Category Archives: Theory of coffee enjoyment

Will 2021 be better?

I know we all hope 2021 will erase the craziness, pandemic and economic problems of 2020, but I’m not holding my breath for a quick fix. Around here, we are doing what we can to keep our loved ones and the general public safe and hoping to see better days by the time the weather finally turns nice (that’s around April or July.)

Just so you know, we have had few issues getting supplies of very high-quality coffee to roast for you since last March, but the disruption of lockdowns, reduced staffing at ports and handlers stateside is finally catching up with us. I have never seen my importers’ stocks so low nor delays in scheduled shipments so widespread. It’s COVD around the world, and it might impact even us.

Here’s what we expect in general:

Offerings: The offerings list may temporarily get thinner as we wait for delayed crops to arrive. For example, I’ve been waiting for a shipment from Burundi that’s now 3 months late. Hope it shows up soon, because it is going to be tasty.

Prices: I’m trying not to raise prices. Increases to me aren’t hitting uniformly, and I’ve even had a couple of pleasant surprises, so I’m hoping it all evens out.

Ethical sourcing: While I’m trying not to raise prices, I’m doubling down on sourcing that pays farmers fairly. I was outraged by some news about large buyers trying to squeeze farmers due to market dislocation (see my blog post on how COVD is impacting the harvest in Colombia, for example) this year. I feel there is a place in hell for those greedy people who oppress the poor, doubly during this tough year.

Shipping, part 1: Who knows what is going to happen with the US Post Office after last year? As long as your coffee gets to you in a reasonable, reliable length of time, we probably won’t change…but we are watching.

Shipping, part 2: Everyone hates paying for shipping, and shipping isn’t cheap. Nevertheless, we will be trying out free shipping for everyone and will see what happens. If I can still stay solvent, we will keep shipping free. You’re welcome.

Website: We will be redesigning the website to streamline it and make it a better resource, especially for sorting through all the origins to find what you want.

Thank you for staying with us in 2021. Without “U” there’s no “us.”

Enjoy your coffee!

s

Impact of COVD on Coffee Farmers in Colombia

Warning! This is not a happy story. In fact, I hope it motivates you to action. If we all do something positive, we might have a better world, and better coffee, too.

I was reading on the BBC site today and came across this report of the coffee harvest in Antioquia, Colombia.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-55172034 

As you might imagine, the COVD-19 pandemic is adversely affecting farmers in Colombia as workers become scarce or sick. We find out from the article that several things are troubling:

– Starbucks and Nestle buy up the majority of coffee and use their clout to get the cheapest commodity prices, regardless of the long-term impact on the market. The average price per kilogram is about $2.40, or $.90/lb., less than what it was in the 1980s. It would have to be nearer to $12/kg to “significantly improve wages.” If we did that, the experts say, it would cost us about $.10 (ten cents) per cup. Currently, that “worker premium” is going to corporate profits.

– While many Latin American countries could restructure their industries and trade with consumer nations and see a big benefit, a certain North American country known for throwing its weight around continues to press for things to stay the same. Who says trade policy is morally neutral?

– Workers who do show up to pick often work in strenuous, dangerous conditions, both in an OSHA sense and also a COVD-exposure sense. Pay is about $.05 (five cents) a pound, no benefits.

I’m seeing similar stories reported from all over the coffee-producing world. I suspect that the smaller harvest this year will put upward pressure on prices to roasters and customers, but we don’t know for sure for two reasons:

1. I’ve been buying up excellent specialty lots more than usual just in case. There have been good buys on high quality coffee from ethical farm sources, so I’m investing more, both for the farmers and for the end customer (you).

2. NanoRoast doesn’t buy commodity coffee; we buy top-grade specialty coffee, usually from long-term trusted suppliers who source directly from the farmer or from importers who are buying fair trade lots (where “fair trade” means FTA or better practices. There are several certifications in this group.) In short, when you buy from us, you can be assured that your coffee was obtained in the most ethical, sustainable way possible.

A final note: If you want to help support investment in the small farmers around the world who are growing coffee, check out www.kiva.org, the micro-lending site. They have a very good record. I have once-in-awhile been able to lend to the same farmer that I buy from, and that’s so cool!

