NEWSLETTER: ECUADOR LAS TOLAS VARIETAL COMPILATION 2015

Back to the land of Los Yumbos and to one of the more thorough varietal case studies in our world. Some of you will remember last year’s Las Tolas offering and our comparison of these talented coffee producers to Beaujolais’ fabled Gang of Four. Last season’s coffees were phenomenal. Arnaud’s Java was simply exquisite with its floral aromatics bursting off the burrs with every roast we cupped. Gilda & Mateo’s Pacamara changed my mind about the true potential of the varietal with its succulent, ripe-fruit sweetness. Hernan’s Caturra was a dark horse candidate for top coffee with a white grape purity that I rarely taste anywhere outside of Kochere.But we didn’t have Christian and Rommy’s coffee yet. We loved these farms and their offerings with equal affection, but we didn’t have Christian and Rommy’s coffee. So we waited. My father has told me for the past 30-something years that patience is a virtue. Those of you who know me are chuckling right now — patience isn’t necessarily the top virtue in my repertoire. But we waited. We drank our way through last year’s deliveries from the rest of the gang and moved on to beauties rolling in from Peru and Colombia. Eventually Ethiopia season began anew and we left these sweet, nectarous Las Tolas coffees to our dreams.

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The samples we cupped from Christian and Rommy’s farm, La Yumbada, stayed with me though. They were absolutely mesmerizing. The only thing I can think to compare their Sidra to is that first bite of the most crisp, drippingly sweet Hosui Pear. Flavor so pure and unadulterated that it’s an experience I can still remember distinctly. And the Caturra stood right there with it. Sidra gives a floral character like honeysuckle and wildflower honey itself. Yumbada Caturra has its own unique floral identity with a gentle touch of orange blossom that permeated well through the cup. La Yumbada is home to extraordinary coffees and I couldn’t wait to get them on our list.

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Flash forward 12 months and we finally have them. Our coffee version of the Gang of Four is finally realized. We have our first, albeit small, offering from La Yumbada, and it’s their entire production. We have Arnaud’s entire US allocation, as well as the entire production from Gilda & Mateo and Hernan, too. As a man who usually has no problem picking favorites, I consider picking a favorite from this group like choosing a favorite child: it’s just not possible. Each one of these lots brings a dynamism in the cup that is far too unique and interesting. They are their own creatures with their own very distinct and personal expression. Try a couple different lots if you can, or go back to a favorite from last season. These are quite possibly the most unique coffees we offer and they are in prime condition — they’ve just stripped into the Annex in San Leandro.

NOTE: Quito, similar to Addis in this regard, offers ideal storage conditions for green coffee. High altitude and cool, dry climate are the standard for virtually all of the year. Think of these coffees as you would top Guatemalan lots. They’re stable and will last well through winter, should you be looking for a long-term addition to your menu.

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Newsletter: Rwanda Kanzu Offerings 2015

Kanzu is back, folks, and I have to say this is the best delivery of lots I’ve tasted since we began working with the washing station after the 2007 Golden Cup. Nyamasheke has always been our favorite region in Rwanda, and it’s where we have consolidated all of our sourcing efforts to date. The extreme altitude and Bourbon-laden hills make it one of the coffee world’s true treasures. The Kanzu factory itself is located at 1900 masl, and farmers bring their cherry down to the mill from the slopes above.

When I first began working in Rwanda and Burundi, we focused on getting as close a look as possible into each washing station. The origins were new to us and our curiosity was endless. We had a thirst to understand the process and to really get into the details of production. Because we were used to seeing separated day lots in Latin America, we pressed to get to that level in Rwanda. What turned out to be most efficient was bulking lots by week in each storage facility. This separation was our attempt to understand what was happening throughout the harvest and it gave us the opportunity to offer better premiums to the producers for quality lots. Red Fox continues to work with this way today.

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From start to finish, harvest in Rwanda runs about 4-5 months. Lots coming from the peak of the harvest (weeks 8-12) demonstrate saturated levels of sweetness. These coffees are full of muscovado sugar, dark honey, tamarind, and date. Coffees from towards the end of the harvest (weeks 14-18) have brilliant, lucid acidity. Malic and tartaric acidity dominate these profiles, which run the gamut from granny smith apple and asian pear to concord grape and red currant.

