Overlooking Hacienda Orizaba
This past week, I had the opportunity to travel to Jardin, Colombia to visit several farms in the region where we buy much of our coffee, and to see the mill in town where most of these farmers sell their coffee and where it’s prepared for export. On this trip, I was able to bring along two people from the MGC staff. Fionn, our head production roaster, and Eric, the lead barista and trainer for the South University cafe. This was the coffee origin trip for both of them and part of the experience was driven by our company mission of connecting our staff with the entire organic system of coffee and how it moves around the world and eventually ends up in the cup we are serving.
Touring Orizaba by horseback
I last visited this area 4 years ago and much has changed since that trip, mostly in the way that small farmers have taken steps to increase the quality, and the opportunity they have to sell small lots of their best coffee directly to customers like us. In addition, these farmers are paid a premium for their extra efforts in producing these spectacular coffees.
During our four day visit in the Antioquia region, we visited five farms (on horseback), tasted coffee from 13 others, visited with students who are sons and daughters of famers attending agricultural college during the weekends, had many wonderful meals prepared in farm kitchens and shared stories and business insight with our compatriots from small roasting companies from Ventura, CA to Brooklyn, NY. We were hosted by Vivian Vasquez, whose family owns and operates the mill in Antioquia as well as another mill in Narino where we source coffee.
In Colombia, each farm, or Finca, processes the freshly picked coffee cherry in their own wet mill facility,
The wet mill at Los Angeles
often only steps from their homes. During the height of the producing season, this occurs at the end of each day when the pickers deliver their bags to the owners mill. It is at this point where the differences between farms practices really start to diverge. Prior to that, the farmers are wholly dependent on their pickers choosing only the ripest coffee cherries from the trees. The standard process from there is the cherries go through a wet depulping machine which removes the outer fruit leaving the inner seeds (beans) which need a lot of TLC before they’re turned into the final product that we roast and brew. These seeds are still covered in a bit of remaining fruit called mucilage which can be removed one of two ways. The primary method is called fermenting. After the depulping has taken place the beans go into a large tank where they stay for 12 – 18 hours and then flushed down a series of tiled channels which removes the fermented mucilage, leaving only the inner bean.
Coffee dryer at El Zafira
A second method uses a demucilager which is something like a centrifuge that removes the remaining pulp immediately. The advantage to this method is the time savings. The disadvantage is that it’s easy to damage the beans if the equipment is meticulously calibrated and that some people think the lack of natural fermenting affects the flavor. The amazing thing about visiting these farms is that even though they may only be 1/2 mile apart on the same road, none of them use the exact same equipment. Each farmer sets up their processing to suit their own unique needs and ideas about what is best, perhaps based on what they can afford in terms of equipment. Hacienda Orizaba, a farm that until the last decade was not producing coffee, was by far the most intricate in processing with all the latest in equipment. Felix Galon who bought the farm has many other business ventures and is able to invest heavily into the rebuilding of his plot.
Rooftop drying at El Zafira
El Zafiro run by the Valez family is a meticulously maintained farm. Managed by a large extended family, their equipment is older but their attention to detail yields one of the best tasting coffees we has on this trip. Less than 1/2 a mile in either direction are 2 other farms we visited. La Cumbre is at the end of the road at the highest elevation of farms in the sector. Alonso Velez has been working this farm for 35 years and his son is studying in the State sponsored coffee education college on weekends, helping his family prepare for the next generation to take over. Andres Giraldo’s Los Angeles farm is the result of a family split. He took the larger piece of land with no mill and no house and has rebuilt his property to not only grow great coffee, but as a destination for culinary tourism where chorizo is made fresh and salads prepared from their garden just before serving. All of the farms we visited around Jardin have also invested in secondary crops to provide both extra income and sustenance for the families. Plantains and avocados were abundant at every meal we were served, as were a wide variety of citrus fruits, many of which we hadn’t had before.