Enjoy your coffee, and make the world better!

s

Enjoy Your Coffee More

A blog I follow on wine enjoyment (Winefolly.com) ran this rather interesting post (https://winefolly.com/review/what-am-i-tasting-how-finding-wine-flavors-can-change-your-life) on how to improve tasting skills. Since I am interested in the challenge of trying to accurately describe what a particular coffee tastes like, I read this post with an eye to tasting coffee rather than wine. Of course, some of it doesn’t translate well—like discussion of “oaky” flavors, but most of the principles actually apply to coffee.

I like that exercising my brain while enjoying coffee (or wine) is actually good for me. Gotta go exercise some more and have another cup.

Want to review the steps in tasting your coffee? Check out our How to Taste Coffee page here

Enjoy your coffee!

susan

Honey-Processed Coffee?

In recent years, we have been watching coffee producers all over the world as they experiment with different kinds of processing. We are talking about what happens after the cherry is harvested and before the dried raw coffee beans are exported to us. How processors treat these seeds often adds a lot of difference to the coffee’s characteristics in the cup. The what and why behind this is fairly interesting.

A few decades back, coffee was either washed process (as in classic Africa, Colombia and Central America), natural/dry process (Brazil, Yemen and some Ethiopian) or Giling Basah wet-hulled (Indonesia). Recently, water shortages related to climate change have caused some of the traditionally wet/washed process producers to experiment with natural processing or a quasi-natural process called “miel” (honey) processing to conserve water and to create new taste profiles. In the future, look for more natural, dry, or miel processed coffees to be produced in all the traditional wet-processed origins. For example, the producer of our Jamaica Blue Mountain cultivar Island Blend coffee is turning out increasing amounts of miel coffee as reflects lessening availability of good quantities of clean water for processing. This is a stark contrast to decades of its signature wet processing.

In honey processing, honey isn’t used. It’s more that the time spent with the cherry in contact with the seed before hulling and drying imparts a thicker, heavier mouth feel, as honey is heavier, more syrupy consistency than water, I suppose. The taste profile, which is usually quite clean (a few flavors that are clear and distinct), is also more complex (more flavors but they tend to be less distinct). Miel processing comes in “black honey” as well as regular “red” and “summer” honey, meaning there is a continuum of the effect related to how long the coffee stays in contact with the cherry before it’s removed. The black honey variety has had the most time sitting in the heat and sunlight in the coffee cherry fruit, so it tends to be the most viscous and complex-tasting. The lightest summer honey processing is much more like the cleanliness of the washed profile.

Our Natural-process Costa Rica offering is closer to a red-honey (miel roja) profile. It’s really tasty at a lighter-medium roast, a classic Costa Rica with a little fruit note. See it here.

Enjoy your coffee!

s

An Apology

Hi NanoRoast Supporters

Recently, I’ve discovered that my roasting skills are much better than my webmaster skills. Once in awhile, the PayPal buttons stop working as they did when I coded and installed them, and I have no clue why this is. (Sigh!) PayPal blames WordPress and WordPress blames PayPal, and you have had the inconvenience. Sorry about that! (Dang! PHP update broke them AGAIN! )

So, if you EVER have any issue ordering coffee from this website, please let me know. Just email me at nano.roast@gmail.com and tell me where you had difficulty with the functionality of the site. I’ll give you a random upgrade for your trouble. I will also happily send you a PayPal invoice so you can easily get your coffee on its way. As a reminder, the invoice comes from PayPal, but you can pay any way you like, and you don’t have to have a PayPal account.

I have individually checked every button on the site as of today, and they are all working at this time. Let’s hope they stay fixed! Meanwhile, thank you so much for your loyal support of NanoRoast. I love roasting great coffee for you.

Sincerely

susan

What exactly is “Artisan Coffee Roasting?”

I was at the grocery store the other day, and in the bakery department I spied two fairly identical loaves of Italian pugilese bread with spelt flour. One was in a plastic bag with the store label, and one was in a paper sleeve in a toney wooden shelf display. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that these two loaves were made in the same fashion from the same ingredients. The only difference was one was packaged differently and labelled “artisan.” I cry “foul.” Over in the coffee aisle, “specialty coffee” means hazelnut-flavored. Again, I shake my head. Doesn’t anyone know what “artisan” means? Maybe we need to define terms.

