East Timor

While many coffee drinkers are familiar with beans from Indonesian islands like Sumatra or Java, coffees from East Timor (also known as Timor-Leste) are harder to come by. Though coffee makes up about 80% of this country’s exports, it represents less than 1% of global coffee production. And until recently, it was not a region usually seen featured as a single-origin offering.

We are excited to showcase this distinctive coffee and think there are good reasons to be hopeful about the future of specialty production in East Timor. There have been recent efforts to improve farm management practices, processing mills, and other infrastructure – and the cup profile achieved by producers in this region speaks to those efforts. 

We were most surprised by this coffee’s unique mouthfeel, or body – that is, how it feels on your palate as you drink it. There is a rich, creamy quality to each sip that we found delicious. 

Uganda Rwenzori Natural

This delicious, unique coffee came down from the Mountains of the Moon, the glacier-capped Rwenzori range stretching between Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the western Ugandan border. The snow-capped peaks and the glaciers produce many rivers. High altitude, fertile soils and plentiful rainfall provide ideal conditions for growing speciality coffee. Rwenzori Arabica is grown under the shade of banana trees.

Known as “drugar” – which stands for Dried Ugandan Arabica – these beans are Uganda’s version of natural process coffee. The processing method for this coffee is unique as well. The coffee cherries are collected as daily lots, handpicked, and then floated before set out to dry on mesh racks housed in a greenhouse where they are turned, leveled and checked daily over a 18-20 day drying period. This specialty treatment is very new to the region – less than 1% of coffee originating from the Rwenzoris will be processed in this way.

This coffee is fruity (think peach, nectarine) and bright with a rich, syrupy body.

Tanzania Mwika Peaberry

Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa — slightly larger than two Californias. It’s renowned for its rich, volcanic soils and abundance of rainfall – both ideal for growing coffee. This coffee is produced by a cooperative in the town of Mwika, just east of Mount Kilimanjaro National Park, is about 8 miles from the Kenya border. Mwika is referred to by locals as one of the ‘gateways’ to Kilimanjaro. The Kilimanjaro game reserves and large coffee estates made Tanzania a household name.

This single-origin, hand-picked peaberry is lovely: full-bodied and bright, with hints of apricot which round out the cup. It comes to us from Mwika North, a cooperative established in 1984. Mwika North became one of the first organic certified producer groups in the Kilimanjaro region. The producers still take pride in following organic farming standards.

Peru Corral de Piedra

This micro-lot of coffee is produced by the ASPROAGRO Coffee Farmers Association, which is a member of the CECANOR Cooperative. Producers from the association live in and near the community of Corral de Piedra, Peru, which is in the northern part of the country in the Andean highlands. ASPROAGRO is an acronym that stands for “Asociacion de Productores Agropecuarios”.

The coffee organization, ASPROAGRO, was formed in 2002 and is made up of producers who own small plots of land. Their goal when joining the CECANOR Cooperative was to not only find an international market for export quality coffee but also to develop and promote organic coffee production as a means to improve the health and economics of the farmers in the Corral de Piedra area where they live and work. Before this group began working with the CECANOR cooperative, all their coffee was sold to a single buyer at a price the buyer set. Unfortunately, many times in this area, the buyer would pay the farmers less than what it took the farmer to produce the coffee. This was happening in Corral de Piedra before CECANOR came in and invited them to join the cooperative. It was then that the farmers of Corral de Piedra were protected by the fair-trade system and could sell their production to the ever-expanding market for organic coffee.

This coffee has a complex and balanced profile. We tasted notes of citrus fruit, chocolate, and graham cracker.

Peru Erlita’s Lot

This coffee comes to us from the finca (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.

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. 

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.

Tree Town Blend

This time of year in Ann Arbor, the leaves of the trees change to show beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows. We were inspired to create a coffee blend that sparkles with complexity and an ever-changing panorama of flavor. This coffee is a blend of beans from Brazil, Guatemala, and Uganda, thoughtfully combined to bring out Fall flavors. Tasting notes: caramel, stone fruit, and cocoa. Complex and juicy!

