Since 2012 we've been purchasing all we can of the top quality lots produced at Finca Tamana; Elias Roa's farm in El Pital, Colombia. We sent Richard to visit him in November last year, just before the most recent harvest was brought in, processed and shipped to us in London.
For the most part we've roasted the coffee from Finca Tamana for filter brewing, and have packed the coffee into lovely 350g bags, distributed to retail and wholesale customers a-like, shipping Elias's coffee all over the world.
With the most recently arrived harvest, we've decided to do something a little different.
There will be, however, this fantastic coffee - roasted for espresso - in the main grinders of all our stores.
For the majority of the month of July (as long as our supplies last) we will be replacing our usual Cult of Done Espresso with Finca Tamana Espresso and using this wonderful Caturra selection for all of our espresso-based drinks.
Yes, the only way to try this coffee will be to visit one of our stores, and let our Baristas serve it for you. As an idea, it's a little different, and it's probably a bit challenging for the likes of Jay Rayner, but we're confident you're going to love it as much as we do.
As Cult of Done v.16 coffees turn their final batches in our Probat we obviously cannot stop the supply of tasty espresso to you, wherever you may be in the world. We therefore have been working hard over the past four weeks on the next two components and are pleased to announce that v.17 is ready for release.
A 65/35% split between Aricha, a coffee from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia, and San Francisco, from the Apaneca-Ilamatepec region in Western El Salvador, both coffees have had extensive test roasts performed, many shots have been pulled and consumed, and the best of each have been paired to create the final version. What we have got is a gloriously thick espresso with black cherry and dark chocolate in abundance with a rich, praline sweetness and long finish.
Each component has been sourced on recent trips to origin in February this year and we are pleased to have gotten what we went for. The chance to meet the producers, see production facilities, tour the farms and cup is worth it when you pick up great coffees such as these.
One terrace of many in the shade covered nursery at San Francisco.
The name “Duromina” means “improve their lives” in the local Ethiopian language of Afan Oromo, an apt name considering what the Duromina Cooperative has achieved in its short history. Since being established in 2010 the cooperative has, amongst things other than just producing delicious coffee, paid off a 4-year bank loan after the first year, built a bridge over the river and a local road infrastructure to combat the rainy season, provided electricity to the village, fitted tin roofs on most of the member’s houses and created a local health clinic to bring essential services to those in the area.
Not content with improving their locality, the cooperative turned their attention to its own growth. A second washing station has opened to increase capacity, allowing them to buy and process non-members' cherries on top of their own. Working together, output and quality has increased so much so that coffee from the cooperative now sells for nearly five times as much as was received before the creation of Duromina, leading to roughly a 50% increase to each member’s income. All this means coffee is now a viable and rewarding way to make a living for the smallholders of the Duromina cooperative. Workshop are proud to be part of their story and we hope you enjoy this, our first Ethiopian of the season.
Coffee lovers in the UK are a lucky bunch. A recent upswell in the appreciation of great coffee, all around the country, means that there’s never been a better time to order a cup.
The press, blogs and social media all abound with stories of the latest cafes, roasters and, more recently, baristas who are putting energy and resource into improving this widely loved drink, celebrating them as talented harbingers of quality. And it’s true. A lot of work is required to take what is basically a handful of dried legumes, and turn them into a drink that warrants crossing town to taste.
But that quality that coffee lovers seek starts long before any roaster or barista is in the picture. The complexity, clarity and character of flavour that we now expect from roasters and cafes is not the product of the cleverest roasting, the fanciest espresso machine, or even the most ironically mustachioed barista.
Though many of us fail to appreciate it, the quality of what we look for in our daily coffee is established long before the beans arrive in Europe. It’s high time to remind ourselves that the coffee we love began the journey to us a long way away, as the seeds of a single ripe cherry, grown on a healthy coffee tree.
Just as we appreciate that the world’s best chefs are at the mercy of the producers that supply them, so too are roasters and baristas only capable of producing roasts and drinks of a quality befitting their ever-increasing price tag because of the care and diligent work of the world’s best coffee growers.