In the interest of clarity and integrity, I define “artisan” coffee (the kind you get from NanoRoast, exclusively) as

—small batch, not commercial run quantity, usually only a couple of pounds at a time, roasted only when you arder so it is really FRESH.

—batch is composed of specially-selected specialty-quality beans, a term used in the industry for the highest quality as determined through repeated tastings, to achieve the specific end taste profile desired. For example, I may have five kinds of Colombian beans, but I choose the specific origin or lot that will best meet the taste objective.

—roast has been lovingly attended from start to finish by me, not a computer program. It’s roasted properly when my combined five senses say it is.

—each component of a blend has been separately roasted and THEN blended to achieve the desired outcome. That is why any NanoRoast blend has different color shades and/or sizes (and why you cannot judge coffee by how it looks, only how it tastes.)

So then, you can see why artisan coffee really is art like painting a landscape of our local landmark, Mt. Hood, is not like painting my house. At NanoRoast, we promise you will always get ARTISAN coffee, made by your coffee artist, me.

Enjoy your coffee art!

S

Island Coffee Now Available

A quick look at coffees for sale almost anywhere can quickly impress you that Island coffees are very, very expensive. Maui, Kona and Jamaica Blue Mountain are origins that have become very famous for their “soft” floral refined taste profile and silky body, and as more people world-wide want to drink higher end coffee, competition for the smaller supply has driven prices high indeed. In my opinion, what’s left for the major market in these origins is often lacking in quality as well. As a result of this unfortunate conjunction of lower quality and higher prices, NanoRoast has never offered Island coffees on our menu. We just couldn’t in good conscience offer lesser quality, especially for the price they still command.

Good news! Recently, we have discovered two economic development projects in island locations that are working on producing specialty grade coffee, particularly the Jamaican Blue Mountain cultivar. They are producing in the same conditions using the same cultivars, but it takes about seven years for new coffee trees to really get producing. For the first time this year, I have received samples from one project that were truly high quality AND reasonably priced. Better yet, the development project managers are taking a “better than fair trade” approach to ensure that the farmers get enough for their crop to make sure they will grow, handle and process their coffees for highest quality. I’m encouraged that this will mean Island Coffee available for NanoRoast customers at last! Check out our Island Coffee blend here.

Enjoy!

s

Happy Holidays and Cake Recipe

Happy Holidays from NanoRoast!

Fa la la, it’s time to enjoy the holidays with friends and families, so we will be taking a break from roasting for a few days—22-27 December to be more exact. Instead, my family will be drinking a lot of very satisfying coffees and probably eating too much. Of course, we will pay for it in January…

I know our European-American traditions call for a lot of pie at our celebrations, but for those wanting an alternative, I will share our family’s favorite chocolate cake recipe as it was delivered to me by my mother before the earth’s crust cooled. Enjoy with a chocolaty dark roast coffee and you are in Nirvana, to mix a world-view metaphor. Happy Holidays!

Black Magic Cake

Combine together in mixing bowl:  1 3/4 c all purpose flour 2 c sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt. (Salt is a flavoring that enhances chocolaty taste in this recipe.)

Add in 1/2 c veg oil, 1/2 c yogurt or sour cream, 2 large eggs, 1 c milk, 1 c strong dark roast coffee, cooled to room temp, and 2 tsp vanilla extract. (I think a chocolaty Latin Blend or Mexico at a medium dark roast is about the best.)

Bake at 350F in a greased bundt pan for about 40 min or until toothpick inserted in middle of the ring comes out clean. Cool, frost/glaze with Cream Cheese Frosting. Alternately, for a dark chocolate overload, you can melt semisweet chocolate chips on top and then spread them out for a quasi-glaze.

Cream Cheese Frosting/Glaze:  Soften and whip about 3oz cream cheese, adding 1tsp vanilla extract, dash of salt and 2tbsp milk. Add confectioners sugar to achieve the consistency you want, adjusting with tsps of milk.

Enjoy!

susan

Low/No Caf Drinkers Get Tasty New Option!

Tired of Boring Low-Caf or Decaf? Exciting New Option!

Coming up in January, we will be adding a tasty new option especially for low-caf/decaf drinkers: Monsooned Malabar coffee!  If you have never tried monsooned coffee, this could rock your coffee world (or be truly not your cup of tea, so to speak.) Intrigued? Read on.

