Roof Top Coffee Drying at El Zafiro
Sometimes, you just have to wait for good things to come. That’s certainly the case with the new crop of Colombian coffees that just arrived at our Main St. roasting facility. Back track almost 6 months when we visited the town of Jardin in the Antioquia region of Colombia in December of 2015. We toured, tasted and selected two coffees that we would bring in this year. The first, from Finca La Meseta, is a coffee we’ve been working with for the past four years and are quite familiar with. The second, Finca El Zafiro, a much smaller farm with a very limited amount of coffee to export we thought would be the prize from the trip. And finally, it’s arrived and we’ve just finished roasting the first batch.
David, Eric and Hector, Finca La Meseta
And while these farms are only a few kilometers apart, the coffees are actually quite different. La Meseta is as reliable as the horses we rode up steep mountain dirt roads and paths to get to the farm. Balanced with a full body and mild brightness, it’s the coffee we have depended on for years to provide an excellent cup to our customers. El Zafiro on the other hand, leans a bit towards the brighter sweet blackberry note along with a slight pepper spice providing a complexity in the cup one wouldn’t normally expect from a fine Colombian coffee. El Zafiro is also run by a large multi-generational family, each taking on specific tasks from finance to milling the coffee each day it’s harvested. Down the road at La Meseta, farm manager Hector greeted us again in December as he did four years ago on our first visit, proudly giving us the tour of the five story building that both houses his family and serves as the mill and dry storage for the harvest.
And at long last, we’re enjoying these two coffees at our cafes in Ann Arbor and are happy to be able to offer them to you in a cup or a bag. Enjoy!
Me and my son Jackson, Jardin, 2011
A lot has been changing this winter at our Main St. MGC HQ starting with the recent installation of our new Loring 35 kilo roaster which went in at the beginning of February. After 10 1/2 year of roasting on our Diedrich which I purchased even before MGC was open for business (or even had a name), it was time to make a pretty significant upgrade to our production. Interestingly, it wasn’t necessarily the growth of our wholesale business that drove the change, rather the continual and fortunate growth in our own cafe business is what it really drove the decision. As well, our production space on Main St. was getting more and more cramped and the new roaster allowed us to gain some of that space back. A lot of this has to do with the technology employed in the new roaster, and the efficiency of the burner system. Simply put, the new configuration burns 1/3 the gas or our older system while tripling our capacity, greatly reducing our carbon footprint. The MGC roasting team has been working continuously on dialing in each coffee we roast, while discovering new ways to unlock flavors we might not have gotten previously.
All that said, I’m very excited about the newest offering, a Kenya AA from the Chomo Factory in the Kiambu County. This coffee has a citrus brightness, clarity and balance that is a real delight for all of us at MGC. It’ s available by the cup or in bags at our Main St. and Arbor Hills locations.
A few other changes coming up: Arbor Hills is now open until 6 pm on Sundays until warmer weather comes our way. South University will be open shorter hours during the University of Michigan spring break; 9 am – 3 pm Feb. 29th – March 4th.
Coffee classes for March at Arbor Hills are listed here:
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