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In 2013, I was very fortunate to get published in Roast Magazine. David Cook, owner of the Fire Roasted Coffee Company, and I traveled to Hawaii and saw firsthand just how much the borer beetle was devastating and impacting coffee growing on Hawaii’s Big Island.
When we returned home, Roast Magazine agreed to let us tell the story of what we saw, and how it could affect the coffee world.
I was recently approached by Terri Moats of the University of Hawaii Kauai Agricultural Research Center. Terri had read my article in Roast Magazine, and asked me to keep up awareness of the problem. Terri reiterated that Coffee Berry Borer (CBB) is a serious threat to Hawaii’s coffee farms. The University of Hawaii CTAHR (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources) have a project to educate visitors and local residents about the importance of “clean visits” when touring Big Island and Oahu coffee farms.
Terri asked me to publish the following letter by CTAHR entomologist, Dr. Russell Messing, which was recently printed in West Hawaii Today newspaper.
Help protect Hawaii coffee
Kona coffee is world-renowned. Local farmers have rightfully earned an outstanding reputation for producing a top quality product. This helps attract thousands of tourists annually; farm tours (in addition to wholesale and retail coffee sales) all contribute substantially to west Hawaii’s economy.
It is less well known that more than half the coffee acreage in the state is grown on other islands (Kauai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu). Big Island growers work hard to manage the damaging invasive beetle called the coffee berry borer (CBB). So far Kauai, Maui and Molokai remain free from this pest, while CBB was recently found on a single farm on Oahu.
Visiting tourists are naturally curious to see how coffee is grown, and often stop to take photos and touch, smell, and sometimes pick coffee berries from the tree. A casually picked coffee berry may harbor (unseen) tiny beetles inside its seeds – if the berry or even a single seed is deliberately or inadvertently carried away, the CBB infestation can spread. A short plane ride could place these pests in close proximity to CBB-free coffee farms (beetles can live happily inside seeds for months at a time). Most entomologists agree that this is the manner by which CBB will eventually reach the other islands.
We all want visitors to enjoy their farm tours, and to appreciate the fine coffee that is grown in the Islands. But, please, try to dissuade visitors from touching, handling or picking coffee berries in the field. Help protect coffee farms on the other islands from this damaging invasive species.
Southern California coffee drinkers! CoffeeCon makes its first ever stop in Los Angeles, taking place this Saturday, November 8th at Mack Sennett Studios on 1215 Bates Ave. It is open from 9 AM to 4 PM.
I’m excited to attend yet another CoffeeCon event, having attended the inaugural event in Chicago last year, and the event in San Francisco this year. CoffeeCon is THE event for coffee drinkers. Not a coffee industry trade show. This is an event of workshops, presentations, and coffee tasting that is geared specifically for the coffee lover. If you live in Southern California and you love coffee, be there!
Below is the schedule for the Los Angeles event. As was the case with the previous two CoffeeCon events that I attended, it’s impossible to be everywhere at once, and the key is to decide in advance what to experience. Here’s what I’m going with…
My focus in going over this schedule is different in this case than in the previous two. I will be purchasing a six-pound coffee roaster, and roasting coffee here in San Diego. More to come on that, but in the meantime, I want my class selections to be helpful to my future coffee roasting.
Even with that focus in mind, it still isn’t easy! At 10 AM, I’m looking at Introduction to 8 Basic Flavor Descriptors. To help develop my skill as a coffee roaster/taster, I have become very interested in the flavors and descriptors of coffee. This workshop will certainly help attendees understand the wide world of coffee flavor. A shame that it’s at the expense of seeing Kenneth Davids‘ panel on the Future of Coffee.
At 11 AM, I’ll attend Butter Coffee. I wasn’t originally interested in seeing this, but I am curious only because of the current fad of putting butter in coffee to help with digestion – I don’t know if it’s hooey yet. I’ll learn more.
George Howell‘s presentation For the Love of Coffee Tasting runs for half the day, and is a staple at the CoffeeCon events. I attended his entire presentation the first time, and only caught part of it the last time. This time, it’s been moved from the morning to the afternoon, but otherwise the same decision as in the previous two CoffeeCon events – do I spend the second half of the day in George’s presentation (which I know is incredibly informative on all aspects of coffee)? Or, do I attend three other workshops in its place? After much thought, I’ve decided to attend three workshops that are new to me, rather than attend George’s presentation, that was amazing, but that I’ve already seen.
At 1 PM, I will attend the Chemex Lab. I own a Chemex and understand the directions pretty well, but I’ve never had formal training like this. I still remember visiting my first coffee roasters that would only serve a cup of coffee by pourover. Planet Bean in Guelph, Canada, and Coava Coffee in Portland, Oregon both come to mind.
