My Christmas Treat

" ........... what I’ll be drinking christmas day .........."

At Has Bean we get lots of emails every day (and I mean lots). Some are missing orders, advice, locked accounts, interest in working in the coffee industry, you get the kind of thing.

But this time of year I always get asked what coffee will you be having with your Christmas meal? Well every year I always take home a bag of the Christmas filter and espresso blends (wont be taking the espresso blend this year as its my first year of not having an espresso machine at home). I guess before I move on I must say why I don’t have an espresso machine? In the summer this year I moved from a tardis of a mid terraced house that was so huge you could lose people in it, to a very very tiny cottage in the middle of nowhere. My kitched in a 1/4 of the size of the old one. But I insist on my own coffee corner, but I did a deal with my wife that the espresso machine and grinder would go, if I could have a Mahlkonig Tanzania and a Über Boiler. I drink far more brewed coffee at home than espresso and I use a kettle a lot more than I do an espresso machine so the deal was struck.

So I drink a lot of brewed coffee now at home, and mainly Chemex (the Chemex is so perfect for the Über Boiler) So breakfast time I will be enjoying the Christmas filter blend with my bacon and eggs, but the Christmas meal needs something a little bit special to go with the amazing cheeseboard and the stunning vintage port.

This time of year I put together a top ten of coffees from the year, and I have started this already (and will no doubt post about it here) but it kind of helps me choose the coffees I want to take home for the holidays. This year has been (has bean ha ha) amazing, we really have had some stunning special coffees, and looking back I think by far our best year for coffees, seeing our first direct work in Guatemala, buying Kenya lots from the auction catalogue in Narobi, Colombia coming through with some stunners, and Bolivia, well Bolivia is just a different planet.

But the coffee that I will be enjoying with my Christmas lunch is from non of these but is from Nicaragua. I remember a trip around three years ago to Jinotega, when Erwin who owns Limoncillo first let me cup this coffee. It was one of those moments in time you keep in your head, and it was amazing. Tropical fruit and yellow fruit, apicots, just amazing. Then he went on to tell mew about the coffee. So its a yellow pacamara, and thats unusual, you only normally see red fruited pacamara. This is a freak natural mutation from red fruit to yellow and was spotted by a security guard on the farm. They initially thought that it was another varietal that got mixed up but with the pacamara its very easy to spot that its not visually, but they tested it and found it was indeed pacamara. then they thought that maybe it was just a one off and the following year it would go back to red (this some times happens).

But the following year it came back again so they they isolated it, harvested the beans for seeds and began to create seedlings and kept going and going. Then the wait began to make sure that the seedlings would produce yellow fruit and indeed they did. so many years of work, harvesting creating more seedlings got them to the point a few years ago, where they could invite people to samples the coffee, and then this year auction it off. Nut just 320kg of it (so around 1000 250g bags of this in the entire world). Half came to the UK to me and half went to Japan. So only 500 250g bags in the Northern Hemisphere. We gave away 50, we have sold quite a few, so now theres probably enough for 100 bags in the UK. But at £25 a bag its not cheap.

I am a bit of a Christmas guy (take a look at the decorations on our website special offers, gifts). And every year we do a digital christmas card (take a look at the past ones here). But this year we went crazy, and did a 5 part Christmas carol at http://www.hasbeanchristmascarol.com . Within the videos we have three special offers for the ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas future, and you can get 50% off by watching my Christmas tale (while stocks last).

So this Christmas I’m drinking exclusive and expensive, and you can too.

The cost of hearing

"........ David does not want the money from me, so I had a better idea, why not from you ? ........"

Last week saw the arrival of my delivery of coffee from Bolivia. Bolivia is a special place for me, somewhere I have visited more than any other non european country, and somewhere I love the coffee and love the people.

I have a very long blog post in me about Bolivia (I plan to lock myself in a room for two days over christmas to sort it), and I’ll go into detail there, but on the trip in August I found out that last year I bought about 2% of the entire coffee production from Bolivia in 2012. Now we don’t buy that much coffee (were are a remarkably small coffee roastery) so 2% is incredible.

But whats more incredible (and disturbing) is how the coffee industry in Bolivia is disappearing, and being eroded (again for my long blog post).

