Bird Rock Coffee Roasters was honored (and surprised) to be mentioned in New York Times 36 Hour series.
Here’s an excerpt, the link, and the full text below.
Stop in at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in La Jolla (5627 La Jolla Boulevard; birdrockcoffeeroasters.com) for a small-batch, house-roasted coffee to go from Roast Magazine’s 2012 Micro Roaster of the Year.
April 4, 2013
36 Hours in San Diego
By FREDA MOON
Like its urban rival Los Angeles, San Diego is not so much a city as a loose collection of overlapping (and sometimes colliding) communities bound by arterial, life-giving freeways: it’s a military town in Coronado; a surf town in funky, eclectic Ocean Beach; and a border town in the historic Mexican-American neighborhood of Barrio Logan. If San Diego has a cohesive identity at all, it’s a shared embrace of an easy, breezy Southern California casualness. With its lack of pretension, the city is often seen by outsiders as a kind of Pleasantville — a bland, happy place with an exceptional amount of sunshine. Depending on how deep you look, that may be all you see. But there are, after all, worse things than Spanish tiles, palm trees, tropical blooms, year-round flip-flops, fresh fish tacos and bonfires on the beach.
1. First Stop
If possible, arrive in San Diego by train. Opened in 1915, the Santa Fe Depot (Union Station) is a Spanish Revival structure surrounded by fountains, palm trees and benches decorated in tile mosaic. Next door, in the station’s former baggage building, the downtown location of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is hosting “The Very Large Array,” an exhibition of works by about 100 local and Tijuana artists (running through June 1, 2014), that offers a compelling introduction to San Diego as a border city. Admission, $10.
2. Afternoon Delight
Sitting above the water on a stilted deck on Harbor Island, C Level (880 Harbor Island Drive; cohnrestaurants.com) looks across the San Diego bay to the Naval ships at Coronado, downtown’s towering skyline and the tall ships at the Maritime Museum. On weekday afternoons from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., the bar menu has $5 specials on cocktails — including the Desi Arnaz (Cruzan mango rum, papaya nectar, mint, fresh lime and soda) and the Sol y Mar (Finlandia grapefruit vodka, aloe juice and fresh lemon) — and snacks like rice-paper-wrapped prawns and steamed mussels with chorizo. Afterward, take a giddy ride on the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster ($6 a person) at Belmont Park, a vintage amusement park on the beach in Mission Bay.
3. Pork Shop
Opened in 2011 and beloved by locals, Carnitas’ Snack Shack (2632 University Avenue; carnitassnackshack.com) is a glorified taco stand serving pork-centric comfort food — including carnitas tacos with guacamole and salsa fresca ($7), braised Duroc pork belly with a frisée, apple and radish salad ($8), a steak sandwich on jalapeño and Cheddar cheese bread ($9) — from a takeout window in North Park. The squat structure has outdoor tables and heat lamps around back and a giant sculpture of a metal pig adorning its roof.
4. Just About Normal
For dessert, head for Adams Avenue and try the house-made Mexican chocolate or banana walnut ice cream at the mom-and-pop Mariposa Ice Cream or the exotic paletas (Mexican-style popsicles) at Viva Pops, which come in flavors like lavender lemonade, salted caramel and mango-chile. Both shops, at 3450 and 3330 Adams, respectively, close at 9 p.m. on weekends. Then, explore the buzzing Normal Heights neighborhood. Stop in at Lestat’s Coffee House, at 3343 Adams, for caffeine to fuel the remainder of the evening. While there, check the events calendar for the attached concert space, which hosts local music acts, comedy shows and open mic nights next door.
5. Old School, New Age
In South Park, rockabillies and old-timers take turns playing shuffleboard at Hamilton’s Tavern (1521 30th Street; hamiltonstavern.com), which has a daunting 28 taps, two cask beer engines and some 200 bottled beers and claims to be the city’s oldest alehouse. Or, instead, have an only-in-California experience at Kava Lounge (2812 Kettner Boulevard; kavalounge.com), a New Age bar, dance club and arts space that promotes “future planetary night life” in the form of vegan cocktails, experimental dance music and class offerings that include “Ballet for Belly Dancers” in a nondescript building identifiable only by the Eye of Providence painted above its entrance.
6. To the Shore
Cruise up the coast to the Cottage in La Jolla (7702 Fay Avenue; cottagelajolla.com), a would-be surf bungalow with an umbrella-canopied patio, which makes use of the Western bounty with dishes like lemon ricotta pancakes ($10.95), polenta with tomato relish, kale pesto, goat cheese sauce and chives ($11.95) and soy chorizo hash with scrambled eggs, black beans and queso fresco ($11.95). Then continue north to the 2,000-acre Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, home to one of the rarest species of pine in the world, sandstone cliffs shaped by the sea and a lagoon that hosts migrating seabirds.
