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Monthly Archives: January 2011

The past two days have been a whirlwind of awesomeness and activity. The flights to Guatemala City were uneventful except for the fact that Andy and I discovered that we had shared the Houston leg of the journey with some guy called Michael Phillips, merely the Barista Champion of the World. NBD*. We had no idea that he would be accompanying us on our trip to origin.

Everyone else, though a tad less famous, have been fantastic. The people of ANACAFE and Cafe Imports have been stupendous guides thus far, providing support and meticulous encyclopedic knowledge of coffee, from seedling to cup. And our colleagues in the specialty coffee industry, coming from places as far away as South Korea (but mostly from the US) have been wonderful partners in our education. Many of the people on this trip are coming from a similar background in roasting and wholesale/retail.

So far we have taken a sweet bus ride to the Chucmuc Wet Mill in Santiago Atitlan, 1600 meters above sea level. The first thing I noticed upon arrival was a sweetish fermenty smell; that was the coffee cherries of course: a bunch had just been removed from the fermenting tanks when our bus pulled up. With the breathtaking scenery (an epic volcano in the background next to a pristine, crystal blue lake) and seeing the pulping and washing process up close, I totally killed my digital camera’s battery and it will be out of commission until we return to Guatemala City, but stay tuned for a plethora of sweet photos (and videos) later. The first one will be either a shot of grape jelly wobbling on a bagel (from Houston) or a close-up of a salad I put ketchup on (from the in-flight meal). Speaking of meals, I am eating a vegetarian burger right now, and it has baby corn in it! Baby corn!

Anyway, after that visit we hiked a short distance to one of their coffee nurseries. The little seedlin’s were so cute! I think there were about 5000 of them if I recall correctly. During this time we learned more about ANACAFE, Guatemala’s Coffee Association, and what they do for the nation’s farmers. Not only do they provide support and training and expertise for coffee farmers here, but they also have experimental farms in each of the country’s eight coffee-growing regions. They also have a slick marketing arm, the kind that produces informative and sophisticated brochures and leaflets, as well as bringing interested people from coffee-consuming countries (that’s us!) on amazing origin trips. This week is only going to get better, I can tell!

Where am I now? On the other side of the gorgeous Lake Atitlan, surrounded by towering volcanoes, that’s where. We had to take a water taxi to get here, NBD*.

More tomorrow (hopefully the Internet gods are merciful)!

*NBD is an acronym for No Big Deal. Hi Mom.

Here are some of Andy’s pics:

 

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In a few days Andy and I will be leaving the freezing hell that is Canada and flying to sunny (and oh so warm) Guatemala. Besides being fondled and strip-searched by affectionate TSA employees during a brief stopover in the US, the two of us will have the opportunity to meet with fellow roasters, farmers and other specialty coffee people who are dedicated to growing the industry through the establishing of long-term and prosperous relationships. We are excited to visit the various farms and processing facilities in some of the most beautiful and quality-conscious coffee-growing regions of Guatemala. We hope to further our knowledge of coffee varietals, terroir, harvesting, sorting and processing; we also plan to bring back some sweet samples of stellar Guatemalan coffee.

Through the epic power of something called “The Internets” I will attempt to keep you all posted on our day to day activities. I am told that there is something called a “digital camera” that can apparently record images onto some kind of disk for handy viewing later; I will master this technology and then combine words and images for your enjoyment.

In the meantime, here is a brief rundown of our itinerary for the duration of the trip:

On Sunday January 31st we will be travelling to the Atitlán region of Guatemala, an area born from the fires of many volcanoes and renowned for its beauty; we will be visiting the Chucmuc Wet Mill to get a first-hand lesson on coffee processing. The next day we visit the Chacaya “production area” which I assume to mean coffee production, or farms. Exciting times!

On February 1st we get a little more education in processing at El Boqueron Wet Mill and then we are off to the El Retiro Farm in Santa Rosa Department; after a stop at another  farm we travel to the famed nearby Antigua region to spend the night.

The next day we depart for the Acatenango region to visit a very special farm that is partnered with ADESPA and CoffeeKids. I hear they are really making a difference there and I can’t wait to see how their adult literacy and health care programs have affected residents in the area.

Thursday we expand our knowledge of processing methods at Serben Dry Mill and then we meet with the good people of ANACAFE, which is Guatemala’s National Coffee Association, for a quick lunch; afterwards we hit Unitrade’s state-of-the-art lab for an intense two-hour cupping session. After a tearful farewell dinner we depart for cold, unforgiving, grey Toronto the next morning.

All told, Andy and I will be cramming loads of knowledge into our coffee-addled brains so that we can return to Te Aro and continue to bring you the quality and awesome that you have come to know and expect. Also, we will probably be SO sick of each other by trip’s end that we will be dying to offer up our own versions of our exploits to anyone within earshot.

Many of you watched our new roaster being unloaded off the truck on Queen St, and into it’s new home.  Replacing the Sivetz, this new roaster allows us to roast greater quantities (as we had reached capacity with our old machine), roast during the day (goodbye baker’s hours!), and has a more sophisticated afterburner, which means way less emissions.

Thank you to our customers for being so supportive of our growth and changes.  During some of our first roasts on Saturday morning, Te Aro was buzzing, and it was awesome to chat with our customers about the new equipment as the place filled with the smell of freshly roasted beans.

