Las Lomas Project: Exclusive High-end Macro Lots from Costa Rica by Joe Borg

By Joe Borg and Dan Loughrey

Royal Coffee New York and Costa Rica

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Royal Coffee New York has sourced coffee from three main regions in Costa Rica for years; Tarrazu, the Central Valley, and the West Valley. There have been large lots and small lots, from full containers to very small single-producer micro lots. We’ve been very happy to work directly with producers, and consider them not only partners, but friends as well. Overall, this year we've been very happy with our arrivals from Costa Rica. The challenge over the last few years that we've run into has been bridging the gap between larger macro lots and the micros, and finding a quality level that everyone in the supply chain is happy with. The Las Lomas project was started to address that issue.

Behind the Scenes of Las Lomas

To put together such a project, we needed to work closely with a local partner we knew could deliver a traceable, high-scoring “macro” lot. Coop Naranjo was the logical choice. The Coop has been around since the 1960’s, has a large network of producers, and is well-situated to guide the production of superior-quality coffee. In addition, Royal NY has a long history with Coop Naranjo dating back more than eight years. Through close cooperation with Coop Naranjo, we were able to design a program to source traceable, high-end lots of coffee from the West Valley in a way that was inclusive to all members of the coop and paid a price premium for superior harvesting and preparation. 

Traceability was key. Given the increasing demand to know where coffee comes from down to the individual producer in many cases, there needed to be constant, consistent conversations between the individual producers and the Coop that would allow for important information to be relayed and assure the best possible deliveries of fully ripe cherries for this project.

To ensure quality, inspections would be done at every point in the production process. Agronomists would be sent to the individual farms to check maturation levels of the coffee trees at each participating farm, guaranteeing that cherries would only be harvested at the peak of ripeness. Further inspections would happen at the mill throughout processing, with feedback given to the producers as needed.

Of course, if you produce great coffee, you should be paid fairly for it. Since the standards (and labor costs) for this coffee are higher than what’s normally expected, a price premium was placed on the Las Lomas lots to encourage the highest possible quality. The project was open to all members of Coop Naranjo with farms between 1,300 and 1,700 meters above sea level, and offers an excellent opportunity for new producers to access new markets. Allowing all members of the Coop to join the project incentivizes the production of excellent coffee now, and into the future.

Arrivals

We've cupped through six different washed offerings from a specific Loma or mountain range that was identified by the coop to produce higher quality coffee in Naranjo. We've selected three specific areas within that mountain range. Each of these lots are named below for their location; Canuela, Lourdes, and San Juanillo. Despite all of these coffees being from one specific mountain range in the West Valley, they each bring something a little different to the final cup. 

Please note that these coffees are offered in less than full container loads, and are in short supply. Please be sure to contact your trader if you're interested in carrying any of these coffee or want more information.

Preshipment cupping notes include:

Coffee Analysis: DR Congo Kivu Butembo Village by Dan Loughrey

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Long troubled by conflict, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a relatively small specialty coffee growing origin compared to its larger-volume neighbors Ethiopia or Uganda. The Republic of the Congo initially achieved independence from Belgium in 1960 but was plunged into civil war shortly thereafter in the Congo Crisis from 1960 to 1961. Another coup in 1971 saw the name of the country shift to Zaire, then back to the DRC after 1997 following the disastrous First Congo War and related Rwandan genocide. The Second Congo War lasted from 1998 to 2003, devastating the country and, by extension, the coffee trade.

The DRC is no stranger to coffee production. Back in the late 1980’s, exports peaked at 119,320 tons, but declined sharply in the following decade due to the civil wars in 1997 and 1998. After a peace agreement was signed in 2003, production was at 212,000 bags, up from 179,000 bags in 2002. Currently, the DRC produces approximately 335,000 bags of coffee per year, exporting about half of that in 2016. It remains a relatively small producer for the continent, though the export numbers have been rising steadily in the recent past.[1]

The DRC is the second-largest country in Africa by land area (and the largest in sub-Saharan Africa). The area around Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s Great Lakes, provides a remarkably good terroir for coffee production. The high altitude relative to the lower-lying areas to the north allows for thousands of smallholder farmers to produce coffees like this one, which is processed in the Butembo village on the western shores of Lake Kivu. The coop that we source this coffee from, Soprocopiv, specializes in organic specialty coffee production, and have continued to improve not only their coffee processing methods, but also local healthcare and educational services.