7. Mission Viejo
Founded in 1769 as the first of California’s 21 missions, the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala has a bloody and politically complicated past. Today, the National Historic Landmark is an exceptionally peaceful place — an active parish on a hillside carpeted with ice plants, with a Spanish-style garden at its center and a gift shop that sells Mexican folk art like milagros (religious charms) and Talavera pottery. For lunch, head north to the Island Style Cafe (5950 Santo Road; islandstylecafe.com), a home-style Hawaiian cafe with fabric orchids on the tables and tropical landscape prints on the walls. Try the Korean-style fried chicken thighs ($8.75), served with classic sides like macaroni salad, and a customary glass of POG (passion-orange-guava juice, $2.50).
8. Cerveza Land
One of the centers of the country’s ever-expanding craft beer industry, San Diego has an intimidating number and diversity of breweries (more than 70 total, including 20 or so new ones last year alone). Enthusiasts should seek out the West Coaster (westcoastersd.com), a monthly magazine devoted entirely to the city’s beer scene. Each brewery has its own focus and ambience, from the potent beers with heavy metal names (Anvil, Horny Devil, Evil Dead Red) at AleSmith Brewing Company (9368 Cabot Drive; alesmith.com) to the vaguely steampunk décor at Societe Brewing Company (8262 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard; societebrewing.com) to Lightning Brewery (13200 Kirkham Way, Poway; lightningbrewery.com), in the far suburb of Poway, which is run by a brewer’s brewer with a Ph.D. in biochemistry and which feels like stepping into garage science experiment.
9. Sea and Sky
In the perennial debate over where to find San Diego’s best fish tacos, the line at Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill (3667 India Street; bluewaterseafoodsandiego.com) is one indication. The menu reads like a choose-your-own-aquatic adventure, listing 12 kinds of seafood — including Scottish salmon, Hawaiian albacore and Alaskan halibut — six kinds of marinade (among them: chipotle, blackened and “bronzed”) and four preparations: salad, sandwich, plate or tacos (from $4 per taco to $25 for a plate of jumbo shrimp). Afterward, have a nightcap next door at Aero Club (3365 India; aeroclubbar.com), a charmingly divey whiskey bar with some 600 bottles climbing the wall and toy airplanes hanging from the ceiling. Alternatively, settle into a zero-gravity lounge chair for an 8 p.m. movie ($15) at Cinema Under the Stars, an open-air theater in Mission Hills.
10. Europe in America
Stop in at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in La Jolla (5627 La Jolla Boulevard; birdrockcoffeeroasters.com) for a small-batch, house-roasted coffee to go from Roast Magazine’s 2012 Micro Roaster of the Year. Then take a slow Sunday drive down the coast, past the sandstone Sunset Cliffs to the Cabrillo National Monument. Walk the two-mile Bayside Trail along a rocky point of sage scrub and maguey plants, near where in 1542 Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo led the first European expedition to the coast of what is now California. For brunch, head downtown to Little Italy’s Extraordinary Desserts (1430 Union Street; extraordinarydesserts.com), which has a “European breakfast” ($20.95) spread of imported cheese, fresh fruit, homemade granola, smoked salmon, decadent pastries and rustic breads starting at 11 a.m. Reservations recommended.
11. Park and Ride
With 15 museums, one of the country’s most well-respected zoos and 1,200 acres of hills, gardens, forests and ravines, Balboa Park (balboapark.org) cannot be fully explored in a weekend, much less an afternoon. But, for an overview, San Diego Fly Rides ($75 a person, including a snack, water and helmet) uses high-end electric bikes, which can travel up to 20 m.p.h., to cover nine miles of ground on its two-hour Spanish Twist tour (16 and older). For one final San Diego meal, sample the tacos de lengua (tongue), pastor (marinated, spit-barbecued pork) or cabeza (beef head) at Northgate Market, a Mexican grocery the size of a Costco with a food court that turns out fresh, house-made tortillas, along with enough tamales, ceviches, antojitos (snacks) and aguas frescas (fresh fruit “waters”) to feed a pueblito.
Opened in 2009 as San Diego’s first LEED-certified hotel, Hotel Indigo (509 Ninth Avenue; hotelindigo.com) has a 3,800-square-foot green roof, free wireless Internet and a ninth-floor terrace bar overlooking Petco Park stadium. Rooms are pet-friendly and start at $146.
With 159 “ultra-modern” rooms (from $280), a four-story nightclub and a flashy Philippe Starck-Katsuya Uechi restaurant, the recently renovated Andaz San Diego (600 F Street; sandiego.andaz.hyatt.com) seems designed to lure stylish young Angelenos south.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in Wine Spectator!