Coffee is a fickle and fragile fruit. As a tree, it’s susceptible to a wide range of diseases and attacks that can decimate crops: leaf rust, insect infestation and snap frosts to name just a few. During its preparation for export, if not dried correctly, coffee runs the risk of beginning to ferment and rot, resulting in a tainted and unsaleable product. Once dried and sitting in warehouses or on ships, the raw beans undergo organic degradation, turning woody, dry and stale. Even if all these risks are avoided, there’s still a chance that bandits will cut through warehouse locks, or hijack road transportation, and make off with a farmer’s entire year’s work.
Coffee production is hard and risky work, but it needn’t be thankless, too. In reality, it’s thanks to committed growers, millers and exporters that we as roasters and baristas have the opportunity to put that ever increasingly delicious coffee into your cup.
While it’s certainly true that the skill of baristas, and the quality of coffee being served has never been better, it’s important that as coffee lovers think beyond the barista, and give some thought to those responsible for growing our coffee.
When our freshly harvested lots arrive from Kenya and Ethiopia in a few weeks time, I’ll be reminding our baristas of my recent travels to farms there, and all the people that I met. And when customers thank our baristas for the great coffee they serve, I trust that they’ll remain humble and deferential, because we don’t magic up the quality in the customer’s drink, we’re merely a conduit that helps to maintain it from farm to cup.
Director of Operations
In November last year, during a trip to the Huila region of Colombia, a pair of coffees jumped out at us from the cupping table.
Ticking all the boxes that we look for, being clean, sweet and complex, enquiries were immediately made, even whilst they were still clearing away the cupping, as to farm information and the availability of the coffees. It came as a pleasant surprise to find that the two coffees came not only from neighbouring farms, but farms owned by a brother and sister respectively.
It was obvious that a lot of hard work had been put in to the growing, harvesting and processing of these coffees, and the results really shone in the cup. We snapped them both up, and are very excited to introduce them into our range today. Please meet Finca El Agrado and Finca La Esmeralda, from Edilma and Libardo Piedrahita (respectively) in the Huila region of Colombia.
Available in the Dispensary now: www.workshopcoffee.com
Just as there's many ways to skin a cat, there's a number of ways to turn a ripe coffee cherry into the dried seed that we know as a raw coffee bean. At one end of the spectrum (and forgive us for painting in painfully broad strokes), the cherry skin and all sticky fruit flesh is removed from the seeds, which are then laid out to dry. This method is know as the 'washed' or wet process method.
At the other end of the spectrum (and yes, there are lots of variations in between) the whole cherry is picked from the tree, and dried in its entirety; skin, sticky fruit flesh and parchment layers all surrounding the seed. This is known as the 'natural' or dry process method. This method is known to produce intensely fruity, and sometimes quite dirty, fermenty or rotten flavours; not characteristics that fit in with our ethos of buying clean, sweet and fresh coffee.
Those that have been paying close attention over the last couple of years will no doubt be aware that we've never purchased a naturally-processed coffee for inclusion in our range.
Today, that changed.
For the last couple of years, we've come across a lot of naturally-processed coffee, and nearly all of it has fallen into the category of being dirty, musty, fermenty, and we've rejected them all. Indeed, on my most recent trip to Ethiopia I came in at the tail end of the harvest, and the drying tables and patios were full of coffee being naturally-processed; a mixture of ripenesses, flies swarming on the cherries, birds picking at them. Hardly an inspiring or appetising sight.
That being said, also over the last few years we've been aware of a particular range of naturally-processed coffees being produced at Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza in Brazil that have been amazingly clean, balanced, and delicious on the cupping table. And not clean (for a natural), but just plain clean and wonderful. This year, we've decided to purchase coffee from a selection there, Sitio Canaa #351.
We're really looking forward to sharing this coffee with you in a week or two's time, and giving you a bit more information about why this particular natural coffee has made the grade, after three years of shunning the process entirely. It's a special coffee, indeed.
Where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday we were unveiling our very first iteration of our Cult of Done Espresso, and yet here we are today, releasing version 15.
This time round, Cult of Done is a foray into everything that we want a really great espresso blend to be; complex, satisfying, sweet, clean, enduring and memorable. An espresso that would make it into the '10 or so great espressos of your life' category.
I visited Justin at Mahembe on a trip visiting producers in various parts of Rwanda earlier this year and was very impressed with the processing facilities, as well as his approach to standards, inspection and financial reward that he undertakes with the farmers that contribute cherries to his washing station. Understandably, I was delighted when the results in the cup matched the effort being put in, and we bought up what we could of particular lots for this blend.