So anyway back on topic, for a couple of years (this is the third) we have been stocking a coffee called Finca David Vilca. Finca just means farm in Spanish, and David Vilca means well the man David Vilca. Its quite normal for the farms to be so small or so unidentified that they don’t have names in Bolivia and in particualr around Caranarvi. When visaiting for the first time I asked David what the farm was called, and that was it, its cute and its kind of stuck.

So the first couple of years I didn’t think David was so interested in my visits, when ever I spoke to him he either ignored me, or just looked at me strangely and grunted. Now my spanish is awful so I guessed this was my rubbish pronunciation or he just didn’t like me. But his coffee is so amazing I didn’t care if he never spoke as long as he keeps the quality of the cup up.

But in the back of my mind I want everyone too like me, so on the drive up to the farm this year, I asked the exporter if this was normal. Blushing he tells me that the last two year he explained to David why I was visiting, but his hearing is not so good and Davids didnt know why I was there.

His hearing got damaged from years of mining, and he had no idea who this crazy guy was walking around his farm. But last year after I had left he asked why I had come for a second year and who trhe heck I was.

They had told him what we had been doing with his coffee, and how much we love what he does. Inspired and embarrased he asked the exporter what he could do for us for next years visit.

We had just agreed with some other local producers to do some different processes and they told him about this. So he decided under his own steam to do some unique lots for us with a Natural and Honey (I have never seen Honey or Natural Bolivians this was so exciting). But not any old Natural he wanted to give us a farm lot and a mill lot. David has never ever done any processing himself, always rellyed on the mill, so this is amazing, and real progress.

This years visit was so so different, he welcomed me into his home, his wife insisted on giving us a snack and a drink, and the whole family came to see me (his daughter, son in law and granddaughter), and showed me these different processing lots.

The visit was amazing, they wouldn’t let us leave, night came and they were still keen to show us everything about the farm (and I if the truth be known I didn’t want to leave either). But eventually we did and on the drive home I asked why David didn’t have any hearing aids to help him hear (much shouting had gone on the farm that day).

The exporter began to tell me they gave him some money for the hearing aids a few years ago, but it got spent on a satellite dish to keep his wife happy (its a long way from any entertainment or any anything) so I can kind of understand.

So I suggested that we pay for them but the exporter gives the money to the hearing clinic. It seemed like a good idea, but David does not want the money from me, so I had a better idea, why not from you ?

I worked out that on the Washed lot we buy from him it would be an extra 44p a kilo, so instead of £5.00 for a 250g bag its £5.11 and someone can hear again. David liked this idea as much as we did, so…..

Over to you………..

David Vilca Caturra Washed

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

"......... i like coffee more than cats christmas ......."

Merry Christmas, its that time of year again.

We have turned on our Christmas decorations, we hope you approve.

So its the last of the guest blends, we have had 12 months of fun, and it seems only right to thank you all for that fun. The Christmas Present Blend is a gift. Its a single origin coffee, thats a very special gift for you, and its free. But there are some rules

1. Its a surprise, it comes wrapped in special Has Bean Wrapping paper, you can keep until Christmas if you want, but I suggest its an early Christmas present.

2. Its free. You pay the postage and we give you an early Christmas present (the postage thing was we could let international friends be involved and people taking advantage)

3. YOU CAN ONLY ORDER ONE, Anyone found trying to trick the system or sending to another address (were checking IP addresses) santa will not come to you.

4. Enjoy it, leave a review on the coffee tell us on email how much you enjoy it.

5. its a VERY special coffee, I mean VERY special

You can buy it here

when its gone its gone and we reckon that will be quickly.

December Guest Blend

"......... set a reminder, set your alarm and get set for amazing surprised and coffee. ........"

The final edition of the guest blend series. 12 months 12 coffees

So we launch this at midnight Saturday 30th to Sunday the 1st of December, its a big surprise, but its on a first come first served basis, and it will be massively oversubscribed, you are going to want to be part of this.

So set a reminder, set your alarm and get set for amazing surprised and coffee.

Colombia

"................. The first information about coffee growing in Colombia dates from 1732 .............."