(June 15th issue about California Pinots)
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in Wine Spectator!
(June 15th issue about California Pinots)
Collaboration in Coffee!
We have been working with Carmelo Yurja and Rene Viadez in Bolivia for three seasons now – since 2010. We strive for these kinds of Direct Trade relationships that are built on quality coffee and a willingness on the farmers’ part to experiment at origin. This year, the experimental lot that is mentioned in the article got 93 on Coffee Review!
There are many benefits to working directly with farms at origin. Developing a sustainable long-term relationship is first and foremost but, at times, introducing those farms to other buyers, buyers who can buy more coffee from the farm, can be of great benefit to the farms and can make it easier for us to get the coffee to the US. So, not only are the relationships with the farms important, but the relationships we develop with other roasting companies help a great deal. Simply, buying coffee at origin is an exercise in collaboration.
In 2011, we invited our friends at PTs Coffee in Topeka to join us in Bolivia. Between both our companies, we have a terrific selection of outstanding Bolivian coffee this year. And while we are just about sold out of this lot highlighted in the Wine Spectator, we are sharing this particular lot with PTs, so if you can’t get it from us, you may be able to score some from them as well when they start roasting it.
While I had been to Ethiopia before, this was my first trip to Kenya. The long hall to Kenya from the west coast of the United States made me really appreciate the short hops to Central America. Man, 28 hours of travel time is taxing! But once I landed, I was ready to go, and excited about the possibility of finding some special lots from one of my favorite coffee origin countries.
The goal for the trip was simple in theory: working with Klatch, Temple, and Portola Coffee, plus a couple of other roasters who could not make the trip, we were going to buy enough coffee from Kenya and Uganda to fill a container to ship to California. TM from Sangana Commodities Limited, our exporters in Kenya, was to be our host during our stay and would help us accomplish our mission.
Klatch and Portola were scheduled to arrive the night after Eton from Temple and I got there. On day one, Eton and I headed with TM to see the Nairobi coffee auction. Most of the coffee sold in Kenya is through this weekly auction;during the peak of harvest, it is not uncommon for 600-1000 different lots of coffee to be sold during one day. On the day we were there, 28,000 bags of coffee changed hands.
In general, coffee in Kenya is sold by mills. Regional farmers will deliver their cherries to the mill and the mill will process the coffee and then sell it as a cooperative coffee or branded as the mill’s coffee. Coffee brokers buy this coffee from the mill then sell it at the auction to other brokers or exporters.
The auction itself was a little more subdued than I was expecting, but still interesting. Lot numbers would appear on the big scoreboard at the front of the room and buyers would bid on lots by pushing a button on their table until bidding for that lot ended and the lot officially sold. Coffee of ALL grades sold during the day, sub-commodity grade on up to premium specialty lots.
Later that day we headed to the Nairobi Animal Orphanage. The orphanage housed abandon or injured animals rescued from the reserve, which started literally across the street from the orphanage. We had some time between coffee cuppings, so TM took us through the orphanage, and we got up close to some of the wildlife Kenya is known for.
Then it happened.
So, to clarify up front: this was no simply monkey “bite”. I was subjected to a vicious, violent attack – and don’t let anyone tell you differently!
A park employee invited us to feed a few wild monkeys that had wondered over from the Nairobi Reserve.
Seemed like a good idea at the time. Then, one of the bastards attacked me. I was bleeding profusely from my finger and shoulder and a little stunned at what had happened.
As we attempted to get help from other employees, the one question they kept asking was, “Well, why did you feed the monkey?”
BTW, in case you ever visit the Nairobi Animal Orphanage, bring band-aids. OSHA doesn’t regularly audit their first-aid procedures, so when I asked for help, they had no supplies. All the boxes of band-aids were empty and there were no bottles of alcohol to disinfect the wound, the deep wound. I soon found myself at the Nairobi Hospital, getting rabies and tetanus shots. Monkey 1 – Chuck 0
After Mike from Klatch Coffee and Jeff from Portola Coffee arrived, we headed north to Thika to visit the Sangana/SMS offices and to learn more about programs the companies are implementing to help farmers. SMS programs have helped increase women’s participation in coffee growing, increased yield per tree, increased the supply of certified coffee and have led to a higher price per pound that the farmers receive. We were all pleased to learn about how effective their strategy has been.
The next day we headed to perhaps the best growing region in Kenya, Nyeri, which is north of Nairobi and considered part of the Mt. Kenya growing region. En route, we cupped about 50 coffees at the Highland Wet Mill. Then, after about a four-hour drive we got to Nyeri and met with farmers from the Ruthaka Coffee Society, one of seven farming groups that SMS works with in the area.
During our time here, we met Abraham and spent a little time on his farm. I was stunned to see the size of the trunks of his more than 50 year old coffee trees — massive SL28 and SL34 trees.