Kanzu is arguably our most popular offering of the fall and maybe even the entire year. We have only 90 bags going up today. Please get back to us quickly with your interest.

Cheers,
Aleco

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Newsletter: Ethiopia Duromina, Crown Jewel of the West

My work, this particular life, has afforded many memories over the past 15 years. Many beautiful inspiring memories and a handful of frustrating moments as well. I’ll never forget sitting in the Addis Hilton Lobby during the winter of 2008, having just come back from my what-had-become-routine visits to the Wondo Group’s washings stations in Gedeo and Sidamo. I was amped after seeing the cherry quality coming into the mill and the separation in the warehouse. Dreams of the coming month’s perfume-y, floral cupping tables were already becoming fodder for my dreams.  

And then it all came crumbling down. Eleni Gebre wanted to meet to discuss this plan for an exchange she had been pitching feverishly to the government. All grains were to be traded, in the hopes of raising the country’s commodity based revenue. More dollars coming in. And it appeared as if she had accomplished her goal of adding coffee to that list of grains. She was on the verge of turning our trading landscape on its head. As could be imagined, I was beginning to lose my cool as she waved a Stumptown printout of the current “Moplaco Yirgacheffe Grade 2” offering in my face. Apparently we were already happy participants of her greater scheme. At least that was her ploy.  

Luckily for us, my old pal Chris Jordan, in the early stages of shaping Technoserve’s grand vision for Western Ethiopia at that very moment, was sitting with us as well. Technoserve (TNS) was in its second year marketing the coffee to the world, and essentially counted only Starbucks and Peet’s as its specialty customers. They wanted to involve the higher-end roasting companies at the time and we, Stumptown, were to be the first participants. Outside of Limu G2’s, which comprised all of Western Ethiopia’s washed coffees south of Lekempti, there wasn’t much diversity in what one could do buying clean coffee out there. Traceability? Building viable business structure within coops and community? Both laughable. Technoserve changed that game over the course of the following  two years. We immediately made our way west and found ourselves in Agaro. We had the combination to the vault all to ourselves. We started bringing in Yukro, Nano Challa, and Duromina lots in 2009. They blew our minds. They made us forget about lost relationships in Yirgacheffe. These coffees were absolutely wild and unique.  

TNS put simple business models in place, systems that empowered people and communities in areas that were washing coffee, and controlling their own destiny, for the first time ever. Farmers were no longer left that the will of the intermediaries roaming the countryside offering a price of the day. They were able to connect to the market directly. There have been many success stories, though none greater than Duromina. This particular cooperative has grown and invested better than rest. Their volume has increased, as has their coffee quality. As leadership within TNS has changed, we’ve spent the past few years poking around for that diamond in the rough; that lot with intoxicatingly floral aromatics that smells like some amalgam of honeysuckle, freshly grated ginger, and ripe mango. The very best lots from Agaro have such a saturated combination of cane sugar sweetness and meyer lemon/white grape that they used to remind us of drinking limonanda con panela in Colombia. Even reminiscent of watermelon juice as well. They’re just that refreshing. Well, we finally found it folks. This season’s one and only Duromina offering is an absolute beauty. It’s perfectly clean. It’s bright without an edge. It’s succulently sweet. The arrival came in hot at 90 points.  

Newsletter: New Gold, Ethiopia Guji Banco Michicha G2

Pull out your map of Ethiopia. Trace your way due south from Addis. You’ll pass Shashamane and then Awassa. You should see Yirgalem next, then Dilla. Yirgacheffe town just below. Eventually you hit Hagere Mariam. Hagere Mariam is part of the old Bule Hora zone. It’s now considered to be part of Sidamo, although that could quite literally change tomorrow, as Ethiopia’s geographical boundaries are forever roaming across hilltops into what once were neighboring tribes. Between Yirgacheffe town and Hagere Mariam is Gedeb, which was once known as Worka. For the young twenty-something version of me, Worka was the holy grail of coffee. All coffee, regardless of denomination. Just northeast of Gedeb is Uraga, which is home to some of our longest-standing relationships and absolute favorite coffees. A bit further east of Uraga is Shakiso, the region that put Guji on the map, with coffees like Mordecofe, Mormora, and Suke Quto originating in the heavily-shaded forests outside of town.

