Uganda Rwenzori Coffee

New Coffee of the Month from East Africa

Ari Weinzweig, CEO & Co-Founder of Zingerman’s 

While so much has been turned topsy turvy over the last year, one thing that has provided comfort and consistency throughout has been the quality of the beans at the Coffee Company. In fact, I would venture to say, through all the ups and down of the last twelve months, the coffee has actually gotten better. The April Coffee of the Month—from the mountains of southwest Uganda—is pretty darned amazing.

Coffee originates to the north of Uganda in Ethiopia—it’s grown wild there for far longer than humans have been consuming it. Coffee is a relatively recent arrival in Uganda, essentially part of the same Industrial Age push to identify export crops that brought coffee to Central and South America. Today Uganda produces about 4% of the world’s coffee, tiny by the standards of say Brazil, but about four times where it was in the early years of the 20th century.

The Rwenzori mountains where these beans are grown are near the country’s western border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to the north of the Rwandan frontier. You’ll see the mountains on the map about halfway between Lake Stanley and Lake Edward, to the west of Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest lake). The mountains range up to 16,000 feet, and the coffee is grown in the lower (but still high) altitudes in the shade of banana trees, which protect the delicate coffee cherries from “burning” in the sun. The coffee is a “natural process”—dried in the sun—which concentrates the sweetness and the flavor in a way that I love.

Steve Mangigian, long time managing partner at the Coffee Company, says, “We immediately loved the fruitiness of this coffee. That’s what caught my attention. It exemplifies the characteristics of great East African coffee.” Juicy peach notes (speaking of which, the Peach Truck is coming to town this summer), maybe you could say even a bit of nectarine. It’s nicely chocolatey and terrifically tasty. It’s very good straight out of the Fetco pots at the Coffee Company, Roadhouse, and Deli. If you’re at the Coffee Company it is particularly chocolatey in a pourover and delicately delicious brewed in a syphon pot. Add a piece of the Bakehouse’s marvelous Mandelbread or a Big O Oatmeal Raisin cookie and bring a bit of beauty to your day!

Excerpt from Ari’s weekly Top 5 E-Newsletter. To stay in-the-know about things that Ari is excited about in the Zingerman’s family, sign up here

ZINGERMAN’S COFFEE COMPANY – SERVICE UPDATE

To our wonderful guests,

We want to share with you our updated service guidelines here at Zingerman’s Coffee Company:

– We plan to re-open on Sunday, April 11th, 7am-4pm –

We’ll stay in touch with updates on our service guidelines as we adjust our staffing in the coming days. We are beyond grateful for your support and patronage in these difficult times. 

Warmly,  

Zingerman’s Coffee Company team

Erlita’s Lot Coffee from Peru

Grown, harvested, sold, and shipped by women

Ari Weinzweig, CEO & Co-Founder of Zingerman’s


Back in 2004, Isabel Uriarte Latorre co-founded Café Femenino, an organization dedicated to empowering women on the front lines of the coffee industry. From the get-go, she built the business to support women in the work world financially, spiritually and socially. The project allows women to produce high-quality coffee and get paid commensurately—they’re not stuck bargaining with aggressive buying agents out on the marketplace. And, as per what I wrote above, to boost the energy of women who had generally been left out, ignored, or even abused, and help them reclaim the full lives to which they have always been entitled. The folks at Café Femenino share that:

“Women in remote and rural coffee communities face a host of challenges that keep them trapped in poverty. Many of these isolated women live in male-dominated societies and have very little financial control or decision-making power. 464 women farmers in northern Peru decided to change this dynamic by separating their coffee production from the men’s. In that moment, for the first time, this group of women created their own product and income… to support social justice and empowerment for women coffee producers worldwide.”

Coffee farmer and Cafe Femenino co-founder Erlita Baca Arce with her daughter, Ketty, holding baskets of red hand-picked coffee cherries
Farm owner Erlita Baca Arce and her daughter, Ketty.

