Watch as Bunny brewed these up using a coffee press, to allow the folks to taste some of the differences between the Premium House, Qualita Oro, Qualita Rossa, Crema e Gusto, Tierra Intenso and Caffe Espresso blends.
Whether you’re sipping on a delicious cup of Velton’s Single Origin Mexico Nayarita, or savoring Zoka’s Espresso Palladino, your beans have started their journey hundreds or thousands of miles away from you (at least if you live in Seattle). Roasters source beans for their signature blends or single origins in one of two ways: They either buy green (unroasted) beans from importers, or they visit farms around the world to purchase beans directly from coffee producers.
Coffee is one of the most highly valued products in world trade, however it’s also an incredibly labor intensive crop with a yield at the mercy of weather conditions and a price dictated by market forces. An abundance of coffee in the global market drives prices down, while smaller harvests can demand higher prices. It’s a tricky business since it can take up to four years for a coffee plant to yield fruit, making it difficult for producers to respond quickly to a fluctuating market. In 2001, a global oversupply of coffee depressed prices worldwide to an all time low of 45 US cents a pound, and overnight thousands of farmers were forced out of business. It was an intense reminder of how vulnerable these farmers are to price fluctuations at a global scale.
The Fair Trade program was established to set a floor price for green beans on the global market (a minimum of $1.40/lb for unwashed Arabica, or the market price if higher, plus 20 cent premium for community development) and promote sustainable practices for commodity producers around the world. The participants must adhere to a series of standards such as participation in a co-op and investment of at least 5 cents in quality or productivity investments, and in exchange they become Fair Trade certified (identified by a black and white logo of a man with outstretched arms). Fair Trade Certification is monitored by an independent company called FLO-CERT to ensure that producers are following the outlined guidelines. How does this impact you? As a consumer you can breathe a little easier knowing that farmers were paid a fair price for the beans in your hopper. It’s important to note that Fair Trade has faced some criticism in recent years because it requires co-op participation (excluding some producers that want to remain independent) and some claim there is little evidence of community investment.
Direct trade takes a slightly different approach to sourcing, whereby roasters are traveling to and purchasing directly from coffee producers across the world. This gives roasters access to smaller growers that don’t want to participate in a co-op (and are thereby excluded from Fair Trade), and gives them more control over quality, consistency and visibility into immediate social and environmental concerns. While direct trade has become increasingly popular in recent years, there are no uniform standards that everyone adheres to. As a consumer, this means you are trusting your roaster to conduct business in an ethical manner. Some roasters like Intelligentsia and Counter Culture have established their own direct trade standards to promote visibility and accountability for their purchasing practices. Counter Culture even partners with Quality Certification Services, a 3rd party organization that verifies their own guiding principles. We are extremely fortunate to work with a number of roasters in the Seattle area who source directly; one of which, Caffe Ladro, recently traveled to Central America to source beans, visiting Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica. By purchasing directly from producers, not only can they find the highest quality beans, but they can give back to the communities they work with in a tangible way. This year, Ladro will launch a program to donate $1 of each bag of Natamaya coffee to build a soccer field.
Since direct trade relationships have the potential to create long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with producers around the world, the business practice itself is sustainable and more transparent. That means that even those of us who are at the end of the line, enjoying delicious cups of coffee, can better understand where this product comes from and contribute to a positive community impact with every sip … and who wouldn’t dig that?
Back in the wild-n-wooly late ’90s, when we were cutting our teeth in the broadband services industry, we swung by our local Caffe Ladro to pick up our first Americano of the day. Especially during the cool winter days, that delicious brew was an essential element of our early morning bus commute — a treasured companion that helped keep the damp at bay. It’s the kind of nostalgic association that imbues us with a deep and abiding love for this chain of locally-owned Seattle cafes … so you can imagine how thrilled we were when they started roasting their own coffee and gave us the opportunity to help share their coffee with the rest of the US.
There’s no better way to learn about Ladro than from their Director of Coffee, Jared Linzmeier, who spent an afternoon with us talking about Ladro and handcrafting
who gave us some background on the company and held a handcrafted tasting of each of Ladro’s current blends. In this first installment, we learn about Ladro’s history, what is involved with a direct sourcing trip to Central America and what Jared loves most about being in the specialty coffee industry.
We recently transitioned our Lavazza product offering to focus on their Home line — a series of blends formulated with home espresso lovers in mind. In addition to large, 2.2lb bag versions of the whole bean Qualita Rossa and Qualita Oro, we now have three new blends for you to try: Gran Crema, Gran Aroma Bar and Crema e Aroma.
Watch as the team tastes these new coffees, then gives us their feedback on their different flavors and how they compare.
Yeah, we know that we are Seattle Coffee Gear, but sometimes we enjoy a sweet cup o’ tea. Since we play around and experiment with different approaches to coffee brewing, we thought it might be fun to do the same with tea!
In this episode of SCG Experiments, we play with temperature: Keeping the dosage and steep time the same, we brew up batches of Dammann teas using water right off the boil and then with water heated to the recommended temp for both black and green teas. Watch as we taste them side by side to find out how their flavors compare.