Earth Day Focus: Sustainability

On April 22nd, more than one billion people around the globe will celebrate the 48th annual Earth Day. Since coffee, of course, is an agricultural product, the state of the environment is fundamentally important to producing quality coffee.

There is no denying the environment’s effect on taste. The crop to cup journey is one of the earth’s many miracles, and even the slightest climate change could greatly alter a harvest’s quality. The fact is, we all agree that our planet is precious.  As the global climate changes, it becomes ever more import for each of us to do our part in protecting it.

Since being founded in 1994, Stockton Graham & Co. has been committed to purchasing green coffee from farms, co-ops and other organizations that take care to protect the environment through sustainable agricultural practices.

“We work closely with farmers both directly and through our importers to ensure coffee growing and harvesting practices protect the earth and, indeed, the future of the coffee industry.”

Jeff Vojta, Founder and CEO of Stockton Graham & Co.

As Earth Day 2018 approaches, we wanted to spotlight the impact of some of our local sustainability projects.

Our Director of Coffee Brad Kirby spearheaded these initiatives to help two neighboring sustainable farms, the Farm at Penny Lane and Paz farm. “These farms are mission-driven and make a big impact my community,” Brad said. “I also love that they are so close to me, I can hear when they have tractors running, so it’s easy donating to them.”

Farm at Penny Lane

Sustainable project: Burlap for farming

The Farm at Penny Lane partners with individuals with mental illness to grow nutritious food for themselves and others. Penny Lane provides integrated, community-based programs in a therapeutic inclusive farm setting. The farm’s sustainable accommodations include a community garden also offers Horticultural therapy.

Stockton Graham & Co. donates used burlap to Penny Lane. Burlap is the fabric sack used for shipping green coffee beans. Using burlap in farming helps reduce the growth of weeds and is biodegradable—meaning it eventually decomposes and contributes to garden soil.

We caught up with Jessamine from Penny Lane, to see how the burlap project was going.

“Things are going well here,” Jessamine reported. “The crops are growing a little slowly, but the weeds are not, and we are dutifully clearing them out of pathways and spreading out the burlap.  The real test of the experiment will be midsummer when we see how well the burlap keeps down the weeds, but for now, we love having it. It’s so much nicer to work with than cardboard!”

Paz Farm

Sustainable project: Chaff for chicken coups

The Paz Farm is a small-scale farm located in Chapel Hill, NC. They produce range free eggs and seasonal produce. The Paz Farm uses sustainable growing practices, which means they avoid synthetics, pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.

Chaff is the byproduct of roasting coffee beans. The roasting process causes the thin, dried skin around the green coffee bean to come off. Chaff has many uses in farming; it is excellent for composting but can also be mixed into the soil.

Stockton Graham & Co. regularly donates chaff to Paz Farm. We asked Nancy from the farm about the chaff donation.

“We’ve used the chaff as bedding for our chicken coups, and it is working well,” Nancy said. “We saved money, the coups smell better, and our chickens have been cozy since we started using your chaff, Thanks Stockton Graham & Co.”

At Stockton Graham & Co., we take sustainability seriously. We all play a role in preserving our planet. For more information about our sustainable initiatives or any of our sustainable coffees, call 800 835 5943 or email us.

Honduras Finca Cual Bicicleta

Honduras Finca Cual Bicicleta

We are pleased to announce a very limited rare harvest of Honduran coffee from the famous Finca Cual Bicicleta, which will be sold under our Dilworth Coffee brand. Founded by Oscar Omar Alonzo, Finca Cual Bicicleta produces some of the most sought-after coffee in the region, if not the world.

Oscar Omar Alonzo is a celebrated coffee farmer known for his passionate approach to producing high-quality, sustainable organic coffee. While many neighboring farms have experienced reduced production due to coffee rust, Finca Cual Bicicleta, which means “which bicycle” keeps pedaling to successful harvests.

Oscar Omar Alonzo follows a holistic approach to farming that has produced some of the best tasting coffee in the world. As part of his farm’s sustainability efforts, he utilizes old coconut husk from nearby lakes and buries them next to his coffee plants. The coconut husks soak up water and provide much-needed moisture and nutrients to the growing coffee trees.

Honduras is a leader in Central American coffee production. Known for its wide variety of flavor profiles, coffee from Honduras is usually very balanced with sweet and mild tasting notes. Although much of the Finca Caul Bicicleta coffee is either full natural or wash processed, Dilworth Coffee’s Finca Cual Bicicleta beans are honey processed.

Honey processing is a drying method that’s gaining popularity in the coffee world. Using this method, farmers remove the skin of the coffee cherry and various amounts of fruit pulp before drying. This allows extra fruitiness and sweetness to transfer to the beans as they dry.