India has coffee??  India has been producing ” Indo” type coffees from Typica varietals for about 350 years, but we in North America hardly ever get to try it. Generally, Indian coffee is produced in Karnataka or Mysore areas and tastes a bit like a Sumatra with a bit more smoke or pepper notes. Roasted fairly dark, it can be very smooth and slightly less rustic than the Sumatras. (We offer these Indian coffees on our Single Origin page when we can get really nice examples of this origin.)

Monsooned coffee??  We all know that India has a monsoon season. What is less well-known is that dried unroasted coffee beans sitting in storage start soaking up all the excess moisture in the very warm air, and it can either be a disaster or a strange blessing for the coffee producer, depending on how that “Monsooning” process is managed. As the beans absorb humidity, they lose color and puff up (leading to the nickname, Zombie Bean.) They also absorb surrounding odors and flavor notes that evoke, well, India. Monsooned beans are then re-dried and shipped in bags that preserve the funky, spicy flavors. Sorted, roasted darker and cupped again before it comes to you, Monsooned Malabar is super-rustic to the point of being somewhat funky in taste profile and extremely creamy in body. You either love it or hate it, but it is certainly different, exotic and not boring.

Here’s what we are thinking in terms of options for our customers:

1) Smaller quantities/samples:  If you are worried about not liking monsooned coffee (low/no/full caf), we have you covered. To reduce your risk, we will offer monsooned coffee for sale in 8oz bags, or we can send a smaller sample of the same for free along with another purchase if you drop us a note and ask.

2) Espresso option:  We have been playing around with adding it to a second espresso blend that is truly exotic, has no robusta (still) and will give low/no caf drinkers massive flavor and crema. We will also offer it in full-caf for the truly adventurous.

Look for these new options to join the menu in January, and please feel free to email us if you have questions or want to know more.

Enjoy your coffee!

s

What Do I Need to Know About Coffee Acidity?

What do I Need To Know about coffee acidity? (Not a rhetorical question.)

You hear it over and over: ” I love coffee but it’s too acid for me.”

I ran across an interesting comparison in my favorite wine blog recently (thanks again, Madeline!) discussing the relative acidity in wines. There is more information on this page about acidity in general than most of us want to know, but there are at least three take-aways that I thought would apply to coffee lovers:

1. How Acidic IS Coffee?  On Madeline’s graphic, note where coffee ranks on acidity–at about 4.5 – 5.0 pH. Refreshing our high school chemistry, we remember that water is the perfectly neutral substance, and it is a 7.0. Numbers lower than 7 are acidic, and numbers between 7 and 14 are alkaline. So, in comparison to other drinks, COFFEE IS NOT ACIDIC. Note that soda pop is about the most acidic thing out there. How’s that for counter-intuitive?

So what’s up with that? As Madeline points out, soda doesn’t feel acidic due to the incredibly high sugar content of the drink. If you drink your coffee black, you don’t have the counterweight of the sugar blunting the feel of the acidity. It may also account for ” acid stomach” after too many cups of coffee with no food along with it. I take this to suggest that we should by all means have that bagel with our coffee, for our stomach’s sake. Now you have science to back it up. You’re welcome.

2. Acidity and Climate. Wine grapes develop more acidity in cooler climates, especially in night temperatures. It turns out that the best coffee is grown at high altitude where temperatures are comfortable in the daytime and quite cool at night. If you like your coffee with some natural acidic tang, note the MASL (meters above sea level) where they are grown. The highest grown coffees are in East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi) and in the Andes of South America, where coffees are grown at up to 2250 MASL — almost 7,000 ft above sea level!

3.  Why Some Acidity is Good. Tolerance for acidity in taste varies from person to person. Since coffee’s acidity level is pretty comparatively low, it comes down to individual sensitivity level and prior conditioning as to what “tastes good.” I personally like tart things, so coffee that isn’t at all acidic seems flat and boring to me. I also like the way that a dash of tang in coffee sets off the other flavors in the cup. The key seems to be keeping it all in balance, and we do that through roast level. Now might be a good time to review what roast level adds to coffee enjoyment. Read our primer here.

Enjoy your coffee!

susan