We will still be roasting pretty early in the mornings, as we don’t want to interrupt the Cafe too much, and the boys need full concentration as they actually do the roasting.

Thank you as well to our amazing team – Tyler played a key role in disassembling the old roaster, and putting into place the Diedrich.  Nicole was also behind the scenes giving the back end of our business a complete facelift.

Here are some pics and clips of the work we did last week.

The arrival of the roaster….

some pics:

My how time flies.  2010 was huge for us here at Te Aro. 2011 is going to be even bigger; it’s only one week in and we can already feel it. We’d like to take a minute to reminisce about the good times, to give some shout-outs, to look back at how far we’ve come and forward to where we’re headed. Buckle up, here we go.

2010

First off, the beans. Coffee Review, the leading coffee-buying guide, sampled and evaluated four of Te Aro’s coffees. Our Mocha Java, Kenya, El Salvador Finca Alaska, and Ethiopia Sidama all scored in the 90s, which is no small feat. In December, Te Aro also took the top spot on the Best Coffee Roasters in Toronto poll, as voted by you, our lovely fans. We’re incredibly proud of our superstar roasting team, and appreciate them hugely for working tirelessly to perfect our beans.

Our cafés also got some amazing recognition last year. We are so honoured to have been awarded the 2010 Krups Cup of Excellence, which recognizes the top indie cafes in 5 major Canadian cities. We were up against seriously stiff competition from awesome TO cafes, but our team at Te Aro really stepped up and impressed the judges. Te Aro also placed 3rd in Eye Weekly’s Top 10 Independent Coffee Houses.

In July, we opened Crafted by Te Aro, our second café, on Ossington. Here we wanted to explore the growing trend of manual brewing methods, like siphons and pourovers, and other nerdy gadgets like cold-extraction coffee makers–while still paying the same attention and care to our beloved espresso, of course. We love our cozy little spot in this awesome West End neighbourhood, our customers have amazing and supportive, and our neighbours so welcoming. We were honoured, flattered, and excited that Crafted was voted Toronto’s best new café by blogTO when it was just a wee 5 months old.

Multiple high fives all around to our stellar baristas, and big love to all our customers who sent in their votes, we couldn’t have done without you!

Speaking of our staff, they were up to some exciting stuff last year too. Andy, Te Aro’s founder and Roastmaster, went through the rigorous training process of becoming a Q-Grader, a certification to assess and grade coffee quality. He passed the 3-day, 22-section exam with flying colours and is one of only seven Q Graders in Canada. Andy also became a Specialty Coffee Association of America Certified Cupping Judge, and in the spring made it down to Guatemala to be an observer in the country’s Cup of Excellence competition. He’s a busy man.

In July, Elena participated in the Eastern Regional Barista Championships. Probably the most nerve-wracking thing she’s done since her junior high debate championship, but she got to watch some incredibly talented baristas perform and definitely learned so much from the experience.

Our roasting team expanded exponentially last year. Thiago Trovo, who worked with us last year before having to return to his native Brazil, made his way back to Te Aro to become a Coffee Roaster. Chris Noseworthy, whom you’ve probably seen pulling shots behind the bar at Te Aro, has also joined the team. From Andy roasting solo late into the night, we now have a trio of skilled and experienced roasters.

If you didn’t know already, I’ll say it again: we love our customers at Crafted and Te Aro, they’re swell. Last year we wanted to spend more quality time with them, and share some of our knowledge. We continued our well-attended cupping sessions at Te Aro, as well as started up a Home Roasting seminar with our roasting team for all you amateur enthusiasts. At Crafted we offered brew demos, showcasing our nifty manual-brewing methods.

2011

Coming up…

Next week we’ll be installing our new roaster, an infrared roaster from Diedrich. Since our wholesale and retail has grown so much, we need to upgrade to a new roaster so that we can keep up with our expansion. Another reason we wanted to make the switch: the catalytic oxidizer on the after-burner is 50-60% more energy efficient than our current afterburner. We can greatly reduce our emissions with this new roaster, not to mention our beans will taste even better. And soon you’ll be able to watch (and smell) your coffee being roasted while you sip your latte!

One of our goals, this year and onwards, is to make more trips to origin countries to build relationships with the coffee growers themselves, and to trade with them directly. Last year, Thiago got to know a farmer in Brazil, which led to Te Aro purchasing an exclusive micro-lot from his crop. This is our biggest contract to date, look for the beans on the shelf soon. At the end of the month, Andy and Chris will be heading to Guatemala, then Andy and Thiago to Brazil to visit more farms and sample lots of coffee.

We have some brilliant coffees coming our way this year, as we’ve worked through 2010 to track down the finest micro-lot green beans. We’ll be developing some new blends and single origin espressos, so keep a look out for our new Espresso Menus at the cafés.

We’ll have lots more events this year, starting with our informal cupping and coffee-talk sessions with Thiago on Friday afternoons at Te Aro. Check back often to find out about upcoming events!

We’ve partnered up with some great Toronto cafes and restaurant to caffeinate our community. We look forward to more collaborations and will continue to offer training and support for wholesale customers and start-up cafes. We’ll also be spiffing up our website so it’s easier for you to use.

Last but not least, thanks again to all our staff, all our partners, and all our customers. You’re the crema on our espresso, we couldn’t have done all this without you.

Cheers to 2010, so long and thanks for all the memories. And here’s to 2011, which we know will be even better.