The next day, we were back in Nairobi, cupping more coffee and narrowing down our lot choices to the “10 best of” lots. The weekend had arrived and the group decided to head out on a short safari in the Nairobi National Park. Definitely no animal feeding this time.
On the following Monday it was time to head west, through the Rift Valley towards Uganda. En route, we would visit a few more mills and then spend the night a couple of hours from the Uganda border. Once across the boarder, TM handed us off to the Uganda division of SMS who would drive us to Sipi Falls.
This Uganda road trip was one of the more grueling origin road trips I have been on, rough roads and long, very long hours when sitting with two other dudes in the small back seat of a jeep. We made it to our sparse huts at darkness and were rewarded the following morning with spectacular views of Sipi Falls. That morning we took the brief drive to the impressive and well-organized Sipi Falls Mill and cupped several very nice lots some of which were organic, some experimental lots and small blended lots from a handful of their best farmers. We were all encouraged about what we found here and we are looking forward to bringing this coffee in soon.
We took a smoother route back to Kampala.
As luck would have it, the African Fine Coffee Conference was going on in Kampala during our time in Uganda. Because none of us were scheduled to leave Africa until the evening, we were able to spend that last day in Uganda at the conference — cupping more coffee. We were all thrilled that we found some more great coffee – this time from Ethiopia. At this writing, we are making arrangements to put this coffee from Ethiopia on a container for shipment to Oakland!
We are also agreeing to our final choices for our Kenyan coffee and we are happy to announce our new seasonal espresso – a tribute to the angry monkey I encountered in Kenya – Monkey Bite Espresso.
While I have been in the coffee business for 12 years, before last December, I did not have the opportunity to travel to origin. I was excited when I learned we would begin a new Direct Trade relationship in Nicaragua and would be headed to a small co-op prior to harvest. This year, BRCR would begin a relationship with the nicaraguan cooperative cinch de junio. Cinco de Junio is a very small co-op, albeit growing, which makes them a good fit for us here at BRCR. We plan on receiving 15-30 samples from this year’s harvest which we have big plans for. With a few of the samples, we will construct a mirco-lot blend. We will also set aside the more interesting coffees as our farm-specific retail beans as well as for our pour-over bar coffees.
On my first morning in Managua, I was up before the sun – something I have become accustom to from years of early mornings as both a barista and a roaster. The President of Cinco De Junio, Jimmy, arrived at the hotel around 7 a.m. with a driver from Somoto. We wasted no time and started early with the 4 hour drive to Las Sabanas where the co-op’s headquarters is located. The long drive was mercifully beautiful as the scenery unfolded the higher we climbed into the northern mountains of Nicaragua. Cars became 4X4 vehicles and livestock roamed close to the roadside (even on it in most cases). In the town of Somoto we parted ways with our driver and swapped our sedan for a truck to travel the remaining rough terrain to the co-op.
Jimmy spoke little English and my Spanish is rather poor. When we couldn’t quite understand each other we used google translator, thank-you technology! We both promised to work on our 2nd languages for our next visit with each other.
We arrived at the Cinco de Junio headquarters just before noon where I met my translator Marlon. After attending college in the states, Marlon returned to his native country, Nicaragua, and is currently working on children’s educational programs in a city not far from Cinco de Junio. Marlon introduced me to a few of the men of the co-op including Douglas, the vice president, and Fredman, head of operations. I was also introduced to a handful of the producers that make up some of the 143 partners in the co-op.
We got right down to business with a meeting where we discussed both the mission and the business goals of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. I stressed the importance and value of micro-lot separation, which came as old-news to many, but was a brand new concept to some. Many of the farmers were trying out lot separation for the first time this year. As we moved forward, we talked about BRCR being awarded the Micro-Roaster of the year in 2012, which generated a lot of excitement around the possibility of sharing this year’s harvest with us.
Since this was just a pre-harvest trip, little had begun at the farm level, but there was still much to see. After lunch, we took a ride to a producer’s farm nearby, Finca San Rafael where I ogled at their wet mill, Cattura and Maragogype trees. As many of you know the Maragogype varietal excites us here at BRCR a lot. The co-op has also begun working with the honey process and have had good results with this unique, but wonderful type of processing. Honeyed, or pulped natural, is common in Sumatra but has grown in popularity over the last few years in central america, especially in Costa Rica. Honeyed coffee can be slightly sweeter and fruitier than washed coffee and this processing also works well for coffees used for espresso. After working in the coffee industry for so long, I was thrilled to see this all in person.
After a long day on the farm, Marlon and Fredman accompanied me to my hotel. I checked in but we felt like we should spend more time getting to know each other over a few beers before dinner. They had both been so kind and welcoming it was a pleasure to learn more about them. Fredman was kind enough to host dinner at his house that evening, which was located high on the hill overlooking the small village. We talked little of business that night and more like new friends.