At 2 PM, the workshop on Championship Winning Coffee sounds very interesting, and a great fit for my plans to roast coffee. It is hosted by Klatch Roasting.
Finally at 3 PM, Building a Direct Trade also sounds very interesting. I have been on coffee origin trips to Guatemala, Honduras, and Hawaii, and I’m very interested in learning more about direct trade coffee, that is coffee sourced through a direct relationship with the farmer.
Wow, that’s a big day, and a lot of notes. Stay tuned because as always, what I learn there, you’ll learn about here!
Listen up Southern California coffee drinkers!
Next weekend, CoffeeCon makes its first ever stop in Los Angeles. CoffeeCon is THE show for coffee drinkers…you and I. This is not a coffee industry trade event, it is a gathering of coffee lovers learning everything there is to be learned about coffee. I attended their first event in Chicago two years ago, and this year in San Francisco. From CoffeeCon‘s website:
“Taste the world’s different coffees, locally roasted every conceivable way, brewed using many different methods by 20+ specialty roasters. Meet other coffee enthusiasts in the world’s largest coffee meet-up. Hear expert presenters share secrets to expand your taste buds and coffee consciousness. Attend classes and hands-on labs to empower and expand your own coffee brewing at home. Food, live music and prize giveaways, where top brewers, beans and accessories are awarded onsite.”
The event takes place on Saturday, November 8th at Mack Sennett Studios on 1215 Bates Ave in Los Angeles. It is open from 9 AM to 4 PM. Below is the schedule for the Los Angeles event.
Later this week, I’ll run a fine toothed comb through the schedule, and post the workshops that I plan to attend. Check back to learn all about it.
2013 was a big year at MakeGoodCoffee.com. Let’s take a look at what went down.
- Published in Roast Magazine
In 2012, I traveled to Hawaii’s Big Island with Dave Cook, friend and owner of Fire Roasted Coffee in London, Ontario, Canada. While there, we saw first-hand the damage being done by the borer beetle (‘la broca’ in Spanish) on coffee farms. La broca is a common pest hurting coffee crops around the world and was positively identified in Hawaii’s Kona region in 2012. This has been hurting supply of Hawaiian Kona coffee, and Dave was even turned away at farms when trying to buy from them. Roast Magazine picked up our story and we were published in this year’s May/June issue. Click here to check out the article in Roast Magazine.
- Official Media Blogger at CoffeeCON
This year, I was invited to be an official media blogger at CoffeeCON in Chicago. To my knowledge, it’s the only coffee show for the coffee lover rather than the coffee professional. It’s OUR coffee show, featuring workshops on coffee tasting, coffee making, and coffee roasting. It was a well attended and informative event. At the show, I had the pleasure of meeting coffee giant George Howell, one of the founders of the international Cup of Excellence coffee competition, and founder of Terroir Coffee. Terroir was eventually sold to Starbucks as their way of expanding into the Boston market. My interview with George lead to literally months of content here on the site. Check out the Trip Report CoffeeCON 2013, or click here for all of the articles that came of my talk with George Howell.
- Central American Coffee Origin Trip
I’ve recently returned from an amazing adventure with my father, visiting coffee farms and roasters in Guatemala. We traveled Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize together by foot and chicken bus to learn more about the origins of coffee and chocolate. Along the way, we enjoyed the freshest of each, and a great bonding experience. I came back from that trip just a couple weeks before holiday travel started, so stay tuned for much more on this trip. For now, check out my abbreviated summary of the trip, Our Trek Through Central American Coffee Country.
This year, it was with mixed emotions that I moved from Portland, Oregon, the coffee capital of North America as far as I’m concerned. I’m not sure which city has more roasters per capita between Seattle and Portland, but Portland is a little warmer and it rains a little less, so I vote for Portland. My home in Portland alone was a stone’s throw from three excellent roasters. I can’t complain about my new home in San Diego, California. Having said that, it’s never easy to move a little further from new friends and great roasters.
It pains me even to bring this up, but while my father and I were in Flores, Guatemala (see Central American Origin Trip above), we needed a coffee in a bad way and couldn’t find a cafe on the island. We crossed the causeway to a Burger King that we could see from the island and we -gulp- had the coffees that you see pictured here. Guatemala is one of the world’s producers of excellent coffee, and while there, we had coffee at Burger King. It’s sad but true.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to coffee lovers everywhere! I’m looking forward to new adventures in 2014, and sharing many, many cups of good coffee with you. Make good coffee!
Next month, my father and I will be travelling through Honduras and Guatemala, visiting coffee farms and farmers along the way.
I’ve been casually learning Spanish on and off for the last few years, and have really ramped up my learning in the last couple months. My personal goal is to conduct an interview with a Central American coffee farmer in Spanish. Yes, I will have my recorder with me, or you all won’t get much of an interview :).
