450. What difference does policy make?

2015 February 26

The sustainability conversation in specialty coffee has evolved in important ways since I first tuned in more than 10 years ago.  I find it to be more robust.  More nuanced.  More mature.  And, well…just more.

The list of topics on the industry’s sustainability agenda is longer than it was a decade ago.  One topic that does not seem to have made its way into the slipstream of the conversation, however, is policy.  But regulatory and policy changes at origin and in the marketplace have real implications for ongoing commercial operations as well as the economic, social and environmental impacts of the coffee trade.

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449. La Florida: Meet the growers

2015 February 20

Since early this morning, members of the 33 families who grew the coffee in Counter Culture’s La Florida single-variety Caturra lot have been gathered in Pasto, the capital of Nariño.  They are waiting until 3:12 pm local time, when their coffee takes center stage in the able hands of Anna Utevsky.  Meet some of them here, and hear their impressions of their first barista competition.


La Florida grid.

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448. USBC preview: Anna Utevsky and intentionality

2015 February 19

The U.S. Barista Championship gets underway tomorrow in Long Beach.  The live broadcast of the competition will reach viewers in a place not accustomed to watching barista events.

I’m not talking about Las Vegas, North Carolina.

Or Holland, Michigan.

Or even Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

I am talking about Nariño, Colombia, where the farmers who grew Anna Utevsky’s competition coffee–Counter Culture’s La Florida–will gather to watch her routine.

Last year, Laila Ghambari of Cherry Street Coffee in Seattle took home the USBC crown with a coffee she custom built for competition with Phil Dillanos of (duh) Dillanos Coffee Roasters and Emilio López of Cuatro M in El Salvador.  We didn’t exactly duplicate that approach with Anna and our friends at Counter Culture, but the La Florida lot from our Borderlands project in Nariño tastes as if it were customized for competition.  More importantly for Anna, it embodies the principle of intentionality that is central to her engagement with coffee.


La Florida in production

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447. Six lenses on gender

2015 February 10
by Michael Sheridan

It seems 2015 is shaping up to be the year of gender equity in specialty coffee.

CQI is conducting research on the issue as part of the industry-driven Partnership for Gender Equity, and the SCAA has announced a Symposium session on gender equity–a good sign that this is an issue whose time has come.

In a spirit of collaboration (and humility), here are six lenses on gender that inform us in our work at CRS and may be helpful as the specialty coffee community rolls up its sleeves to get to work on this issue.

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446. Counter Culture rolls out single-farm Borderlands lots

2015 February 3
by Michael Sheridan

Last month, Counter Culture introduced this single-variety community lot from La Florida.  This month, it rolls out a series of more than one dozen single-farm lots from the same region of Nariño.

Counter Culture - Borderlands Single-Farm Lots

Courtesy of Counter Culture Coffee.


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445. Alpha. Bravo. Coffee?

2015 January 22
by Michael Sheridan

I have a lot of travel in the coming months, and have been spending more time than usual dealing with the alphanumeric reservation codes that airlines use.  As I recently Alpha-Bravo-Charlied my way through a conversation with airline staff, a random thought occurred to me: what would a coffee version of the phonetic alphabet look like?

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444. B is for Business model

2015 January 20

The B in “Certified B Corporation” stands for Benefit.  But the B Corp certification may be the best one out there for consumers who want a holistic assessment of a company’s Business model.


B Corp logo read more…

443. A Malacara reunion

2015 January 13

Back in September, I published this interview with my colleague Ivania, who was born as a landless worker on Finca Malacara, one of El Salvador’s most storied coffee estates.

I was moved by Ivania’s story.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.

José Guillermo Álvarez Prunera, the Finca Malacara owner affectionately known as “Epe,” was so compelled by the interview that he invited us to his farm. It may have been one those polite invitations he expected us to graciously decline, but we took him up on it.  I am glad we did.

Last week, Epe and his sister, María de los Ángeles Murray Álvarez, opened the gates of Malacara to Ivania and her family.  And Ivania and her family opened the doors of her home to Epe and María de los Ángeles. Both parties were kind enough to invite me and a few colleagues along for what was amounted to an extraordinary reunion of the extended Finca Malacara family.



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442. Counter Culture presents single-variety Borderlands lot from La Florida

2015 January 8

In Nariño, Colombia, we have been working for more than three years to build relationships between the 1,600 smallholder growers who participate in our Borderlands Coffee Project and six allies in the marketplace who are part of the project’s Advisory Council.

This year, four of those companies purchased 41 separate lots from 324 different growers, including 16 community lots and 25 single-farm lots.

No one bought more lots than Counter Culture, which came away from the 2014 havest with more than 20 lots: six community lots and 17 single-farm lots. This week it brings the first of those to market: this single-variety Caturra lot from La Florida, where the project will break ground in 2015 on Nariño’s first washing station.


Counter Culture Quality Manager & Coffee Buyer Tim Hill visits growers in La Florida during the 2014 harvest.


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441. Getting by with a little help from our friends: The Borderlands Advisory Council

2015 January 7

Today: how representatives of six leading specialty coffee companies who share our commitment to transform the coffee chain in Nariño, Colombia, are helping us create opportunities for smallholder farmers and developing new sources of extraordinary coffee.

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