In the morning I met back at headquarters for a brief meeting with Douglass and Fredman. We spoke in great detail of the different types of coffee varietals and processing methods that BRCR would like to see come out of this years harvest.
My work at the co-op was just about done for this visit, but not before I could get my hands on some ripe coffee cherries. On the way back to Managua, we made a stop at Finca San Juan Chavez where I helped pick cherries of this years harvest. John, the producer for this farm, shared with me his knowledge and experience working on the farm with a crash course in drying beans. He showed me how he rinsed beans still encased in parchment to ready them for the drying beds in his front yard. It was a fascinating process, and I was grateful for his insight and skill.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to help sort cherries that had not been removed in the mill. There weren’t many to sort, but the hands on experience with the fruit that I formed my career around made me realize that I had come full circle.
This was a quick trip but effective. I accomplished what I set out to do, and know that the producers at the Nicaraguan Cooperative are on the same page as us. Not to mention, it was refreshing to find that everyone now has a good understanding of our expectations. More importantly though, we are excited that Bird Rock Coffee Roasters is able to participate in the Direct Trade circuit where we can help farmers earn better wages and create more sustainable growing practices.
If all goes according to plan, we’ll be back to Nicaragua in late February or early March to make lot selection. Come April or May we should have some excellent Nicaraguan beans on the shelf ready for coffee cups of all shapes and sizes!
Head Roaster | Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
On my third trip to Bolivia, things did not start out as planned. A missed connection in Dallas meant I would miss my overnight flight to La Paz, Bolivia from Miami — and lead to an entire lost day on the ground sourcing, not good when you only have 5 days total source coffee. After a night in Miami and some great Haitian food and rum at Tap Tap in South Beach, I boarded the next flight to Bolivia the following night.
As with our first two trips to Bolivia, I would meet up with Carmelo Yurja, and Rene
Viadez. This year, though, we are partnering with Agricafe, a quality-focused exporter with an excellent mill Caranavai. Agricafe will be exporting our Direct Trade coffee from Bolivia. Since Agricafe has been doing a great job with lot selection, their quality control at their mill in Caranavai is top-notch and they are paying the farmers very well from uniform, perfectly ripe cherries, we were looking forward to buying coffee from them as well, and then expanding our network of farming partners.
I arrived in Bolivia at five in the morning and after a few hours to re-group at the hotel, Pedro from Agricafe, picked me up and we began the long drive into the Caranavai region. It is always thrilling driving in Bolivia, but as night fell, the cliff-side dirt road got even more exciting. At one point, I was pretty sure I was going to die and put my odds at 50/50, but we made it safe and sound.
Unfortunately, since I lost a day in Miami I would not have time to visit with a couple new farmers that Pedro wanted to introduce me to; but early the next morning, Carmelo and Rene picked me up at the Agricafe mill and we went to their farm to check out the current crop and to cup early lots of their coffee, as well as coffee from neighboring farms.
Weather this season has adversely affected the harvest. Overall, the Bolivian crop is down 70% and some farmers that we used in the past have no coffee to sell this year. Due to unseasonably cold weather during the harvest, the cherries are ripening much slower than normal so what should have been a visit during the peak of harvest, ended up being too early. Rene thinks their crop will be down as well but due to great farming techniques, they hope to only be down 25% — a lot but not devastating. At the same time, Rene and Carmelo were happy to show us two new plots on their property that they had just planted, adding almost 30-40% more coffee shrubs that should bear fruit in a couple of years.
This year we are doing something special. With our friends at PTs coffee, we asked Rene and Carmelo to prepare a special experimental lot for us and they agreed. Instead of the normal washed process they have been doing for years, Rene and Carmelo will set aside about five bags and will follow the Kenyan method of double soaking the beans. Hopefully this will add to the intensity of the coffee. If successful, we will have some very unique Bolivian coffee for you this season but we won’t know if it worked until we get the approval samples that should arrive the week of October 15th.
While at their farm, we cupped several coffees. Even though the coffee was not properly rested and the coffee was from the season’s first harvest, we are excited that the quality we have come to expect from their farm should continue this season.
After a great BBQ with Pedro and his mom — and a sampling of Bolivian beer and wine — the day was done. Up early the next morning, Pedro had prepared 30 lots for us to cup ranging in size and processing methods. All of the coffee was solid, but the ultimate goal was to find a handful of very special lots we could bring back to Bird Rock to augment our Bolivian selection. We found a few lovely coffees including a one-bag, naturally processed, lot that is impossibly sweet and dense. We also agreed to pay a very high price to have one of their farming partners prepare a special exclusive lot for us. Again, we should be getting the samples very soon.
