With Ricardo Zelaya Coffee in Guatemala.

At our shop Bean Around The World - Main & 20th, we worked hard to promote the provenance of the coffees we served and the producer relationships quietly developed by the Roastery.

The most impactful was without a doubt their longstanding partnership with Ricardo Zelaya in Antigua, Guatemala. What began with an introduction by Ricardo's brother evolved into a direct trade relationship that not only delivered premium Santa Clara coffee to the Bean lineup, but also resulted in a school being built at the Zelaya family's remote farm, Finca Carrizal.

Built in 2008 by Ricardo and Pete and Barney from Bean, this schoolhouse offers an attentive, substantive education to the children of the Zelaya's staff who would otherwise lack meaningful options. The area has only had electricity for 8 years! With an enrolment that has at times reached over 90 elementary students and is now equipped with a computer lab generously provided by Vancouver-based Health 4 Humanity, Escuela Privada Finca Carrizal continues to thrive with support from Bean Around The World.

After many years of anticipation, this March I was finally able to travel to Guatemala to spend time with Ricardo and his daughter Katia at their estate farm Finca Santa Clara in Antigua as well as at Finca Carrizal, in eastern Guatemala.

Ricardo and Katia know well how much I have admired their tirelesss work both professional and philanthropic. On the ground with them on their turf, I was blown away. It would be hard to pick which is most impressive - their meticulous and ambitious coffee farms and processing facilities, their care and compassion for the folks that work for their fourth-generation coffee company, their almost inexplicable energy for hospitality, their love of Guatemala, their insatiable appetite for ceviche, their Geisha. Along with Maureen, Mike and Chelsea from Bean Victoria, we basked in it all for 10 days feeling pretty blessed.

At Foglifter's inception, we reached out to Katia and Ricardo for opportunities to continue to support their philanthropic endeavours. Katia selected their Santa Clara Scholarship Program as a way for our company and our customers' purchases to have impact. Over conversations on long, picturesque drives and dusty ATV rides around their farms, I was able to get a richer understanding of what this scholarship program means to its recipients.

By being nimble and adaptive with their support, the Santa Clara Scholarship Program is able to pour fuel on the educational efforts Finca Santa Clara employees are making for their children - be it public, private, secondary or post-secondary. When Katia relayed that there are four recipients in university, among them one to be an accountant, another an architect, I asked to what degree was the fund transformative for them. "One hundred percent." was Katia's instantaneous response, implying that the cost of higher education is indeed prohibitive for the recipients' families.

It is a pleasure to be one of the contributors to this worthwhile endeavour. Ricardo is quite literally known around the world for being an innovative, driven and impeccable producer of the some of the finest coffees in Antigua - that is obvious on their farms, notable in the cup and recognized with industry awards year after year.

We appreciate the time we've had to get to know him and Katia and cannot wait to have their upcoming crop in our lineup.

Ricardo Zelaya Coffee
More shots from our trip on our Instagram feed and Highlights.
Learn about how your Foglifter purchases elevate.
Look back to Bean Around The World's work in Guatemala.

Immense gratitude to Bean Victoria for providing excellent company, deep pours of Zacapa, and more than their share of photography on our journey together.
 

Songwa Estates Gallery at Seattle's La Marzocco Cafe

I never miss a coffee at the La Marzocco Cafe when I'm in Seattle. Situated within the KEXP radio station at Seattle Center, the cafe is chockablock with nods to La Marzocco's history as well as its best offerings - think Linea Minis and GS3S machines plumbed up and ready for you to test run. Add to that, the backdrop of the KEXP booth going live to the airwaves - it's light, buzzy, caffeinated and sounds awesome.

On a recent coffee purchasing trip, over a Quills cappuccino, it was a delight to take in a thorough gallery on their project at Songwa Estates.

Along with Mahlkönig and Probat, in 2007, La Marzocco established Songwa Estates, a non-profit endeavor aimed at:

  • educating staff, clients and all those who work in the coffee sector on the numerous intricacies involved in growing, harvesting and processing green coffee
  • providing support to the local community whose livelihoods depend on coffee, financed in part by the project “Hands for Songwa

In addition to empowering the lives of those in the industry, the partnership between these companies and the community has led to the reconstruction of two school buildings to house upwards of 300 young students in facilities that are sanitary at a minimum and elevating on the daily.

If you know us at all, you know this is our jam. Kudos to everyone for not only tracing soil to cup but working to improve each step along the way.

