Spring Saturday 05.16.15

Obviously, it has been too long since a blog has appeared here.  My colleague Jim was good enough to fill in with a post about our special prep Sumatra last month.  Now, it’s back to all those touchy-feely posts from your usual correspondent.  No Earth-shattering news today, just a portrait of a Saturday in town.

Day began at the Kootenai County Farmers Market.  Even before I picked up my morels and fern fiddleheads, I stopped by the DOMA stand for a cup of coffee.  Sarah brewed the perfect cup of our new Ethiopia Idido Yirgacheffe.  It’s funny because both she and I had admitted to one another that we had never really gravitated to Yirgacheffes, but this coffee has changed our perspectives.  It’s got that wonderful citrus element that you’d expect but also has a lot more going on – the tasting notes are not hyperbole.  Here you see Scott explaining its merits to some visitors while Sarah prepares for the next Kalita and Jenica takes in the information.

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Later in the day, I took myself for a walk along the shore of the lake.  The sky was dramatic and the air was sweet with the scent of spring rain.  About midway through my walk the sweet scent got washed out by a spring thunderstorm and I was totally soaked.  IMG_2225

The Patanos hosted some staff in the evening to make some pizzas in their wood-fired oven.  Occasionally, I have a potential wholesale account who foolishly elects to go with some big corporate company citing their desire for some “Italian-style” espresso.  After my initial disappointment, I smile to myself and think about how I work for a family named Patano who have been roasting coffee for a decade and-a-half, who also happen to own a wood-fired pizza oven.  Seriously, the science and pleasure of food come together seamlessly in the owners’ backyard just as much as they do at the roastery.  Jim, the Head Roaster and I talked about homemade tonic, Shawn and I talked about the science of fermented grains, and Sarah demonstrated some dough tossing skills from her days at a pizzeria.

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If you are in the neighborhood, definitely stop by the farmers’ market on Saturday or the Coffee Lab on a weekday.  Ms. Rombauer had the vision to title her cookbook “The Joy of Cooking” but there is certainly joy to be had in brewing, too.

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Sumatra Special Prep Test Lot

Sumatran coffees, historically, have featured earthy, leathery, musty, sometimes dirty flavors and aromas.  This comes from a combination of growing conditions, weather patterns during processing and a unique processing method known as Giling Basah (or sometimes “wet hulled”).  Recently, we have been seeing cleaner, brighter cup profiles from Permata Gayo with delicate fruit notes and heavy sweetness.

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Permata Gayo Cooperative (October 2011)

Permata Gayo Cooperative (October 2011)

In October 2014, Cooperative Coffees led a cupping workshop with collectors from Permata Gayo Cooperative (PGC).  The goal of the workshop was to cup coffees from different villages and look at the relationship between the processing and the cup quality.  It was not about making final conclusions, but rather about creating a conversation with the collectors, PGC staff and Cooperative Coffees representatives (and ultimately generating a passion for quality).

Zukardi is a collector in Tanjung Saru community and Subahan is a collector in Ujong Gele community.  They are both proud members of Permata Gayo Cooperative, and they participated in the cupping workshop in October 2014.  They volunteered to prepare a small lot of coffee for us following the very specific protocol that was developed during this workshop.  Only 11 bags of this special preparation were produced this year (DOMA got one of these).  We will lead another cupping workshop in the fall with the rest of the PGC collectors and hope to continue this experimentation.

The coffee:

Cooperative:  Permata Gayo Cooperative

Altitude:  1250 masl

Varieties:  Catimor, Ateng Super & Bourbon

Harvest:  December 2014

Process:  Giling Basah (wet hulled)

Special preparation steps:

  •  When receiving the cherries from farmers, all overripe and green cherries were removed.
  • That same night, the red cherries were washed in a water tank and floaters were removed.
  • The red cherries were depulped in a clean depulper and fermented for 12h (overnight) in a tank with water.
  • In the morning, parchment was rinsed and mucilage was removed.
  • The parchment was put in a soaking tank for an additional 12 hours to increase complexity.
  • Parchment was spread out on drying beds & constantly rotated during drying down to 40% m.c.
  • Parchment was hulled at 40% m.c.
  • Immediately after hulling, the green coffee was spread on drying tarps on the ground (classic style).
  • When it reached 17% m.c., it was stored for 2 weeks in Bener Meriah and then shipped to Medan for final drying and hand sorting.