Delivery coffee to the mill
When the coffee has dried, it’s taken to a dry mill in Jardin where every single bag is inspected and graded for quality and the farm is paid accordingly. There are two mills in town, one owned by the Colombian Coffee Federation (FNC) or the E’Antioquia mill which only accepts coffee of a higher quality and has the ability to separate and process smaller lots as well as coffee from Rainforest Certified farms, which also receive a premium price.
Raphael Diaz’s micro-lot at the mill.
All and all, it’s a wonderful process to witness. It’s possible for us to visit a farm, see the coffee growing on the tree and a few short months later, to have that same coffee being loaded into our roaster in Ann Arbor.
You can see more photos from our trip on the Mighty Good Coffee Facebook page.
Tis the season of gift giving. From the simple to the sublime, we’ve got the equipment to satisfy most any coffee lover. Starting at $8 for a Mighty Good Mug to $2600 for a Rocket prosumer espresso machine, we’ve got you covered this holiday season. Our staff of coffee professionals can assist you in putting together anything from a single item to a complete brewing package.
Don’t forget that all our coffees make great gifts and they are fun to share with your friends and family. You can purchase all our coffees in any quantity at our Main Street location and sample different coffees back to back to find your favorite. It’s a fun way to sit around the table and have a conversation and it’s a lot more fun to sample a cup of coffee than to hear your Uncle Joe tell the same old tories again. You can select any of our coffees to suit your taste, including anything from Brazilian Esmeralda to El Zapote Gesha from Guatemala along with our limited edition 2015 Holiday Blend. Our coffee staff will be more than happy to help you select the perfect coffee for you.
To help you get started with your shopping for that coffee lover on your Christmas list here are a few brewing equipment highlights from our extensive selection of coffee making equipment:
Aeropress, great for the solo coffee lover. Simple and compact. Fits easily in a stocking. $29.95
Bonavita, 5 cup or 12 cup coffee maker. Superb temperature stability makes perfect coffee. $130 – $170
Bodum, choose a French press, a burr grinder or get them both. $20 – $120
Baratza grinders allow you to further perfect your grind from Turkish to French press $150 – $250
Hario hand grinders, kettles and cones are excellent gifts for the coffee aficionado. $50 – $70
Rocket Espresso machines allow you to bring the professional barista experience into your home. Choose from the Celini or R58 dual boiler models. $1800 – $2600
THERE’S NOTHING BETTER THAN COFFEE DURING THE HOLIDAYS
The holiday season is here and that means it’s time for coffee! In my family, that means lots of coffee. All day. My mom has already started to remind me to bring some of her favorites with me at Thanksgiving. If coffee is something that is a part of your celebration we have a couple of coffees just for you. First, our Holiday Blend is back in stock. And will be available through New Years. It is a hearty and Spicy blend that is sure to warm the hearts of everyone in your family. This coffee works well in preparations that you can share. It is a great coffee in a drip coffee maker or, if your family is smaller, in a French press. It is available by the bag at all of our café locations.
The other coffee we have for the holidays is extra special. We have a small amount of Finca El Zapote Estate, Gesha. This coffee comes from the Acatenango region of Guatemala from a farm that has been run by the same family for generations. They have planted the Gesha variatel on some of their property. This coffee plant is difficult to grow and yields far less than other coffee varietals. However, it is well worth the trouble. If you like our regular Guatemalan coffee you will love this. It is a medium bodied and very complex coffee. It tastes of cherry juice with hints of cocoa. It is quite simply delicious. You can treat yourself or your family while it lasts – we only have 40 pounds. This coffee is it is available at out Main St. Cafe in either a V 60 preparation for $5 or a Chemex for $7. If you want to treat your whole family it is available by the pound for $44.
We also are stocking up on a wonderful selection of brewing devices. From Hario hand grinders to Bonavita automatic brewers, we have a great selection of gifts for the coffee lover in your life, or just as a gift for yourself.
