causes just one tiny seed to grow. It requires a careful selection process to sort out the peaberries from the normal beans, but once you taste this offering from Tony’s Coffees & Teas you’ll agree that it’s well worth the extra effort. The experienced roaster from Bellingham, Washington has knocked it out of the park with this brew, which showcases the the juicy flavors and naturally heightened sweetness of the peaberry.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    PT Toarco Jaya
  • Origin
    Sulawesi, Indonesia
  • Varieties
    Typica
  • Elevation
    1,400-2,000 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed, sun-dried
  • Our Notes
    Aromas of cinnamon, curry and allspice complement papaya acidity, flavors of maple, caramel and sweet tobacco, and a rich, buttery mouthfeel.

Temple Coffee

Sacramento, California

Just like the Burgundy region of France is famous for its distinctive wines, the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia is renowned for its prized coffees that explode with bright flavors of flowers and citrus. The coffee in your box this month, from Sacramento’s beloved Temple Coffee, is a prime example of why Yirgacheffe holds a special place in the hearts of coffee lovers worldwide. We wish we could share the stories of the farmers behind this lovely coffee to honor the hard work they poured into its production. Unfortunately all we can tell you is that this coffee was purchased through the Ethiopia Commodities Exchange (ECX), which helps secure fair prices for farmers but makes it impossible to know the identity of any individual coffee. While Temple would have preferred to work directly with individual farmers, this Yirgacheffe from the ECX was just too good for them to pass up. What we can tell you for sure is that the bag in front of you is special. Ethiopia, regarded as the birthplace of coffee, is home to literally thousands of varieties of heirloom coffee that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. These varieties are almost entirely undocumented and, for the most part, the grow freely throughout the country’s rolling terrain. Since every plot of land harbors a unique mix of heirloom-variety coffee trees, no two farmers will ever produce identical lots of coffee. All of these distinct lots are then mixed together for sale at the ECX, which ensures that no two lots of coffee at the ECX are ever the same. In the end, this means that the bag in front of you has a genuinely one-of-a-kind combination of heirloom beans-- pretty cool if you ask us!

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    Yirgacheffe ECX Auction Lot
  • Origin
    Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
  • Varieties
    Heirloom (Ethiopian)
  • Elevation
    1,800-2,200 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed
  • Our Notes
    Well-balanced and assertive, with white grape and pineapple acidity segueing into a sweet, herbaceous center, and finishing with flavors of cardamom and cedar.

Populace Coffee

Bay City, Michigan

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the Tana Toraja region of Sulawesi one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The landscape is dominated by breathtaking mountains swathed in lush vegetation, set against tranquil valleys dotted with rice paddies. The Toraja people have a strong cultural history that percolates through modern society, which you can see in their elaborate funeral rites and ornate boat-shaped houses called tongkonan. They even follow customs when it comes to coffee processing, embracing the traditional “wet-hulled” method in which the outer protective layer of the coffee bean is removed while the bean still has a high level of moisture. This method produces coffees with a rich body and round acidity, giving it a comforting character that many people look for in their morning cup. Our selection this month from Populace Coffee reflects the region’s dynamic contrast, with tropical flavors that soar high above a smooth, sweet base. Populace, hailing from Bay City, Michigan, is a fresh face on the artisan coffee scene, as well as a Craft Coffee rookie. Founder Andrew Heppner took a leap of faith when he founded the company in 2010, but it wasn’t long before Populace was turning heads and lighting up taste buds. And with coffees as balanced and clean as this one, we’d say they have an awfully bright future ahead of them.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    Various smallholders
  • Origin
    Pango-Pango, Sulawesi, Indonesia
  • Varieties
    Typica derivatives
  • Elevation
    1,400-1,600 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed
  • Our Notes
    Jasmine, lychee, and peach blossom aromas thread through a playful, delicate cup, alive with lime acidity, light brown-sugar sweetness, and clean flavors of grapefruit and coconut in the finish.

