About Our Coffee
Despite the regional differences of many growers, we scrupulously source coffee that is:
- From the top 10% of the Arabica species. Arabica trees produce a more delicate, flavorful coffee.
- Grown at high altitudes 2000-6000 feet, above sea level, in an equatorial climate with rainfall, sun and mild frost-free temperatures. This allows the plants to mature slowly and ensure the most flavor in each bean.
- Shade-grown in a natural environment of varied stories of trees, friendly to migrating birds, producing better coffee, and eliminating the need for pesticides.
- Hand-picked on mountain terraces and graded for excellence. Commercial grades are mass produced and mechanically harvested mixing ripe and unripe cherries.
- Purchased from farms or co-ops that go beyond paying a fair wage. As they are small farms and co-ops the proceeds from their premium products go directly to the growers and their communities to provide schools, health clinics and clean water. These farmers are seen as leaders in their communities.
- Grown using organic and sustainable methods. Many small co-ops and farms cannot afford the organic or fair trade certifications and, in some cases, these do not serve them well; despite the fact that they utilize organic methods and profits go directly to co-op members and their community. All of our coffee is traceable to the farm where their practices are documented for no pesticides, sustainability, natural fertilizers and compost.
It all starts with a coffee tree that bears luscious red fruit or “cherries." Coffee beans are the seeds inside the ripe cherries. However, every coffee-producing country--from Indonesia to Ethiopia to Costa Rica--processes the bean differently based on their own unique economy, geography, cultural traditions and available resources.
We try to make as many trips to producing countries as we're able so we can see how the farmers grow their crops, their sustainable methods for using all byproducts, their ways of processing the beans, roasting the beans and preparing the brew. We've been to South America, Central America, Africa and India. Our next trip is to Indonesia--with our son, Sebastian, in the vanguard, spending 6 months in Hawaii and Indonesia working with coffee farms--to meet with our producers and form direct relationships with them. We bring these experiences back home in our continuing effort to roast and prepare better coffee, to inform our customers, and to help provide better lives for growers.
Some work needs to be done to remove the coffee beans from the cherry after harvesting. The method chosen (wet, dry, semi-dry) and the care taken during the milling and screening process are a huge influence on quality.
This process tends to produce a "cleaner" flavor. A depulper breaks away the cherries' outer skins, removing most of the pulp. To loosen the remaining sticky coating called mucilage, the beans are placed in large water tanks to ferment. They are then thoroughly washed and left to dry on patios in the sun . After the beans have rested, for a few months, a hulling machine removes the final layer of “parchment” skin surrounding the bean.
Dry (or Natural) Process
This method tends to produce a heavier, earthier flavor. Here the ripe cherries partially dry while on the tree, then they are picked and spread out in the sun on patios to dry while still intact for another 2-3 weeks. Finally, the dried cherries, with the beans inside, are put through hulling machines to remove the dried pulp, and parchment skin.
Semi-dry (or Pulped Natural) Process
This method is hybrid of the wet and dry process. The cherry fruits' outer skins are removed with most of the mucilage left intact around the beans. The coffee is then patio-dried until desired moisture levels are achieved. Finally, it is dry-milled to remove any remaining dried pulp and parchment skin.
And then there's the roasting
We roast by hand, not by computer profile. Each bean and each crop is different, so we treat each batch as if cooking a meal -- using eye, ear, nose, experience and some creative experimentation. Our goal is to bring out the unique regional qualities in each bean:
- Central and South American are light to medium bodied with lively, effervescence. The volcano regions of Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama produce coffee that has spicy, chocolatey, and complex flavors.
- African coffees combine the sparkling acidity of the best Central Americans with aromatic, floral and winy, berry-like notes.
- Indonesian coffees are at the opposite end of the spectrum, being full-bodied powerhouses, smooth with low acidity, and having an earthy and nutty quality.
The last step in our process is taste--every batch we roast is cupped and assessed. We know we can always do better, and so on to the next batch! Watch a video of Flavio roasting>