Today however was for serious business. I had an appointment this morning at Passport Health, a chain of travel medical clinics where nurses review your itinerary and destinations and provide professional advice on what shots you need. To answer your question…yes, I was poked with many needles today. What did I get?
We started with malaria. I don’t know how bad that is, but I know it’s bad. It’s in the jungles of the countries we’re visiting, and although we’re not visiting the jungles themselves, I’d rather not dance that close to the fire. Of the medication options, I opted not to pick the one with the night terror warning, and instead went with one that seems to have only mild side effects provided you follow the instructions very carefully. I’ll be taking that pill weekly from prior to the trip to weeks following it.
After that, we got into Hepatitis A and B. Hep A transmits through food and water, and I’ll need plenty of both on this trip, so it’s not even a question. Hep B transmits through body fluids, such as a food server that didn’t wash his hands. Also not a question. I got a shot of each. Two shots of Hep A separated by six months will make you immune “for life” – this was my first one so I’ll likely get the other one in six months and be Hep A Invulnerable. I received a Hep B shot a few months back, so the second one today increases my ability to fight Hep B to about 80% if I came into contact with it. Another shot in six months, and I’ll never need to think about Hep B again.
I abstained from a number of other shots. I’ve never had a flu shot in my life, so I opted out for this trip. Hopefully this doesn’t become the story where I finally convert to getting flu shots like everybody else, because I have a feeling it would be a little worse than a stay-home-from-work day. I also opted out of the rabies shot, so I’ll have to control my urge to play with every dog I see.
The last was typhoid fever, common in both countries, and transmitted by food and water. I took home some medication to take over the coming week that will make me immune for the next five years. This is another thing I don’t know well and don’t need to know well – make me immune to it.
These precautions seem perfectly normal to me. My father and I will be getting off the beaten path, and I don’t want something that could’ve been easily avoided to get in the way of our coffee exploration. Nothing puts you in touch with a love of coffee more than a trip to where it all comes from. I can’t wait!
I’m just the messenger here!
This week, the New York Post picked up the story that a French-based hotel chain called Le Meridien hotel group surveyed its guests, and found that 53% of them would prefer to start the day with a good cup of coffee than morning sex.
It gets better. 78% of respondents said they would rather give up alcohol, social media, and sex for a year rather than give up coffee for the same amount of time.
The French-based hotel chain interviewed frequent travelers from six countries, including the US and China.
This is one of those great coffee stories that I’m biting my tongue from commenting on :). When I studied first-year Psychology in college, I first learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the base are the Physiological needs, or the ones like food and water that we need to stay alive. Maslow also included sex in this category. Higher up the list are Love/Belonging needs, and sex is repeated here as Sexual Intimacy.
I’m not sure where I’m going with all this, except to say that if the French hotel chain’s research holds any merit, then coffee has officially found its place into the Hierarchy of Needs, sharing the space of most important needs along with breathing, food, and water. Followed by sex.
Learn more about the news here.
At this year’s CoffeeCON in Chicago, I was fortunate enough to get some time with Boston-based specialty coffee pioneer George Howell to talk coffee. To say that George provided me with an overwhelming amount of coffee knowledge would be an understatement, and I’m looking forward in the weeks and months to come, to referencing this knowledge.
George talked to me about the Cup of Excellence program, and I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you what it is, and why it should be interesting for any coffee lover.
Check out: Trip Report CoffeeCON 2013
In 1999, George and other specialty coffee buyers and roasters were frustrated with the lack of appreciation for high-quality Brazilian coffees among North American specialty coffee buyers. Brazils had a reputation for being mass-produced, and with little regard for being unique and prized. George and company wanted to change that perception, and started the Cup of Excellence as a competition for coffee farmers in that country. Farmers would submit their single best coffee, perfectly ripe when picked, exhibiting a well-developed body and amazing flavor. A panel of international coffee experts would select the winning coffee, which is crowned champion.
Here’s the cool part. In order to encourage with farmers the relationship between quality coffee and the price that they can get for their product, the winning coffees from Cup of Excellence are auctioned online to the highest bidder, with the farmer receiving 85% of the auction price.
The competition has since grown to include more countries than just Brazil. Keep your eyes open for reference to Cup of Excellence. If you see it, try it!
Not under new management, though :).
After an obvious shortage of blog posts in the last couple months, I am so happy to show you what’s been going on behind the scenes. You are looking at the new face of MakeGoodCoffee.com. Here are four reasons why that is exciting:
1) Check out the Coffee Quiz, where we ask four simple questions about what you like and don’t like in your coffee. Based on your replies, we match you up with a couple coffee-growing regions whose coffee we think you should check out. It’s like the eHarmony of coffee. Just think, if you end up in a long-term relationship with the coffee we recommend for you, the two of you might be in our TV commercial one day.