Coffee production came to Peru in the 1700s. After two centuries, the heirloom typica variety still comprises 60 percent of the country’s exports. There are more than 110,000 coffee growers in Peru, most of whom are indigenous to these landscapes and speak Spanish only as a second language. The average land-holding farmer lives on less than three hectares, hours from the comforts of electricity and running water. Erlita Baca Arce’s farm is near the Peruvian village of Nueva York, a small coffee community in the Amazonas region of northern Peru, east of the Andes Mountains, at 5700 to 6500 feet above sea level—an ideal altitude for high-quality Arabica coffee trees. Erlita has been part of the project since its inception and now serves as the treasurer of the coop, and as she explains:

Café Femenino has given me many opportunities to improve the quality of my coffee and the quality of life for my family. I invest the premium I earn in improving our community, providing education for our daughters, and improving the food that we feed our families. Café Femenino has been wonderful in improving the self-esteem and empowerment of the women in our community.

Erlita is not alone in her positive comments. Every article I’ve read about Café Femenino details outstanding results: increased local recognition of the work the women are doing, both in the fields and on the home front; a reduction in abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual); an increase in income; more men are participating in child care and housework; and upswing in school attendance among local girls. In addition, because the female coffee producers in the area now have the potential to get a better price for their coffee, many men are signing the deeds of their land over to their wives so their coffee will be eligible for Café Femenino designation.

While dignity, meaningful work, and good coffee are always in season, National Women’s History Month is a particularly good time to take notice of Erlita’s Lot. The history of the event goes back over a century to the years before WWI and the Spanish flu, to the end of February 1909, when “National Women’s Day” was sponsored by the Socialist Party of America. By March of 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) was marked by over a million people demanding the right to vote for women, workplace safety, equitable pay, etc. Six years later, on March 8, 1917 in the Russian capital of Petrograd, women workers took to the streets for National Women’s Day, demonstrating en masse in an event that unexpectedly turned into the Russian Revolution. The Tsar abdicated a week later, on March 15. Leon Trotsky wrote, “March 8th was International Women’s Day, and meetings and actions were foreseen. But we did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution.”

The Erlita’s Lot coffee is as great as the story behind it. Smooth, a bit of dark chocolate, maybe even like a piece of toasted Country Miche bread from the Bakehouse. The coffee has a surprisingly clean finish and modestly full mouthfeel. All the brew methods have been good, but I’m stuck on the smoothest flavor of the bunch, which I found to be Chemex (the syphon pot and the Clever brewing weren’t far behind). Sip some of this great new coffee and nibble on a Bakehouse oatmeal raisin cookie. Erlita’s Lot is available at the Coffee Company, Next Door at the Deli, and at the Roadhouse. Sit, and appreciate the morning as we move into spring. And because I seem to have a proclivity of late for Peruvian poets, here’s a short one that seems right for the moment from surrealist writer Blanca Varela:

it’s seven in the morning
it’s the perfect time to start
dreaming

the coffee becomes eternal
and the sun eternal
if you don’t move

Excerpt from Ari’s weekly Top 5 E-Newsletter. To stay in-the-know about things that Ari is excited about in the Zingerman’s family, sign up here

This single-origin supports and empowers female coffee producers

March’s Roaster’s Pick coffee tastes great, and gives back.

Coffee farmer and Cafe Femenino co-founder Erlita Baca Arce with her daughter, Ketty, holding baskets of red hand-picked coffee cherries
Erlita Baca Arce and her daughter, Ketty, with fresh-picked coffee cherries from their farm.

Our single-origin Roaster’s Pick for the month of March – Peru Erlita’s Lot – comes to us from the finca (or, farm) of Erlita Baca Arce, one of the cofounders of Cafe Femenino®, a program created to support and empower female coffee producers. The program originated in Peru and has since grown into a movement, present in remote coffee-growing regions in nine countries.

Erlita’s circumstance was typical of many women working in coffee in Peru: while they have always been crucial to coffee production, men traditionally held the economic power. In 2004, 464 female coffee producers in Peru united to change this dynamic and take a step toward empowerment by creating the first Café Femenino co-op.