 

 

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Earth Day ‘015

I can’t say that today was an especially great day at work, though things got done.  Without sounding overly New-Age-y, Wednesdays tend to have a strange energy for me in the flow of the week.  On a positive note, I noticed more of the staff carpooled or came to work by bike today.  At the end of the day, I did remove myself to a nearby forest for a brisk walk characterized by the sound of the wind in the pines and brief encounters with deer and woodpeckers.  I walked along the edge of the forest, where the natural landscape meets the human (albeit rural) one.  A lot of artists find inspiration in the intersection of these realms, recognizing that human activity is increasingly altering the planet in what is referred to as the Anthropocene epoch.  I was thinking about the beauty of both spaces and musing over how we can create amazing technologies, soaring pieces of music, or make tremendous sacrifices for our fellow humans while at the same time being wantonly destructive, murderous, and selfish.  I was going to write a blog along these lines.

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Then, I came home and sat down to my vegetarian dinner (I am not often this disciplined at my evening meal) and began reading a variety of coffee trade publications.  The first article I encountered was about one of the inventors of the K-cup lamenting his invention due to its negative environmental impacts (many cups are not very recyclable and many communities have trouble recycling those that are).  Subsequent articles were focused more on the agricultural side of coffee.  You are certainly entitled to your opinion about climate change, but if you work in the coffee world, there is little debate about its reality, particularly if you are a coffee farmer in Central or South America (or a resident of Hawaii).  We’ve talked about our co-op’s efforts to aid farmers affected by coffee rust (Roya) and nowadays, many scientists and large multinational concerns are actively working to stem the affects of this disease, recognizing that everyone’s future livelihood in this business will likely be touched.  And, given that nearly three quarters of Americans are coffee drinkers at least weekly (recent National Coffee Association study), pretty much everyone could end up tasting the difference in the coming decades, especially specialty coffee drinkers (such as those of you drinking DOMA Coffee).

Back in Portland, a respected friend, who I may not always agree with, had an excellent t-shirt that read “Conservation is Conservative.”  I thought it was very clever and while there will always be plenty of issues that people will be divided over, it seems that preserving some of this amazing world for our children shouldn’t be one of them.  People on both ends of the political spectrum could benefit from broadening their channels of information and taking a step back to examine the true impacts of a project or action, which are often less about “jobs versus the environment” than political perceptions.  The key is a willingness to have a dialogue, I guess.  That people of every stripe have come together to serve our high quality coffees in their homes and places of business is cause for optimism.

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Meanwhile, in the DOMA Coffee Lab, some new residents have appeared inside and outside.  Spring flowers adorn the exterior and some succulents dot the retail area surfaces.  A new bike rack is under construction, too.  Don’t worry, I am not going to catalog the company’s numerous sustainability efforts here.  I just like having these elements from nature spilling over into our human constructions.  I know I have frequently written about the big impact of seemingly small actions.  Even if we are just passing through this world, let us tread carefully, as others will be making this journey after us.

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First Quarter Returns Are In – 4/21/15

Before tomorrow’s Earth Day post, I thought I would take a moment to discuss giving back.  Certainly, DOMA Coffee works actively to support our coffee farmers through our co-op’s programs and through collaboration with a number of environmental and social justice organizations.  Contributing to efforts on a global scale is important as coffee is truly a global commodity and our local decisions have effects that ripple throughout the world.

Of course, we all live in a local community where there are needs, too.  Our small part of the Inland Empire is no exception.  I am happy to report that though DOMA Coffee is a small operation in terms of our physical size, we have been able to donate nearly $1900 to local non-profits in the first quarter of this year alone.  We’ve worked with the Post Falls Food Bank, Fresh Start, the North Idaho College Foundation, and Kootenai Environmental Alliance to name a few.  While my colleagues have donated a great deal, it is the people within these organizations who are doing the social ‘heavy lifting’ in our community, working directly with their fellow citizens in need of help or working actively to preserve our area’s precious resources.

We are grateful for their efforts, just as we are grateful for your support.  I am going to keep this short today, as I should probably go make a donation.

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Catching our Breath (Please Pass the Oxygen) 4.15.15

Spring is indeed a dynamic time and one which demands a longer piece than your average social media nugget.  Most of the DOMA Coffee team returned from SCAA on Sunday night, the DOMA-mobile laden with booty from Seattle.  Your correspondent attended the La Marzocco Partner Summit with Rebecca on Monday, affording us one more day in the Emerald City.

Seattle is still booming.  It had been less than a year since my last visit, but I was not the only one to comment on the rapid changes in Capitol Hill and how different Ballard seemed from not so long ago.  Belltown, too, seemed to be deep in the current of change.  The city remains a coffee capitol.  (I do not advocate the swinging of cats, but if one were to do so, it would certainly strike a well-appointed cafe.)

There were some interesting products at the trade show and it is always a highlight for me to see the representation of producers from around the world.  Individual countries, cooperatives, importers, and NGO’s all had booths highlighting their finest coffees.  In another room, the world came together to participate in the World Barista Championship. It was nice to run into some of our customers and many old friends throughout the weekend.  After a day of meetings and walking an enormous trade show floor, the only logical thing to do is attend a party.  Atlas, Cafe Imports, and Torani were gracious enough to host a number of the DOMA Coffee team on Friday night.  Emergency rations were procured at Cyclops, a Belltown institution.

