State of the Cup

Once a year, we here at Cup to Cup post a blog about how our past year has gone. This is that time of year.

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How was 2013? 2013 was amazing. It was our best year ever. Publicly, personally, strategically, qualityly and more!

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This was a year of building new relationships and growing old ones.

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New faces this year include Back in the Day Bakery, Coffee Deli, The Thirsty Monkey, and The Foundery Coffee Pub just to name a few!

We are beyond blessed to have such supportive family, friends, customers, and fans. This year Cup to Cup DOUBLED sales and is right on track to double again in 2014. Thank you thank you thank you thank you and thank you! Peace.

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Coffee Spotlight: Garbanzo Nuñez Estate

We are so very blessed to be able to buy from some of the best coffee farmers that are out there. One of our newest farmer partners is Franklin Garbanzo, known as Don Franco. Don Franco is the producer of  the Garbanzo Nuñez estate (the Nuñez? Franklin’s wife’s maiden name). We met Don Franco through our friends at Thrive Farmer’s Coffee and are forever grateful for it! One of Thrive Farmers favorite quotes is, “Know who grows.” So we’d like to introduce you.

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Don Franco’s farm sits on top of a little mountain in the famed Tarrazu region of Costa Rica. Over ten years ago Don Franco led fourteen farmers of the little valley of La Violetta in building a beneficio in their community. A befeficio is a coffee mill where the coffee fruit is taken and processed into the green coffee that comes to us roasters. Many coffee farmers sell just the coffee fruit or have to pay an additional cost to have their coffee processed, with no control over how the processing is done. By coming together and building their own mill, the farmers of La Violetta now have direct control over how the coffee is processed so that they can ensure they highest quality. It also cuts out a middle man, giving farmers more for their crop.

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Don Franco and his daughter at their farm

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Coffee flowers bloom only a few days a year, but when they do it’s beautiful!

Franklin describes the first time they operated the mill, “We had to process at night in the cold, wet and mud because the new machine was using all of the electricity available to the village.”  – See more at: http://www.thrivefarmers.com/thrive-farmers/meet-our-farmers/#sthash.rM5vcu22.dpuf

The farmers of La Violetta chose to take another step together and have partnered with Thrive Farmer’s Coffee, allowing them to sell their product directly to the roaster. That’s us! We buy coffee processed at the El Cedro mill that comes directly from Don Franco’s farm.

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We recently had a chance to talk with Don Franco and ask him some questions about his farm, coffee, Thrive, and sustainability. These words come from Don Franco, with a little help in translation.

Cup to Cup: How long have you and your family been in coffee?

Don Franco: I am (Franklin) the third generation of five total, my family has worked about fifty years in coffee.

Cup to Cup: Tell us about the mill in La Violetta and how it got started.

Don Franco: It has been nearly 15 years since the inception of El Beneficio El Cedro. Coffee prices were low, and farmers tried to find a solution, they tried with other crops, but it did not work, the only good crop for these lands was the coffee. Then of all farmers only fifteen decided to found El Beneficio El Cedro, trying to get better prices for their coffee, offering quality, not quantity.

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Cup to Cup: Tell us about how the land is important to you and what you are doing to preserve it.

Don Franco: The land here, is all, is our life, we work in the land everyday.

What am I doing to preserve it? Nestled in harmony with nature without the use of chemicals that could harm the life of both vegetation and animals.

Cup to Cup: How do you choose the varietals of coffee you grow, and what is your favorite?

Don Franco: We choose the type of coffee plant on our farm, depending on many factors, such as climate, altitude, but above all cup quality, maintaining seed diversity. My favorite is the Gesha variety.

Cup to Cup: Finally, what is something you would like people in the United States who buy your coffee to know? Is there something you think we are missing or don’t understand about the coffee industry?

Franklin: I would like them to know where it is produced and the type of process used, who produces the coffee they are consuming, and be familiar with the variety they are drinking.

Also, to understand the effort that all farm families make to produce the best coffee in the world, and thanks to the coffee our children can go to school and university.

Also I’d like you to understand how little support that coffee agriculture in our country receives.

It’s folks like Don Franco that are making differences right now in the world of coffee, helping farmers improving quality for better prices to help secure their future and that of their children. We extremely happy to be working with Don Franco and hope to have a long relationship!

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Music and Coffee

“Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine!”- JS Bach

   Cup to Cup has always been a supporter of music. As you may know, we have a blend made for the Savannah Children’s Choir where half the proceeds of it’s sales go directly to the choir. 

   We were thrilled to take part this morning in a coffee tasting and music performance. Savannah Friends of Music has been supporting classical music in Savannah since 2003 and in that time has raised over $460,000. One of the ways they do that is through their Parties a-la-Carte program. This morning’s theme was Bach’s Coffee Cantata.

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We were treated to a fantastic performance of the cantata sung by Kelly Balmaceda, Marcos Santos, and Kyle Hancock.

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In addition to the performance, we were proud to introduce a new coffee: Maestro’s Blend. Named in honor of the Philharmonic’s own director Peter Shannon (an avid drinker of Cup to Cup Coffee) we tasted each coffee found in the blend, and then the completed blend itself. 