Even though the crop situation in Bolivia is severe, we are excited about the coffees weare bringing in again this year. As with a solid Direct Trade endeavor, our project in Bolivia continues to evolve and we look forward to expanding things further next season.
We are hoping the coffee ships in late October which should mean we will get it by mid-November along with a few other South American coffees we are excited about.
Stay tuned for more updates!
It is always exciting around the roastery when fresh-crop coffees arrive. Within the next week, we will be getting coffees in from Guatemala and El Salvador, results of our most recent sourcing trip. While we have established Direct Trade relationships in Guatemala and Nicaragua, before this trip we had not investigated opportunities in El Salvador or Honduras. Thanks to a few people, we were able to accomplish a lot during our February sourcing trip to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
The trip started in El Salvador. After arriving in San Salvador, Mike Perry from Klatch, Steve Sims from Bodhi Leaf Green Coffee Importers and Jose Antonio Jr. and his brother Andres picked me up at the hotel and together we headed to the Santa Ana region for farm tours and cuppings. (Along with Jose Sr. the family own JASAL which encompasses several farms and a large mill.)
After a quick stop at the JASAL mill where we would spend the night, we headed to one of their farms, San Francisco, a beautiful farm where they processed their natural – or dry processed—coffee. We also saw some interesting experiments they were working on, like a shade-grown natural which looked exciting. After touring a couple of their other farms, we returned to the mill to cup coffee. For me, the standout was their Pacamara varietal, which they dubbed Los Luchadores; there was just a tiny amount of this coffee available but we bought it. We also agreed to buy some of their naturally-processed coffee in addition to some of their Honeyed coffee, both of which I am sure will show up in our Summer espresso blend and we will sell both as single-origin coffee. This coffee will arrive in Bird Rock on June 5th so expect to start seeing it by the end of that week. While larger than many of the farms we work the Antonio family is obsessed with quality. Their quality control is top-notch and they are open and eager to experiment with varietals or processing techniques. We look forward to bringing their coffee in this year and for years to come as we expand our efforts to connect with more great farmers in El Salvador beginning next year.
After another night in San Salvador – and some awesome tacos at a great outdoor taqueria close to the hotel – Mike, Steve, and I hopped on a plane and headed to Honduras where we met up with Sherri Jones and our friend Martin Deidrich. Sherri has been working on and off in Honduras for years and is acting as the Head Judge for the Honduras Cup of Excellence. Thanks to Sherri, our time in Honduras was a fascinating learning experience and we were afforded the opportunity to meet several great farmers.
From the airport we headed to the headquarters of the Honduran specialty coffee association, IHCAFE and cupped about 50 coffees from all the major growing regions in Honduras, a wonderful introduction to the great potential this coffee has to produce special coffee. The IHCAFE would be our contact and our liaison for the week as we covered a lot of ground and several different growing regions. After the cupping we headed to the Santa Barbara region. Wow, what an incredible area, simply breath-taking and tropical. After a day of farm visits we headed back to the hotel. Luckily we got back in time to watch the Super Bowl – in Spanish—while eating fresh ceviche and drinking Honduran beer!
Next we headed to Congual where we met Maria Beyaano and her neighbor Rufino Benitex Carcamo who finished in fourth place for COE. This was yet another stunning Honduran region. But, clearly, many of these farmers could use some help. Maria for example could certainly use more drying beds and, going forward, we hope to assist her.
In Capucas, we spent time with Omar, the cooperative head of Cooperative Santa Rosa. We were all impressed with how sustainable many of the farms were and we were honored to stay with Omar and his mom for a night. We have coffee now from this cooperative.
Next, on to Guatemala. As with the rest of Central America this season, this year’s harvest is not the best, frankly. Heavy rains and hail last fall damaged a lot of the crop in Huehuetenango and other regions have suffered from low yields and slightly below average quality. We cupped about 50 coffees with our friends and exporters at Servex where Arturo from El Injerto also joined us. We will be bringing in a couple nice lots from El Injerto again this year and we are featuring a new farmer for us from the Antigua area that is available now: Hugo Morales.
Stay tuned over the next several weeks as more wonderful coffee comes in.
There’s always something tasty brewing in the world of drinks, and we’re giving a special shout-out to 50 of our favorite libations of the moment.
- Sanbitter. Alcohol-free aperitif. Bottled by San Pellegrino since 1961.
- Serious Cider. A “real cider” craze has been sweeping the nation.
- Lagrein. A little-known red and rosé wine grape grown in northern Italy’s Alto Adige region–dark yet delicate, savory and fruity.
- Cognac. Making a comeback one hundred years after it was last en vogue behind the bar.
- The Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project. Buffalo Trace Distillery hand-selected 96 unique American Oak trees and cut each one in half to create 192 distinctive wood samples, each fashioned into a barrel and filled with whiskey.
