Coffee Spotlight: Burundi Gitwe

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We’ve been proud to partner with Long Miles Coffee Project for the past couple of years to bring you some truly remarkable coffees from Burundi. The Carlson family has been working tirelessly to re-build Burundi’s war-torn landscape into a thriving, coffee-producing region. They have built two washing stations over the past five years and have invested in the local communities through education, artisans curation of crops, employment of hundreds of people, innovation, and public works projects. 

One huge benefit we get from partnering with the Carlson family, besides helping to fund change in their communities, is gaining detailed background information on the coffee we source from them. The current lot we just brought in comes from Kinyovu, a neighboring hill of Gitwe, and it’s without a doubt the best coffee we’ve brought in from them yet. On the nose, it’s floral with a scent reminiscent of jam making in my mother’s kitchen. In the cup you can find white peach, stewed fruit, grape-like acidity and a smooth, syrupy mouthfeel.

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This lot is a Bourbon that was grown along the edges of the Kibira forest which makes up the border between Burundi and Rwanda. We were going to try and paraphrase the information we got about this area, but couldn’t put it quite as eloquently as Long Miles. The following is perhaps the most detailed look into the background of your coffee you’ve ever seen! 

"Gitwe stretches from Heza washing station all the way to the main road that runs through the northern province of Kayanza. At almost every hour the hill bustles with the activity of village life. People run alongside cars with baskets full to the brim with onions and potatoes to sell. Carpenters craft planks of wood into tables in the small town’s center. Fig trees stand tall on either side of the hill, casting a welcoming shade from the hot East African sun. An assortment of onions, sweet potato, maize, banana, cassava, beans, and cabbage are grown alongside coffee in the hill’s rich soils.

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Gitwe carries deep scars from its violent past. Yet, there is an unrivaled unity amongst the people here. They have worked hard to develop as a community, coming together to build schools for their children and homes for their neighbors. With the help of Anicet and Patrice, the two coffee scouts dedicated to working on the hill, they are learning best farming practices. Before the scouts, farmers weren’t aware of the harm antestia bugs – the colorful critter linked to the potato defect - could cause to their coffee. There was no one to show them how to prune their trees or explain why it was important. They didn’t know how to mulch or fertilize their farms. The scouts’ hard work has renewed farmers’ interest in growing coffee. Gitwe farmers are now pioneering a way of irrigating their coffee by building water channels alongside their farms. These channels collect rainwater, which slowly irrigates their coffee trees and other crops.


CHALLENGES: Gitwe struggles to get access to clean drinking water and people often get sick from bacteria found in the water. There are many farming families spread over the hill, each owning a small piece of land. With little room for expansion, it is hard for farmers to maximize their production of coffee and other subsistence crops. The changing climate means that rains don’t fall when they are expected to. When the rain does fall, the daily downpours can wash the good soils into the valley below. The scouts are working with farmers to plant green manures to help return nutrients to the hill’s soils.

FUTURE: Coffee is a life-line for most of the people on this hill. Producing coffee helps the farmers to pay for school fees, clothing, livestock and home repairs. Farmers hope to develop their coffee crops to ensure a good future for their children and the community."

Note: All the great photos in this blog post have been graciously provided by Long Miles Coffee Project

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Coffee Spotlight: Ethiopia Yirgacheffe - Idido

Those of you who have been with us since the beginning know that an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe has always been one of our core offerings. Our latest Yirgacheffe doesn’t disappoint, boasting wonderful aromatics, mouthwatering citric acidity and sugary apricot and caramel notes. In a continuous effort to provide educate our customers on the origin of their beans, here’s a look at this beautiful coffee.

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Ethiopia is known as the “birthplace” of Arabica coffee. 2,000 years ago in the kingdom of Kefa (modern day Ethiopia), the nomadic tribe of Oromos was known to suck and chew on cakes they molded from the leaves and fruit of the coffee tree to get a boost of energy. A lot happened between the days of nibbling leaves in the bush and the modern day coffee trade (we’ll explore that in another blog post), however, one thing has remained the same: Ethiopia produces some of the finest coffees in the world.

Today, Ethiopian coffee is known for an incredible diversity of flavor and character that spans a number of micro-regions. The growing region of Yirgacheffe (located within the larger region of Sidama) has an abundance of lush forests where coffee absolutely thrives. The region is known for coffees that have floral characteristics, a specific sweetness, and sparkling acidity. The coffee we’re spotlighting comes from a micro-region within Yirgacheffe called Gediyo. Soils in this area are typically red-brown clay that goes down about 1.5 meters and our beans were picked between 1850 and 1880 meters above sea level. The beans were grown and hand-picked ripe by numerous smallholder farmers within the village (kebele) of Idido between November 2016 and January 2017.

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Once picked, these beans were taken to a washing station called Aricha, located about 8 km from the center of Yirgacheffe Town. There they went through a “washed” process where they were de-pulped within 12 hours of being picked and washed clean with spring water. After they were washed clean, they were laid out to dry until being packed into burlap sacks for shipping. 

