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The USBC Origins Project – Day One

Back in Februrary, after watching the USBC Qualifying Event in Kansas City, I committed myself to this, an initiative I called the “USBC Origins Project.”  I found myself wanting more info on the coffees that baristas had so carefully chosen for their routines—who grew those coffees?  where?  how?  which exporters and importers took such good care of them along the way that they were worthy of selection as competition coffees?

Having worked for several years now at origin with smallholder growers whose coffees have been selected for these competitions, I know what a big deal it can be for them—a huge source of satisfaction and motivation.  It should also be their day in the sun.  After all, the barista isn’t the only one who should shine at the competitions.  Sure, they are the ones being put to the test and their skills are on display, but the power of coffee is the interdependence that makes their success contingent on the success of everyone that precedes them in the coffee chain, and vice versa.  Baristas and growers need each other.

So I decided to create a repository of bios of all the coffees that competitors chose for the USBC Finals.  Turns out, it was harder than I thought.  In the end, I came up way short of my goal of profiling all 34 competition coffees.  And I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as far as I did without the help of the SCAA and Barista Guild.  (Thanks, Dana!  Thanks, Lorenzo!)

By the time the 2017 USBC Finals roll around, we will have a full team of Coffeelands professionals in place, and we will try again: more bios, features on specific coffees and interviews with select baristas.  Meantime, here is what I could come up with for coffee bios for Day One of the USBC Finals.  Each bio includes the same basic profile info in addition to any other details competitors chose to share.

Good luck to all the competitors and thank you for being such extraordinary ambassadors for specialty coffee in general and for the growers of your USBC competition coffees specifically.

Michael Sheridan

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09:15

Wolf Barn Marnell

Pavement Coffeehouse

Boston

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COFFEE NAME: Cueva de los Llanos

ORGANIZATION NAME: Agrounidos

LOCATION:  Buesaco, Nariño

VARIETY: Caturra

ELEVATION: 1900-2100 m

PROCESS: Washed

EXPORTER/IMPORTER: Caravela Coffee

ROASTER: Counter Culture Coffee

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Author’s note: This coffee comes from our Borderlands Project in Nariño.  It is a single-variety Caturra lot that represents the hard work of five members of the Agrounidos organization—the first (but we hope not the last) traceable single-origin coffee the organization has sold into the U.S. market.  Our Borderlands project has helped hundreds of growers in Buesaco and five other municipalities to access new markets and earn first-time quality premiums by fostering new trading relationships with roasters like Counter Culture and traders like Caravela.  We are delighted to have

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09:34

Nathan Nerswick

Chattahoochee Coffee

Atlanta

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GROWER: Cosmel Merino

FARM: Finca el Paraíso

LOCATION: San Antonio-Palanda-Zamora Chinchipe-Ecuador

VARIETIES: Typica and Bourbon

ELEVATION: 1450-1560 m

PROCESS: washed, dry fermentation 16 hours, 15 days of drying

IMPORTER/EXPORTER: Caravela Coffee

ROASTER: Counter Culture Coffee

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From Counter Culture: Cosmel is the former manager of APECAP cooperative, part of the FAPECAFES cooperative union. This coffee is part of a seven-bag lot.

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09:53

Kelly Sanchez

Blue Bottle

Oakland

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Coffee bio not available

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10:12

Jeremy Sterner

Peregrine Espresso

Washington, DC

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COFFEE NAME: Cueva de los Llanos

ORGANIZATION NAME: Agrounidos

LOCATION:  Buesaco, Nariño

VARIETY: Caturra

ELEVATION: 1900-2100 m

PROCESS: Washed

EXPORTER/IMPORTER: Caravela Coffee

ROASTER: Counter Culture Coffee

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Editor’s note: This coffee comes from our Borderlands Project in Nariño.  It is a single-variety Caturra lot that represents the hard work of five members of the Agrounidos organization—the first (but we hope not the last) traceable single-origin coffee the organization has sold into the U.S. market.  Our Borderlands project has helped hundreds of growers in Buesaco and five other municipalities to access new markets and earn first-time quality premiums by fostering new trading relationships with roasters like Counter Culture and traders like Caravela.

