Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fair Trade is just the Start

Fair Trade - the absolute minimum necessary to get people to stop questioning how you source, or pushing you to do better. Not enough.
This is a great quote from a recent blog post by World Barista Cup Winner, James Hoffmann.
I get a lot of people who, wanting to do the right thing, ask is my coffee is Fair Trade. The answer is complicated and there are no easy answers. Some of our coffees are certified Fair Trade, so you can be assured that FLO, the global fair trade certification body has verified that at least the Fair Trade Minimum has been paid for the coffee. But wouldn't the coffee farmers be better off if they got more or even much more then this minimum for the coffees they grow? Higher Quality=Higher Prices.

Recently we began to buy a lovely green coffee from the east African country of Burundi. This coffee is not certified to be Fair Trade, but much more then the minimum was paid for the coffee. So, is this coffee technically Fair Trade, no, but is it more then fairly traded, yes! Any kind of certification demands fees, inspections and infrastructure that are not cheap. For small estates, developing countries and new coffee roasters these things are be a major hurdle.

Ask questions about the coffee you get from your coffee roaster. Fair Trade Certification is not enough. There are no easy answers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What is Fair Trade Coffee Anyway?

Fair Trade: What Price for Good Coffee?

This was a great article written a week or two ago on Fair Trade Coffee in Time. It dealt with whether coffee farmers are really getting what Fair Trade certification has promised them. This article does a fine job of touching on the complexities of making sure coffee farmers are fairly compensated.

Certification has its cost. There are many small coffee roasters and small coffee farms that cannot afford the certification fees, but still want to make sure everyone a getting a wage for their contribution in the seed to cup coffee food chain.

Have had Fair Trade certification for a year but decided we could not afford to pay the fee anymore. We still buy Fairly Traded coffee but we just don't get the fancy sticker to put on our bags anymore. We also proudly roast coffees from countries like Congo and Burundi where there is not Fair Trade certification but they need our premium dollar for their premium product.

Unfortunately we do not live in a black and white world. Take time to get your coffee from a roaster that goes beyond stating that a coffee is Fair Trade. Demand more information because Fair Trade is not always enough. Who grew your coffee?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Make a Latte at Home for Cheap!

Great link by the California Milk Processor Board on how to make a latte at home for around $.35!

Where do you get your coffee from?

I have had lots of people ask where I get my coffee from.  As a wholesale coffee roaster, we get our coffee from a green coffee importer. They import the green coffee from 20+ countries, of the 40+ countries coffee comes from. They usually buy the coffee in shipping containers of 200+ bags. 

We buy it in burlap sacks of 132 or 152 lbs. They coffee comes to our roasting facility on shipping pallet through a freight carrier on a semi truck and trailer. Hopefully someday we will able to travel to the farms where our coffee is grown to get the full "seed to cup" story first hand. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Story of
New Roots Coffee Company

How is the world did you get into
the coffee roasting business?

This is one of the first questions that people ask us when we tell them what New Roots Coffee Company is. I thought I would tell you the abridged story of how I came to be roasting coffee in Northern Wisconsin.

About a year before we would get married Katie and I 'went out for coffee' together for the first time. It was a tiny storefront coffee shop/café with loads of hippy college students, bare brick walls, worn hardwood floors, a single bathroom in the basement and great local artwork on the walls. The place was Coffee News Cafe and it is still located on Grand Avenue just west of Snelling Avenue in St Paul, MN. It was here that both of us shared that we would love to own a coffee shop someday. That was late 1999.

After five years in my (Joseph's) first career, I got burnt out. Then, I worked construction for two years and decided that it didn't fuel my passion. I saw a coffee shop for sale and investigated purchasing it. After deciding that taking over someone else's business wasn't for me, I looked at starting a coffee business from scratch. I discovered that there was not a single wholesale specialty coffee roaster within one hour of Wausau,WI, so I wrote a detailed business plan and finagled the financing to do things right.

We remodeled half of the basement of our home and shoehorned a used 1400lb. Probat L12 coffee roaster down the stairs.
Getting the coffee roaster through the door and down the stairs

We ordered bags of green coffee from Colombia, Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Guatemala, Rwanda and Sumatra through Cafe Imports in St. Paul, MN totaling 834 lbs. On November 13th, 2007 New Roots Coffee Company LLC was officially in business.

Joseph using his farm-boy skidsteer skills to unload the green coffee from the semi.

I had the honor of being trained by coffee legend, Victor Allen Mondry, who dropped out of medical school in 1979 to start a little shop in Madison called Victor Allen's. Victor is still my mentor and friend and recently told me, "I'm proud of you." which did my soul well. Victor also helps me source some of the coffees that I have offer.

Sample roasting at Victor's old cupping lab in Paoli, WI

Along they way we became members of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and attended their annual convention in Long Beach, CA. We were blown away by being in the midst of coffee farmers, baristas, roasters and other professionals from over 30 countries. Through SCAA we have received extensive hands-on training in coffee cupping, roasting, brewing and espresso.

We became a Fair Trade Certified licensed coffee roaster and have done everything we can to be a business that is socially and environmentally responsible and that makes the world a better place to live in. We believe in roasting coffee that helps coffee farmers make a reasonable living, is grown sustainably and is exceptional in your cup so everyone wins.

We got into coffee roasting because we have a passion for coffee. We will never have a huge selection, but you can be assured that the coffee that we offer will be carefully selected for its outstanding aroma, taste and body.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Acidity in Specialty Coffee

Acidity is generally considered to be a desirable aspect in specialty coffee. It give our senses the wonderful notes of lemon, grapefruit and orange. It can also make a coffee taste "winey" which is something I really love in coffee.

Much of the acidity in coffee comes in the form of chlorogenic acids, which are powerful anitioxidants with proven health benefits. Coffee also contains phosphic acids which can contribute to a cup of coffee feeling sweet. These are commonly found in coffees from East Africa like our Ethiopias, Rwanda, and Congo.

When I roast a coffee as a light roast, like our Guatemala or Ethiopia, it will usually have a higher perceived acidity then our darker roast coffees like our Sumatra, Peru or Midnight Blend.

Just to make things interesting our new Snowshoe Winter Blend is a blend of light roast and dark roast coffees. It makes for a wonderfully unique coffee to spice up the bland midwinter months. Email me to order a bag or look for it at soon!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Coffee and Other Vices

A few weeks ago I saw a great article in Newsweek on how people in the face of bad economic times, people are still going to bars, smoking and hitting strip clubs like they always have. It seems that these things insulate us and comfort us. I wonder if coffee is the same. Do people whose pocket books are smaller and who feel a bit depressed drink less coffee? I think not. Interesting. Isn't coffee great! It is the ultimate affordable luxury.