As a result, our Finca Cual Bicicleta features sweet notes of honey, florals, and lemon-raspberry.

TASTING NOTES:

AROMA: Nutty – Honey – Floral
BODY: Medium – Silky
FLAVOR: Lemon-Raspberry – Honey – Caramel
ACIDITY: Balanced – Lively
AFTERTASTE: Floral – Clean – Smooth

To order Dilworth Coffee Honduras Finca Cual Bicicleta, please call a Customer Care Associate at 800 835 5943 or email us. Or if you are a retail consumer looking for beans to brew at home, you can order online at here!

Iced Coffee for Summer

Iced coffeeWith the rising temperatures, it’s that time of year to start offering iced coffee and iced specialty drinks. Iced drinks can be an integral part of coffee sales during the warm summer seasons, allowing customers to have an opportunity to escape intense heat and cool off while getting caffeinated, especially in the South!

There are several different ways to offer iced coffee these days, and many cafes have decided to utilize the “toddy” method of cold-brewing coffee.  However, there are other methods available that can be utilized using equipment you already own in your shop.

Making concentrates is a popular way of offering iced coffee, having ultimately a concoction that is twice as potent as you would normally brew, then adding ice. Keep in mind that dark roasted coffee tends to yield a smoother and more enjoyable flavor than lightly roasted coffee.

The Toddy brewing process creates a concentrate that you can add to frappes, iced lattes, iced mochas, or just create iced coffee. In this method, which features reusable filters, you add cold water to coarsely ground coffee and allow it to steep for 12-24 hours. Watch our video on the Toddy method here.

The Japanese method is rapidly gaining popularity throughout cafes as the way to serve iced coffee.  This consists of any pour over device (Chemex, Hario V60, etc.) or batch brewers in a shop and takes only a couple of minutes to prepare. This process produces an extremely smooth and flavorful cup of iced coffee, brewing right onto ice so it is only hot for a couple of seconds.  You can also incorporate your drip brewer to produce larger quantities of iced coffee by using the amount of coffee that yields a full pot but only running the half-pot water cycle. Of course, you will still brew on top of a container that has the correct proportion of ice (the same ratio as for the pour-over method).

Iced Vietnamese-style coffee is another great method which requires a Phin filter and condensed milk. Start by pouring a small amount of condensed milk into the vessel you wish to brew into and add coffee (1 rounded tablespoon per 6 ounces at a coarse grind) to the Phin filter. Brew on top of the condensed milk, stir, and add ice. The later two methods are not concentrations, so it is important to get the right proportions every time so you do not water down the coffee.

Iced Americanos will also help increase coffee sales during the warmer months by adding a cool refreshing version of a classic coffee beverage. Simply pull the shots of espresso directly into cool water and then add ice.

From a cost perspective, Toddy produces a larger quantity of iced coffee, running at about .21 cents an ounce. The Japanese method is brewed by the cup which requires a little bit more time and skill, but runs at only about .04 cents per ounce. While the Japanese-method costs less, it does call for more time per cup whereas the toddy is already made and ready to be used.

Iced signature or specialty beverages can also help increase your profit margins during the warmer seasons while standard coffee sales tend to slow down, and also increase efficiency by adding profitable and sought after items. The best way to prepare iced lattes or signature drinks involving milk is to add the ingredients and milk into a cup and pull the shots on top of the milk, leaving room for ice. This keeps the espresso shots from melting the ice and becoming watery, thereby diminishing the full flavor of the espresso. Then all that is left is to stir, add ice and serve.

Here at Stockton Graham & Company we are always happy to share our knowledge about everything coffee related. To learn more about ways to succeed in your store or coffee shop, call 800 835 5943 or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

 

Store it Properly and Say Yes to Fresh Coffee

Fresh Coffee is the Beast CoffeeHave you ever wondered how fresh coffee can go stale? It is actually a complex process that involves a fair amount of science. It all begins when heat is introduced to the green beans. Inside the roaster the sugars and amino acids in the beans combine to begin what is known as the Maillard Reaction. This is what gives browned or toasted food its distinctive flavor and it was first described in 1912 by French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard. Many types of foods, such as cookies, breads, caramel and chocolate undergo this reaction. And, of course, it is what leads to the wonderful smell, taste, and color of coffee.