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10:31

David Buehrer

Greenway Coffee

Houston

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GROWER: Josue Morales

FARM: La Esperanza

LOCATION: Antigua, Guatemala

ELEVATION: 1550 m

VARIETY: Villa Sarchi

PROCESS: washed

EXPORTER: TG Labs

IMPORTER: InterAmerican Coffee

ROASTER: Greenway Coffee Company

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From David: Josue had the opportunity to take over management of this farm last year. It is equipped with its own processing wet mill and has some really nice drying equipment as well.  He is using heat from other farm processes to heat the interior room of his fermentation tanks and keeps the temperature around 82 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing warm air to activate inside the coffee “wort.” Fermentation times are averaging 16-18 hours but increasing fruity notes are added to the coffee from this practice if dried correctly. He is using large drums available on the farm to remove exterior moisture quickly, then is patio drying once moisture levels reach 20 percent all the way down to 14 percent. At 14 the coffee is ready for dry milling/sampling.

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10:50

Marcos Iglesias

BREW Coffee Bar/Raleigh Coffee Company

Raleigh

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Coffee bio not available

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11:14

Ashley Rodriguez

Sightglass

San Francisco

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Coffee bio not available

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11:33

Isaiah Sheese

Archetype Coffee

Omaha

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COFFEE NAME: Ecuador Las Tolas

GROWER:  Arnaud Causse

FARM: Las Tolas

LOCATION: Las Tolas, Pichincha, Ecuador

VARIETY: Caturra

ELEVATION: 1800-2100 m

PROCESS:  washed

IMPORTER: Red Fox

ROASTER: Archetype Coffee

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From Isiah: Arnaud Causse is a French agronomist who has been living in Latin America for decades, working on different coffee projects in Central and South America. He ultimately landed in Ecuador and bought his farm outside of Tulipe de Pichincha which he calls Las Tolas. It’s a small, varietal-focused farm. Arnaud is as detail-minded a farmer as I’ve worked with. He grows Pacamara, Caturra, a very small amount of Java, and Bourbon. Arnaud Causse was drawn to Las Tolas for the light. Most of Northern Ecuador lacks proper levels of sunlight for optimum coffee production, but the break in the clouds in Las Tolas provides much needed light for coffee trees.The perfect amount of light, according to Arnaud. In addition to favorable sunlight, Las Tolas has outstanding altitude (1800-2100 m), fertile soils, and receives an annual average of 1700mm of rainfall.

Arnaud has an interesting story himself. He grew up in France in the mountains outside of Provence. After declining mandatory military service, Arnaud was shipped off to work on a Robusta plantation in Gabon, his first ever experience with coffee production. When his service was up, his interest in coffee was just taking off. Arnaud spent many years working on coffee projects in Ethiopia and Rwanda before finding himself in the Dominican Republic. From there he moved to El Salvador, then to Costa Rica, and eventually landed in Ecuador. Arnaud’s extensive agronomy experience is unique. He has worked in more facets of coffee production than anyone I’ve come across in the past 12 years.

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11:52

Sean Hundley

One Line Coffee

Columbus, OH

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Coffee bio not available

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12:11

Michael Harwood

Ceremony Coffee Roasters

Annapolis, MD

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COFFEE NAME: Kenya Kiangoi

ORGANIZATION NAME: Rung’eto Farmers Co-operative Society

WET MILL: Kiangoi Coffee Factory

LOCATION:  Njuthini, Kirinyaga, Kenya

VARIETIES: SL-28 and SL-34

ELEVATION:1700-1800 m

PROCESS: Washed + Sun-Dried.

IMPORTER: Elephant Coffee Importers

ROASTER: Ceremony Coffee Roasters

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From Michael: Kirinyaga County is quickly becoming one of my favorite coffee regions, exhibiting a bright and colorful, yet full, balanced, and complex November-December harvest.  Freshly-picked, ripe red cherry is soaked, washed, and sorted at the wet mill prior to pulping. The pulped coffee is placed in fermentation tanks up to 36 hours with clean Kambuku River water that is recirculated before disposal into seepage pits. The parchment is sun-dried on raised beds for 4-5 days before heading to the dry mill for additional rest.

