Keep up with what is new at Sacred Grounds. Updated when news happens and time permits
Peru Origin Trip
Peru is by far and away our favorite origin trip. Beth and Tim flew to Lima to meet with a group of coffee professionals in early August. The team had a common goal: Find and buy exceptional coffees. After gathering in Lima, the group met with KC O'Keefe, a leading Peruvian coffee exporter for an intensive cupping session above Cafe Verde, his roastery and coffee house.
The team took off for the airport bound for Chiclayo on the northern coast. After a short flight, we climbed in trucks for the five hour journey over 7000' passes towards Jaen. It is a harrowing drive with switchbacks and driving skills most often seen in a NASCAR race. Finally we arrived just past midnight.
Bright and early the next morning, Beth and Tim split from the group and headed towards Huabal. This is the home to the farmers who supply us with our Flor del Norte coffees. Climbing high above the valley, we exchanged pavement for gravel and then gravel for rutted clay. After two hours of bumping along country roads we arrived in Santa Rosa.
Gathered in Santa Rosa were around 35 of the producers who represented the four watershed producer groups we work with on this project. Our goal is to source the best coffees and pay a premium price for quality. Last fall Tim traveled to each of the four producer groups and presented our project. It was quite rewarding to return at the end of harvest and meet with the farmers again.
At the gathering we held a round table discussion and refined our partnership. The farmers discussed their desire to preserve the virgin rainforests that comprise the top 3000' of the mountains above their property. Presently they are seeding nurseries of native trees to replant the slopes below the forest in an effort to prevent landslides and erosion that can devestate their farms.
As part of our contract with the farmers we have agreed to provide financial and technical support for communtiy development projects. In an effort to better develop their reforestation projects we will be teaming with an NGO to provide nursery supplies and organic fertilizers to improve the project.
The longterm vision of this relationship was discussed as well and we will be embarking on a four year project to create a test plot of organic coffee where agronomists and farmers can work together to refine and develop organic farming techniques. The goal of this project is to increase yields and quality while improving the overall health of the farms. This test plot will also include multi-story native shade plants and food crops.
Also the groundwork for an alternative energy program was discussed. Given the steep terrain and ample water supply, a small-scale hydroelectric project is being explored. Thankfully Sacred Grounds has a friend in the alternative energy business and we will be relying on his many years of expereince to identify and develop a project that will best serve the needs of farmers.
We could go on for days about this opportunity we are developing in Peru, so we'll stop here and rest. More to come!
Roasters Guild Retreat
Stevenson, Washington was home to the 2009 Roasters Guild retreat, an event that draws over 200 coffee professionals together for a weekend of education and interaction. Beth Dominick, our intrepid President, is the current Chair of the Roasters Guild and played an integral role during the planning and execution of this year's retreat.
Classes touched on subjects ranging from water quality to coffee genetics. The weekend also included a roasting challenge for teams of roasters. Each team was supplied with three exceptional coffees from the origin sponsor, Panama, and set out to create the best representation of each coffee on roasters supplied by Ambex, Diedrich, Probat and US Roasters.
Sponsorships and equipment donations make this event possible and we are extremely grateful to everyone who made this event a success.
Grounds for Health Auction
Sacred Grounds took part in an auction created to benefit the women's health NGO Grounds For Health. They offer cervical cancer screening to women in rural coffee communities and related women's health cares.
Several importers and coffee producers donated coffees to an auction with all the proceeds bound for Grounds for Health. Sacred Grounds purchased a bag of Helsar de Zarcero Llona Bonita microlot donated by Cafe Imports, a leading specialty coffee importer based in Minneapolis, MN. We have been roasting Ricardo Perez Barrantes Helsar coffees for several years and were very excited to generate $638 for Grounds For Health with our purchase.
This limited coffee will be available on our website and we have pledged an additional $300 to Grounds for Health. With the help of our customers and our purchase, we will contribute nearly $1000 by the end of July.
Here is a link to the Grounds for Health website. We encourage you to learn more about what this organization provides.
Arcata locals have been going bonkers for our newest blend created in conjunction with the Arcata Eye, our weekly newspaper. Editor Kevin Hoover commissioned a very colorful label that reflects the humor and colorful nature of the place we call home. Now this product is available to everyone! A dark roasted blend of Ethiopian and Peruvian coffees, this brew is sweet, opulant and creamy. If you are on a deadline, this will jump start your day and put a swagger in your step.
3/2009 New Look for Sacred Grounds
After nearly 12 years of the cup and leaf design we've updated our packaging and logo. The original design will remain a permanent part of our identity, however our new look will really help us as we begin to sell our products in larger markets.
The new branding was desgined by Naomi Austin at Seed Nouveau graphics. We enjoyed working with her and would highly recommend her as a reliable graphic artist.
We're changing all of our packaging as we speak. Local delieveries will still be packaged in one pound kraft bags and we're looking forward to our first order of compostable corn-based liners.
Retail mailorders will be transitioning to our new 12 oz. valve bags. Freshness and shipping weight come into play, however we expect to offer 1 pound alternatives in the coming months.