But let’s inch our way back west for a moment. If you have a topographic map, you’ll find Gedeb on the western-facing slope of a mountain. Uraga lies to the northeast, the town of Banco sits in the valley on the mountain’s southeastern-facing slopes, Hagere Mariam a bit further south. Now, draw a loop on your map around all four. The ever-so-slightly older version of myself currently considers this area to be coffee’s greatest treasure chest of all. The lots coming out of this tiny area can be some of the most explosive coffees on the planet. Not Kenya explosive, but those honeysuckle, jasmine, wildflower honey masterpieces that we all know can only be found in Ethiopia. Coffees with ripe fruit flavors of every kind — meyer lemon, white grape, ripe red berry, currant, nectarine, kiwi, and beyond. They’re all there.

We’ve had a heavy presence in Gedeb since pre-ECX days. Y’all know our story in Uraga. The Kilenso and Borena coffees are from Hagere Mariam. So now we’re learning Banco. And Banco is unique. It doesn’t taste like the other Guji coffees we buy, nor is it similar to Uraga or Gedeb. The Banco profile is its own thing entirely and we’re so happy that it brings even more diversity to our offerings.

Where else to start but the aromatics? It’s that fragrant, perfumed component that separates Ethiopia from the pack, after all, and our Banco Michicha doesn’t disappoint. That uniquely Guji pairing of ripe peach and floral honeysuckle set the tone immediately for the cup profile. More of both flavors brim from the cup, along with canteloupe and brown sugar. Redcurrant and melted butter overtones make this a distinctly Banco coffee. The mouthfeel and finish have a stunning vanilla custard quality. This is a sumptuous, intensely sweet selection for those who have become as enamored of the Guji cult classics as we have.  91 points.

Enjoy what’s still left from this current crop and start dreaming of what’s on the horizon for the next one.

Cheers,
Aleco

Newsletter: Ethiopia Harar Longberry G3

This very small offering has been a long time coming. The whole concept of this offering is extremely unique. To be perfectly frank, we don’t do naturals at Red Fox. We don’t believe in naturals at Red Fox. The idea of “naturally” processed coffees contradicts our mantra entirely.

Until now.

Why? A whole lot has to do with weather. Drying naturals in less than perfectly arid, sunny conditions is a gargantuan risk — not just a risk of uneven drying, but of stimulating ochratoxin growth on the fruit itself. Drying naturals in Yirgacheffe in December, or in Panama in January, or in Kenya at any time is really, really tricky. It’s inadvisable to say the least. A lot of our aversion to naturals has to do with risk vs. reward for the farmers themselves, as well. I’ve seen too many buyers encourage farmers to make naturals, in less than ideal conditions, and then not buy the coffee when the processing doesn’t turn out as they had hoped. This rant could continue for pages but that’s not the point. Our point is that we have finally (after years of searching) found a natural that we stand behind.

Why? Because it was grown in Harar where the arid, desert-like climate is conducive to drying in under 20 days. Because the culture and lack of water in Harar is such that the natural process is the only process used across the region, dating back to the 10th century. Lastly and most importantly, because we partnered with Heleanna Georgalis who was born and raised in Eastern Harar. Heleanna’s father, Yannis, was one of two major players in the region for decades pre-ECX. He had the state-of-the-art drying and preparation facilities in Dire Dawa. Yannis lived and breathed Harare coffee culture for the vast majority of his life. He was a legend among Ethiopian coffee traders for his work in the east.

We spent a week in East Harar with Heleanna earlier this year learning the culture and trying to get a feel for the communities and their coffee-producing habits. It’s a whole other world out there. The “Mokka” variety is found only in Harar and parts of Yemen. The elevation is extreme, hitting above 2,500 masl in certain instances. And the climate is just so dry, with annual precipitation under 1,000 mm. This is our first offering from the area, but we plan to build on it and to offer multiple lots beginning in 2016. Red Fox projects are in the works as I type this. Harar will become one of the players in our lineup that adds real diversity to our menu.