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12:30

Jonathan Moelig

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee

Roswell, GA

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Coffee bio not available

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12:49

Casey Soloria

Intelligentsia Coffee

Pasadena

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Coffee bio not available

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13:13

Maxwell Mooney

Spotted Cow Coffee

Mill Creek, WA

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COFFEE NAME: Moanti

WET MILL: Moanti

LOCATION:  Papua New Guinea

VARIETIES: Bourbon, Typica, Arusha

ELEVATION: 1750-1900 m

PROCESS: 36 hour dry fermentation, then washed

ROASTER: Spotted Cow Coffee

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From Maxwell: Mrs. Moanti Ise drew together 269 small holder farmers to form a cooperative, which receives its namesake from her, to produce incredibly delicious coffee from Papua New Guinea. This coffee is triple sorted, depulped, and then dried for approximately 36 hours. It’s then washed clean and soaked for 16 hours. This style of processing is more typical of Kenya than of Papua New Guinea. This coffee has made it through a country with a lot of political issues and shipping issues to show us that Papua New Guinea is capable of producing some of the best coffee in the world – on par with Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees for complexity and florality, but with a significant body not normal for those countries. This is easily the best PNG coffee we’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. And it’s one of the best coffees we’ve had in a while.

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13:32

Joel Bigelow

PT’s Coffee Company

Topeka, KS

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Coffee bio not available

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13:51

Leah Shinkle

PT’s Coffee Company

Topeka, KS

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Coffee bio not available

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14:10

Kathie Hilberg

Spyhouse Coffee Roasting

Minneapolis

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COFFEE NAME: Los Naranjos

ORGANIZATION: La Asociacion Los Naranjos de San Agustín

LOCATION: San Agustín-Huila-San Agustin

ELEVATION: 1600-1900 m

VARIETIES: Caturra and Colombia

PROCESS: Washed

EXPORTER: Banexport

IMPORTER: Café Imports

ROASTER: Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Company

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14:29

Ryan Fisher

Commonwealth Coffee

Denver

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COFFEE NAME: Jeremias Lassa

GROWER: Jeremias Lassa

FARM : Piedras de Alfiler

LOCATION: Nariño

VARIETY: Geisha

ELEVATION: 1900 m

PROCESS: Washed

IMPORTER: Red Fox Coffee Merchants

ROASTER: Commonwealth Coffee Roasters

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From Ryan: This is the very first harvest of this Geisha from Jeremias. The coffee was planted in 2009. Jeremias came to possess Geisha seeds through a roundabout trade facilitated by Aleco Chigounis, bringing SL-28 to Esmerelda in Panamá in exchange for the Geisha planted by Jeremias.

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15:12

Radames Roldan

Blueprint Coffee

St. Louis, MO

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GROWER: Elkin Guzmán

FARM: Finca El Mirador

LOCATION: Pitalito-Huila-Colombia

VARIETIES: Castillo

ELEVATION: 1680 m

PROCESS: natural

IMPORTER: Café Imports

ROASTER: Blueprint Coffee

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From Radames: Elkin is growing a number of varieties on his family’s farm, and he’s doing some fantastic stuff with sensor technology and fertilization to really boost the quality of his coffees and promote sustainability for other producers in Colombia. He’s the agronomist for BANEXPORT, and his findings are being shared with other producers in his region. He measures the sugar content of his cherries with a Brix meter refractometer and has found that he can allow the concentration of sugars in his Castillo cherries to really increase by allowing these cherries to shrivel (overripen) on the tree, a sort of natural on the tree concept. He’s cupping everything he processes and then compares his sensory notes to these measurements he’s gathering, which also includes the levels of humidity and moisture activity which he measures with JPT sensors in his post harvest stages.

I spent some time traveling through Colombia with Elkin with some of the best baristas in the United States as well as Sasa Sestic, the current world barista champion, and Elkin’s passion and appreciation for coffee and coffee professionals was met with the same regard for everything he is contributing to coffee and the lives of those he works with. Being able to share his coffee on this platform is a huge privilege for me. I learned so much from even our briefest of conversations. I really enjoy his coffees, but more importantly his care and consideration for people resonated most with me.

