Global Coffee Updates: October 2021
By Oliver Stormshak
Owner, Green Coffee Buyer, and Roast Master
It’s surprising to me that it is somehow October. The weather in the Pacific Northwest switched on a dime, from our hot dry summer directly into the rain. Heading into the fall of 2021, we have a great selection of coffees in our lineup to keep everyone warm. Each month we walk through the stories behind our coffees and share our inventory levels from each country of origin we work in.
We started off the month of October with what may be the highest scoring Colombian micro lot this year, based on our production roast cuppings. The Jesus Cuchumbe Maragogype Micro Lot 2 is a near perfect coffee that is scoring higher than any other offerings, at 92 points. Roughly at the end of the first week of October we will move along to our first lot from Hernando Medina, a farmer within our San Sebastian sourcing program.
This month we also received another full lot of San Fermin Organic, and coffees in Colombia continue to be harvested and exported this month.
This brings up the concern of current coffee pricing. The cost of Colombian coffee has doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. Why? That is an easy answer: supply, competition from Brazil, and shipping issues have driven the price of Colombian coffee through the roof. So, is this going to be an issue for Olympia Coffee? This is a more complicated answer. Yes, as a company that purchases about half of all the coffee we roast from Colombia, it puts us at risk of additional costs. With not enough time to diversify our purchases and with the continuing restrictions and complications of global travel, we are going to ride this one out. And also no - honestly, while we are seeing prices go up with our producers, they have not doubled like the local market. We also have many direct partnerships with producers, with some of our coffees under contract for upward of two years at this point. This means we have been able to lock in prices and therefore won’t be seeing prices spike as dramatically as others will. Internally we are seeing quality come down, which makes the supply of high quality coffee rare and we will need to pay more for it. As of this writing we are contracting all qualities at about 15% higher prices.
Our friends inside Ethiopia continue to communicate that they are safe and ready for visits from Olympia Coffee. Our coffee partners are all in the southern part of Ethiopia, in the Gedeo-Yirgacheffe and Sidama regions, but safety is still a concern in the North as the war in the Tigray region continues.
In the roastery this month we have the two of my personal favorites. Both are single-producer, single-farm lots from the same village of Wenago, in North Yirgacheffe, and both are members of the Adame Garbota Cooperative. Tasting these two coffees side-by-side will give you a great example of how processing impacts flavor - Wolde Hirbe is a Natural process and Desta Gola is a fully-washed lot, so the difference in taste between these two comes down to how they were processed.
Speaking of processing, on October 25 we will be introducing Olympia Coffee’s first ever Honey Processed coffee from Ethiopia, the Ethiopia Bensa Honey! Honey processing was mastered in Central America in the early 2010s, so it’s taken some time to become adopted by coffee’s homeland; we cannot wait to start sending this one out to you.
We started the month of October off with our last single-farmer features for the year from the La Palma Project in Chalatenango. As we roast through the Alberto Ochoa Pacamara and Familia Diaz Honey lots, we will pivot toward featuring our long-time producer partnership with the Ariz Family, in the Ahuachapan region of El Salvador. Their farm, El Aguila, has been part of our sourcing for the last six years. This partnership helped turn our attention toward the potential of El Salvadorian coffee. Our first offering from the Ariz Family will take us back to where we started with them six years ago - their Pacamara. First, we will roast their washed Pacamara and then move on to their Honey Pacamara toward the end of the month.
This month we also have El Salvadorian coffees playing a big role in our blends. Sweetheart is currently a 100% El Salvadorian Blend, and Little Buddy has a large percentage of El Salvadorian coffees, giving it balance with chocolatey notes.
At the farms, the harvest at lower altitudes will begin this month, and it won’t likely be until December when farms like El Aguila begin harvesting - but there's always work to do at a coffee farm.
October is typically our month to cup through and finalize our selections from Peru, where the harvest is now complete. This year we continued contracting coffees, with multiple tiers of quality, from the Cusco region in southern Peru. I personally love this region and long for a day when it will be safe to travel back, deep into the Andes mountains, to visit the farmers of our Espiritu Wari sourcing program.
We are continuing to roast El Socorro Pacamara this month, but we will run out soon! If you have not picked up a bag of this award-winning coffee you should do it right away. Next up from Guatemala will be our only Guatemalan micro lot selection this year, from our Huehuetenango sourcing project that we call El Templo. It’s from a single farm and single producer by the name of David Mendez, in San Pedro Necta.
In Guatemala, the annual harvest is just about to begin; however, similar to El Salvador, we won’t see the farmers we work with begin to harvest until December.
Our Kenyan offerings continue to be released and then sold out very quickly; but we have now moved into our largest lot from Kenya this year, the Karuthi AB lot, which should last through the month of October. Interestingly, the Karuthi lots are my personal favorite this year from Kenya. They have a delicious fruit punch flavor that I lose my mind over.
It’s always important to remember that Kenya, like Colombia, usually has multiple harvests each year. We usually only select purchases from the main crop, during the November and December harvest, but as of today the fly crop continues in Kenya.
We are really loving the new crop samples from Long Miles Coffee Gitwe and Mikuba Hills. We have been making our selections over the last few weeks, and the quality has been awesome. The harvest in Burundi is now over and export is the goal. We are hopeful for releases in early 2022.
The harvest has begun in Kona, Hawai’i, and our friends at Monarch Coffee have been busy getting started. We recently met with the team at Monarch to strategize how to put together a great harvest and selection process this year. I’m really excited about the possibility of the coffee coming out of Monarch. We might be lucky and get one lot processed and milled in time for the Holidays, but we are likely to see more volumes in spring 2022.