Arbor Day: My First Coffee Tree

coffee, coffee cherries, peru coffee

National Arbor Day was last Friday. As the nation gathered to celebrate trees, their impact on the world, and the way they help keep us in good shape physically and emotionally, I took a moment to recall my first coffee tree. Touching it after 7 years working in coffee changed my life in many subtle ways.

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Our Driver, Jorge

Getting to Finca Timbuyacu through the northern Peruvian Andes mountains was tortuous. We crept in a rickety bus over mountains forbidding in their wildness, with sheer drops of thousands of feet and spare inches for the tires. At times, parts of the road would melt off the side of the mountain. Once I almost fainted when I looked over the crevasse.

Newly bathing in my adopted language, Spanish, and jotting vocabulary on the palm of my hands as I struggled to eat yet another boiled chicken-and-potato dish, with my mind and my heart exploding with newness and strangeness, I collapsed in the quiet hotel in Chachapoyas, deep in the region of Amazonas, relieved to stop moving and to feel the cool tiles under my feet. In the morning, the mists lifted the town into fairyland.

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Finca Timbuyacu is a dream for owners Karim Rosario Araoz and her husband Alfonso Tejada, who also own Cafe Monteverde, a cooperative with around 300 farmers in the area. “Coffee is not easy,” says Tejada, who with Araoz owned a travel agency in Lima for years before returning to their home region. “When we came back here we started Monteverde with the idea of being a local broker. Once that business was up and running, we started working our own land, which was pretty much abandoned. Everyone told us the land wasn’t worth anything, but we have had success. My goal is to produce the best coffee in the country.” At Timbuyacu, Tejada and Araoz perform many tests on processes, including fermentation time, washing time, percentage of mucilage removed, and other measurables.

For me, when I cupped the green leaves of coffee trees in my hand and smelled the rich green sap running through the plants, Finca Timbuyacu was the site of my own crowning moment, a new chapter in the life of this roving coffee professional begun. I snapped a warm globular coffee cherry from its stem and popped it into my mouth, feeling the give of the dark red skin pop and the sweet mucilage cover my tastebuds. At the center of the tiny pudding-like desert was a double coffee cherry. It gave a little under my teeth. I spat it out upon the ground and watched it disappear in the undergrowth.

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Trees anchor us. Coffee trees make this huge global trade possible. This Arbor Day, let’s honor the coffee trees that produce our favorite coffees all over the world, Ethiopia to Peru.

Women In Coffee – Traudel Germann Mick

Deep through the tortuous roads of Villa Rica, Peru, over the Andes mountains from the metropolis of Lima, is a bonny coffee farm. With varieties like Pacamara, Red Catuai, and Gesha lining the dusty roads for kilometers before the final grind to the house, worker lodgings, and processing facilities, Finca Santa Josefa is almost, but not quite, as impressive as its owner, Traudel Germann Mick.

Traudel impresses you on first meeting. Her eyes wide with passion as she discusses her farm and her coffee with a tumbling mix of German, Spanish, and English, she dominates any room. Until recently her beloved husband, Juan Luis Vier, stood beside her as a quiet counterpoint to her enthusiasm. Together they began changing Peruvian coffee producing culture in a way none of us will forget.

Santa Josefa had long produced a lot of solid Villa Rican coffees, but nothing very exceptional. Four or five years ago Traudel caught the specialty coffee vision. Juan Luis, who was an engineer, took her vision and executed it on their farm, creating processes, methods and equipment that allowed them to begin experimenting with fermentation times and types, variety separation (for the first time), and other unique approaches to coffee production.

It was with great sorrow that we, around the coffee world, learned of the death of Traudel’s husband Juan Luis, after a long battle with cancer. This hardship has only firmed Traudel’s resolve to produce better and better Peruvian coffee, proving to the world Juan Luis’s legacy of quality. As a coffee professional who counts among my most treasured moments the days I spent with Traudel and Juan Luis on Finca Santa Josefa last year, I also vow to carry his legacy through the years.

We women of coffee are widely diverse, remarkable, and courageous. We work on the impossible Andean slopes picking cherries, we drive international companies, and we tell stories that change the landscape of the world. Traudel Germann Mick is just getting started, and so are we. United by passion and hard work and our love for this wonderful beverage that brings us together, we, the women and the men of coffee, pivot from the old to the new with joy in our hearts.

Emily McIntyre

 

Caravan’s 2016 Road Map

We are going on a Road Trip!

And your Caravan Team has a Road Map for our 2016 road trip. This is going to be a great adventure. Like every good Road Map, we’ll show you where we are now, where we are going and the path that we will take.  

First of all, this road trip began in 1990, 25 years ago when we started the longest running espresso bar in Oregon. So, this is just another leg in our journey – one that is filled with confidence, excitement, and readiness. Our adventure in coffee has been rooted in community and seeking quality with respect to all concerned. Our brand and style has changed over the years, from Magic Carpets to Camels, and now the iconic Travel Trailer. All that to say; we are “Well Traveled”.

