Coffee is afloat in confusing nomenclature from the way to order drinks; latte, cappuccino, macchiato, venti to the way it is purchased; direct trade, fair trade. Whether in French, Italian, English or some combination thereof, we are trying to make it simple. When we say espresso + milk, that is what we mean. In regards to our purchasing of coffee beans, we have chosen “farmer direct.” With this term we want to highlight our relationship with the farmer. Relationships are the basis of our business from the farmer to the coffee drinker. We value our relationships not only with farmers but with coffee exporters like Alejandro from Fairfield Trading in Colombia and coffee importers like Café Imports in Minnesota. These guys and gals are our facts on the ground, searching out new farms to visit, continuing to advise and improve quality at farms where we have existing relationships, handling the logistics of shipping these coffees half a world away. I guess we could be more direct by hiring a truck and backing it up to the farm but the roads are narrow and twisty and I’m scared to drive them. I suppose the most direct would be to simply grow the coffee ourselves but we are already gentrifying Detroit and don’t want to be accused of doing the same in Colombia. So we will work with existing farmers and communities.
The first farmer we want to feature in our “famer direct” series is Elias Roa. This guy is larger than life, a gentle giant, a thoughtful farmer, a blue chip footballer. He has two farms in Huila, Colombia. The first in Acevado is called Finca el Recuerdo. He is the president of the Primaveral growers association there. His other farm is Finca Tamana, which we visited last October in Pitalito. This farm is well know for its association with roaster/importer Tim Wendelboe of Norway who works closely with Elias and has just published a book about this farm.
Photo credit: "Workshop Coffee Co. London, UK."
The approach to the farm is nothing short of breathtaking, coffee trees planted in the midst of towering eucalyptus trees.
The town and surrounding mountains were almost too beautiful. We only had a glimpse of this perfection before cloud cover moved in and everything went white, ethereal. Elias walked us around the farm and explained his process of dry fermentation for 14-16 hours. After fermentation and washing 4 times he dries the coffee in African raised beds slowly, turning often for up to 10 days. He produces 20,000 kilos of coffee in total which is about a container or 270 bags. El Recuerdo is a three acre farm where he gets about 15 bags all of which we bought. The coffees are old Caturra and Castillo varieties and the altitude is 1420 meters. His work in the field allows him to keep coffee rust at bay without resorting to chemical sprays of any kind. You can taste the work in the cup which is very citrusy like mandarin oranges, nutty and grapey. There is a touch of dry cacao on the long finish. Please stop into our Bloomfield Hills and Detroit locations next week to try some of this delicious “farmer direct” Colombian coffee.