Global Coffee Updates: September 2021
By Oliver Stormshak
Owner, Green Coffee Buyer, and Roast Master
Yikes, it seems like it’s feast or famine here at Olympia Coffee when it comes to our green coffee inventory. Last month we were starving for our coffees to arrive in the country or clear customs, but this month we have so much coffee that has cleared that we are flooded with more offerings than we can handle. This global coffee update is our chance to explain what is happening with our offerings, and at the countries of origin where our coffee grows.
Let’s start with our offerings this month from Colombia! At the start of September, we have a tiny amount of Johany Quinlindo Micro Lot 4 still available, as well as an even smaller amount of Clinton Ossa Micro Lot 18. Soon we will move onto another beautiful Pink Bourbon Micro Lot from Clinton Ossa, Micro Lot 19, and by the middle of the month we will be onto the rare Maragogype varietal from Jesus Cuchumbe. This will be Jesus’ second Micro Lot with us and it’s lovely. Also in the Colombia equation are our blending components, including San Fermin Organic, of which we will be receiving a fresh container this month. Roughly mid-month our Sweetheart blend, which is currently featuring Colombia San Sebastian, will rotate to focusing on coffees from El Salvador.
September in Colombia tends to be a month of coffee leaving the country for export. This means we have been cupping a steady amount of Colombian coffee samples in our lab, including pre-shipment samples from Amparo Pajoy, Clinton Ossa, and our San Sebastian Reserva blend. Coffee is also still being harvested this month – in fact, in years past, some of my favorite Colombian coffees were harvested in September. Expect these September lots to be roasted throughout the holiday season and the beginning of the new year in Olympia.
This September we will see more new crops of Ethiopian coffees enter into the lineup. At the beginning of the month, we will continue with our beloved Adame Garbota, a coffee we have been roasting each year for more than a decade. We also work with a few single producers from within that cooperative for unblended lots under their names, like Desta Gola and Wolde Hirbe. Funny enough, both of those farmers’ lots will be next to roast for our Ethiopian coffees - around mid-September. Desta Gola washes his coffee at his small farm himself. This is extremely rare case for a single producer in Ethiopia – harvesting cherry, washing, and drying their own coffee. In Ethiopia, coffee is typically harvested, collected, and mixed at a washing station, where traceability to a producer disappears.
Wolde Hirbe is also a farmer from the same village and a member of the Adame Garbota cooperative. However, Wolde has no infrastructure for pulping and washing so he dries his coffee cherries and sells them as a Natural Process coffee. In both farmers’ cases, their coffee is dry milled and prepared for export within their cooperative's parent organization, the YCFCU (Yirgacheffee Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union).
Also currently in the roastery is our new crop Natural Ethiopia, which will be used for blending. This year we selected one lot within the YCFCU family, but from another partnering cooperative called Halo Bariti. As most of our year’s worth of Ethiopian coffee has now landed in the United States, we are in the process of moving it from ports of entry in Oakland and Houston to warehousing in Fife, WA, so it’s a little closer to home for easy and fast receiving.
I’m happy to report that all of our El Salvador offerings are now in the United States. We will be featuring stunning El Salvadorian coffees for the next six months. We start off with three single producer lots, each with different processing methods, from our sourcing program in La Palma Chalatenango. Jose Flores has produced a jammy, fruity, Natural Process coffee for us this year. Then, the brothers and father team – aka Familia Diaz – have produced a staff favorite Honey processed lot for us. And on the washed side we have a perfectly expressed pure Pacamara varietal lot from Alberto Ochoa.
On the blending side of the equation, we have brought in a perennial favorite, the Ariz Family Bourbon Natural, to begin blending into Sweetheart this month.
Our 2021 Kenyan coffees are now in the country and being freighted toward our roastery as of this writing. By the end of the first week of September, we will have begun adding Kenyan coffees into the Little Buddy blend.
Around the second week of September we will be releasing our first offering of Kenyan new crop coffee. This will also be the debut of our partnership with Long Miles Coffee in Kenya. We’ve previously worked with Long Miles Coffee in Burundi, and this is their first harvest from Kenya. This year’s offerings from Long Miles in Kenya are all sourced and managed through a partnership with the Othaya Cooperative. The first lot will be a Peaberry Lot from the Gatuyaini Factory. Toward the end of the month we will be releasing our second Kenyan, the Long Miles Gatuyaini Peaberry.
All of our 2021 Guatemalan coffees are now in the United States, and this month we are roasting El Socorro Pacamara. Pacamara is a rare varietal that has one of the highest varietal cupping averages in specialty coffee. This year also brings back a return to sourcing from El Socorro. El Socorro is owned by Juan Diego de la Cerda and his family, and they are part of Olympia Coffee’s longest-standing producer partnership. We started buying El Socorro’s coffee back in 2010. This farm is one of the most awarded farms in all of Central America. They have won the Cup of Excellence competition for over twenty years, with only one year missing, and in 2021 they won first place. Last year we had a little bump in the road, as our Fair For All standards and audit found that more needs to be done on farm laborer housing and labor conditions. Most of the farm laborers live at their own farms that neighbor El Socorro, but for 10 percent of the workforce, no housing options were provided and the conditions for these laborers did not meet the standards we require at Olympia Coffee. We took the year to work on these issues with El Socorro and they rose to the challenge and opened up new housing for seasonal workers with electricity, bathrooms, and a large community kitchen. This is really a success story on how our strict Fair For All standards had an impact on the community that surrounds El Socorro. It’s great to see El Socorro’s return to Olympia Coffee.
The harvest in Burundi has now ended. September brought our pre-ship samples from the two hills we have a long sourcing partnership with inside Long Miles Coffee’s Heza washing station: Gitwe and Mikuba Hill. For the last few years, we have exclusively been sourcing coffees from these hills, and we are focused on Washed, Honey, and Natural processed offerings with cuppings scores above 88+ points. We are pleased to announce that we have cupped through our samples and selected what we feel to be the best of the 2021 harvest from Burundi Gitwe and Mikuba Hills. These coffees will arrive in the United States sometime in the beginning of 2022.
The Peruvian harvest is tapering off this month. Peru is an origin that is still in development for Olympia Coffee. It’s also an origin we started in full swing while COVID19 was in full effect, so our process of moving toward higher quality coffee of the single producer micro-lot type might take more time than usual. We have been loving the blended lots we have been buying for two years now, with the 2020 harvest cycle being our first with full volumes. 2021 will likely see a similar selection of community blended lots that are traceable, transparently traded, and delicious.
In August of 2021, I had the opportunity to travel to the Big Island and visit our Hawaiian farmers at Monarch Coffee Farm in Kona, Hawaii. This month they are continuing with their harvest season. The harvest so far has been slow to ripen, but to some degree that has been really good for the Monarch team as finding labor to pick coffee has been a major challenge this year. Alex Brooks (an old friend and former Olympia Coffee customer) has joined the team at Monarch to lead the processing side. Honestly, I can’t be more excited about any other farm or coffee. The potential and skill set on this team puts the farm in a position to produce some of the best coffee we have ever tasted. This is wild news, as anyone who tried the last harvest would likely be asking, “How can it get better?” Those lots surpassed all expectations on how a Hawaiian Coffee might taste, and I’m excited to say that I think it’s going to get even better.
In just a couple of days, the first place Best of Panama 2021 Bambito Estate Washed Gesha will go on sale on our website. This might be the prettiest, most floral coffee you may ever have the chance to taste and I highly recommend purchasing it. The product goes live on September 9 and the roast is on September 13. Seriously, it’s outrageously good.