This coffee has so many delicious layers! On first sip, it has a deep fruitiness that reminds us of plum. It also has a rich, toffee-like sweetness and a full, creamy body.

Now that female coffee producers have a potential to get a better price for their coffee, men are often signing the deeds of their land over to their wives so the product is eligible for Cafe Femenino designation. Men supporting women’s work is helping to create healthier communities.

Erlita and the other women of Cafe Femenino are strong role models for their communities and are inspiring future generations. Her daughter, Ketty, is attending university and studying to be an Agricultural Engineer.

Erlita’s farm is in Nueva York, a small coffee community in the Amazonas region of northern Peru, east of the Andes Mountains. The Amazonas is a high-elevation area, typically 5700-6500 feet above sea level – ideal for coffee trees.


For the whole month of March (National Women’s Month): 

When you buy a bag of Peru Erlita’s Lot coffee, 10% of the proceeds go to an Early Education Center grant, benefitting the pre-school children of 15 communities in Peru.

For Monday March 8th, 7am-4pm
(International Women’s Day): 

Zingerman’s Coffee Company will be brewing Peru Erlita’s Lot coffee all day on Monday March 8th, in honor of International Women’s Day! 100% of the proceeds from your cup of coffee will be donated to an Early Education Center grant, benefitting the pre-school children of 15 communities in Peru. Stop by to support a great cause! 


An integral part of Café Femenino is the Cafe Femenino Foundation, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit. Working within the Café Femenino Program, the foundation funds projects that the women farmers prioritize. These projects foster positive change in gender equality and reduce poverty and abuse in the coffee-producing communities.

A word about this grant, from the Foundation: 

“The children in rural Peru are severely malnourished, this grant provides funds needed to educate the teachers, parents and students on food nutritional value and how to incorporate the foods into their daily diet with the goal of reducing malnutrition in the rural coffee producing communities in Peru. The Cafe Femenino Foundation has supported the implementation of this project since 2013. Each year the impact is measured by a visiting nurse taking and recording, the height and weight of the students ages 3-5 three times per year. In total, 230 students, 140 parents and 25 teachers in 15 rural early education centers will participate in this program. The curriculum for the early education center students also includes personal hygiene and dental care.

Funds will cover the cost of the traveling nurse, as well as materials needed for the early education centers such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, wash clothes, crayons, books, paper, glue, lunch boxes, mats for the floor where the children sit and play for each education center.

Desired results of this program are to contribute to the improvement of the nutritional status of the pre-school children in the 15 communities while providing the children and parents with information that increases their knowledge of proper nutrition, dietary resources available in their community and set them on a path of improved future health.”

Zingerman’s Coffee Company – February Dine-In Update

To our wonderful guests,

February 1 is here, and we want to share with you our updated guidelines here at Zingerman’s Coffee Company, given the recent direction from the State of Michigan to allow restaurants to reopen dine-in service:

MDHHS very clearly reminds us that indoor dining remains high risk, and asks us all to consider reducing our risk by choosing takeout, delivery, or outdoor dining. 

We hope you will continue to:

We are beyond grateful for your support and patronage in these difficult times. We’ll keep you posted on any changes as soon as we can! 

Warmly,  
Zingerman’s Coffee Company team

New Single-Origin Coffee from Guatemala

A beautiful brew from the coffee-growing “star” of Central America

Ari Weinzweig, CEO & Co-Founder of Zingerman’s 

Guatemala has an ancient and highly esteemed history that goes back to the advanced Mayan civilization dating to about 2000 BC. Coffee is a relatively recent arrival—serious commercial planting started in the middle of the 19th century, primarily with German immigrant planters, about a decade after the demise of a nation-state that almost no one around these parts will have heard of. The Federal Republic of Central America was founded in 1823—less that 50 years after the Declaration of Independence of the United States. The Federal Republic of Central America included what’s now Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Chiapas and Guatemala. It started with much the same spirit as the U.S., as a democratic nation state, but came apart in the course of its own Civil War in 1938.

