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Donor Shout Out – Round Two

Posted in coffee, coffee roasting, home roasting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2010 by Chad

Another quick post to thank more of folks that have set up the this year’s home roasters’ auction for Coffee Kids, Bids for Coffee Kids for success.

Many thanks to Nelson Valverde of Invalsa Coffee, who donated  ten-pound lots of two different Cup of Excellence coffees and three microlots from Bolivia.  All of the Bolivian lots just arrived, and the CoE lots are from the 2009 Coe in Costa Rica and Guatemala.  All lots were vacuum packed in the country of origin.  Thank you, Invalsa!

Many thanks to Craig Holt, Karen KasKaren Kazmierczak, and the rest of the folks at Atlas Coffee Importers, who donated two separate lots to the auction: 10 lbs. of El Salvador Los Pirineos Pacamara and 15 lbs. of Brazil Samambia Peaberry Yellow Bourbon Pulp Natural.  Thank you, Atlas!

Many thanks to Connie Blumhardt, Kelly Stewert, and the rest of the folks at Roast Magazine.  Connie has contributed two one-year subscriptions to Roast, as well as two full sets of back issues.  Thank you Roast Magazine!

Many thanks to Jeff Woods, Paul Balmer, and the rest of the folks at Dillanos Coffee Roasters, who have donated another graphic design project like last year.  Last year’s winner is more than happy with the result, which you can see at the top of the page.  Dillanos’ graphic designers are wonderful to work with, and can easily translate your vision and mission into a logo that pops.  Thank you Dillanos!

Stay tuned to more shout outs to all the wonderful folks who have contribute d to this year’s auction.  Bidding on the month-long lots will be open until May 29th, and bidding on Week One lots will continue until 6:00 pm Central (US) on Saturday May 8th.  Week Two lots will open at 6:01 pm Central (US), Saturday May 8th, over at our host the Green Coffee Buying Club (free registration required).

Our Generous Friends

Posted in coffee, coffee cupping, coffee roasting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2010 by Chad

As we rapidly approach the opening of this years Bids for Coffee Kids auction to benefit Coffee Kids, more and more generous friends are standing up to support our cause.

Last last night, I got a message from Nick Cho, offering to donate one or more 3-hour coffee brewing/espresso training sessions or coffee cupping/green coffee grading sessions to the auction.  After a few back and forth messages, Nick settle up on the following two donations on behalf of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, which have been added to our Month Long items:

Item M-7: 3-hour customized cupping and/or green coffee grading training with Trish Rothgeb

Item M-8: 3-hour customized training on espresso and brewing with Nick Cho

Thank you both for such a generous offer.  It’s wonderful to have you in DC!

3-hour customized cupping and/or green coffee grading training with Trish Rothgeb

Colombia Cup of Excellence 2009, Part 2

Posted in coffee roasting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 28, 2009 by Chad

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? –Vincent Van Gogh

The previous post described the roasting and cupping process for this year’s Colombia Cup of Excellence samples.   Prior to ordering the samples and registering for the auction, I had been contacting Mid-Atlantic roasters, surveying their interest in forming buying groups for 2009 Cup of  Excellence auctions.  A few expressed interest, but as I renewed contact for the Colombia auction, no one showed any great interest.  During the cupping, I discussed auction plans with my backers, all of whom renewed their pledge to back me for a portion of a winning lot.  This arrangement was similar to what we had all agreed for the 2008 Brazil Cup of Excellence, where we were able to secure a couple of bags of the #11 lot, with Mercanta acting as our buying agent.  My fellow homeroaster, Larry Lewis, arranged it all, distributing the majority of the beans through the Green Coffee Buying Club this past month.  That success brought more folks into the fold, and we were looking at a good position to secure 3-4 bags or more of any winning lot.  I fed the folks night-by-night wrap-ups of my cuppings, and we were all excited heading into auction day.

Auction Preparations

The morning of the auction, I started contacting importers, gauging their interest in setting up buying groups, or to provide support to bring the bags into the US.  First contact was not promising, as conditions in Colombia were combining against us.  The price differentials on Colombian coffee were going through the roof, due mainly to lower projections of the harvest, and a pending trucker strike in the country.  Two importers waived off participation in buying groups or importing, as they were not going to be bringing containers into the US for several months.  I immediatly went into a scramble to secure an importer, in case I could put together a buying group.

As the auction started, the bids starting coming in, albeit slowly.  A little background on the auction process–the auction is run so that the countdown timer does not start until there is a minimum bid put in on all the lots.  Once that occurs, a three minute countdown timer starts, with the auction ending if no one has bid.  In practice, the countdown usually lasts 4-5 hours or more, as folks continue to manuever to grab their desired lots.

So as the countdown timer had started, I had yet to find a willing importer or a buying group.  All the while, my compadres are egging me on, as my favored Lot #12 was still hanging at just over $2/lb.  I knew that wouldn’t last, so I kept working the importers and other roasters.  Within an hour, I had secured an importer, but still no takers for a buying group.  I had exhaused my roaster list, either because of lack of interest, or folks not available.

Second Wind

Having exhausted all my contacts, I called the folks from the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, the group that manages the Cup of Excellence.  Susie Spindler, the ACE Executive Director, and Jon Lewis, the Membership Liaison, gave me a list of potential buyers, and also suggested I contact other US roasters listed on the CoE membership rolls.  More calls, including some of the main buyers/coffee directors for some of the larger US specialty roasters.   Still no takers, other than one group that offered a possibility of sharing some of the coffee if their bid were successful.  Several folks called me back right near the auction’s end, after I had concluded that efforts to form a buying group were not coming to fruition.

The End

Bidding ended near 4 pm Eastern time, with no shots fired from my group.  Four of the twenty-seven lots went to North American groups, including the top two lots won by Coffee Bean International (for Target).  Not a great showing for North America and the US.   I talked to several of my potential buying group after the auction–all of us were disappointed–the lots we targeted were all within our desired price range, but we didn’t have quite enough buying power for a full lot.  My main emotion was disappointment at the opportunity lost, along with a strong desire to learn and improve future efforts.  I would have loved to pull one of these coffees into the US, but the experience has given me new insight into what a successful bidding effort will require.

I’ve had many conversations with different people about the Cup of Excellence since the auction.  Many people have offerred theories on why fewer of the North American roasters are going after auction lots.  I think it boils down to a few things–many of the original roasters involved in the Cup of Excellence have moved on to other direct relationships with growers and exporters working to develop differentiated micro lots.  Colombia, in particular, has experienced great success in the last few years, with folks like Alejandro Cadena from Virmax, who is responsible for the Las Mingas project with Gimme! Coffee and the La Golondrina project at Counter Culture Coffee.  These efforts have been repeated in other countries, so the larger of the specialty roasters like Counter Culture, Gimme! Coffee, Intelligensia, and Dillanos have focused on their own relationship cofffes and no longer need or focus on the Cup of Excellence.  Now, that’s a big swipe, and I do not write that as a pejorative statement.  All of these companies continue to support the Cup of Excellence, but their buying of lots has fallen off as their own direct trade coffee projects have come to fruition.

This first auction experience, and follow-on discussions of the Cup of Excellence in the US just add fuel to my vision to help pull together a new generation of smaller, up and coming roasters in the Mid-Atlantic area to expand growth of specialty coffee seed to cup.  Successful bids for Cup of Excellence lots will serve as our first step.  We will meet sucess, we will support the farmers by our purchases, and we will introduce more people in the US to Cup of Excellence coffees.  Momentary setback on our learning journey in specialty coffee.

Success teaches us nothing; only failure teaches. –Hyman G. Rickover