The Maestro’s Blend is available today online! You can purchase and have it shipped to you, or arrange for downtown pickup at ThincSavannah, which was the gracious host location for us this morning. Half the proceeds will go directly to the Philharmonic. Get some today!

 

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Boldly Going Where No Bean Has Gone Before

There comes a time in all our lives where bold steps must be taken to advance ourselves to a new level. This week we took such steps.

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While doing some early Spring cleaning we came across a collection of green coffee samples. For a better understanding: when coffee roasters are choosing new coffees, they have small amounts sent to them, usually a half pound or less of the coffee or coffees they may be interested in. Sometimes all of those samples are roasted and tasted. Sometimes importers send several samples (even if you don’t ask for them) that don’t get roasted because it’s simply not a coffee we’re interested in buying.

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We found our collection of green coffee samples we’ve collected over the past nearly four years (can you believe it?) we’ve been open. What do you do with such a collection? Many roasters will carefully store these samples, using them as references, and comparing varietals and screen sizes of past and future crops. Us? We made one big honkin’ blend out of them.

We took 28 coffees from around the globe, Central and South America, Africa, Yemen, Indonesia, regular, decaf … everything, and thew it all together. 11 pounds of this in that into one glorious creation.

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The result? Interesting. We’ll go through a few of our cupping flavor profile notes to give you an idea. Fragrance is the descriptor roasters use to describe the smell of dry ground coffee. The Fragrance of this blend is … it’s like you went to a party with a friend of a friend, and you met a friend of your friends friend and had a conversation with them for about 5 minutes. Afterwards you thought, “He seemed nice. I mean, I wouldn’t want to spend more than 5 minutes with him, he’s a little weird, but was nice enough that I would wave to him if he was walking on the other side of the street.” That’s the fragrance.

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We get the aroma when we add water. The aroma is the same as above, but you remembering that while putting on your work boots. So now every time you put your boots on, the smell of them triggers that memory.

Now to taste! Have you ever been to the Dollar Store and saw a box of chocolates there and thought, “Wow, a whole box of chocolates for a dollar!” and then bought them? Then had one and realized why they are a dollar. Then leave them on the dashboard in the sun. Then bring them home and putting them in the back of the cupboard because you can’t just throw them away, you just bought them. Then forgetting about them and finding them 3 years later and taking a bite out of one out of morbid curiosity? Like that. Plus grapes.

While in the end this is not a blend we will strive to duplicate for the masses, we feel like it was a success. For science if for nothing else.

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Want to give it a try? Next time you place an online order, leave a note in the comment section and we’ll send you a sample! Peace.

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Overwhelmed by Awesome

It can be difficult as a coffee drinker to know what coffee to choose. You can go to the store. You can buy online, you can go to your local roaster. And then when you find something great you keep buying it. You want to support who you have bought it from and continue that purchasing relationship. But what happens when you want to try another coffee? Another region? Another shop? Do you keep buying what you love and will always love, or do you set it aside for a bit to try new things and give them a chance? Are you worried you will hurt the feelings of who you buy from if you stop buying from them for a while?

Roasters go through this same process. Right now at Cup to Cup we are absolutely thrilled with every coffee we have. Thrilled to pieces and more! We have worked very hard to establish and build our strong relationships and are working hard with our new relationships as well and are looking forward to seeing them grow. At the same time, there are coffees we have carried in the past that we love but don’t carry right now. And there are coffees we see we would like to take part in, to have available, to share with you, that we can’t carry right now because our offerings list is overflowing and the bags of beans are piled high in our tiny little roastery.

This is a wonderful problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. How does a coffee roaster maintain its fantastic relationships and continue to grow them year after year and manage to avoid stagnation as well? Always having the same thing can lead to boredom from the customer (no offense to you, but it’s true).

Seasonality is a thought and still has its merits. Coffee is a seasonal fruit and coffees from different regions grow at different times of the year giving us a chance to provide the freshest crops available for each season. But with the advent of protective packaging like Grainpro bags, this is becoming less of an issue as well preserved green coffee can last and taste super fresh all the way until the next harvest of that coffee arrives. Also, having an all Centeral American coffee lineup with no balance of other regions can take away from the variety of offerings customers want and expect out of a roaster.

 

What’s the answer? We don’t know. But we do know we love the coffees we have right now the the people we buy them from. And we know we are always looking for new coffees and relationships and continuing to grow interest in our customers to all aspects of coffee. A difficult task, but one we are excited about and happy to have you join us in. Peace.

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Roaster’s Table: Sustainability, Transparency, and Relationships

We will be holding out next event at the future home of the Foundery Coffee Pub, located on the corner of Habersham and Anderson. We’ll be tasting three coffees which we sourced through two companies; Thrive Farmer’s Coffe and Finca Coffees, companies that seek to connect small roasters directly with the farmer.