The cup profile from Harar is as unique as they come. It doesn’t taste like the naturals from Sidamo or Yirgacheffe, which have that Nestle Quik strawberry syrup flavor. It differs even from a Yemen. The finest Harars burst with ripe, refreshing blueberry and fresh cut strawberry. Tangy, greek yogurt pervades both the flavor and mouthfeel. The finish is sweet and cacao-y. Our Grade 3 Harar offering is a meticulously prepared coffee that roasts almost as evenly as a washed coffee.

We’ve sent samples of this coffee out to folks we’ve cupped with over the past 10+ years, folks with some of the most respected pallets in our industry, and the feedback has been extremely positive. We almost never score naturals, but I am going to conservatively put an 88 on this one and call it the best Harar I’ve tasted in the past 15 years.

Cheers,
Aleco

 

Newsletter: Chimaltenango, The Pearl of Central America

We’re very happy to share our first and only Central American offerings of 2015, now clear and available SPOT at the Annex in San Leandro.

Guatemala is veritable treasure chest for top coffees. We love the wide range of cup profiles from its many producing regions, from the clean stone fruit and yellow honey flavor of Sacatepequez to the dark fruit and rich cacao notes of Huehue. When I think of Alta Verapaz and neighboring Sierra de las Minas, I think of their electric acidity. In contrast, the Southernmost regions of Mataquescuintla, Chiquimula, and Esquipulas rely more on depth of sweetness and rich mouthfeel. And there is so much more variation, from region to region and within profiles, very much distinct to Guatemala. Outside of Colombia and Ethiopia there isn’t another producing country that offers as much variety.

As you might imagine, we at Red Fox do have a favorite corner of Guatemala, and that spot is Chimaltenango. Although located smack dab in the middle of the country just a couple hours north of Guatemala City, it also happens to be a region that is less traversed by coffee buyers. We love it so much that it’s the only region in all of Central America that we’re currently working in. We have big plans to develop a specific triangle-shaped zone towards the north of the country beginning in 2016. It’s from this triangle that some today’s offerings originate.

So what makes Chimal so special to Red Fox? Good question. To put it simply it’s a combination of 1800-2000 masl elevation, an almost pure presence of Bourbon and Caturra, and its accessible location — resulting in some of the most complete coffees in all of Latin America. These cups absolutely burst with fruit flavors, from black cherry to crisp red apple to currants of all varieties, alongside mandarin and white grape. They’re complex on the high end. They’re also sweet in the purest way, reminding us of wildflower honey and panela. Top Chimal coffees also offer weight at the back end of the cup with clear expressions of melted butter and fresh cream. Today’s offerings are beautiful examples of lots across this flavor spectrum.

Cheers,
Aleco

Newsletter: Prime Lot Ethiopia G1 Arrivals

They’re just aren’t any other coffees that need as few words to express their greatness as washed Grade 1 Ethiopias. They are the premier lots from the world’s premier producing country. Preparation is flawless and quality unparalleled. Today’s lots are arguably our finest offerings from Ethiopia of the season, and are prime examples of what G1 arrivals should be. They’re gems. They’re SPOT New Jersey right now.

Let’s get down to it:

KOCHERE G1:

Kochere is the peak of altitude for Yirgacheffe’s coffee production. Many coffee professionals consider it the pinnacle region — not just for Ethiopian coffee, but for coffee production in general — and it’s hard for us to disagree, considering the quality of the coffees that we see annually.

Today’s offering is the best Kochere lot we’ve offered in our first two seasons at Red Fox. Period. I don’t believe in ‘perfection,’ but this may be as close as coffee gets. It’s a supremely sweet and juicy lot with all of the ripe fruits — from blackcurrants and berries, to nectarine, to tart, refreshing white grape. The profile is seamless with no edges. This is purely clean coffee with exquisite balance to boot.

GUJI G1:

Those of you who speak with me frequently know that Guji is my favorite region in the entire coffee universe. I have a hard time getting past the unique and enticing floral character. I’m a sucker for that ripe peach, raw honey, and assam finish. They’re just so ridiculously refreshing, often reminiscent of watermelon juice. What else do you want?