It is believed that the first coffee seeds arrived on the American continent thanks to the French and Dutch. The French introduced the seeds to their colonies (Guyana and Martinique) at the end of the seventeenth century, while the Dutch introduced them to Surinam in 1714. Coffee was first introduced to Colombia in 1723, thanks to Jesuit priests who brought the seeds from Venezuela.

The first information about coffee growing in Colombia dates from 1732. It is said that the first coffee trees were grown in the Jesuit Seminary of Popayán, which is in the department of Cauca, and later in 1741 in the provinces of Santa Marta and Riohacha. The first commercial plantations date from the end of the 18th century in the departments of Santander and Boyaca, and later in the hills surrounding Medellin.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, after Colombia’s independence from Spain, coffee became much more widely grown. At this time coffee prices were much healthier than today. According to the record books, Colombia’s coffee production increased from 1,000 bags per year to 100,000 bags per year between 1850 and 1880.

Fast forward to 1905 and the country was producing 500,000 bags. Fast forward a bit further to 1930, and it was exporting over 3 million bags. The expansion of coffee growing throughout the country had significant effects on the economy, exports, and political structures. Colombia became a power house of coffee representing around 10% of the total world production, and at the same time also became more organised as a body.

In 1927 a group of coffee growers met in the town of Medellin to create an organization that eventually became the Federation Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (the FNC) we know today. The main goals of this federation of coffee growers were to improve the prices that producers received for coffee, and to work together as a union to improve the name of Colombian coffee across the world. It was actually a very forward thinking idea – that if people thought it was a quality product they would pay more. So they began an advertising campaign, which still runs today. They created a spokesman and donkey, the fictional character of Juan Valdez, who has been used in many adverts.

The FNC guarantees purchase of green coffee, but farmers are under no obligation to sell to them – they can still sell directly to buyers. But what it does allow the farmer is to have the security that they can get a certain price in the market, but also maintain a higher than normal price for the coffee.

The coffee market in the commodity sense works with a price set by the ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) formally known as NYBOT (the New York Board of Trade). This is known as the New York C Price, where traders can buy or sell futures on this market against what they think prices will do. This price fluctuates up and down just as a share price might do (but sometimes much more violently). A frost in Brazil can send the price soaring, whilst a country reporting that the harvest will be plentiful and above expectations can send the price through the floor.

Each country will have what is known as a differential. These are country premiums on top of the commercial market price for any grade of Arabica coffee. So any one will be able to achieve this price, and there will be lots of people offering to take it off their hands for these prices, with no regard for quality. To give you an idea of the prices, take a look below for snap shots of the differentials that I put together a few years ago.

Colombia 66.73 Cents/lb
Guatemala 25.53 Cents/lb
Costa Rica 24.35 Cents/lb
El Salvador 9.73 Cents/lb
Honduras 8.26 Cents/lb
Mexico 4.55 Cents/lb
Brazil -18.85 Cents/lb

So as you can see, Colombia has done a good job of getting a higher price than the rest of the market. Much of this is down to the FNC.

This all sounds like a bed of roses, but Colombia is not without its issues. A booming economy leads to rising costs – not just for labour, but for everything. Colombia is booming after many years of unrest from rebels. The peace talks have brought prosperity, but also these issues.

Much of the unrest was brought about by the drugs trade, which at one point nearly broke the country. Safety was a real concern, as was any investment in a fragile economy. Although lots of this is now sorted out, drugs and gangs are still an ongoing problem in rural parts of Colombia.

Leafrust, or Roya, is something which has been in the coffee buying and producer news in recent times. It’s a fungus that is spread through the air as well as by contact. It attacks the leaves of a plant, leaving the plant exposed and in some cases killing off the coffee plant. At best, it reduces the yield of the coffee dramatically. However, this has been something affecting Colombia for a very long while, and has been a persistent problem.

Climate change is also something that has affected Colombia more than most, with increased rain causing new problems with coffee growing. Rains during flowering knock off flowers, as well as causing dramatic drops and rises in temperature at times of the year when it was never expected – all affecting the fragile coffee plant.

Also, during the ultra lows of the 1990s and the famous coffee crisis, small scale 1-2 hector subsistence producers were hit hard. Unlike bigger plantations, they were not able to “ride the storm,” and many of them ripped out coffee plants and planted more productive and stable products.

