Introducing Brandon’s Anniversary Blend

Chemex brew of Brandon's Anniversary BlendToday we had the pleasure of trying a new Stockton Graham & Co. blend in honor of Roastmaster, Brandon Riggs’ 10th Anniversary! Although Brandon had a strong desire for his Anniversary Blend to incorporate our Papua New Guinea, his favorite varietal right now, he was unable to find a truly-balanced good blend using the PNG. So instead, this “perfect” blend is equal parts Sumatra, Kenya AA and Guatemala, a favorite blend of Brandon’s over the years. A blend that “sticks with him”, Brandon always likes to serve this up to friends and new customers to try as an example of one of his best creations!

Larz Chemex brewing Brandon's Anniversary BlendLarz served me up a mug brewed using the Chemex brewing method, resulting in one of the smoothest cups I’ve ever tasted! I have to agree with Larz that the blend is delicious, incorporating bright, citrusy notes from the Kenya AA, followed by the chocolaty sweetness of the Sumatra. It has a pleasant, spicy, floral aroma and a smooth, medium body. It’s a great “anytime” coffee that an average coffee drinker will love, and true coffee aficianados will appreciate the nuances each specific varietal has to offer.

Brandon talking about Brandon's Anniversary Blend“I’ve never given this blend to anyone who didn’t like it,” said Brandon. “The blend is nicely balanced between the tangy acidity of the Kenya AA, grounded by the sweet chocolate notes of the Sumatra. The Guatemala blends the two opposites together perfectly.”

Thanks so much, Brandon, for 10 years of fantastic coffee!

“What Do You Taste?” Ed. 2

Despite graduating from East Carolina University four short months ago, Reid and myself recently found ourselves in the classroom setting once again, only this time, not as Pirates of ECU, but as students of Stockton Graham & Co.’s Coffee College. With so much to learn about in the world of coffee, we started class with the very basics, beginning with where exactly the beans are grown. Although coffee can be grown just about anywhere with a tropical climate, we learned that there are three main regions that provide the world with a majority of the coffee that we drink. For the next three weeks, I am going to attempt to learn all there is to know about each of these three regions and explain to the best of my (new and rising) knowledge, the specific affects that these regions have on the beans that they produce.

This week’s region is Latin America, and without a doubt it is the largest coffee distribution region in the world. Latin American coffee is grown from southern Mexico, all the way through Central and South America to Peru. It is also very common in the plateaus of Brazil, as well as some Caribbean Islands. In this region there are more than a dozen major countries that contribute to the coffee distribution industry including Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and more. The tropical climate and mountainous landscape of Latin America is ideal for growing all types of coffee plants. Ranging from standard-grade Robusta coffee beans to high quality gourmet Arabica coffee beans, this part of the world produces it all.

With the amount of counties in this region that produce coffee, there are some differences and similarities when it comes to growing and harvesting coffee. Central American countries grow their coffee in soil with high amounts of volcanic sediment in it, while traditional South American counties are grown in more of a rainforest environment. Though there are two main growing environments that are very different, the coffee beans are related in the fact that they are all typically grown at a high altitude. With the exception of Brazil, many parts of Central and South American grow coffee beans in the mountains, at highs of 5,000 feet or higher, which give the beans high amounts of acidity and citrus to their flavoring.

Another common characteristic that Latin American coffee beans share is the process that the beans undergo after they are harvested. This process is called wet processing, and it is the process of removing the cherry from the bean, soaking the stripped bean in a ceramic pool for fermenting purposes, and then leaving to dry before removing the thin membrane remaining around the bean. Wet processing also contributes to the amount of acidity and citrus that these beans commonly contain.

Brazil, on the other hand, is a bit unique from the rest of the region when it comes to growing coffee. They tend to grow their coffee at a much lower elevation due to the shorter mountains in the Brazilian landscape. Brazil also typically uses dry processing, which mean they dry the cherries without stripping or soaking the beans. Once the cherry is in a raisin form, the beans from inside the cherry are then collected. The drying processes, as well as the lack of elevation, produce a low acidic and citrus content in Brazilian beans.
Here at Stockton Graham & Co., we distribute coffee beans from five different Latin American counties, and with those beans, we produce dozens of different coffees, ranging from single origins, to organics, decafs, swiss water processed, and blends. The classic coffee of Latin-America is typically, a bright, lively acidic and a straightforward cup. They provide what for a North American is a “typical” good coffee experience, one that has now come to be a favorite of many all around the world.