Coupled with it is a terrifically sweet and silky coffee, forming the foundation of this espresso, and is the first time we've worked with the guys at Third Wave Coffee Source. Finca La Esperanza comes from Huehuetenango in Guatemala; a part of the world we're terribly excited to begin to explore, and we're looking forward to working with Nadine and her team on finding great producing partners on the ground there.
It's available now. Get involved.
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Cult of Done Espresso v.15 - £9.50/350g
Elias Roa is very proud of his farm, Finca Tamana, and rightly so. A combination of his hard work and Tim Wendelboe’s ideas, has seen the quality of the coffee improve season by season and Workshop are pleased to be have this latest outturn, Caturra Lots 1 & 2 from the main harvest of 2013.
Separated into individual lots across the farm, Tamana’s crop is split roughly 50/50 between the Caturra and Colombia varieties. Starting with cherry selection, Elias asks his pickers to try and pick only the ripe cherries each day as they harvest a particular lot. Once returned to the wet mill cherries are submersed in water, the less dense coffee skimmed off, before being laid out onto tables for pre-pulping sorting. It is this step that seems to add a great deal in the finished product as the workers pick out the over and under-ripes that are detrimental to quality. This extra attention to detail is of course rewarded with Elias’ workers receiving over 50% higher wages than most in the area for cherry collection.
Pulped the same day as harvesting, the coffee is dry fermented 12 hours overnight before wet fermentation takes place. Making full use of the natural spring that emerges 250 metres from the farm buildings, Elias washes his coffee four times, stirring the beans and skimming off any further floaters and pulp that made it through to this stage before finally leaving the coffee in fresh water for 12 hours, changing the water every 4 to maintain cleanliness.
Drying the coffee slowly is key to Tamana’s quality and longevity. Once fully washed the coffee is laid on exposed beds for 24 hours open-air drying before being moved to the drying houses where temperature is monitored and hopefully maintained between 20 and 30°C, using shade and side ventilation during the hottest time of day. The parchment rests ideally for 20 days, although up to 30 is taken during wet weather, and it is this extended period of drying that sees Tamana’s quality endure.
Of the 62 hectares available only 20 are currently producing coffee. Elias, however, has plans in motion to open up more land to coffee year on year and if he fulfills his target of farmed land he will have to build up to 10 more drying houses to cope with the quantities of cherry delivered by his pickers each day. It is still early days in the life of his farm but Elias is planning long-term and sees that the hard work now will pay off down the line. It is already evident that the steps in place today are improving quality although there is still a long way to go. Further infrastructure is needed but as Elias is committed, he will get what we all want; for the coffee to keep on improving at Tamana.
Finca Tamana, Colombia -- £12.00/350g
And as surely as you've been enjoying our latest coffee -- Yukro, Ethiopia -- we're confident you're going to love its counterpart/rival; Yukro Espresso, Ethiopia.
It's a different beast entirely from the Hunkute that is currently comprising our Cult of Done Espresso; richer, rounder and warmer, with cocoa, dried fig and raisin sweetness, a decadent mouthfeel and a long, toffee-like finish.
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Yukro Espresso, Ethiopia - £9.00 / 350g
As one coffee comes to an end in the frankly delicious Olke Bire another is added to the line up to fill the gap. Again an Ethiopian but this time from a completely different region producing a completely different style of coffee; this is Yukro from Jimma, Western Ethiopia.
Jimma is a region not renowned for producing clean, washed coffees as most grown there are low grade naturally processed coffees which fetch very low prices at market. Things are changing in the region however; work from Technoserve, an NGO that is helping to finance the creation of washing stations is seeing the region produce washed coffees of a much higher quality than before. This coupled with the dissemination of farming, processing and marketing knowledge is allowing farmers in the area to produce coffee rewarded with higher prices and compete in the same markets as their fellow countrymen and women in the well known Southern regions of Yirgacheffe and Sidamo.
Yukro offers up the gentle aromas of English hops and baking spices that leads into a plump grape sweetness, a deep, resinous body, and a lengthy, clean finish, and has proved to be a coffee that compliments our other Ethiopian offerings very well. It is only through investment that farmers and cooperatives from new regions will improve and we do hope that by purchasing this coffee, the 433 members of the Yukro Cooperative continue to develop it's washed production techniques, offering better coffee in seasons to come.