As we jump into this Road Trip of 2016, you can expect our Mission and Core Values to remain the same. What is changing is a refining of our brand and our business.

We will be releasing a unified theme that will be carried out in our blend names, packaging, web site, and all printed material. We also will be refining our coffee offerings to a smaller number of blends and origins that will allow us to do a better job on presenting the best to you. These transitions will happen over the course of 2016, with an anticipated full release in the winter of 2016.

As an example of this blend refinement, we had 4 different Dark or French Roast styles of coffee that were offered in 2015 and we now have one. Instead of eight different decaffeinated coffees offered, we now have three, of which are all certified organic, fair trade, and naturally processed.

We have also refined our origin sourcing of coffee to selections that are all certified through our strict social and environmental criteria, (see “Statement of Sourcing” at www.caravancoffee.com). We are committed to giving back in a bigger way, both locally and globally. This coming year, our giving commitments include a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, a Water Sanitation Project in La Plata Colombia and a Socially Conscious Coffee project in Bahia Brazil.  

So let’s get rolling down the road for a fun-filled 2016! 

– Pete Miller, owner & proprietor

Caravan Coffee: 2015 Recap

New Roaster

This year we said goodbye to our old roaster, Cisco, and welcomed our new roaster Franc. Franc is also a 25lb roaster but with some added features that give us more manual control over our roast profiles.

New Roaster (20 of 24)

New Salesman

In September welcomed our new salesman Chris McMullan to the Caravan Family. Chris has been doing a great job in his first 3 months and we are excited about his future here at Caravan!

Ethiopia Trip

In February our Master Roaster Paul Allen travelled to Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. During his trip he was able to visit the coffee mills where they process and pack the coffee. While he was there he came across two amazing coffees, Ethiopia Sidamo Peaberry and Ethiopia Abaya. This trip was a great opportunity to not only see where our coffee is grown but also see the changes happening in the lives of the people who grow it.face, girl, ethiopia, coffee

Barista Showdown

In June Caravan hosted the third annual Barista Showdown. We raised over $1000 dollars for the Newberg Area Habitat for humanity. We had baristas from all over oregon and a few from out of state compete and in the end the winner was Cole Werfelman from the South Store Cafe!

The Face of Ethiopia Coffee

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You could ask me her name and my reply would be, “I don’t know”. It’s what she is saying, without words,  that captured my attention.

I visited a number of coffee mills in Ethiopia earlier this year. This one was in northern Ethiopia, the Abaya district. It was pleasant and sunny with the quiet hum of work being achieved. The Girma Dry Mill is in the village of Gwangwa where the coffee is laboriously checked for defects by women young and old.

There is a relaxed atmosphere as they all sit on the ground with piles of green coffee at their feet. We are talking up to 100 people here. They are agile and precise. Obviously the camera bring smiles all around. I am hoping it is because they are noticed and appreciated.

Today I look at the coffee in our warehouse here in Newberg, some 8500 miles away and see five bags of Ethiopia Abaya natural. I wonder if she touched some of the coffee seeds herself?​

–Paul Allen, Caravan Roastmaster

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe

Road signs to the contrary, you can’t always tell when you are officially in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia. It’s a region and a district as well as a town. Furthermore, as a transliteration of an Amharic word, multiple spellings exist: Yirgachefe, Yergacheffe, or Yerga Chefe. But whatever you call it,  this area is widely considered the birthplace of coffee.

The town of Yirgacheffe itself has a population of 20,000, similar to Caravan Coffee’s own hometown, Newberg, OR.

“When we were driving into this area, we noticed a unique fragrance of [coffee] fruit in the air,” said Paul Allen, Roastmaster.

So if you didn’t know you’d arrived in Yirgacheffe by sight, perhaps you would know it by smell. And also by sight; coffee trees aren’t just growing on farms and in back yards, they’re even growing along the roadside, bathed in the dust and noise of traffic.

The wet/washed process, which removes the cherry skin and pulpy fruit before entering the water tanks, helps keeps our Yirgacheffe coffee clean and consistent. With its unique citrus notes, this offering might just remind you of why you love coffee. Enjoy!

Tasting Profile: A medium-bodied coffee with lemon and red grapefruit up front and a smooth, earthy finish.

Recommended Preparations: Aeropress, French Press, Chemex, Pour-over

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Women in Coffee: Maricela of Peru

Meet Maricela, who has farmed for over sixty years and owns twenty-eight hectares of land, twelve of which are planted in coffee. Our staff writer, Emily McIntyre, had the chance to meet her in Peru this spring. She is not a member of the Peruvian Café Feminino foundation, but a stellar example of the kind of woman we support and want to enable toward equality through our coffee purchases. You can partner with us: when you purchase our Peru Feminino coffee anytime in the month of August, we will give $.50 a pound to the foundation.