A century and a half down the road of history, Guatemala consistently produces some of the most flavorful coffee one can find anywhere. And some of the best of the best comes from an estate in the northern part of the country called “Los Dos Socios.” Here’s what the crew at the Coffee Company said:

The name was selected by Don Concepcion Villatoro Matias to refer to “the two associates” involved in producing coffee at his farm: himself and God. His approach has been a simple one since purchasing the farm in 1990: plant bourbon and caturra varietals under shade trees, tend them well, and keep parcels separated to maintain unique lots. His farm in Huehuetenango is up high with a view of the mountains, making for a lovely place to live and work. Huehuetenango is one of Guatemala’s prized coffee-growing regions, and with coffees as vibrant and exciting as this one, it’s easy to see why.

The flavor profile we’re getting out of Los Dos Socios is a thing of beauty: juicy blackberry notes, some really rich caramel smoothness, and a zing of bright papaya all working together. It reminds us of the coffee cherries we snacked on while visiting farms in Guatemala last year—the juicy, sweet, and tangy combination of flavors is a great way to describe the taste of the fruit surrounding a coffee bean. As long days of farm visits wore on, it was neat to see farmers picking a few cherries and snacking – even before it’s processed, roasted, and brewed, coffee can provide small moments to enjoy. We hope you appreciate all the hard work that went into these beans, and that you enjoy your brews of Los Dos Socios all the more for it!

I’ve been loving the coffee for the last few weeks. It’s got… a wonderful combination of depth and delicacy, substance and subtlety, softness and strength. It is, as per what I wrote above about vision, a positive and sustainable testament to the work of Don Concepcion and his team. There is something special, hard to pin down, that makes it so eminently calming, comforting and enjoyable. It has what Christopher Alexander wrote in The Timeless Way of Building: “In our lives, this quality without a name is the most precious thing we ever have.”

Come by the Coffee Company, the Deli, or Roadhouse and grab a bag of beans or a cup to go. Or let us ship—you won’t see it on the zingermans.com site, but email [email protected] and let us know what you’d like. Better still, sign up for a Mail Order Coffee Subscription!

P.S. If you’re at the Roadshow getting coffee, say hi to Celia who is from Guatemala, and proudly thanked me for carrying “her coffee.” I thank her for her great work and for bringing our vision and values alive every day in such beautiful ways!

Excerpt from Ari’s weekly Top 5 E-Newsletter. To stay in-the-know about things that Ari is excited about in the Zingerman’s family, sign up here

February 1st Dine-In Update

To our wonderful guests,

February 1 is here, and we want to share with you our updated guidelines here at Zingerman’s Coffee Company, given the recent direction from the State of Michigan to allow restaurants to reopen dine-in service:

MDHHS very clearly reminds us that indoor dining remains high risk, and asks us all to consider reducing our risk by choosing takeout, delivery, or outdoor dining. 

We hope you will continue to:

We are beyond grateful for your support and patronage in these difficult times. We’ll keep you posted on any changes as soon as we can! 

Warmly,  
Zingerman’s Coffee Company team

Holiday Blend from the Coffee Company

A beautiful brew that can turn any day into a holiday!

Ari Weinzweig, CEO & Co-Founder of Zingerman’s 

If you’re thinking about what to drink when you dive into a nice piece of pecan pie or with a toasted slice of Cranberry Pecan bread for breakfast, this seasonal brew from the Coffee Company could be just the trick.

We’ve been designing and offering an annual Holiday Blend for over a decade now—each year is a bit different to honor what’s best on the “green bean” market and the spirit of that particular season. This year, Steve (our longtime managing partner, and part of that Partners Group consensus), Matthew (the former staff partner I quoted above), and Chris (our roastmaster) have put together a trio of terrific beans for the blend.

Colombian ASPROBALBOA—From a coop of family farms near Balboa. It brings great high notes with hints of citrus and caramel to the blend.

Brazilian Espresso Blend #1—Sustainably grown, carefully processed, with big, well-rounded flavor.