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Saturday found Scott making Colombia espresso drinks at the La Marzocco Home booth, putting the new Linea Mini through its paces.  Shots were tasting delicious and suffice it to say that home espresso has come a long way.

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After an educational day in a notable setting (Fremont Foundry), Rebecca wisely suggested a drink with one of her Seattle friends at nearby Joule.  Native Northwesterners do enjoy the Great Outdoors year-round, though an outdoor fire pit can help on a rainy evening.  While I am not in the business of giving endorsements, The Whale Wins served an exceptional dinner.  We did make a quick appearance at Schilling Cider House in Fremont to bring back some gifts for colleagues.

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Tuesday morning, a perfect cortado and comfortable environment at The Anchored Ship reminded us how skillful preparation, thoughtful service, good coffee, and an unpretentious approach can embody a positive cafe experience as much or more than a big budget coffee cathedral.  As Rebecca savored a signature drink and the Seattle Times, I downed a double espresso and absorbed the old country tunes on the stereo.  After a walk around a neighborhood full of eye-catching shop windows, we drove back to headquarters and back to daily routines (as well as a backlog of work).

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Springtime: A Genuine Blogpost 04.07.15

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After work today, I took myself for a walk in the forest just north of town at a place called English Point.  I know that the latter part of this week will be spent in one of the largest urban centers on the West Coast, and while I relish the culture and activity of big cities, finding solitude in the outdoors has always been critical to my well-being.  When I visited English Point for the first time last summer, I found myself covered in dust at the end of my hike.  With yesterday’s snow receding, most of the “trail” was mud or standing water today.  It was still a beautiful evening, and it felt like Spring in North Idaho.

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Part I:  Season’s Turning
I know I’ve touched on seasonality before, and while I must confess that deep down I am probably the type of person who would be perfectly content to live in the desert and just enjoy heat and sun year-round, the changes wrought by the seasons are valuable – forcing a certain amount of resilience and an embrace of new things.  Certainly, learning to “let go” is to be a lifelong lesson for me.

At the roastery, we’ve seen a couple much-loved coffees disappear from the menu, to return later in May with fresh crops and new coffees.  We continue to revel in our excellent seasonal release, the organic Rwanda.  This coffee is especially delicious brewed or as pour-over, though it makes a tasty espresso as well.  However, just as we enjoy our present featured coffee, we are making preparations for the arrival of our next Summer Lovin’ release.  And, with the Coffee Lab remodel complete, we resume and expand our regular coffee evaluations to ensure high quality throughout the year in our blends.  Yesterday, Rebecca joined Scott, Jim, and me at the cupping table before heading out to the SCAA Symposium today.

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Part II:  Details
The dramatic difference in the condition of the trail between seasons was readily apparent even to someone who tends to move along at a brisk pace.  However, there was a subtler undercurrent to this change in seasons.  While it was a beautiful evening in a quiet forest, the things that were most striking were very small and could easily be missed were one not looking:  Tiny, delicate blossoms sprout on the forest floor and brightly-hued, miniature mushrooms appear on small stumps.  Sometimes there is beauty in the details, whether through attention to one’s craft, through seemingly simple things done well, or through small moments of levity in an otherwise challenging day.  Sometimes the pace of our life makes it difficult to savor these little details but their power can be greater than you think.

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All Good Things: April 1, 2015

Dear Readers,

Spring is in the air, which means big changes.  It seems an appropriate time to let you know about some significant transactions at the DOMA headquarters.  For all the wonderful, charitable things a company can do in their community, it should be noted that the purpose of a business is to be in business.  DOMA Coffee’s recent purchase by AB-Inbev will allow a broader range of people to enjoy our fantastic, organic and fair trade coffees.  Certainly, a craft-oriented company with a strong social conscience such as DOMA, makes an attractive addition to AB-Inbev’s portfolio.  You will now be able to purchase delicious pre-ground DOMA Coffee in a plastic canister and K-cups at a grocery chain near you.

Terry and Rebecca have worked hard to build DOMA to what it is today.  Any small business owner will understand the long hours that continually go in to a venture.  I exchanged a few quick words with Terry, who is currently enjoying some well-deserved rest on Grand Cayman.  He seems to be enjoying the change of scenery though I know it is difficult for him to take a step back from the day-to-day operations.

“There are always trade-offs in life,” he told me, with an off-shore breeze and the sound of crashing surf in the background.  “But ten million dollars is ten million dollars.”

Sorry, Dear Readers, I can’t keep a straight face anymore while writing this…Happy April Fools Day to you.  A real blog is on its way soon.  I promise.

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