La Marzocco Cafe - KEXP - Seattle Center Campus - 472 1st Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

KEXP
Songwa Estates
La Marzocco
Mahlkönig
Probat Roasters

Aubade Coffee in Vancouver's Chinatown.

This coffee was something else.

There is no doubt I was remiss in not visiting sooner. Earnest shops are opening in Vancouver nearly every day it seems. What's going on at Aubade is extraordinary.

Passing through on a warm, late summer day, we opted to bypass espressos and pourovers - tempting as the offerings were - and give the two Aeropress options on the menu a side-by-side.

Tucked into the front corner of a very eclectic antique shop and facing the lively East Pender Street, it would be easy to wander off enchanted by the distractions. Not recommended. I'm sure Aubade owner, Eldric, would prepare your coffee the same either way but his method invites observation and his genial personality welcomes inquiry and conversation. Coffee without pretension is a gold standard in my mind and it's somewhat uncommon to have someone so honed in their process and so educated about their product share both with little airs.

Our Guatemalan and Ethiopian coffees - both washed process from Small Batch in Melbourne - were not the sour, thin sips you might fear in a modern cup. Roasting aside, each step of their brewing thoughtfully guarded against that end resulting in two very memorable coffees that showcased every flavour note the producers surely strived for throughout the intense growing and processing phases. Outstanding.

Juan Carlos Chen - Bourbon - Guatemala
Hayutadin Jemal - Heirloom - Ethiopia

www.aubadecoffee.info

Visiting Diedrich Roasters in Idaho.
Diedrich Roasters Ponderay Idaho

Having been out to Diedrich years ago, I had high expectations for the week ahead. Coffee aside, Sandpoint, Idaho has a lot to offer - endless lakefront, evergreen mountains, a charming downtown with everything from independent bike shops to little bistros and age-old taverns... and, of course, Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters. It's the perfect place to fuel up and unwind amid a three-day seminar.

Mr. Rocky Rhodes lead a class of 11 through an excellent program of coffee background and basics, roasting concepts and practical experimentation, ad-libbing on questions of every sort along the way. Thoughtfully paced over three lengthy days, the seminar was largely hands-on (endless rounds of roasting and cupping in pursuit of a perfect pourover profile) and appealed to our wide-ranging group - from true coffee neophytes to experienced roasters looking to sharpen their shop practices, training protocol and everything in between. Add to the mix, the green coffee buying presentation by Laurel from Royal Coffee, several specialized talks by technicians from various departments within Diedrich and an outstanding factory tour by Gary, and you have a pretty solid education.

Virtually everyone I came across at Diedrich HQ had a warm smile, a willing ear and an eagerness to problem-solve and support. Outside the seminar curriculum, the opportunity to speak with anyone about any facet of working on a Diedrich was invaluable. I drove west feeling even more informed about the ingenuity and integrity of the equipment we use every day.

In the off-hours, we had great walks on City Beach, a lingering, al fresco evening over chicken parm and Barbera at Ivano's and a fun boat tour on Lake Pend Oreille. For the true night owl, I'm not saying to schedule a trip to Roxy's, but if you find yourself there, enjoy the good cheer and classic service and maybe clear your calendar for the next morning.

Thank you to Rocky, Miles and the kind folks at Diedrich - Natalie, Christine, April, Toby, and more. We had an incredible week in Sandpoint.

www.diedrichroasters.com

In Seattle for the Coffee Expo!

What a weekend!

We shipped off on the Clipper from Victoria's Inner Harbour for a jam-packed weekend at the SCA Coffee Expo in Seattle. While at the last expo, we dedicated more time to the countless topical presentations and lectures by coffee professionals from around the world, this year we opted to hunker down and go back to school.

The SCA Pathways classes never fail to impress. From honing cupping techniques to roasting every which way on a host of different roasters down in the cavernous loading bay, it was a great three solid days under the guidance of lifelong, impassioned instructors and a cohort of industry folks of all stripes. There are few better places to meet new friends, glean a lot from diverse experience and get inspired to reach higher.

And that was just the classes! We had the great pleasure to meet up with Ricardo and Katia Zelaya for beers and noodles and then again for more cupping. This father-daughter duo are making ever greater strides with their operation in Antigua, Guatemala. We look forward to visiting next year when the roasting operation is off the ground! In the meantime, it's a pleasure to be one of many industry contributors to their growing scholarship program.

Thanks to West Coast Traders for hosting a lively meet-and-greet downtown. It was a honour to meet the team from Peru Norte and learn more about their innovative agricultural practices. That was but one beer-and-chat in a weekend teeming with coffee talk. Can't wait for next year!