There’s an unusual scene in the large Chinese cities of Shanghai, Chongqing, Beijing, and Guangzhou. Rather than occupying stores selling Sinkiang Black Beer, green tea, or pearl milk tea, city goers are flooding coffee shops for a daily caffeine hit.
“Coffee drinking in China is a fashion, not a habit,” says Shirley Liu, Yunnan Volcafe General Manager. “Five years ago, you wouldn’t have seen any coffee shops in the city. Now they’re everywhere.”
Winning the coveted Cup of Excellence (COE) competition is like winning an Oscar at the Academy Awards. Just as the esteemed movie awards celebrate the best in cinematic production, each year the COE commends hundreds of farmers who submit their best coffees for assessment. The coffee with the highest score out of 100 is announced in front of hundreds at an awards ceremony, only without the red carpet arrival and golden statue. In this competition, becoming a champion is the reward.
Ismael Andrade knows this feeling well. On 30 October, his name and farm, Andrade Bros Estate Coffees, comprising Sao Silvestre and Capim Branco farms, was announced as winners of Brazil’s Naturals COE competition with a score of 93.26 for a lot from the Paraíso farm in the Capim Branco Terroir unit.
Every Tuesday, Dirk Sickmueller, General Manager of premier export company Taylor Winch (Coffee) in Nairobi, goes to auction. Rather than a vision of excited bankers yelling out figures and gesticulating wildly like a scene from The Wolf of Wall Street, green bean buyers and local roasters bunker down in a theatre-style auction hall.
The scene appears more subdued thanks to the digital platform the Nairobi Coffee Exchange implemented 20 years back, which only a few months ago had an upgrade to include a web camera and TV screens so that farmers in certain coffee growing regions can watch the bidding action unfold. Prices are displayed on a large digital screen. The numbers fly back and forth, with the final print, or best bid, confirmed or noted to a particular buyer. Read more
October is Eduardo Gurdian’s favourite month of the year. It’s the start of crop season, when weather conditions are optimal for cherry picking, when staff receive a steady income, and the month he expects his first child to be born.
“October will be a good challenge for production volume and sleepless nights,” Eduardo says.
Eduardo is a sixth generation coffee professional. It’s too early to predict if his unborn son will join the family dynasty one day, but Eduardo is working hard to ensure he creates a sustainable legacy for the next generation of Costa Rican producers.Read more
On the day I spoke to Jose Francisco on 8 May, Monte Alegre Coffee was a hive of activity on the first day of harvest. Despite the early mark, conditions were “perfect” – a dry 26°C during the day, 14°C at night, and low 45 per cent moisture.
The cherries were ripe and mature, ready for round one of picking. It’s a process that will go until the end of August.
About 35 per cent is mechanically harvested, and 65 per cent done by hand, a balance of technology and craft to ensure the best cherries are picked.
Brazil’s special climatic conditions are one of the reasons the country has a reputation as one of the biggest coffee producers in the world, and an emerging specialty coffee scene.Read more
Most people travel with a suitcase bursting at the seams with clothes to suit every occasion, but Henrik Rylev of John Burton coffee traders in New Zealand packed his full of soccerballs on a recent trip to Sumatra.
“My colleague Danny Mosca and I took 40 soccerballs with us, kindly donated from his football club. As soon as we saw a child on the streets of Aceh we starting handing them out,” Henrik says. “I’ll always remember arriving at the community of Wonosari (part of the Kokowagayo or more commonly known Wanita Gayo women’s cooperative) and seeing the young kids perform a traditional welcome dance. When we gave them the soccer balls to play with, they were hysterical with excitement.” Read more
There’s a telling line in the 2015 International Coffee Organization (ICO) report on China that says: “It is estimated that China now produces more coffee than Kenya and Tanzania combined, and consumes more than Australia.”
While it may seem that Chinese coffee has suddenly burst into the market, it is actually been brewing for over a century. It’s a story that began in 1892 with a French missionary planting a young coffee seedling in the Yunnan province. The plant thrived with small amounts of coffee grown in the region until 1988 when a joint venture between Nestlé and the Chinese government kick-started commercial production. Read more
Cold drip, ice brew, iced drip, cold brew, kyoto drip, cold extract coffee, Japanese drip, the list goes on. With so many names for these two different brew methods, it’s no wonder there can be confusion about what the difference is, and most importantly, which do I want to drink now? Read more
When I was making my first tentative foray into green coffee at Cofi-Com, one coffee in particular fascinated me: the musically sounding Guatemalan Huehuetenango. The name rolls off the tongue, tropical, sunny, and tuneful all in one. Give it a try. Hue-hue-tenango.