- Living Drinks. Most high-end grocery store refrigerated beverage cases offer a wall of fermented kombucha teas of every herbal or juicy persuasion.
- Canned Craft Brews. Canned craft brews have been slowly making their way to the masses over the past few years, but suddenly, that trickle has turned into a wave.
- New Quinquinas. An aperitif-style wine flavored with the bitter bark from the cinchona tree.
- Wine under $10.
- Oolongs from Naivetea. Oolongs sourced from small-production tea farms across Taiwan.
- Coffee Liqueurs. Small-batch coffee liqueurs.
- Blueberry Soda.
- The wines of Eastern Europe. Vintners in Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, and even Bulgaria and Serbia produce top notch bottles.
- Mead. A new audience is discovering the ancient honey wine and boutique meadery operations opening across the country.
- Anything by Arianna Occhipinti. She is a force when it comes to natural, organic and biodynamic bottlings.
- Low Alcohol Cocktails.
- Amaretto. Bartenders are rediscovering the liqueur as a cocktail ingredient.
- Afrique Coffee. Some of the profits go back to the African coffee-growing communities.
- Sudachi Juice. Native to Japan, and similar in flavor to the Mexican lime but with added notes of cumin, lemongrass and white pepper, it makes a great match in cocktails with tequila and gin.
- Domestic Cab Francs. Cab Franc is the signature red wine grape of France’s Loire Valley and an integral part of Bordeaux blends.
- Japanese iced Coffee. Cold brewed.
- Carbonated Cocktails. Fun with fizz.
- Gin Rickey. A simple mixture of gin, soda and fresh lime juice. Dates back to the late 19th century.
- Txakolina (pronounced chalk-o-leena). Summer white, traditional peasant wine from Spain’s northern Basque region.
- Bird Rock’s 50/50 Blend. The blend combines regular and decaf beans for the great flavor with only half the caffeine.
- Café Cortado. Native to Spain. Roughly equal parts espresso and steamed milk.
- Sparkling Red Wines. A diverse and underrated category of wines.
- Blended Cocktails. When you get back to basics, a good blended drink is nothing to be ashamed of.
- Real Peach Brandy.
- Boozy Milkshakes.
- Licorice Teas. Made from the root of the licorice legume. Dates back centuries and across cultures.
- Swizzles, Smashes and Cobblers. Old-school cocktails to keep us cool.
- Coffee form Papua New Guinea Baroida. Baroida farm has been in the Colbran family since the 1960s and has quickly become a darling of US roasters and competitive baristas since 2010.
- Drinking Vinegars. Vinegar-based syrups (AKA shrubs).
- Canadian Whisky. Until recently Canadian whiskeys have flown under the radar.
- Honey-Infused Spirits. We’re seeing more honey-sweetened spirits than ever before.
- Fruit Beer. Tart, acidic fruits work great in barrel-aged and wild sour beers to accentuate and add perceived sweetness to those beers.
- Jam Cocktails. Jam as a cocktail element is an ingredient that’s popping up more frequently on bar menus across the country.
- Bottled Cold-Brews.
- Non-Infusion Limoncello. Instead of infusing lemon peels, the whole lemon is suspended over the liquor, a style that was popular during World War II.
- The Beers of Brouwerij Bockor. A small family-run brewery founded in 1892 and passed down from father to son for five generations located in the rural village of Bellegem, Belgium.
- Navy-Strength Gin. 19th Century British Royal Navy ordered its gin to be strong enough that if it were to spill on a ship’s gunpowder supply, the powder would still fire.
- Charbay Release R5. Napa Valley’s Charbay Distillery has run the beer through its copper pot still to make a new kind of whiskey.
- Rhum Agricole. Rum made with fresh-pressed sugarcane.
- Summer Punches.
- Gluten-Free Beer. Beer without barley or wheat.
- Frozen Hot Chocolate. Blended, frozen hot chocolate reported to have been served in the White House nearly 60 years ago.
- Fresh Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost. Now he’s bottling the stuff.
- Better Mocktails.
- Wallet-Friendly Scotch Whiskies.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters :: March 2, 2012
Touching down in Bolivia is always a little disorienting, never easy to get there from San Diego and with the elevation at La Paz at almost 12000 feet, the altitude sickness usually hits you while you are in the customs line — a headache and slight dizziness until your first cup of coca tea at the hotel.
On my second sourcing trip to Bolivia, I again met up with my friends and guides from 2010 Mariela and Ackbar from ARCO, a USaid funded group that works to connect Bolivian Farmers (coffee, bananas, pineapples) with buyers. This group also helped organized the national Cup of Excellence competition when it was held in Bolivia so they have good relations with excellent coffee farmers in the country. The goal of this trip was again to hook up with Carmelo Yurja and buy more of his coffee and to meet new farmers with the same quality-forward approach to coffee growing. Some of you may remember his coffee from last year, rated 93 on Coffee Review and one of the highest scoring Bolivian coffees on their site.