Today’s offering is prime time Guji. Its aura beams from the cup with an orangish-yellow hue. Peach blossoms and wildflower honey create an aromatic explosion for a coffee that follows through with ultimate honeyed sweetness and dried apricot in the cup. As the coffee cools, brown sugar becomes the prominent note coating more ripe stone fruits. Nectarous coffee.

Dry mill preparation was handled by the ruthlessly meticulous Heleanna Georgalis, Ethiopia’s champion of true Grade 1 quality.

 

Newsletter: Kenya Gachatha Factory

Living in the Bay we’re fortunate to be around some of the American wine industry’s finest participants, from importers, to bars and shops, to natural winemakers in Sonoma county and beyond. It’s a beautiful place to be and we often find ourselves sharing anecdotes with our pals on that side of the fence. One of my favorite terms used by wine folk is “unicorn wine.” A unicorn wine is a wine that everyone talks about, a wine that everyone wants to drink, but a wine that is very rarely found on shelves or even tucked away in the deepest cellar in Berkeley.

It’s a dreamy concept that instantly makes me think of the tales of grandeur I’ve been hearing for years from some of the elder coffee statesmen that I respect most; romantic rants about the lucid blackcurrant and blackberry flavor of the most exquisite Kenyan coffees; conversations that habitually end with the lament that Kenya just isn’t quite what it used to be, that maybe, although forever and always a complex player, Kenya doesn’t quite offer the power and the purity that it once did.

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I would classify today’s Kenya offering as a unicorn coffee. To put it simply, this AA lot from Gachatha offers unadulterated flavor. It’s pure. Its sweetness is perfect. The aromatics are fragrant, fresh peach blossoms. Cup character? Take those sweet floral aromatics and turn them into ripe peach and creme fraiche with a drizzle of wildflower honey on top. The acidity? Dramatic. Think fresh redcurrant, golden raspberry, and the whole dang basket of ripe stone fruits from cherry to apricot. This is the best Kenyan coffee I remember purchasing in years. Maybe ever. We scored the arrival 92. The AB is every bit as sweet and wild, just slightly more contained. A stunner of a coffee nonetheless — we scored it 90 on arrival. If this Gachatha outturn doesn’t rival those mythical lots from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, then I say they truly no longer exist. Maybe they never did.

The farmer members of Gachatha received nearly 85 Kenyan Schillings per kilo of cherry for this outturn, one of the single highest prices paid for a lot in the entire country this season. This is the second consecutive year that Red Fox and C. Dorman have paid to keep these folks at the head of the class.

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Newsletter: New Crop Yirgacheffe G2

The season is upon us. Our first containers of washed Ethiopian coffees have now arrived on both coasts and what better way to start our offers with than the Queen Coffee of them all, Yirgacheffe. Today’s offering is a gem with all of the classic flavors we look for from that fabled region and in spades: potently perfumed honeysuckle in the fragrance, honey + milk chocolate candy bar on the break, white grape and perfectly articulate meyer lemon in the cup, with that concept continuing through the finish and morphing into a lemon hard candy note. It’s easily a 90.

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But can we trace this coffee back to the farm or cooperative level? No, we cannot. Did we buy it purely because of its electric flavor? No, we did not. We love this lot and, don’t get me wrong, we feel fortunate to be in a position of selecting the finest Ethiopian coffees available. This Yirg is a stunner and we stand behind it 1000%. But there is more to it than that.

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I personally have spent the past decade traveling to and within Ethiopia and have seen internal coffee politics change dramatically over that period. The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) was established immediately following the 2007/08 harvest and instantly changed the playing field for all of us. As the coffee buyer for one of the world’s premier direct trade roasters, I was upset that the private washing stations and exporters we worked with prior to ECX were no longer able to export coffee to us directly. These partners were often the most trustworthy folks we had relationships with. They not only delivered the best quality, and in a timely manner, but they were the ones paying more to the farmers for cherry. It was the only way they could compete with the cooperatives next door. I was upset because the vast majority of these exporters were about to see their businesses become defunct due to the new laws.