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When we got our sacks of coffee, we did a number of test batches in our roaster to refine the roast profile. The profile and roast level we settled on is one that best highlights the wonderful, natural flavors intrinsic to this Yirgacheffe. In the cup, you’ll find jasmine flavor with lemon, caramel, and apricot. It’s sugary with citric acidity and has a smooth mouthfeel.


Nitty Gritty


Country: Ethiopia

Region: Yirgacheffe

Zone: Gediyo

Village (kebele): Idido

Farm: Various smallholders

Soil: Red-brown clay

Altitude: 1850-1880 masl

Process: Washed

Washing Station: Aricha

Harvest Months: November - January

Importer: Cafe Imports

Roast Profile: Full City

In the Cup: Jasmine flavor with lemon, caramel, and apricot; sugary with citric acidity and a smooth mouthfeel

 

Espresso Blend

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Espresso Blend

The whole run-down on our new espresso blend.

Tristan Stephenson puts it perfectly: “A shot of espresso is an honest and unforgiving thing. It celebrates attention to detail by highlighting what may be excellent about a coffee, and laughs at your bad practices by tasting intensely bad.” 

As we start to partner with more cafés, we embarked on a quest to come up with a versatile espresso blend that tastes good both straight up and in a variety of espresso-based café drinks. We started off by heavily researching good espresso blends, what type of beans are typically used for bases and how to add highlighted flavors we wanted. We then worked with our contact over at Cafe Imports to find just the right origins and sent off for a bag of each. When the pallet of beans arrived at our roastery, we set about sample roasting them individually to different roast levels. Next, a lengthy cupping process took place that resulted in roast levels being settled and an ideal ratio of the beans to use for our final blend. Next up we roasted the beans in our commercial roaster, and had another round of cupping to make sure the quality was what we wanted, and then countless shots were pulled and just as many lattes made. 

The final blend is a product of labor and love. We are intensely satisfied with this blend and hope you will be too! It does produce a nice espresso, but feel free to enjoy it brewed it a variety of ways. We did a pourover in our Chemex with it and it produced a fantastic cup that was sweet, medium body the whole way through, and smooth with a slight peanut note but much more milk chocolate through the end and aftertaste. 

A lot of roasters like to keep their blend a secret, but we want to share with you all the background info we could get on the beans we used for the blend. We ended up using a combination of Brazil Mogiana and Sumatra Harmau Tiger from Mandheling. 

 photo: Cafe Imports

photo: Cafe Imports

The Sumatran beans we used come from a signature series sourced by Cafe Imports called Harimau Tiger. Cafe Imports looked to capture the classic charicteristics of a Sumatran coffee when sourcing the beans while also offering a cleaner, sweeter profile and higher cup quality than a standard coffee from the Mandheling region. They sourced it based on profile and quality so we have limited traceability and can’t tell you exactly what farm it comes from. It’s a wet-hulled coffee that as a stand-alone coffee that tastes tart and heavy with milk chocolate and sweet cedar. What we can tell you is that we’re very happy with how it cups and it complements the Brazilian beans quite nicely.

 Photo: Cafe Imports

Photo: Cafe Imports

The Brazilian comes from the micro region of San Sebastiao da Grama which is South of Minas in the south-eastern part of Brazil. The farm is called Fazenda Recreio and dates back to 1890. Since it’s opening, Fezenda Recreio has had five generations of the same family manage it with Diogo Machaedo currently in charge as head agronomist. 618 of the 1473 acres on the farm are cultivated resulting in 5000 bags of coffee produced a year (25% of which is high end specialty). One neat aspect of Fezenda Recreio’s operation is their very large drying patio which allows them to dry coffees quickly as they harvest them. This means the crops can be harvested when the cherries are perfectly ripe instead of when the drying/processing queue allows. The farm won the cup of excellence in 2004 and finished in the top 5 from 2006-2010. The farm also has cattle and grows eucalyptus and some citrus in addition to the coffee. 

Our particular lot is a pulped natural process Yellow Bourbon varietal that as a stand-alone coffee tastes mild, tart and chocolate with a peanut flavor. We sourced this particular lot because we felt the chocolate and nuttiness would complement the heavy milk chocolate of the Sumatra Harimau Tiger while providing a nice base that would let a little bit of the cedar come through in a shot. 

So there you have it: a brief run-down of our espresso blend!

Here's a bonus video showing Fezenda Recreio

R. Riveter - Empowering Military Spouses

One of the things we care deeply about at Fat Cow Coffee Roasters is supporting our soldiers and their families.  In fact, we have a legacy of former and current military service at Fat Cow Coffee Roasters.  So we have a strong conviction that regardless of your opinions regarding conflict or policy, one truth cuts through – our soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen and their families make extraordinary, and in many cases life-long, sacrifices on our behalf.    We were stoked when we came upon R. Riveter, a company founded by military spouses that provides unique and flexible employment to military wives wherever their husbands' work may take them.  R. Riveter designs, creates, and sells handbags that are hand-sewn entirely by military spouses using up-cycled military materials. They're stylish and cool and the story behind each bag is worthwhile.  Check them out yourself! (click here)