All of this combined has seen Colombia, year on year, producing less and less coffee. Although still considered one of the powerhouses of coffee, its ability to produce a large volume of coffee has diminished from the highs of 16,000,000 60kg sacks back in 1992 to 9,500,000 sacks in 2012/13. The 2011/12 crop was even worse than this, at just 7,654,000 sacks.

What Colombia has done very well is breaking the country into to defined regions. These departments are very defined and exhibit certain broad taste profiles.

Huila

Coffees from the department of Huila tend to have HUGE sweetness, and thick milk chocolate and caramel tones that lend themselves to bigger bodies. The department is big and very spread out. Pitalito and its surrounding area is becoming the largest coffee producing region in Colombia.

Nariño

Another top area for specialty coffee is Nariño. La Union is the main specialty coffee producer, in the far south west of the country, with part of the department being coast, and part high mountainous region. Most of the population resides in this high mountainous region, with its capital being Pasto. In the cup the typical profile is a buttery mouthfeel with big bodies and light acidity.

Tolima

Located in the Andean region, in the centre west of the country, it neighbours the famous Hulia. The south of Tolima is currently a centre of FARC Guerilla activity and it is of strategic importance in Colombia’s ongoing civil war, so it’s a tough place to go find coffees. The capital of this department is Ibague, with the coffees here being typically floral and with bright acidity.

Cauca

This department includes coffees from the Inza region and those areas surrounding the Popayan. Caucas, in my experience, tends to exhibit delicate floral flavours and fruit acidity, along with big sweetness. However it often lacks power, punch, and body.

All these states in Colombia share the spine of the Andes Mountains, which splits into three mountain ranges. This spine carries on through Peru and Bolivia, and manages to produce some of my favourite coffees. It was always thought that the Caturra varietal was the best for these regions, and indeed in the cup it produces some stellar results. Originating in Brazil, this is a mutant from the popular Bourbon varietal. Caturra shares many of Bourbon’s negative aspects; it’s not very pest resistant, and can be difficult to grow. Its one big plus is its higher yield than Bourbon (over 200kg per hector). Its other bonus is that it can be used for high density planting areas, with as many as 10,000 plants per hector (normally around 6,000 though) and as little as 1 metre apart. However, with the big leaf rust problems I mentioned earlier, the FNC has issued advice to plant Catimor, Colombia, and Castillo varietals. It’s an interesting time for Colombian coffee.

Even though coffee exports only represent roughly 10% of Colombia’s total exports by value today, it is still a very important sector of the economy. There are over 500,000 coffee growers, who together own approximately 850 thousand hectares of coffee plants and produce an average of 9 million coffee sacks per year. Of these 500,000 families, 70% are small producers with less than 1.5 hectares of coffee land.

Must Dash Blend

" ....... its brought to us by two of our Mo loving producers ........."

Available Roasted Beans Only

This is the 11th in a new line of guest coffee blends that we are introducing in 2013. Each month there will be a new blend, for which there will be an original label in a different style of bag, and of which there will only be 500 made. Each bag will be marked with a unique, limited edition number.

These are the blends most roasters would be scared to share with you, but not us fearless souls at Has Bean Towers where we think the unthinkable.

In the cup think unbalanced, off-the-wall experiments that are tasty but never normal, and are always a bit unusual and pushing the boundaries.

The inspiration for this comes from the now infamous Movember. During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of millions of moustaches around the world. With their “Mo’s” men raise vital funds and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer and mental health. As an independent global charity, Movember’s vision is to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health. Here at Has Bean we are all supporting this (even the girls), and you can too, as 50p from every bag of this coffee we sell we will give to Movember.

Each bag will also contain your chance (even the girls again) to get involved. We encourage you to send us pictures of you and your mo!

So What is in Must Dash ? Well its brought to us by two of our Mo loving producers, one from El Salvador in Alejandro Martinez Argentina Piletas Bourbon Natural

And Daniel Cardoso Murcia with his Washed Colombian from Finca Las Brisas

60% Argentina Piletas Bourbon Natural
40% Colombia Las Brisas Washed

In the cup expect some funky sherry tones and stewed dark fruits with a whisker of milk chocolate and creamy mouthfeel.

Heres a little video we did to launch it