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So we promptly began drumming up a new strategy. We decided to put the ECX in our rearview mirror, more out of emotion than anything else. We began buying from the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) as well as from privately leased landholders with 30+ hectares of coffee production who, under the new laws, were still allowed to export directly. According to the new rules, landholders of this size were allowed to ship the coffee that they produced on their own farms. Those who were merely buying fruit, many of whom were our friends and strategic business partners in the growing regions, would have to tender their coffee blindly to the exchange, making those coffees untraceable beyond the larger region. But with the advent of the 2009 harvest, the truth became clear. Our tiny little business wasn’t sending a message to the government by avoiding the exchange. In fact, all we were really doing was hurting the businesses, and thousands of farmers along with them, that helped get us to where we were, reputation-wise. Why should farmers be punished for choosing to receive a better price for their cherry? To be perfectly honest, many of the privately held washing stations are STILL paying more for cherry because it is STILL the only way they survive against the neighboring cooperatives.

It takes a whole lot more than farmers and roasters to compose a strong and successful supply chain. Developing a win-win-win-win situation between farmers, export partners, ourselves and our customers is what’s most important. We’re only successful if EVERY participant involved our chain is winning.

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This Yirgacheffe is the first lot of several that we’ll offer this season prepared and exported by our old friend Heleanna Georgalis in Addis. Heleanna, like her father Yiannis, was born in East Harrar. They’re a family of coffee traders trying to find a way to not only survive as a business in the ECX era, but also to continue doing what they love….produce, cup, prepare, and ship extraordinary coffees. They’ve been loyal to us for years and we continue our loyalty to Heleanna. She knows exceptional coffees and we are proud to offer them. And that, folks, is why we’re in this business. It’s the people that interest us most. All of them. Producers, exporters, roasters and the rest. Building a winning supply chain is what this is all about.

Heleanna also happens to be our best dry miller of coffees in all of East Africa, bar none. Those of you who are tired of flawed green preparation coming out of Ethiopia will be pleasantly surprised with these lots. They’re meticulously sorted. They’re perfect.

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Newsletter: Peru Puno Tupac Amaru (Organic)

Few coffees brew as consistently clean, sweet, and balanced as coffees from the Puno region of Southern Peru. Sandia Valley is a more specific area within the region, and the Inambari Valley, within Sandia, is just about as good as it gets. The Tupac Amaru Cooperative is one of two associations located in this valley. Tupac is the coffee people ask for the most each and every season from Puno and for good reason — it’s often the sweetest, juiciest, and creamiest coffee in any given container. We’ve held the last 30 bags aside from the last arrival to offer through the newsletter today.

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The Tupac Amaru co-op has a membership of well over 500 farmers. Elevation ranges from 1400-1800 masl and farmers grow Caturra, Typica, Catimor, and even some Bourbon. Farmers are small in terms of their landholding. Average farm size is 2.5 hectares in the entire valley. Coffee is typically picked by the farmers themselves and their families. Processing is par for the course as far as rural South America goes: hand crank depulping machines, fermentation in concrete tanks for 16-20 hours with washing done in the same tanks. Climate, although fairly dry in the summer, can be rainy in the second half of the season. Parabolic beds are used to dry coffee parchment which takes on average anywhere from 6-14 days.

Tupac is a densely sweet coffee, think fine cacao and muscovado sugar, that will be its most brilliant when brewed. Its balance is unparalleled, with a subtle apple-like acidity and heavy cream finish; 87.5 points

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Newsletter: Ecuador Offer & Update

It’s been just fourteen months since we started Red Fox Coffee Merchants and we’re thankful and proud to be where we currently stand at the moment. If this industry is as tall as Aconcagua, I figure we’ve at least arrived to shore and left our vessel for more stable ground. We have a long trek ahead of us yet and very much look forward to it. Building the business around South American and East African coffees has proven to be unique and valuable to our customers. Without question Colombia, Peru and Ethiopia have made up the core of our business to date; we would still be adrift at sea without those origins. It has yet to be determined, however, where exactly our heart lies. After all, it’s the intrigue and passion for something new, something better, that gives us our pulse as coffee sourcers in the first place.