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15:31

Jon Lewis

Deeper Roots Coffee

Cincinnati

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COFFEE NAME: Bourbon Chocolá

GROWER: Bressani Family

FARM NAME: Finca San Jerónimo Miramar

LOCATION: Atitlán, Guatemala

VARIETY: Bourbon

ELEVATION: 1370-1500 m

PROCESS: Washed

ROASTER: Deeper Roots Coffee

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From Jon: The Bressani family has operated the beautiful Finca San Jerónimo Miramar for over 100 years. To call it just a coffee farm would be selling it short. Not only are some fantastic coffees being grown and cared for here, but also thriving jersey dairy cows, honeybees, and exotic tropical fruits. Sitting high above all of this is a gorgeous, protected natural reserve. This forest is the lifeblood of the farm as its volcanic terrain feeds the farm’s natural fresh water springs and powers the farm’s entire processing facilities with hydroelectric power.

Chocolá was the name of a famous coffee farm owned by Jose Guardiola in the 1800’s, which he sold in 1891. In the late 1940’s, the farm was split – one part was given to National Institute of Agriculture (IAN – the organization that predated today’s ANACAFE) where an experimental facility was set up, and the other half was divided into small parcels and given to nearby communities. In its experimental lots, the IAN was refining a new Bourbon variety; it had a reputation for an excellent cup but was overlooked as attention was given to plants with greater yields.

In the 1980’s another agricultural reform was going to redistribute this remaining experimental part of the Chocolá farm to the community. The new farm manager at San Jerónimo, Don Arnoldo Villagrán, had worked for the IAN and knew that this particular Bourbon would likely get abandoned or removed so he collected enough to make seed and planted them in one of the finca’s renovation plots.

As told by Giorgio Bressani: ‘Unfortunately, as with the original Chocolá that was overlooked in the experimental lot, the finca would traditionally sell to big exporters that would buy general qualities to fill orders and these special beans would year by year get mixed with the rest of the crop. Time came when the cycles demanded us to renovate over the planted trees of Chocolá. When something was meant to be special, it somehow finds a way to survive… So before they would be replaced, they were remembered just in time and a little bit of seed was collected. That same year, in a gesture of gratitude, a famous researcher gave the finca its first Gesha seeds. These were planted side by side on one of the most special places on the farm.’

These ‘irrational tasting coffees’ have inspired the younger generation of the family to get involved and find the unique value proposition that makes specialty coffee a vibrant part of the overall sustainability of the farm alongside all its other produce. Whether by fate or luck, members of the family met Les Stoneham of Deeper Roots Coffee, whose La Armonia Hermosa development project outside Antigua helped catalyze the selection and intentional processing of the farm’s distinct varieties, including the unique Bourbon Chocolá. In the past few years, Finca San Jerónimo Miramar is finding a perfect market for its particular coffees and the compelling stories that accompany them.

According to Giorgio: “Ever since Chocolá’s ‘post-classic’ rediscovery in the first cuppings in the history of the finca, these survivor beans have made their way to another special corner of the world.”

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15:50

Ben Fischer

Stone Creek Coffee Roasters

Milwaukee

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Coffee bio not available

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16:28

Andrea Allen

Onyx Coffee Lab

Fayetteville, AR

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COFFEE NAME: Las Margaritas Pacamara

GROWER: Rigoberto Herrera

FARM: Granja la Esperanza Las Margaritas

LOCATION: Caicedonia, Colombia

ELEVATION: 1800 m

VARIETY: Pacamara

PROCESS: Natural

ROASTER: Onyx Coffee Lab

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16:47

Talya Strader

Equator Coffee & Teas

Oakland

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Coffee bio not available

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1 Comment

  • A Beautiful story of the Bourbon Chocola. My grandmother lived in a town close to Chocolá called Santo Tomás La Unión and in order to visit her on vacation time, I remember passing by that traditional and kind of abandoned farm-town of Chocola. Many memories of my childhood made me revive those moments when passing by those huge wheels of the old beneficio. Never would I have imagined those images would have been so meaningful in my own life-story many years later around coffee.
    On the other hand, Jon Lewis, former ACE worker, and friend (if the same person) used that coffee, and San Gerónimo Miramar also a farm I know from exporting company Servex, were a really nice coincidence to read.

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