Monthly Archives: July 2008

DFW Coffee/Barista Jam

Last weekend (July 19th), Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters participated in the DFW Coffee/Barista Jam, an all Saturday event attended by baristas, coffee roasters, shop owners and coffee enthusiasts from around the metroplex area. 

We had an extensive cupping session, sampling many tasty coffees from each of the attending roasters and sharing our thoughts.  We brought three of our offerings to the session.  We had a presentation/discussion on what it means to create a culture of excellence.  We also participated in latte art session (if you define ‘art’ loosely in our case!).  We enjoyed most the opportunity to connect with other local coffee lovers, discuss the industry, our ideas and experiences, and hear about each person’s passion for coffee.

Thanks to Aaron and the Mosaic Cafe for hosting all of us!  We greatly enjoyed it!

Re-Education

Coffee is a product that has been the subject of a great deal of publicity and marketing over the past 100+ years, much of which has been deceptive and manipulative.  For years it has appealled to our slave-like love of the dollar.  This style of marketing has caused us to see coffee as a commodity and not a unique product that’s quality can vary greatly.  One of the reasons I started this blog is to help to educate our customers to good coffee and to begin to help us unlearn what American marketing has taught us. 

This re-education will be the subject of a series of upcoming blogs.  My desire is for our customers to understand what good coffee is.  This is important because it doesn’t just affect what we drink, but it affects millions of coffee farm laborers as well.  When coffee is turned into a commodity, our attention is focused on price because we have nothing, other than perhaps roast color, to base our purchase decision on.   The direct effect of this is for customers to buy the cheapest product available, which in turn encourages commercial coffee companies to put pressure on farmers and distributors to produce progressively cheaper coffee.  It’s easy to see how this progression can affect the lives of the laborers of less developed countries who have little in the way of human rights. 

What is a commodity, and how do we keep coffee from becoming a commodity? 

Merriam Webster defines a commodity as a mass produced, unspecialized product.  Almost any product can be made into a commodity, and commodities are very popular in America.  American culture values cheap repetitition with little regards to quality or character.  This why every town has a McDonald’s and a Wal-Mart.   And even though many people would admit to a disdain for both of these places, they continue to thrive. 

The best way to ‘un-commoditize’ a product is to expose the product’s identity.  If we think about coffee the way we think about wine we can begin to see this.  If it’s good wine, you don’t simply know the color and the country; you know the grape, the vineyard and the year it was harvested as well.  Coffee has an identity.  It has a region, a variety and a farm with laborers. 

As people begin to know the identity of coffees and experience the different tastes of these coffees, they may then begin to purchase specific coffees that suit their tastes or a certain ocassion.  The effect of this is that distributors will look for better coffees and, in return, pay farms for the quality of the bean rather than the quantity of the bean.  Good farms, like those we visited in Panama, then pay higher wages, because their quality is dependent on the effectiveness of the laborers. 

We desire to give our customers as much transparency as possible to know what they are purchasing.  I want us to be able understand and see the identity of coffees.    This begins my effort to expose coffee’s indentity and to help re-educate us on the product of coffee.

A Little Press

We recently got our first taste of local press.  The Oak Cliff People newspaper was kind and curious enough to write up an article about our business.  If you haven’t had a chance to check it out and you want to, you can read it here.

Panama and the Geisha

Panama is gaining much momentum in popularity within the coffee world.  Over the past few years, coffees from Panama have continued to impress in the cup and win various awards.  Predominately, the hype is about the Geisha bean, which is a varietal of the Coffee Arabica plant. 

 

Geisha is distinct in the cup and has been described anywhere from hot lemonade to a floral tea.  At the Esmeralda Special On-line Auction this past May, single lots of Geisha went for anywhere from $6/lb. up to $105/lb.  For perspective, the current fair trade price for coffee is $1.30/lb.  (5-80 times more!).  Geisha is the most exotic coffee I’ve ever put my tongue to, but it’s an ‘occasional’ coffee in my opinion.

 

At Finca Lerida, in Boquete, Panama, Jenni and I were fortunate enough to cup some Geisha coffee (among others) along with Andres Lopez, the Production Manager of the farm.  We also cupped their estate ‘Honey’ coffee, which is also a very interesting coffee due, mostly, to the unique processing method.  The Honey coffee is outstanding and ranks among my all-time favorites.  

 

Prior to the cupping session, we toured the coffee farm through fields up the side of the volcano.  Although Lerida is not an organic farm, they are making encouraging strides of sustainability and fairness.  For example, they pay the migrant Ngobe Indian workers well above the area’s going rate for coffee picking to ensure only the ripe fruits are being picked (it is truly a win-win situation for both parties). 

 

Andres stirring the mucilage for compostSome of their conservation efforts include using California Red Worms to compost the coffee mucilage that would normally be discarded and flushed into a local river.  This creates a natural fertilizer that saves them money and is much cleaner on the environment.  All of this leads to better situation for the owners, the workers, the environment and to us who get to enjoy the final product of compassion and effort. 

 

 

Speaking of the final product, I was able to bring back some samples, and I will be offering limited amounts of the some of these unique Panama coffees in the coming months.  Finca Lerida’s coffee has been fully committed to distributors already, but through another connection, I ordered limited amounts from the neighboring farm, Finca Elida.  Look for these coming soon!