Ecuador is tiny in geographical stature compared to its neighbors, and it’s tiny in its total coffee production as well. Loja, Zamora, and the southern corridor bordering Peru are the epicenter of Arabica coffee production in the country. Certain pockets within the departments of Carchi, Imbabura, and Pichichincha represent a very small portion of the country’s total coffee exports. The commodity coffees of Guayaquil, both Robusta and Arabica, are still what Ecuador is known for, along with the rubbish that gets traded as Galapagos. Even with the traction it has gained in the specialty marketplace in the past decade, Ecuador is still not an origin of much importance. It’s likely that it will continue to struggle to be a vocal player.

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But slowly and surely, in our small way, we aim to change that — at least by providing the microphone. There is something about the farmers we work with in the small valley in Pichincha, the dry climates and high altitudes outside Catamayo that absolutely intrigues us. We’ve found incredible coffee varietals all over the country — Tekisik from El Salvador, Guatemala-style Bourbon, versions of Typica reminiscent of Villalobos, distinctly Ethiopian-style varietals, Caturra and more. For a guy who’s spent more than a decade traveling the world in search of its finest coffees, Ecuador is a paradise of potential. Throw in the fact that all of our coffee gets stored, milled, and packaged at 8,000 feet, and we have something special here. Colombia, Peru and Ethiopia are the foundation of the home we’ve built, but Ecuador just may be the hearth that fuels the future.

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We’ve held back two of our arrivals that we’re offering through the newsletter today. They’re beautiful, complete coffees. They both have a nougat-like sweetness and creme fraiche flavors and mouthfeel. These are the Guatemalan coffees of the Southern Hemisphere.

Newsletter: Peru Cusco Incahuasi 2014

Those of you in frequent contact with us are familiar by now with our thoughts on Peru. We think it’s the cat’s meow. We fully believe that Peru has more untapped coffee-growing potential than any other country in Latin America. Yes, Latin America in its entirety. Why? Well, maybe it’s the elevation which often reaches and exceeds 2,000 masl. Maybe it’s the areas throughout southern Peru secretly laden with Bourbon trees. Maybe it’s the shaded and garden-style growing reminiscent of Ethiopia. The honest truth is that it’s all of these pieces along with one more critical ingredient: our biggest attraction to Peru’s coffee production is that nobody has done it right yet. Nobody has put the effort into exploring the deepest producing areas of the country or spent the time developing relationships and quality. We’ve started to scratch the surface in Puno and now we’re doing the same in the farthest reaches of the La Convencion area of Cusco.

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Historically, coffee trading in Cusco has left a sour taste in the mouths of buyers who have wanted to work with any level of transparency. A beast of a “cooperative” group ruled the region for decades with an iron fist, making the trade channels too opaque and choppy to navigate with any success. Due to an odd turn of events with its leadership, the organization has recently met its end, and Cusco has essentially become a brand new producing origin in its own right. We’ve been patiently waiting for this day for years; for like 8 of ‘em.

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This subregion of the La Convencion area within Cusco is a perfect example of what motivates us at Red Fox. It’s way off the radar. It’s a 12 hour drive from town, crossing many a pass at 12,000 feet. It’s a gnarly journey to get out there, but the growing region is e-s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r! Bourbon, Typica, Caturra (and of course some Catimor) grow up and down the valleys from 1850-2100 masl. Farmers with strong organization are looking for an opportunity in the specialty marketplace. There are expansive vistas that remind us exactly how lucky we are. And of course, there’s superb coffee to boot. This is what we live for.

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We’ve made the treks before, during and after this past harvest. We’ve given the producers our message: the message that quality pays. The message that there is a viable future in coffee production for them should they choose to come along for the ride. I first bought coffee in La Convencion back in 2007. It changed my entire perspective on the region’s potential. Those first lots showed me that coffee in Cusco could be held in the same regard as coffees from Puno, Ecuador, Colombia and beyond. These are coffees that cup very well, but brew even better. They are full figured, creamy coffees with a profound sweetness that saturates the profile as the cup gets cooler and cooler. They are perfect winter coffees.