Matt Hogan
Stockton Graham & Co.

Update from Origin: Guatemala

CAFECOM S.A.,  a coffee export organization we work with, produced a report compiled by their field agents in Guatemala on the damage from the volcanic eruption in May and the subsequent flooding from Tropical Storm Agatha.

We like to share these stories with our customers and interested readers to help them understand how minor news stories in the US have major implications on the farmers in production countries which, in turn, impacts coffee quality and availability to us.  It always reminds us of the investments the farmers make to produce quality coffees and the efforts needed to get them to us, the customers and consumers.

Our Roastmaster and Green Coffee Buyer Brandon Riggs talks with farmers, exporters and importers throughout the year to understand what is happening with the crops in terms of production and quality issues to ensure we are obtaining the best coffees for our customers.

The Pacaya Volcano erupted on Thursday evening spewing sand, ash and rocks over 100km.  The eruption forced evaluations of residents.  Homes and building were damaged along with closures of roads and airports. Sadly, as of May 31st, 2010, two fatalities and three missing persons were reported.

From a coffee perspective, the falling ash and rocks caused damage to the leaves and beans, including burning and severe damage to many coffee trees.  The damage to the plants may also make them more susceptible to fungus and other diseases during the fruiting of the trees.  Guatemala typically starts their coffee harvest late in the year (fourth calendar quarter continuing through the first quarter).

The first tropical system of the Pacific in 2010, Agatha, deposited in the mountains of Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, 10 to 30 inches in 24 hours with winds up to 40 mph.

As of June 2, 2010, there were 156 fatalities and more than 100 still missing.  More than 180,000 were evacuated to temporary shelters.  18 bridges on major highways were collapsed or washed out, hampering recovery efforts and normal movement of goods.

Reports of damages to coffee farms and mills in Antigua, Atitlan, and Fraijanes. Roads and bridges were destroyed or damaged in the other regions which, if not repaired before harvest, could impact the movement of cherries to the mills and the green coffee to market.  Anacafe, the government coffee organization, estimates US 30million in direct coffee crop losses and over US $ 15million to coffee farm physical property.  In addition to the coffee losses, Guatemalan farms suffered losses in florist flowers, vegetables, bananas, corn and shrimp farms.

Jeff Vojta
Stockton Graham & Co.

Roastmaster’s Trip to Guatemala: La Victoria Champila Estate

Stockton Graham & Co. Roastmaster Brandon Riggs made a visit to Guatemala in February. These photos are from a trip to La Victoria Champila. If you missed the pictures he took while visiting La Cascada, where we source our current Guatemala single-origin, you can find them here.

Looking down on the road through La Victoria Champila Estate. Coffee trees are all over.

Ripe coffee cherries are ready to go into the de-pulper.

The fruit portion of the coffee cherry after it has been removed from the seed.

Chapel at La Victoria Champila in Huehuetenango. Coffee beans are drying on large patio.

A smaller drying patio.

We’ll have more pics from Brandon’s trip coming later!

Mike Adams
Stockton Graham & Co.

Our Roastmaster’s trip to Guatemala: La Cascada

SGC Roastmaster Brandon Riggs recently returned from a trip to Guatemala. Over the course of seven days, Brandon traveled all over the country, cupping new crop varietals and visiting coffee farms. Along the way, he was able to take some really cool pictures.  Here are his photos from the Coban region:

Drying trays from the La Casada Estate. Currently, we source our single-origin Guatemalan from this farm.

La Cascada Estate owner Horst Spitzke explaining his coffee drying project. Due to climate changes in the region over the last few years, Mr. Spitzke is implementing a new way to dry the coffee.

The terrain in and around the Estate. You'll notice the remnants of a powerful landslide that occurred two years ago.

We’ll have more pictures to come from other farms in the region. If you’d like to sample our single-origin Guatemala La Cascada, please contact a customer care associate at (800) 835-5943.