During roasting, carbon dioxide also forms inside the beans. As soon as the beans are dumped into the cooling of tray of the roaster, however, the release of this gas begins. In this process, which is called degassing and can last over a week, the carbon dioxide is slowly replaced by oxygen. Though oxygen is a very good thing in many situations, it can also be one of nature’s most destructive forces. When it comes into contact with some materials, such as organic matter and some metals, oxygen alters their molecular makeup. Known as oxidation, it is a process in which oxygen actually pulls electrons away from another molecule, making it unstable. The results are things like rusting, browning or staling. So, the processes that make a bright copper penny turn dark, a cut apple become brown or–yes–coffee become stale, are all related. In coffee, oxygen reacts with the oils and solubles that give the coffee its unique taste. As time passes, flavors become less pronounced, resulting coffee that tastes flat and stale. There is no getting around this natural process but it can be slowed; if at all possible, store your fresh coffee in an airtight container to prolong its taste. It will remain fresh until your next order arrives and allow you to serve customers the best beverage possible.

To learn more about the best ways to store your coffee, call 800-835-5943 or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

If You Want Good Coffee, Start With Good Water

good water for good coffeeWhen one thinks about a cup of coffee, the roasted bean is the first thing that comes to mind. Quality beans are certainly crucial, but equally important is the good water used because hot H2O is the solvent that leaches the flavors and oils out of those beans. A cup of regular coffee is about 98.75 percent water, leaving only 1.25 percent for the soluble plant matter, so it goes without saying poor water quality can ruin even the tastiest coffee beans. All the countless hours of work by farmers, roasters and numerous others involved in getting coffee to market are for naught if, in the end, the consumer brews their beverage with bad water.

It sounds simple to say water is just two hydrogen molecules for every one of oxygen, but the chemistry of water is actually very complex. Its makeup can change seasonally and because of other factors such as city water treatments, variable sources, nearby construction, etc. Water also has many gases and minerals dissolved in it, in addition to floating bacteria and dirt. A simple charcoal filter will remove things like dirt and odor but is not much help when it comes to mineral content. Much the same way it pulls flavors from coffee, water extracts minerals as it moves through the ground or in pipes. Some of those minerals, such as iron, can produce bad coffee tastes or colors. Some, on the other hand, can be good; coffee just tastes better when brewed with good water that has a fair amount of calcium dissolved in it. One measurement the Specialty Coffee Association of America uses to count the number of minerals dissolved in water is by measuring the total dissolved solids (TDS). calciumThe total dissolved solids are measured in parts dissolved solids, per million parts water (ppm). A TDS reading is partially a measure of whether water is what is considered soft or hard. The ideal range for TDS is between 125 and 175 ppm. Water with a very high TDS reading (hard) extracts coffee flavor less readily. The ideal range for calcium hardness is between 17 to 120 ppm. Things such as iron, chlorine and chlorinates should not be present in a reading. If your water does not fall into the desired range, the solution may be a water softening or filtration system.

Personal taste is always the most important factor when evaluating the quality of brewed coffee, but don’t forget tools can be used to help measure strength and extraction and allow for more taste control. Also, all water filtration systems have parts that must be replaced on a regular basis to ensure optimum performance. In general, replace carbon filters for in-line water filtration systems every three to six months. For reverse osmosis systems, the filters and membranes should be changed once every year. But these are just guidelines; anytime you notice debris or scale on your equipment, or detect odors or off-flavors, replace your filtering elements immediately.

waterAlways remember that with its thousands of different flavors and chemicals (such as caffeine), coffee is an extremely complex beverage. No good extraction of those desirable tastes is possible without good water. Do great coffee justice and make sure your water is held to the same high standard as your beans. For more information about using good water and proper filtration, call 800-835-5943 or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

A Visit to Nicaragua and Sustainable Coffee Growing at Selva Negra

Located in the highlands of Nicaragua, between the cities of Matagalpa and Jinotega, Selva Negra leads the way when it comes to sustainable coffee production.

The beginnings of Selva Negra stretch back to 1891, when German immigrants settled in the area. They recognized the potential of the land so planted coffee on what they named La Hammonia farm. More than three quarters of a century later, the farm was sold in 1974 to the current owners, Eddy and Mausi Kühl. Both descendants of German farmers, the Kühls refurbished the La Hammonia farm and made it totally diversified and sustainable in less than a decade. They have preserved a third of the property–renamed Selva Negra Ecolodge–as virgin forest, another third as shade sustainable coffee forest, and the last third as intensive rotational pastures for cattle and organic farming. The Kühls also built a hotel and complex of cabins for eco-tourists.

Sustainable Coffee in NicaraguaOver the last 30 years, alternative sources of production have been developed, whether for in-house consumption or income generation. These include organic meat and milk products (including cheese, sausages, eggs, etc.) as well as vegetables and fruit crops. Environmental projects are carried out each year always seeking for new, better, and more efficient systems. Some of these projects include having earth tubs decontaminate coffee wastewater, improved systems for treating sewage, reforestation, methane gas production, microorganism production to improve soil quality, etc.