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The Kivu Butembo lot is a bourbon varietal. Originally from Yemen, bourbon traveled to the island now known as La Réunion in the early 1700’s, and only left the islands in the mid-1800’s as French missionaries traveled abroad (making its way to the Americas in the 1860’s). From there, bourbon (and its derivatives) have become one of the most common coffee varieties produced today. Bourbon is a taller than average plant that produces an average bean size and medium yield. The trees are productive at first around their fourth year and tend to ripen fairly early. Bourbon is unfortunately susceptible to issues such as coffee berry disease or coffee leaf rust.[2]

This lot is grown at over 1,500 meters above sea level, comfortably within the optimal growing range of the varietal. Freely-settled bean density comes in at 0.70 g/mL, which is slightly above average. This density measurement lines up well with other African offerings, which tend to be above average, often measuring between 0.69 g/mL and 0.72 g/mL. When roasting, this higher density can cause the coffee’s development to slow down a bit before first crack; you can compensate for this by charging with a hotter drum over a lower flame setting to evenly develop the bean.

After harvest, coffees go through a de-pulping and washing process and are sun dried on patios. The coffee arrived to Royal NY with a moisture content of 10.8%, which is well within the acceptable range for such a coffee.

We did two roasts of this coffee on our IKAWA Pro sample roaster. We like the IKAWA because of its ability to export precise roasting data on limited sample sizes; we only needed 50g of coffee for each roast. If you’ve got an IKAWA of your own, feel free to download the profiles (click on the graphs) to try on your own!

The first IKAWA roast was designed to bring a lengthened browning stage and post-crack development to the coffee. Since the moisture content was right around average, we left this to a normal-length drying phase with a slightly higher charge temperature.

We set up the second roast to drag out the development time a little longer in an effort to boost the body of the coffee. The browning and drying stages were just about the same as the first roast.

We brewed both of our roasts using a Hario V60 pour over. Each pour over was done at a 1:13 ratio, with 30g of coffee. Both coffees had a brew time of 3:04 using a grind of 6 on our Mahlkonig EK43.

Our first roast was defined by a pleasant, citrusy acidity and a sweet, smooth body. We found notes of candied orange in the acidic front of the coffee, with sweeter notes of cola, brown sugar, and plum in the body. The second roast was (as expected from the longer development time), a little heavier in the body, with more caramel and butterscotch notes for sweetness.

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The coffee used in this analysis is reference number 37575 out of our warehouse in New Jersey. Coffee from the DRC is, as you’ve read, in short supply generally, so please be aware of that if you’d like to place an order. Harvest generally takes place from August to December, with exporting happening from January through April.

[1] http://www.ico.org/prices/po-production.pdf

[2] https://varieties.worldcoffeeresearch.org/varieties/bourbon

Tips to Hosting Your Own Coffee Event by Ana Mallozzi

Hosting a coffee event is a fun way to engage your local community, whether it’s for coffee professionals or coffee fans.  However, even a simple coffee event can be a lot of work with many  moving parts. With The Lab: Road Trip happening on May 12th, we thought it would be fun to give some tips about running your own event!
 

 This simple graphic was made using a free online program called Canva.  More on that below! 

This simple graphic was made using a free online program called Canva.  More on that below! 

Tips for Planning Your Event

Time

Give yourself plenty of time for planning and advertising.  It’s a good idea to have your event live 90 days before the date.  It seems like a lot of time, but it’s worth it to make sure you are able to get the word out to as many people as you can.

Intended audience

Who do you want to attend your event?  Is it other industry folks, your customers who might not know a lot about coffee, or a mix of both?  Depending on your answer, make sure the event caters to the audience.

Type of Event

You could go traditional with a latte art throwdown, a little out of the box with a signature beverage competition, or something completely different that may not involve coffee at all, like a social event for local baristas and roasters to just hang out and get to know each other (bowling, anyone?)  The possibilities are endless, but just make sure you have the space and supplies for more intricate events!  If you've never run an event before, the classic throwdown or just a general meetup is a great place to start. 

 

Sponsors

Industry sponsors are a great resource. It could be your coffee or equipment providers, or other coffee companies that are in your region. They will usually donate some prizes and swag, which is fun for your attendees and also great advertising for the companies themselves!