Costa Rica—From the Hacienda Miramonte. It brings subtle sweetness and a rich, velvety body.

Each bean brings its own distinct flavor, and in the cup they come to a nice consensus on a single great flavor! Steve says, “The collection of coffees is representative of some of the best relationships we have—we know ALL of these producers personally and they are some of the longest standing relationships we have.”  It would be safe to say that this year’s Holiday Blend is a beautiful homage to the support they have given us through the years! It’s got a full flavor, and a touch of nice astringency. It reminds me of the dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic that we’re getting from 9th & Larkin. True to the spirit of the 2020 season, it’s a bit darker than last year’s blend, but with notable hints of brightness and subtle floral notes. And, somehow, it seems to leave me feeling a bit more optimistic after I sip it.

Want to sign up for regular shipments of Zingerman’s Coffee? Check out Zingerman’s Coffee Club and the Zingerman’s Coffee Subscription at zingermans.com.

Available at the Coffee CompanyDeli, Roadhouse, and Mail Order!

Excerpt from Ari’s weekly Top 5 E-Newsletter. To stay in-the-know about things that Ari is excited about in the Zingerman’s family, sign up here

Winter Dine-In

As the weather gets chillier, we’d like to invite you in from the patio!

Please join us in the Cupping Lab behind the coffee bar, or feel free to enjoy the heated outdoor seating in the Zingerman’s Bakehouse courtyard just steps away from our door!

Photo: @CoffeeAnnArbor

Additionally, we are required by the County Health Dept. to collect names, phone numbers, dates, and times of each dine-in guest. This will be required every time you come in, whether dining inside or outside. This information is collected in the event of contact tracing being necessitated, and it can happen one of two ways:

-Use your phone to scan the QR code that we have taped in front of the register and follow the prompts, or
-We can hand write it on our notepad!

To accommodate as many customers as we can safely, we’re asking that you stop by for no more than a half hour. At this time, we can only seat parties of 6 or less. Please wear a mask at all times except for when eating or drinking.

THANK YOU in advance for helping us keep a good thing goin’, safely. ❤️

Not ready to chill in our cafe? No worries!

We are still offering curbside delivery, contact-free pick-up, and home delivery.

Coffee’s Sixth Sense 🔮

A History of Fortune Telling and Family Tradition
By Michelle Abbey, Zingerman’s Coffee Company

 

The year is 1974. The setting is one startlingly bygone, culturally: a family living room, thick with cigarette smoke. Zingerman’s Coffee Company’s Managing Partner, Steve Mangigian, is 10 years old. After a meal together, Armenian coffee is not only served, but read. Steve recalls the female elders of his family flipping the contents of their cups onto saucers, scouring the grounds for images and their associated fortunes to emerge.

 

What does your coffee hold?

 

This is the story Steve consistently tells on his tours, during our “What is your first memory of coffee?” group icebreaker. “My parents needed a pot of Folgers to wake up.” is a common answer – I have yet to hear a guest share Steve’s experiences with family divination. He lights up; it’s a beloved childhood memory. 

His experience while treasured is not unique. In fact, Steve isn’t the sole Armenian here in the small family of Zingerman’s Coffee Company! We’ve had a handful of Armenians come and go, and our Purchasing Manager, Laura, has Armenian roots.

“…She said it was extremely creepy and really hated the whole thing!”

The tradition in her family is remembered differently: “My mom talked about the tea leaf readings when she was a kid. This would have been the 1930’s. She remembers all the old Armenian ladies sitting in a circle bending over these cups and telling fortunes – they would tip them over into the saucers and read the leaves. She said it was extremely creepy and really hated the whole thing!”

The practice Steve and Laura describe in their families is called Tasseography: a divination or fortune-telling method that interprets patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments. The terms derive from the French word tasse (cup), which in turn derives from the Arabic loan-word into French tassa, and the Greek suffixes -graph (writing), -logy (study of), and -mancy (divination). 