Coffee Slingers Roasters

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

We love the creativity that goes into the naming of coffees and coffee farms, but sometimes a name will leave us scratching our chins and wondering what the backstory is. This offering from Coffee Slingers comes to us from an estate in El Salvador called Malacara, whose puzzling English translation is “evil face.” Surely there must be a story behind why this delightful coffee has such a sinister name, but your guess is as good as ours. Our theory is that it’s so satisfying that it will leave a devilish grin on your face after your first sip. Situated on the slopes of the Santa Ana volcano in western El Salvador, the Malacara estate is primed to produce world-class coffees--the volcanic soil is full of minerals and holds just the right amount of water for coffee trees to flourish. The estate has been producing coffee for nearly 200 years, and it’s remained in the hands of the same family ever since farmer Rafael Alvarez Lalinde took ownership in the late 1800s. Third generation farmer Roberto Dumont tends one of three separate plots at Malacara, and his coffees have received enormous praise in recent years for their complex but delicate character. Malacara is the Craft Coffee debut for Oklahoma City’s Coffee Slingers, but it has the swagger of a true veteran. We’re thrilled to help this burgeoning roaster push its hometown into the spotlight as a great American coffee city - and with delicious coffees like this one, that shouldn’t take long.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    Finca Malacara, farmed by Roberto Dumont
  • Origin
    Santa Ana, El Salvador
  • Varieties
    Red Bourbon
  • Elevation
    1,500 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed
  • Our Notes
    Enticing cinnamon and butter pastry aromas give way to a syrupy-sweet cup, dense with flavors of maple and toasted hazelnuts.

Klatch Coffee

Upland, California

This month’s selection from Klatch Coffee is steeped in a history that dates back to before coffee was introduced to Latin America. In 1715 a wealthy landowner in southwestern Colombia donated a plot of land for the construction of a small town and church dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. For the next 100 years, however, the town was known by the name Viciosa (“the spiteful one”). Perhaps by fate, a devastating earthquake left the town in ruins but claimed very few lives. The town was then rebuilt and renamed Guadalupe, as originally intended, to honor the Virgin for protecting the lives of its inhabitants. Flash forward to 2003 and the area surrounding this historic town had become one of the premier coffee-growing regions of Colombia. Four producers from the municipality of Guadalupe came together to form an association called Villa Esperanza, with the goal of increasing their income and quality of life by producing higher amounts of coffee for export. The group now boasts over 100 smallholder farmer members and exports nearly 1 million pounds of coffee a year--pretty impressive considering its humble beginnings just 10 years ago. Klatch is certainly no stranger to us here at Craft Coffee. We’ve included them in three of our past tasting boxes, and we’re as excited as ever to feature them again with this textbook example of what we love about Colombian coffee. Round and balanced with comforting notes of warm spice, this is a perfect cup to help you fight off the winter blues.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    Villa Esperanza
  • Origin
    Huila, Colombia
  • Varieties
    Caturra
  • Elevation
    1,400-1,900 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed, sun-dried
  • Our Notes
    Warm aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg lead into red apple acidity and lingering flavors of almond and clove.

Kickapoo Coffee

Viroqua, Wisconsin

This elegant Congolese offering from Wisconsin’s Kickapoo Coffee has an inspiring backstory that highlights the power of joining forces to overcome adversity. Political and social turmoil have historically prevented coffee producers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from receiving fair prices for their crops. Many farmers had to risk their lives to smuggle their coffee across the Rwandan border, hanging their hopes on the possibility of receiving a better price there. In 2000, a small group of farmers in the South Lake Kivu region of Eastern Congo resolved to find a sustainable solution to this problem. They laid the groundwork for the Sopacdi cooperative society, which today boasts nearly 6,000 farmer members and is helping the DRC join the ranks as a world-class coffee origin. With support from a number of foreign importers, the Sopacdi coop was able to build the Tsheya washing station in the town of Minova, where this month’s selection was processed. This particular lot is special not only for its unique origin but also because it comes exclusively from female producers, who receive a premium for delivering their beans to the Sopacdi coop’s washing station. We’re happy to stand behind any initiative that helps level the playing field for female producers - it’s just an added bonus that this coffee happens to be so delicious! We’ve featured Kickapoo a handful of times before, but we’re especially proud to work with them this month to offer you such a memorable selection.

Buy This Coffee

We feature truly small-batch, seasonal coffees. So there might not be any left. But that's a good thing! Only big corporate factories have the same stuff all year round.

  • Producer
    Sopacdi Cooperative
  • Origin
    South Lake Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Varieties
    Bourbon
  • Elevation
    1,500-2,000 meters above sea level
  • Process
    Washed
  • Our Notes
    Dense and jammy, with cherry and red grape acidity settling into lavors of raisins, cloves and molasses, and a dry finish reminiscent of toasted walnuts.