Guatemala Antigua

This coffee comes to us from small-holder producers in the Antigua Valley of Guatemala – the oldest and best-known coffee-growing region in the country. The Antigua valley is called “Panchoy” (“large lagoon”), a name from the indigenious Cachiquel tribe. The valley is encircled by three volcanoes: “Agua”, “Fuego” and “Acatenango”. Thanks to the rich volcanic soils, altitude, plentiful rain and sun, and consistent temperatures the beautiful valley enjoys, conditions there are quite ideal for growing a large amount of high-quality Arabica beans. This is the kind of coffee we drink all day. It is balanced and smooth, with elegant, citrus fruit notes that make your tongue dance.

Colombia ASPROBALBOA

The Association of Agroecological Producers of Balboa (ASPROBALBOA) was founded by 31 producer families in 2003 and currently has 144 members — 44 women and 100 men. It is one of 15 farmer associations and coffee cooperatives that make up the Empresa Cooperativa del Sur del Cauca (COSURCA) group. We have sourced coffee through COSURCA for several years now, and we’re excited that this year, we can feature a coffee traceable to one particular community — Balboa.

ASPROBALBOA represents individuals and families from across the municipality of Balboa. Their goal is to create productive agricultural business in their community and promote economic, social, and cultural development. The families of Balboa are smallholder farmers, cultivating on average 8 acres of land split among coffee, fruit trees, beans, vegetables, and panela — or cane sugar. A variety of shade trees protect coffee from full, direct sun and improve soil quality.

Empresa Cooperativa del Sur del Cauca (COSURCA) is composed of 15 farmer associations and coffee cooperatives from four municipalities in Cauca, a mountainous province of Southwestern Colombia. While some areas of southwestern Colombia are known for growing highly profitable (and illegal) coca and poppy plants, the premiums paid to COSURCA members help coffee remain a viable and legitimate business in the region. Since 1993, COSURCA’s 1,090 members have developed a strong organizational structure and nancial stability as a result of Fair Trade premiums.

This coffee has the kind of balanced and clean profile that we love in Colombian beans. We tasted citrus and caramel with a smooth, almost satiny, body. It’s the kind of coffee you can drink cup after cup, day after day.

Honduras Pablo Paz

A few of us visited Honduras in February 2015 to learn more about the coffee produced around the municipality of La Union, a town about 12,000 in the western part of the country. The highlight of the trip was meeting Pablo Paz, a producer in one of the villages nestled in the mountains around La Union. Pablo comes from a family of growers who have produced quality coffee for decades—long before many folks in the specialty coffee world were paying a premium for high quality beans or taking trips to remote areas of the world to source rare and distinct micro-lots. This is the seventh year we have purchased Pablo’s coffee and we continue to be inspired by his commitment to quality. Coffee plays an important role in Pablo’s life on multiple levels. No doubt, it is his livelihood. But coffee is also a source of pride and a means of connecting to his village and to his history. And yet, Pablo has seen the final product of his efforts—a bag of roasted coffee—on only a few occasions. When we met Pablo, we presented him with a sample of his coffee, brewed it, and drank a cup together. He liked it. And for a few minutes, the world felt exceptionally small.

 

Papua New Guinea Apo & Angra Cooperatives

About 85% of coffee from Papua New Guinea is grown by smallholder farmers whose plots are scattered over demanding and sometimes treacherous terrain. Most smallholders grow around 1,700 trees, but some grow as few as 20 along with a number of other crops. Sourcing a substantial volume of coffee from these smallholders in remote areas can be difficult.

That’s why we were thrilled to find this selection from the Apo and Angra Cooperatives. Last year, this coffee was imported as a blend from three cooperatives. This year, volume from the cooperatives increased, and it could be imported as a blend of two. As the individual cooperatives grow, more separations can be made — further bringing into focus the distinctive characteristics each has to offer.