The practices’ origins can be traced back to medieval Europe. Fortune tellers read molten substances such as wax or lead. The method evolved into reading patterns of tea leaves after Dutch merchants introduced tea to Europe via trade routes to China. The tradition of coffee cup reading specifically is believed to have started in the 16th century when coffee made its way to the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. The cultivation and distribution of coffee started in Ethiopia and moved from Yemen to the Arab trade and then to the Ottoman Empire. Armenians then popularized coffee in Europe. 

Turkish coffee reading is very popular in Turkey and Greece. You can also find it in Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as Baltic and Middle Eastern countries.

 

Two full and ornate Armenian-style coffee cups on saucers, side by side in front of an ibric (Turkish kettle) on a coffee table with a vase of purple flowers.

A traditional Ibric (kettle) and Armenian coffee cups. Note how the sides of the coffee cup do not slope down – this is necessary for proper grounds reading.

 

This tradition has gone by the wayside for some families, but the Mangigians are keeping it alive in their brood. Steve’s daughter, Bethanie, has taken over the tradition – but took her own route to get there. 

“I actually wasn’t introduced to Armenian fortune-telling within my family, I wasn’t around it a lot as a kid.

“‘…’I see three men in your cup, encircling you.’ It was dead on, I had three orbiting at that time!”

I started doing this when I lived in New York. I was in college and took a course in Armenian history. I was first captivated by cup reading sitting in an ancient Armenian library. My professor did my first reading for me, it was startling and thrilling. She said, ‘I see three men in your cup, encircling you.’ It was dead on, I had three orbiting at that time! Should we include that?” she laughs.

Bethanie studied and lived abroad in the familial homeland of Armenia, with a host family. She got practice pulling cups with them, a family of artists. 

“In their home and in the country itself, I was surrounded by beautiful imagery and architecture. There were beautiful symbols everywhere to inspire interpretations.”

It’s not just the cultural connection and experiences which draws Bethanie to cup reading. 

“My mom uses the word ‘Kezba’, to describe this sixth sense that we have. And I work closely with people as a social worker and therapist. When you read cups, you have a connection with that person. I love this medium as a way to develop relationships with people. You cut through small talk to who they are, what their journey is. I can guide the reading, but people come up with their own interpretations, which is fascinating insight.”

Her eeriest experience? 

“I did a cup reading at a party for a guy I had met just a week prior. We ended up dating later on, and the symbols I saw in his reading ALL appeared throughout our relationship. A chameleon was one symbol – it ended up being way too telling! This is why I prefer to read for strangers. Reading for friends can hit too close to home. You have to be prepared for what the cup says.”

 

Bethanie hosts an Armenian Christmas party every year on January 6th, at her home in New Orleans. Her party favor giveaway is a drawing for someone to get a cup reading.

 

How do you read coffee, anyway? Simply drink your Armenian-style coffee in white china with no inside pattern or decoration. Shapes and patterns inside the coffee cup and on the saucer need to be visible for reading. After drinking most of the liquid in the coffee, cover the cup with the upside-down saucer and swirl three times. You wait for the grounds to fall from the bottom of the cup. This is why it is important to use the Armenian style espresso cup which is not rounded on the sides. The grounds fall down the sides of the espresso cup and dry at the bottom.

Put it down and allow a few minutes for the coffee to settle. Though it has some universally agreed rules, coffee cup reading is a very personal experience based upon on the “sixth sense”. 

The type of coffee you use doesn’t really matter, just make sure it’s ground even finer than espresso and prepared, well, however your grandmother taught you to! 

 

STEVE’S RECIPE:

 

DIRECTIONS:

 

Bethanie says this practice feels more precious in these times. “There’s a war against this small country [Armenia]. Holding onto these traditions feels even more important now. There are a lot of people I’m thinking about and worried about there right now.

“You may lose territory, but you can hang onto your culture.”

She wishes she could have been at the table with her Dad when her great aunt was telling fortunes. “It goes to show that these things need to be explicitly passed on, or you may lose them. You may lose territory, but you can hang onto your culture.”

 

Check out tasseography symbolism and best practices:

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SOURCES: