May Global Coffee Updates
By Oliver Stormshak
Owner, Green Coffee Buyer, and Roast Master
How is it May? Somehow we are almost halfway through 2020. The global pandemic has not only disrupted our cafe locations and local economy but has deeply affected global trade and the global supply of coffee, too. I know we are all getting tired of the bad news, so I'm happy to share some good news in my report this month as well.
The main harvest is underway in Colombia. The high altitude farms that we work with only have a small amount of coffee to harvest in the few weeks and should hit their peak of production around June. I'm always surprised by how productive the farms are in Colombia. The average farm that we work with in Colombia is only 3 hectares, or 7 acres. On that small bit of land, a weekly production can hit as much as 2,000 pounds of coffee cherry. That works out to be almost 1,000 pounds of exportable green coffee. To give you a sense of how productive that is, it's about 5 times the amount of coffee on a piece of land than a farmer in Burundi, and more than double the amount of an Ethiopian farmer. We currently have a small amount of coffee ready for export in Colombia that is moving a bit slower than normal, but should ship during May.
The good news is we still have a full supply of Colombian coffee on hand, and even more waiting in storage. Currently, we are working through our Reserve Lucas Melo lots and we are moving pretty quickly through our Colombian Micro Lots as usual. As of this writing, we are roasting the Clinton Ossa Micro Lot 12, and up next we have Amparo Pajoy Micro Lot 24 (expect this to go fast as we only have 225 pounds. I'm not sure if we will get there during May, but after Amparo's coffee, we will be sharing an exceptional coffee from our export-import partners Caravela Coffee. They own and operate a test farm, called Finca Belgravia, and it's one of very few Certified B Corporation Coffee Farms in the world. This coffee will be one of only a few fully Certified B from farm, export, import, and roasting. B Corporations, as you may know, is a certification process that Olympia Coffee achieved starting in 2019. Certified B Corporations meet the highest standards in the world for ethical and environment standards.
We love Ethiopian coffee so much so that we feel like we can't live without them. It's such a big deal that we have made the decision to buy a coffee outside of our Fair For All program to ensure we have a delicious and ethically sourced Ethiopian coffee for you all during uncertain times. The only reason this doesn't qualify as a Fair For All coffee is that we cannot confirm the details within our own audit system as we have never visited this washing station in-person. That said, this is a fully traceable and transparent offering from an importer called Red Fox Coffee Merchants and we are confident that the information we have confirms that this coffee meets our sustainable sourcing/pricing standards and is available for purchase now! Nano Genji Lot 2 is the coffee I'm writing about, and it's a delicious washed lot from the Jimma region of Ethiopia.
More craziness and chaos to report too. After much hemming and hawing, I've decided to re-release the single-origin caramelization roast version of Ethiopia Jibicho Natural. It's back in our linep now after being reserved as an ingredient in our flagship Big Truck Blend for a little while. So why the chaos with our Ethiopian lineup? Well, we hit shipping delays, and most of our Ethiopian Coffee is still in Ethiopia. Their ports are only working at 1/2 capacity to practice social distancing. I was hoping for June arrivals, now I'm hoping for July. The really good news? Nano Genji Lot 2 is a new crop coffee. That means fresh Ethiopian coffee as early as May - it's never happened before, but yeah, some things are going right.
Our first Guatemalan coffee has arrived in the United States! This is also my chance to formally introduce our newest sourcing project in Huehuetenango. This year we moved our small scale producer program to Huehue from San Marcos and we could not be happier with the decision. We have been looking for these coffees for years. In fact, we used to work in Huehue many years ago with a Cooperative that had great coffee but was buried in corruption and lack of transparency. It's taken us about 8 years to return back, but we are back for good and the coffees and producers we are working with are a much better fit. We are calling this project El Templo (The Temple) after the Mayan archeological site Zaculeu. Within El Templo this season you will experience the following qualities and lots: First up, we will roast El Templo on May 25th, which is a larger blend that we've built from 14 farmers in the city of San Pedro Necta and will also be roasted as a Sweetheart offering. Then, we'll be releasing El Templo Reserva, which is a super high-quality lot from just 3 farmers as well as 3 single producer micro-lots, each cupping above 90 points. The El Templo project features flavors that are juicy and fruity (we're getting lots of peach and chocolate), while the micro-lots are getting more floral and blackberry-like. I haven't been this excited in Guatemalan coffee in many years.
We are scrambling to get all our El Salvador selections dry milled and ready for export. It's taken a bit more time than we'd anticipated for the majority of our micro-lots. The lots from the Ariz family are tasting great, but we are rejecting much more coffee from our La Palma program than expected. This poses a concerning question about quality and we've been hearing that farmers have been a bit complacent this year as the prices and demand for single producer, traceable coffees from La Palma in Chalatenango have really driven prices up. Farmers don't seem to be motivated towards quality when buyers are lining up to buy regardless of quality. We do have a few, so don't panic. We have beautiful Pacamara micro-lots from Dimas Garica, another from his father Benjamin Garcia, and another from Matias Hernandez too. Expect these coffees a little later in the Summer, though the timeline is still uncertain.
Darn it, our Kenya's are delayed too. Our Kenyan coffees are usually the first new crop of the year to arrive, but with COVID-19, things fell behind schedule and our coffees are now booked to leave the port of Mombassa in late May, with an early July arrival in the port of New Orleans. It will then be put on another boat there to float up the Mississippi river to Minneapolis to be stripped and loaded onto a truck to make the final overland journey to the Pacific Northwest by late July. Because Kenyan coffees are an important part of Little Buddy Blend we might have to find a substitute for a little while.
Beautiful Burundi is now in harvest. We are expecting some bumpy paths forward as the harvest will coincide with a national election in June. We were in Burundi during an attempted overthrow of this government a few years ago and it was not good. We have decided, for a number of reasons, that it would not be safe to travel to Burundi this year. However, we still expect to purchase coffees from our producer partners at Long Miles Coffee Project, with arrival expected this coming winter.