We’ll talk about coffee pricing and take one of our coffees and lead you through the process from farmer to consumer and how we price our coffees based on what we pay. We’ll talk about sustainabil

ity in coffee farms as well as developing relationships with farmers and cooperatives and how small roasters in the US can make that happen in a meaningful way.

Adam Wilson with Thrive Farmers Coffee will be speaking about Thrive, what they are doing and how they work with farmers to bring them further up in the supply chain and connect them with the roasters buying their coffee.

You’ll also have a chance to hear from Kevin Veitinger, owner of the Foundery about the shop, what it will look like, and how they plan to integrate into the community. We are very excited about this tasting and hope you can come and participate in it with us!

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Farmer’s Markets: Questions Asked, Part II

Here we go. Hope you enjoy.

Is this coffee organic? Fair Trade? Shade Grown?  

    Certifications are great … sometimes. The idea behind certifications is that some kind of consistency and accountability are present to ensure that what the farmer/producer is providing you is actually what they tell you it is. We’re afraid that what certifications have become is an excuse for consumers not to think. 

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     Many consumers see a shiny sticker and think “Whew! It’s safe to buy”. What we’ve found is the average consumer doesn’t even know what the certification is certifying. We have as many customers asking if our coffee is “Free Trade” as much as they ask if it’s “Fair Trade”, thinking it’s an interchangeable phrase. 

      This is not a Fair Trade bash. We think Fair Trade is doing some things very well, and some things not so well. We carry Fair Trade certification and occasionally have FT coffees available for purchase. What we’re trying to say is that Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, Certified Shade Grown and all the like are simply not an end all be all of ethical purchasing. We have purchased and carry coffees that meet and exceed standards of these certifications, but the farms choose not to carry them due to cost or restrictions on who can be certified. 

 Here is an interaction we had at a market last week: 

 “Are these coffees all Fair Trade?” 

“Fair Trade and better!”

“Better? What could possibly be better than Fair Trade?”

(insert above explanation)

“Really. But how am I supposed to know that?”

      How indeed? All the customer has is our word as a roaster. We know what we’re doing, but the consumer has to have faith in us that we are telling the truth. It takes time building trust and faith and consistency in your community for your weekly consumer to realize you actually do know what you’re talking about. And if the consumer is a visitor coming in for the weekend, we have one opportunity to share and get our message across in an clear, concise, and passionate way. It’s a challenge to be sure. It stretches us and tests us. It also makes us better and forces us to step up and be that base of knowledge for the consumer.

 Is this all you have?

     Farmer’s markets are reintroducing people to the idea of seasonality. It’s a beautiful thing, and also frustrating. We are just as guilty as any of wanting a product out of season, not finding it from local farmers, so going to the store to satisfy our craving. The world is getting smaller; we don’t have to wait till summer for figs anymore, we can just buy some from where figs are in season and have been shipped across the world to the local grocery store to get some.

     Perhaps we speak out of turn, being that we sell a product that is not produced in any state in the US except Hawaii. But we are selling the dried form of the coffee seed, not the fruit itself so we feel there is a little leeway for us to make an argument. 

     Still, coffee is a seasonal fruit. Fresh shipments of the most recent harvest of Brazilian coffees are making their way to our ports right now. We are currently out of our Brazil Bob-o-Link waiting for that shipment to come in. We have been waiting in anticipation for the newest crop of our El Salvador Malacara B to come in. We have been without it since February. People are getting antsy. 

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Yellow, orange, and red coffee varietals from the Malacara B Farm

 

     Green coffee is a sturdy product. The shelf life is fairly long provided it is kept in climate controlled condition. But there is a loss of quality as time goes by. We try to be very conscious of providing coffees from only the most recent crop of. Sometimes that means we go without. Sometimes we only have five coffees spanning three continents. The horror of it all.

This isn’t all you do, is it?

     We try not to burst a blood vessel at this one.  Again this can be a misleading question, so there is grace. Sometimes the questioner means, “Is this one farmer’s market all you do for a living?” We have been asked on more that one occasion if this market, the one blocking the entire street so no traffic can pass, happens everyday all year round. It’s a fanciful idea. For sure, the idea of a seven day a week market where to can go anytime during the day and get fresh produce picked by the farmer (who also mans the booth) and freshly roasted coffee (sold by the roaster) sounds absolutely delightful. We would by all our groceries at such a market. Alas, time and space do not permit such a thing. One day. 

Sometimes the question pertains to the occupation in general. “There’s no way you can provide for yourself just selling coffee”. We’d like to think that there is, as it is what we do. But the consumer sees the lone individual standing behind a table selling one cup at a time. They don’t see the wholesale side of the operation, the online sales, the other markets. The fifteen hour workday that makes all those things happen … plus one cup of coffee at a time. 

How have we failed in coffee (indeed in many occupations) to share with people exactly what goes on to provide this service to the public? Who’s fault is it, ours? Theirs? Both? 

The above may sound to you as a rant. This is not a rant, but a serious reflection on how we communicate, where our communication has succeeded, where it has failed, and what we can do to bridge the gap of knowledge in an atmosphere of understanding, compassion, and love. Peace.

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