Your event can also be a great opportunity for local businesses to get some publicity. Introduce yourself to your local dairy, bakery, brewery or non alcoholic beverage company, and see if they would like to participate.  Make sure to give them lots of attention in all your marketing and on the night of your event. You not only want to thank them for donating, but you also want to support them, one local business to another,  so make sure they get some great exposure!

 

 

Charity

The point of a coffee event isn't necessarily to make a profit.  It's to bring the community together and bring in potential new customers to your shop.  With that in mind, many coffee events incorporate donating to charity.  It's easy to utilize sponsors and prizes to raise money.  I've noticed that events that raise money for popular causes, like relief organizations after a natural disaster, animal rescues, or local community organizations, tend to be better attended because people want to donate to the cause.

 This latte art throwdown in Providence, R.I. asked for donations at the door, as well as hosting a raffle of awesome, high priced prizes from favorite local businesses.  

This latte art throwdown in Providence, R.I. asked for donations at the door, as well as hosting a raffle of awesome, high priced prizes from favorite local businesses.  

 

Tips for Marketing Your Event

 

Community groups

Check to see if your city or town has local coffee groups.  For instance, in New Jersey we have instagram accounts like @NJ.Coffee.Events and @newjerseytnt who will re-post your event to the local coffee community.  This is the same with larger companies. Publications like Barista Magazine will gladly post about your event for free. If your town doesn’t have a coffee community group, you could start one!

Flyers, postcards

Flyers, postcards, and general social media marketing is crucial to get the word out for your event, but not everyone has a marketing person on their team to create visual masterpieces.  That’s okay! You can really do anything, including drawings and collages! Also check out free programs like www.canva.com or the “Studio” app to create professional looking designs.


Similar industries

You don’t have to stick to just coffee places to advertise your events.  Any food industries, especially bakeries and breweries, would probably have a similar customer base, or employees who would be interested in attending.  Invite the staff and ask if you could leave a flyer or some postcards for people to grab.  Also consider local universities!
 

Tips to Ensure a Smooth Event

 

Some of these items can fall under the radar, but they are super important not only for the people attending the event, but also for your company and you, the organizer!  

First, make sure you have a timeline and overall plan for the event, including who is in charge of what.  Also, think about the overall layout of your space and how you can make sure everyone, even the people way in the back, are having a good time.  Projector screens and a camera can help with this: projecting the lattes in a throwdown, for example, can ensure everyone can participate. 

Make sure you are up to date of your companies insurance policy for things like maximum occupancy, damages, and serving alcohol (if choosing to do so.)

Lastly, although it's rare that something negative will happen during your event, you do want to be prepared just in case.  It's a good idea to have a plan in case of an emergency, including if someone gets hurt, if your establishment becomes too crowded, or if someone is acting disorderly.  I've never encountered any of these things at an event, but I have been to events where the police have shown up.... for noise complaints!  The last thing to remember for a smooth event is to be courteous of your neighbors, especially if you are in a residential part of town.  Make sure your event doesn't go to late.  If people want to keep hanging out, have a recommendation of a restaurant or bar nearby that people can move on to!

Overall, giving yourself enough time, getting the word out, and being as organized as possible will practically ensure a successful and fun event! 

 A photo from one of Royal New York's regular Micro Lot Cupping events.  These events can involve 3 to 4 cupping flights and 30+ attendees.  It takes multiple people to make this event happen smoothly, but it gets easier every time and is always a success! 

A photo from one of Royal New York's regular Micro Lot Cupping events.  These events can involve 3 to 4 cupping flights and 30+ attendees.  It takes multiple people to make this event happen smoothly, but it gets easier every time and is always a success! 


About the author:

Ana Mallozzi is the Education and Quality Specialist at The Lab.  Throughout her coffee career, she's organized and executed coffee events big and small.  She was the assistant director for the Mid Atlantic Northeast Coffee Conference in Providence, Rhode Island, as well as a member of the Providence Coffee Society, which ran smaller quarterly coffee events.  She currently runs the instagram account @NJ.Coffee.Events. 

Please feel free reach out to her with any questions or if you'd like for a coffee event to be featured on @NJ.Coffee.Events.  A.Mallozzi@royalny.com

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