2) We have brand new content, on Coffee Sustainability. You love coffee, so why not take a few minutes and learn a little more about it. We don’t think enough about where coffee comes from, and the conditions that our hard-working coffee farmers live in. Take a few minutes. Get informed.
3) A nice, clean new look. The last look of the website was turning into a bit of a Frankenstein, with new features and content piled on top of the existing stuff. We tore it all down, and rebuilt it in a way that is meant to be easier to look at. It’s an information website and you come here to learn something new, so we wanted to make it easy to read.
4) Finally and further to the above point, the content has been reorganized in a way that just makes more sense. Check out the menu above that organizes all of our content in an easy, logical way.
In the days and weeks to come, bear with us while we tweak things here and there until it’s perfect. I was so excited for you to see what we’ve been working on -and feeling guilty over the lack of new content over the last two months- that we just had to unveil it.
Bookmark us. Come back. Come back often. Make better coffee at home than you’ll find at any restaurant. I’ll be back to posting at least weekly. It’s good to be back!
CoffeeCON is a one of a kind show, geared entirely towards the coffee lover, as opposed to people in the coffee industry talking to other people in the coffee industry. I’ve attended two other coffee shows before this one, and both were geared towards the coffee professional as opposed to the coffee consumer. And there’s nothing with trade shows, but that’s how CoffeeCON is different – it’s education and fun for the coffee lover.
The show was started by Kevin Sinnott, renowned coffee expert, author, and creator of the Coffee Brewing Secrets DVD. Kevin had attended many coffee shows, and saw that what was missing was greater awareness for the everyday consumer, both of quality and of conditions at coffee’s origin. Kevin did something about it. He started CoffeeCON, taking place just outside of Chicago.
Stay tuned over the days and weeks to come as I share some of the show’s highlights with you, so that you can start planning your own attendance next year. Some highlights in a nutshell:
– Amazing presentations to raise awareness of key issues and educate the everyday consumer, including an intense 2.5 hour workshop lead by George Howell, founder of Terroir Coffee. George covered everything from how to select coffee, to the job of a good roaster, to conditions in the growing countries. The presentation was broken up at intervals for coffee tastings that brought George’s presentation to life, and made evident just how rich the world of coffee is. Also stay tuned for my interview with George, obviously a knowledgeable coffee giant, but also a class act to speak with.
– Different brewing workshops, so that attendees could learn about brewing beyond the drip brewer. Even for attendees like myself who already have a French Press, Aeropress, and Chemex, tips and tricks on using these brewing techniques.
– Specialized workshops such as Olfactory Development, how the sense of smell can be trained to help identify unique traits in coffee. Coffee on the Road, a great presentation on how to make great coffee even when you’re traveling. If you follow me on Twitter, then you know how many hotels I stay in, and how personally beneficial this workshop was.
– Exhibitors from across the coffee world, giving an appreciation for all steps in the chain. These ranged from coffee farmers to coffee roasters to coffee gear manufacturers. From bean to cup, some of everybody.
Stay tuned! I have many pages of scribbled notes and countless minutes of audio recordings that I’ll transcribe in the days and weeks to come, to share with you. I want to take this opportunity to thank Kevin, his wife Pat, and organizer Jennifer Stinnett for including me in this unique, exciting, and informative event. I have memories and new friends from the weekend that I know will last a lifetime.
Learn more about Kevin Sinnott’s CoffeeCON.
Dave Cook, owner of the Fire Roasted Coffee Company and Habitual Chocolate, was travelling to Portland for the show, and planning to travel on to Hawaii from there to meet coffee and cacao farmers. Despite some resistance that almost got in the way, I jumped at the chance to join him. It was no choice at all. Origin trips are an amazing way to gain an even deeper appreciation for coffee, by meeting the people that make it possible and learning about it at its source.
Around the same time, I had interviewed Connie Blumhardt, founder and publisher of Roast Magazine. It was Dave that had first introduced me to the magazine. Although it is written primarily for the professional roasters of the world, even as a coffee lover, I found it a fascinating read.
Read: Profile Roast Magazine
The two events just kind of came together…in the latest issue of Roast Magazine, you’ll find an article written by myself and David, talking about our origin trip to Hawaii, and what we discovered while we were there. Specifically, an infestation that has hit Hawaii and its coveted coffee in the form of a tiny beetle that is decimating coffee crops.
Click on the image above or click here to see a preview of the article. And if you come across this issue of Roast, pick it up and give it a read. The article is full of lots of great shots that Dave took while we were there, and the information itself will be of interest to coffee roaster and coffee lover alike.