Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Papua New Guinea bean sourcing is classic charitable direct trade

We love our newest coffee, Papua New Guinea wild-grown organic coffee from Morombe province, at altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 feet. In recent years Papua New Guinea coffee has been hard to come by because the isolated highlands have been cut off by deteriorating infrastructure, and mostly, bandits who prey on farmers bringing their beans down to the coastline ports for sale.

Most of the Papua New Guinea coffee we see for sale has been sourced through illegitimate channels, "whitewashed" by using a registered broker for the final trade outside the country. But that is coffee with blood on the hands of those who sell it, because it is often stolen from farmers who are physically harmed in the process. Papua New Guinea coffee should not be purchased unless the origin can be certified.

That's why we like Butch from Highlands Summit, he is a bush pilot who flies a Cessna into an airstrip that his company created so they can actually fly the sacks of beans out in the belly of the plane, and on the return trip he brings medical supplies and food and necessities purchased in trade for coffee from the coastal cities. This three-way trade provides a wonderful humanitarian program for otherwise isolated and deprived villagers.

We are bringing in two grades of coffee. The first we call Grade A, and it is not screened for size. It has small beans and also gigantic beans, which is typical of this varietal growing wild from plantings established from Jamaica Blue Mountain stock over 100 years ago. We've had many customers tell us they prefer this naturally diversified varietal more than the expensive Jamaica Blue Mountain beans they have been purchasing elsewhere.

The other grade is the rare PSC-AA, which is screened for size and drops out the smaller beans and most of the peaberries, for an extremely uniform roasting experience. PSC-AA grade is recognized as one of the top 10 superior gradings around the world and is very hard to find.

Both grades have exquisite taste. The coffee is complex with fruity notes and a spicy aroma, and is super-smooth with wonderful body. Everybody loves this coffee! It's one of the rare treats we ourselves serve to guests and brew up on special occasions. We know you will love it!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Brazil Brazil Brazil Brazil

It's the country with so much coffee we had to name it four times! Actually, we did that because we have taken in a new crop of coffees to complement our fan favorite, the Brazil Adrano.

These new 2015 crops are artfully selected from the best of the best. Certified as one of the world’s best volcanic terroirs, and home to rich mineral springs reputed to have healing abilities, Poços de Caldas is a quintessential volcanic growing region.

The primary Arabica variety in these origins is Mundo Novo, a quintessential Latin American variety that forms the base of the world's most popular brands of coffee used in cafés, donut shops and restaurants. Here are a few tips on how to pick your favorite Brazilian:

Our favorite in the Deep Forest Roast, this is an intensely buttery coffee with so much rich caramel tone that we call it the coffee that is perfect for having with dessert... and you don't even need the dessert! Pleasantly acidic but smoother than polished glass, this is one of our staff favorites.

St. Domingos
Another registered profile of the Volcano Origin Coffee Co., St. Domingos is the coffee of choice for those who want to drink a naturally sweet coffee without the need for sugar. Perfect for icing and suitable for any time of day, St. Domingos is high in body and milk chocolate tones. What's not to love?

Santa Izabel
A true Microlot from D'Alva Family Farm, an oft-awarded, highly renowned producer who has nailed the quintessential high-mineral, super-rich volcanic terroir of the Poços de Caldas with their new Santa Izabel offering. You have never tasted a coffee like this before! This is not a coffee to be trifled with, sit down and savor every sip.

The "sleeper" coffee produced as a base coffee for coffee shop house blends and espressos, the favorable climate last season created an out-sized performance for what was intended to be a modest coffee. Veneza is an affordable trip to volcano coffee country, with a balanced profile that works hot or cold.

We hope you enjoy our Brazil Tour of four of the best coffees produced in Brazil this year. We will be featuring 4-ounce sample giveaways in our monthly emails (go to the Contact Page to sign up to receive these mailings for Preferred Customers), and running special prices on these roasted and green coffees all summer. Enjoy!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tarrazu origin gets new validation

For decades it has been generally known that the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica as an origin name for coffee is a very specific (and relatively small) region at the highest altitude of the canton of Tarrazu in Costa Rica. A canton is what we might call a "state" in the USA. The canton of Tarrazu is large and covers the area from the West Coast at sealevel to the highest altitudes of the mountains. But there are three counties at the highest altitude, which have a unique terroir and climate.

Coffee from these three provinces, which are Dota, Leon Cortes and Tarrazu (county) are grown at such a high altitude that they are always Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) and are generally superior to anything that can be grown at the lower altitudes in less-favored regions climatically. Dota in particular has been certified by geological surveys to have one of the top growing region profiles in the world.

Our Costa Rica Estate and Nectar coffees are from Dota and are grown at altitudes of 4800-6200 feet. Less than 1% of the world's coffee is grown at such a high altitude, and Dota is further distinguished by having one of the best soil qualities available for coffee - a combination of old volcanic soil and minerals mixed with rain forest organic material and clay.

We are proud and pleased to see the latest decision in the courts of Costa Rica in the battle for the purity of the Tarrazu appelation in regards to coffee. We guarantee that you will always find our Costa Rica Dota Estate coffee to be the Best of the Best!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Tea: Phuc Long (Including Lotus Tea!)

How It Came To Pass

Phuc Long Lotus Tea

Long ago in days of yore, Trung Nguyen had a tea company called Tra Tien. They sold loose-leaf Vietnamese green tea in three varieties: classic green, jasmine green, and lotus green.
Then Tra Tien got discontinued. We searched and found a good replacement for the classic and jasmine green tea, but couldn't find any lotus green tea that held a candle to Tra Tien. Lo, how the streets of Boston did flow with tears. And angry customers--you have no idea how many people used to come by the farmers' market looking for iced lotus tea!