Our regional and national accounts will be getting our new valve bags in a 10 oz. size later this month. The 10 oz size is in response to demands for lower pricepoints and recent industry studies that indicate this size is ideal for grocery shoppers, who tend to be more casual consumers of our perishable product.
March and April are great times around the roastery. New samples flood in and we are seeing some great coffees from Indonesia and South America.
Travel is in full swing. This year it has been a pleasure to return to Panama, visit Kona and find ourselves bound for Nicaragua and Costa Rica. We've also been visiting coffee friends in the states with two trips to the Portland area, one for SCAA and Roasters Guild meetings, a second to watch the US Barista Championship. In May we're off to Atlanta for the SCAA symposium and trade show. It is great to be a student and a teacher in the same weekend.
Brewing a press pot is a low-tech way to a great cup of coffee. Freshly roasted coffee ground coarsely just before brewing is covered with near-boiling, filtered water and allowed to steep for 3-4 minutes. The grounds are plunged and viola! a stout coffee is ready for your cup.
This brewing style is popular in the Pacific Northwest and makes a powerful cup of coffee. We suggest medium roasted coffees with velvety bodies and gentle acidity for this brewing method. Our Helsar de Zarcero Miel Microlot is a perfect candidate.
One of the best parts of our job is travel. Exotic, tropical locales with lush forests of coffee make the hassle of airline travel all worthwhile. Panama was the destination this time and Sacred Grounds President Beth Dominick drew the winning straw for this trip.
Best of Panama was the reason for the journey. A national competition featuring the best coffees from around the country happened in Volcan, and for one week Beth was slurping her way through some amazing coffees on a quest to crown a winning coffee.
Getting there early is an imperative for these competitions. After linking up with some good friends from the industry, Beth headed around the Baru volcano for a visit to the fabled Esmeralda Estate. Tasting the Peterson families crop was the reward for the bumpy roads.
Esmeralda has taken the coffee world by storm over the past few years with their limited and highly sought after Geisha vareital. For the past few years it won the Best of Panama competition, in 2008 the Petersons decided to give someone else a chance so they stayed home and didn't submit a lot to the competition.
They had something else in mind, and with a group of elite cuppers (tasters) on site they offered a sampling of ten distict lots from their farm. Totaling about 5,000 pounds, these lots were seperated by time of harvest, location of harvest and processing method. The coffee was set to be sold to elite roasters from around the world during a live internet auction.
The cups were fantastic and made buzzing around the farm a pleasure.
After a week of tasting coffees Beth got back on the plane and headed towards Arcata with a fistful of rum and a notebook full of data about the coffees she tasted. We ended up buying a 300 pound lot of Esmeralda Especial Geisha and shared a 500 pound lot of Kotowa Duncan Organico with the fine folks at Ritual Coffee
Tim and Jesse joined with a group of 20 Roasters Guild members for a trip to El Salvador. After an uncharacteristic snow squall at the beach in Arcata, Jess and Tim finally landed in 90 degree San Slavador a day behind the rest of the group.
A three hour ride to the Honduras border where the boys found the rest of the group smarting from a night of partying. (Roasters have a thing for rum) Feeling pretty good by comparison, Tim and Jesse visited with the non-profit group Libros de Amore and learned about the efforts to combat childhood malnutirtion in the Salvadorian coffee lands.
A quick lunch and back into the car the duo started climbing rutted dirt roads to land in a forest of 60 year old bourbon varietal coffee trees. Lush green foliage and red, ripe coffee cherries dotted the landscape.
Over the next few days the crew of roasters had a contingent of armed special forces troops accompany them from farm to farm. While El Salvador is fairly safe, a group of gringos tends to bring out the riff raff and it is best to travel with some muscle.
The week flew by and on Saturday the group parted ways. Jess and Tim hopped a plane to San Jose, Costa Rica where they were picked up by an exporter of top-notch coffees. Francois drove the duo to some of Costa Rica's finest farms and they gathered samples of coffee as they went.
A stop at two of the farms that supply Sacred Grounds with some fantastic coffees was the real purpose of the journey. Landing back at the Miramontes micromill, home to Ricardo Barrantes for the third time in a year, Tim was on a mission to convince Ricardo to mill a special lot of coffee for Sacred Grounds. Miel, or honey, is a realtively new processing style in Costa Rica. Sweet, creamy and frankly a pain in the butt for coffee millers, miel requires extra attention and care in order for it to truly shine. Ricardo is the man for the job, but he is a good business man to boot, so he named his price and we gladly accepted his offer.
After a lovely visit complete with the Barrantes trademark blueberry/condensed milk/coffee shake (Last time it was a coconut/beer smoothie, damn refreshing!) the lads were back in the car headed for Las Lajas, an eco-mill just up the road. This coffee is a staple in our XX dark roast and Old World Espresso.
The following day Tim and Jesse headed to the SCACR (Specialty Coffee Association of Costa Rica) headquarters. Using their sample roasters, the duo roasted up the 24 samples Francois helped them gather and an epic cupping ensued.
All that work requires a trip to the beach. Pale gringos, the fellas found the sun and heat a bit too much and wound up with fire-red sunburns. Serves them right for leaving the cool hills of the coffee farms for the humid beach...