A basket for picking coffee at Maricela’s farm

Hands that show the years of love for her coffee

The fermentation tank on Maricela’s farm

Caravaning: The WHO of Coffee

We visited many coffee plants in the Ethiopian coffee-growing regions of Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Kochere, and it was noticeable. There was definitely more of one and less of the other. At each of these mills, the predominant gender of the workers was female. I asked one mill worker why this was and she said, “the guys are here when the trucks come in and deliver the coffee”. There were certainly many females involved at this stage. What look like middle school-aged girls sorted myriad bags for defects as they sat on the concrete floor, and women at the larger plants, like GMC, in Addis Ababa, had conveyer belts passing by. One article I read said that these women earn about $5 a week.

Here I quote Beth Ann Caspersen, one of JavaJog’s founders, “Ethiopian coffee is among the most sought-after coffees in the world, and although women play a central role in assuring its quality, especially on the farms and at the processing centers, they remain very much behind the scenes.”

IMAG1143-2I would have to say that their disposition was happy, whether they were intrigued by foreign visitors or that was just an impression given, true or false. Perhaps they appreciated my pathetic, if not humorous attempts at sorting alongside with them. They had spent the early part of the day at school and then come to the mill for sorting. They had been on the ground for some hours, and I had come and gone within 60 minutes.

I did see some males though, particularly when my camera came out. They also had a happy disposition.

My understanding has not changed, the farmers and workers have the hardest, if not the least paid job, in the coffee industry.

– Paul Allen, Caravan Coffee Roastmaster

Caravaning: Ethiopia Road Coffee

We travelled a lot in Ethiopia earlier this month, where you don’t estimate your journey in miles but rather in hours. There is much road work in progress–but still much to be done!

IMG_0028-2If it’s not the condition of the roads that slows you down, then it will be the flow of pedestrians. Not your typical pedestrian either, but folks with amazing talents. My traveling friend, Craig Meredith, an engineer from Spokane, said it was the Coriolis effect. Something to do with the equator and gravity. They carried almost anything on their heads, and I often saw an orange plastic bottle for water, a regular chore.

There were many donkey-drawn wagons with five-year-olds at the reins (well, they looked five), tuk-tuks (an Ethiopia taxi) in the city and on all roads in between, as well as an array of animals: goats, sheep, monkeys and dogs.

IMG_0013 (2)-2My favorite sight was the coffee trees, just growing there on the side of the road. Did anyone pick and harvest the beans? Was the dust too much for the cherries? Were they even noticed by the locals or was it just too common? There are four common farming systems in Ethiopia: forest coffee, semi-forest coffee, garden coffee and plantation coffee–but I found the fifth: the side-of-the-road coffee trees!

–Paul Allen, Roastmaster

Caravaning: Andalucia Part 3

“Caravaning” is a term chosen to describe the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and passions with different cultures. In November of 2014, Pete and Krista went to Spain where 500 years ago, the greatest caravaning of all took place. They confined themselves to the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula which is called “Andalucia”, the portal of the Old World meeting the New World.

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From Nerja, we hop on a bus and go north to Granada, home of an ancient Moorish palace and fort in the Sierra Nevada Mountains called the Alhambra. The air feels cold here as we huddle up to the fire to enjoy roasted chestnuts and watch fresh snow in the mountains above us.

Our host Adela serves us a big breakfast with hot coffee at the family table. The Spanish Omelet is made with fewer eggs and more potatoes than we are accustomed, cooked in olive oil. The coffee is served in a 4-cup Moka Pot.

The Moka pot is an aluminum vessel shaped like an hourglass and is quite popular in Europe. It’s a unique coffee mechanism: the bottom reservoir is filled with fresh water, ground coffee is added to a basket between the two vessels, and the top vessel, which starts out empty, becomes the receptacle of the brewed coffee. The prepared moka pot is placed on a stove. When the water is hot, steam begins to form in the bottom vessel, pushing the water through the coffee to the top vessel. The result is an elementary espresso that, if done correctly with fresh coffee, is an intense brew with good crema and a slightly bite from the over extraction. I love it! Especially with eggs there is no better pairing.

Fortified by a hearty breakfast, we head to the Alhambra. Here is the Apex of the Moorish influence on Andalucia. The Moors ruled Spain for nearly 700 years and this was their last home before the Christians expelled them. In the afternoon, we explore the Sacromonte, just across a valley from the Alhambra. The gypsies settled here, some still living in caves, cut off from the structure of the city planners. They are a tight, closed society, who hold onto to their own unique customs including Flamenco.

Finally, in the evening we take a stroll though the Jewish neighborhood, where we find the synagogue and former dwellings of the Jews who from 700 to 1000 AD lived in relative harmony with Christians and Moors. This ended in 1060 AD when the Moors had an uprising and killed much of the Jewish population. And then later, this happened again, when the Christians during the Inquisition required Jews to convert, flee, or die.

Our Caravaning: Spain has a complex history of Jews, Moors, and Catholics who have all left a fingerprint on today’s Andalucia. History truly does repeat itself: nations invade, rape and pillage… and the Moka Pot returns to our kitchen.