SGC's Trip to Origin: Guatemala

Stockton Graham & Co. Roastmaster and Director of Coffee Brandon Riggs is preparing to leave for a week-long trip to Guatemala to visit coffee farms we buy from currently and to check out some other farms that we might consider sourcing from in the future. He will be gone Feb. 15th – 19th.

Currently, harvesting of the high-grown Arabica coffee is in full swing. Brandon will visit, amongst other places, the La Casacada Estate in Alta Verapaz, one of our current sourcing farms. This is a region in Guatemala that is famed for its tropical rainforest,  storied indigenous past and wonderfully complex coffee offerings.  The coffee farm is called Flor del Rosario, and is owned by German Horst Spitze who settled in Guatemala in 1961.  This is a relatively “new” coffee farm, as the fist planting was started in 1988, but it has quickly become on of Guatemala’s finest.  In 2002, this farm finished 6th in the Guatemala Coffee Auction, and was the only coffee from this region to qualify.  Throughout the coffee farm, which consists of 550 hectares, there is an abundance of natural flora and fauna.  Many orchids, cardamoms, and Guatemala’s national flower, the Monja Blanca, can be found.  Deep inside the farm you can find a beautiful 100 meter natural spring waterfall that honors the name of the farm, which mean, “The Waterfall” in Spanish.

Brandon will also visit Huehuetenango and stay at the La Victoria Champilia Finca, amongst other places. Additionally, the itinerary calls for a stop at our producer’s dry mill in Antigua, where Brandon will be cupping new, boutique coffees from the area.

He will be taking lots of pictures and, hopefully, getting some good video, too. Keep your eyes peeled to the blog.

New Coffee Crops: Guatemala

Our roasting staff here at Stockton Graham & Co. has been hard at work cupping new coffee crops and they’ve picked out some real gems. Here is the info on our new Guatemala. Familiarize yourself with the background of the farm, flavor profile, etc. so you can educate your customers accordingly.

Guatemala Coban La Cascada
Rolling through the town of San Cristóbal Verapaz it’s easy to feel as if you are moving backwards in time to an ancient Mayan village.  The tremendously bright colors abound and the smell of wood-burning stoves hovers over every corner.  After leaving the town, heading into the verdantly green valleys of Alta Verapaz, we come across the farm Flor del Rosario, owned by our German friend Horst Spitzke.

Don Horst traveled abundantly through Latin America first stopping in Costa Rica, and then on to Mexico before settling in Guatemala in 1961.  Although he first planted coffee on the farm in 1988, his coffee has already become one of Guatemala’s finest.  His coffee finished 6th at the Guatemalan Coffee Internet Auction in 2002 and was the only coffee from the entire Alta Verapaz region to qualify.

Amongst the coffee is a plethora of natural beauty.  The diversity of flora and fauna make the farm a natural wonder.  Trekking deep into the 550 hectares of land that encompasses Don Horst’s farm you will find a wealth of flowers including Orchids, Cardamoms and the Monja Blanca, which is Guatemala’s national flower.  Deeper inside the farm you will find a beautiful 100 meter natural spring waterfall that honors our brand “La Cascada”, which means “The Waterfall” in Spanish.  A few feet away from the waterfall’s mainstream you will find small rock caves formed by millions of years of water erosion.

The beauty of Horst Spitzke’s coffee is no different than that of his farm.  This coffee comes from a region that is famed for its tropical rainforest, its storied indigenous past and its wonderfully acidic coffee. Don Horst is a passionate coffee farmer and experimented miller, who is devoted since 1988 to get only the best out of his farm and his coffee which may be the most strikingly acidic in the region.  This citric explosion, coupled with a very well rounded body creates a single-origin delight for the ages.

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION : San Cristóbal Verapaz, Alta Verapaz
ALTITUDE: 3,800 – 5,000 feet above sea level
HARVEST PERIOD: January – March
MILLING PROCESS: Washed Arabica, sun and machine dried
AROMA: Floral
FLAVOR: Bright; citric fruit tones
BODY: Round; full
ACIDITY: Sharp; crisp
CERTIFICATIONS: Utz Kapeh