For years, we despaired of finding another awesome lotus tea. We would not settle! Only the best for you.

Then, we found Phuc Long. And it outshines even our memory of Tra Tien lotus tea. And there was much rejoicing. (Also giggling. Say "Phuc Long" out loud with an American accent and you'll see why--but not if your boss/kids are listening!)

A Somewhat Less Silly Account of Lotus Tea

Basket of tea and jasmine buds. Source: Wikipedia

Most people are familiar with jasmine tea; if not jasmine tea, then jasmine rice, or, if all else fails, jasmine perfume. The jasmine flower is used to scent a wide variety of items because it's one of the nicest-smelling flowers in the world.

To make jasmine tea properly (without additives), the tea leaves are mixed with the flowers in baskets or trays. Tea is highly absorbent of aromas, and the leaves quickly pick up the sweet scent of jasmine. This process may be repeated multiple times to make a stronger-scented tea. Once the flowers have imparted their aroma to the tea, they are separated from the tea by blowing them with giant fans--the lighter flowers blow away from the heavier tea leaves.

Lotus blossom. Note the yellow stamens in the center.
Lotus tea is made the same way, but with lotus flowers. Specifically, the golden stamens from the center of the flower.

These huge, magenta-pink flowers have a much subtler aroma than jasmine, one that is unfamiliar to most Americans but popular in Vietnam. It tends to taste different to everybody, but most describe it as reminiscent of chamomile, vanilla, or even a hint of anise,

Lotus tea also has a fuller mouthfeel and a slight natural sweetness. The aroma is not ruined by adding a splash of milk or packet of sugar, either, which is a bonus for those of us who love a milk tea.

It's also one of the best iced teas we have ever tried. It was incredibly popular back when we used to sell glasses of iced tea at markets, even with children who weren't normally fans of tea.

To shop for Phuc Long teas, including lotus tea, click here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

That's a lot of snow...

Recently we have been inundated, here in Boston, with almost 4 feet of snow spanning three storms in about 10 days. We now have plowed piles of snow topping 10 feet around our building! We have certainly experienced some delays in shipping, partly due to closing by UPS and the Post Office.

But generally the delays are only 1-2 business days on our end. We can't see yet what might be happening on the delivery end... hopefully people are getting their coffee and tea in a timely manner.

We apologize for the delays and hope everybody will have patience with us as we cope with this record-breaking weather extreme. If another storm comes in any time soon we will have to resort to shipping the snow to someplace else -- there is no more room for it here! (Hmm... I wonder how much snow will fit in a USPS Flat Rate box...)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Green Beans and Home Roasting

It's all the buzz this year! If you aren't, you probably know somebody who is. Here are some tips and updates on our products for home roasting.

Green Unroasted Vietnamese Coffee KitBy far our most popular gifts for home roasters are our special kits. The World Heritage Green Coffee Kit features all four of the remaining unique species of coffee on the planet - Arabica, Robusta, Liberica and Excelsa, with an educational booklet and roasting tips, and 1 oz. roasted samples of the beans as well as your choice of a half-pound or full pound of each of the green coffees.

And we wouldn't be the world leader in Vietnamese Coffee if we didn't offer the Green Unroasted Vietnamese Coffee Kit! A traditional blend of Vietnamese Arabica, Robusta and Excelsa ready to roast and enjoy as Cafe Sua Da, hot or cold.

Or if you want the beans and just the beans, most of our unique coffees are available in green beans, in 1 pound and 3 pound bags. Visit our Green Coffee Page to see the full range of offerings.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Green bean beverages

I just finished watching a video on YouTube about how to make green bean extract. I guess you get what you pay for on Youtube... this unfortunate soul wasted a lot of digital "film" and time making a drink he cheerfully described as "horrible". The problem is, somehow the making of green bean extract has circulated around as a process that requires soaking after boiling the green beans.

Well, soaking green beans is how you make water-process decaf coffee. Yes, caffeine is a slippery little molecule that is very water soluble. Swiss Water Process coffee involves soaking green beans in already-brewed coffee. The relatively large flavor molecules in the brewed coffee block the flavor from escaping into the brew, but the caffeine is not blocked and freely leeches out. Presto, 97% of the caffeine winds up in the outside liquid while most of the flavor stays inside the bean.

So, when this hapless fellow instructed his viewers to "turn off the stove after boiling and let the mixture sit for an hour" he was creating a caffeine extract, not green bean extract. Caffeine is a very bitter molecule and that is why low-caffeine coffees have a smoother taste profile. The effect on the body would be more like drinking rocket fuel than something healthy.

Here's a simple recipe for green bean extract:

1. Start with green beans that have gone straight from hulling to drying tunnels. Most coffees spend many hours traveling from the huller to the drying tables, causing fermentation. This is not a big issue but it's simply healthier if you are going to drink green beans "straight" to get beans with no fermentation. Our Costa Rica Estate beans are a perfect choice.

2. Rinse the green beans in a strainer or colander for a minute as you would any fresh food. Then put together in a saucepan one part green beans by volume to about 4 parts water that has been brought to a boil. This ratio does NOT have to be exact.

3. Boil for about 12 minutes. Then pour off the liquid through a strainer. Let the liquid cool unless you are making a hot beverage.

 4. Add any sort of fruit juice to your preference, we suggest cranberry because a little goes a long way. If the fruit juice is unsweetened you may want to add a little sweetener. You could also mix it with tea.

5. Drink and enjoy.

Taste the green bean extract by itself. It should taste a little like dilute pea soup, slightly sweet, and not at all bitter. The drink you make with it should be quite delicious. Ours are!

If you want to store the green bean liquid for later, put it in the fridge immediately.