The day after I arrived in Bolivia we headed off by car to Caranavai region, a long journey on a tiny road full of tricky turns (but not the Road of Death – yet). Once in Palmar Colama we cupped coffee at Carmelo’s farm. In 2010, I was unable to visit his farm because a cocoa farmers’ strike sealed off a section of the country so I was looking forward to visiting during this trip. As fate would have it, many of Carmelo’s neighbors grow fantastic coffee as well so this turned out to be the best cupping table on the trip. We are buying all the coffee, from 4 different farms, we cupped here. It was nice to spend some time with Carmelo and learn more about his farm and the process he goes through to produce exceptional coffee.
From there we traveled a couple hours to visit Finca Golondrina in Copacalfiana; one of the more impressive farms I have seen; their organic coffee plants were beautiful and full of perfect deep red cherries. We did cup some wonderful coffee from this farm but we could not bring any in this year. Sometimes, though, these trips help us to lay a foundation for future partnerships so we hope that is the case for Finca Golondrina.
From there, we were off to meet farmers and cup in Typiplaya and Amor de Dios before heading back to La Paz. Once back in La Paz, we hooked up with Marcial Huanca, one of our featured farmers from last year. Marcial set up a cupping for us from farmers at the Mejillones Cooperative. Again, all good cups but the standout, again, was coffee from Marcial, with which he had just won a Mejillones cupping competition. While a very small lot, we purchased this coffee from him as well.
That night, we met Carmelo and his farming partner Rene at Rene’s coffee house in La Paz. After a long negotiation, we came to a great sustainable agreement to purchase all of Carmelo’s coffee for the next three seasons. We are proud to feature his coffee this year and in the future and very excited to have a deal in place that will give Carmelo a good price for his coffee and stabilize a supple of great Bolivian coffee for us.
This write up would be incomplete without mention of the Road of Death. Yes, we did travel on this notorious road en route back to La Paz. Often referred to as the most dangerous road in the world, I can tell you I have been on worse, and hairier road trips on origin – a drive in Ecuador with a crazed Italian driver comes to mine–but I have been on few with the dramatic views and scenery we experienced on this day. The Road of Death is not as dangerous as it used to because other routes have been constructed connecting La Paz with Coroico. Prior to the construction of a “safer” alternative route a couple years ago, 200-300 people would die every year on this road.
Luckily, we did not see much traffic the day we traveled it so the driver was enjoyable. Actually, most of the traffic we saw were support vans for biking tours. I am sure, btw, biking the El Camino de la Muerte seems like a good idea when you are planning a trip to Bolivia using a guidebook and checking out cool pictures on the internet. I can tell you, though, the look on some of the faces of the tourists who where careening past on mountain bikes in the opposite direction certainly did not seem to say, “Wow, this was a great idea. I am so glad I am risking my life right now. ”
And a write up of Bolivia would not be complete without at least a mention of the Cocoa industry. As many are aware, cocoa production is legal for tea and for chew. But, cocoa production in Bolivia is currently out of control and much is going towards illegal cocaine production. This is the first time I had seen an abundance of cocoa farms –everywhere we went. Unfortunately, the increased cocoa production is having an impact of the coffee industry. Many coffee farms are now having difficulty finding labor during the harvest season as the cocoa farmers are paying more money and offering an easier job to those needing work, leading to poor harvesting of coffee and higher costs for the farmer.
Bolivia is not an easy country when it comes to establishing direct relationships with farmers. Unlike, Guatemala, for example, the infa-structure for coffee is not as advanced. Add that Bolivia is land-locked without a port, and moving coffee out of the country can be difficult and more expensive as well. This year, it took a bit longer to actually get our coffee here. But, we think it is worth the investment on our part. Great coffee from Bolivia can be as good as any of the major coffee-growing countries and things will get easier. Each origin trip is a learning experience and we hope to feature coffee from Bolivia for years to come. The shipment of coffee arrived today at BRCR and we will be roasting it next week.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters :: September 25, 2011
Happening today! Thanks to your help, we raised $240 for this event by giving back via our sales of our Bird Rock Blend.
“Begun in 1987 as the “Walk for Life,” AIDS Walk & Run is a San Diego community tradition that has spanned more than two decades. The event is produced to provide an opportunity for corporate partners, foundations, businesses, families, individuals, healthcare partners, and all local HIV/AIDS service providers to work together as a community to ensure funding for services that the men, women, children and families living with HIV/AIDS desperately need.”
For more details about the event, please visit