The Mighty Good Coffee Family
Have you been wanting to make latte art in your own kitchen? Do you want to get the most out of your Hario V60? Looking to upgrade your home espresso machine? Well hold on, because in October, we’re launching our Mighty Good Coffee @ Home coffee classes and equipment sales out of our Arbor Hills cafe.
From the basics of brewing the perfect single cup to making latte art for your friends to understanding the differences between a natural and washed Yirgacheffe, we’ll be scheduling classes throughout the rest of the year to touch on all of these topics and many in between. Led by our staff of Specialty Coffee Association of American (SCAA) certified baristas and roasters, these will be hands on classes for small groups looking to expand their coffee knowledge, skills and pallets in a fun and informative setting.
Espresso and latte classes will get a chance to make coffee on our own Synesso professional machine as well as our prosumer line from Rocket Espresso. You’ll get to try your hand at steaming milk (or milk alternative) and making the perfect rosetta or heart. For those who want to expand your pallets, a class on coffee cupping will explore the tastes of coffees from different regions and processing methods. You’ll learn how and why we roast these coffees to bring out their unique flavors and aromas. Maybe you want to make the perfect siphon pot or Chemex brew for your table guests. We’ll be cover that in a brew methods class and also explore how one coffee can taste many different ways depending on what kind of brewer you use.
To support our MGC @Home, we’re now carrying a larger selection of brewing devices including a line of home espresso machines from Rocket Espresso, Fiorenzata and Baratza grinders and Bonavita brewers.
Our first coffee brewing class will be on Saturday, October 17th at our Arbor Hills cafe. Other upcoming classes will be held on Thursday evenings at 7 pm and Saturday mornings at 8 am and run 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Stay tuned for a full schedule of events.
We have had a lot going on at the café over the last couple of weeks. We have four new coffees to tell you about. We just received the new crop of our Guatemalan Huehuetenango from Finca Joya Grande. This year’s crop is a bit sweeter than last years. It still has the same rich full body and flavor but is even smoother. This is my favorite “coffee of the day” and I always end up drinking an extra cup or two when we have it. It is an exceptional coffee for drip brewing.
After our first two Black Label coffees sold out, we have a new crop of offerings. The coffees we bring you in this series are produced in very small amounts. They are the best beans from exclusive cultivators. Only a handful of bags of these coffees make it to this country for you to enjoy.
The first addition to our line of Black Label coffees is a Central American. El Salvador produces some excellent coffees and we are happy to have a very special example produced and processed at a single farm. Our Laguna Las Ranas is honey processed which means that the mucilage surrounding the coffee bean is left on for a time. This allows the bean to absorb some of the sugar contained in the mucilage. This coffee was processed in a limited edition. The honey process is very obvious in the cup. There is a lot of sweetness but the coffee maintains a lot of clarity with no sense of being syrupy. Try this coffee in a Chemex preparation and enjoy a truly well balanced and invigorating cup.
And two new Ethiopian coffees have arrived! First we have a new washed processed coffee from the Yirgacheffe District. This one comes from the Idido coffee mill which process the coffee of just over 1000 smallholders. Just as with our Chelbesa coffee, which this replaces, the coffee is collected, sorted and processed at the mill. There is only a small amount of coffee of the highest quality that comes from production at this small scale. This coffee tastes of lemon and dried cherries. Try it in one of our pour over preparations.
Finally, we have added a natural processed coffee from the Hambela Coffee Estate. This coffee is very unusual among Ethiopian coffees in that it comes from a single farm, which also does the coffee processing. Almost all coffee in Ethiopia comes from a number of farms and is mixed together in processing. This coffee comes from the Hambela District in the south central area of Ethiopia. This coffee tastes of strawberries and cherry juice. Natural process coffees from Ethiopia often take on fruit flavors. While the fruit is very obvious, the Hambela has more subtlety than the Kochere and it makes an excellent coffee for daily drinking. This coffee also benefits from the clarity that comes from being made in a Chemex. However, I am drinking it using a Hario V60 at home and it tastes great first thing in the morning.