Sustainable Coffee in NicaraguaFor all of their hard work and dedication, Selva Negra won the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Sustainability Award in both 2007 and 2008, the Sempervirens Award from the Environmental Protection Information Center, and has received many other sustainability accolades.

Stockton Graham coffee roster Chris Bennett was able to visit Selva Negra in January on a tour with a small group of other coffee industry professionals. He shared a few thoughts about his experiences:

“My first impression was that it was beautiful. The ecolodge part that helped sustain the whole business in general was beautiful but they do an amazing job of making everything look nice. They have a lake, beautiful orchids everywhere, banana trees and orange trees. There are some coffee trees grown close to the lodge but the main lots are a walk away. Coffee isn’t the only crop; they had a lot of sheltered growing areas for all the food they produced on the farm for the hotel as well as the workers.

Sustainable Coffee in Nicaragua

Chris Bennett tries his hand at coffee picking.

It’s a big property so they drove us around to different areas where people were picking the coffee. They let us pick coffee cherries for about an hour but we were all really bad at it. Then they had someone come show us how to do it properly and he was much faster. It’s definitely hard work.

“The sustainable coffee operation was amazing. I want to say they estimate four million coffee plants on the property, grown in the shade of larger trees. They also had a couple of greenhouses where they showed us the seedlings and small plants that they were getting ready to plant for the next season. Selva Negra wasn’t the only coffee plantation in that part of Nicaragua; when we were driving down the main road, towards Managua, we would see these massive farms and mills with coffee laid out on tarps to dry.

“I’d never been to an origin country before so it was an overall awesome experience. I’d love to go back.”

If you’re not familiar with the coffee of Selva Negra, call 800-835-5943 to find out more or email orders@stocktongraham.com.

Sustainable coffee form Nicaragua

12 Roasters Compete in 1st NC Statewide Coffee Competition

Stockton Graham & Co. is proud to be the exclusive sponsor for the first-ever statewide coffee competition in North Carolina. This groundbreaking event will feature 12 coffee roasters who will compete for the best coffee in North Carolina. The competition will take place on October 14 from 3:00pm – 5:00pm in the Special Cooking Contest area in the Education Building of the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. This is the first statewide coffee competition on the East Coast and the second-ever statewide coffee competition in the United States.coffee competition

“We are excited to do this and bring the coffee community together. Coffee has always been a collaborative industry and this introduces a whole new group of consumers to appreciate great specialty coffee and promote North Carolina industry and jobs,” said Jeff Vojta, co-founder and CEO of Stockton Graham & Co.

In addition to ribbons, there will be three cash prize winners; $100 for grand champion, $75 for the reserve champion and the honorable mention will receive $50.

The competitors are:

top-anchorAnchor Coffee Company, Wilkesboro, NC

Coffee, community and lifestyle are the three guiding principles of this roasting company.

 

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Aromatic Roasters, Pittsborro, NC

Micro-roaster featuring the finest coffee from around the world. They roast to highlight the skill of farmers.

 

backalleycoffeeroastersBack Alley Coffee Roasters, Wake Forest, NC

Back Alley Coffee Roasters wants to let the bean do the talking! Each single origin coffee has something unique to contribute.

 

brclogo_rgb_fin_200x200Bethesda Roasting Company, Durham, NC 

Bethesda’s mission is to provide high quality custom coffees and give excellent customer service to individuals and businesses.

 

muertos_logo_website_glowCafe De Los Muertos, Raleigh, NC

Cafe De Los Muertos’ mission is to roast and serve great coffee. They also want to showcase other roasters as well as local food artists.

 

1470840349537Camp Coffee Roasters, Blowing Rock, NC 

Team Camp has a passion for coffee. They are always learning and looking for new ideas to make the best coffee.

 

ccrlogo1Carrboro Coffee Roasters, Carrboro, NC 

Carrboro Coffee Roasters is a premier small batch artisan roaster that has drawn international attention.

 

Larry’s Coffee, Raleigh, NC larrys-coffee-logo

Larry’s Beans is happily committed to blending and roasting innovative uniquely delicious coffees — and making the world a better place.

 

magic-beans-logo-100x100Magic Beans, Pfafftown, NC

Magic Beans is a North Carolina roaster based in Pfafftown near Winston Salem.

 

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Mountain Air Roasting Incorporated, Asheville, NC

Mountain Air sources coffees from East Africa and the Americas that can be generally characterized as bright, clean, and sweet.

 

mainsquarenooutlinetrans3500Pushwater Coffee, Charlotte, NC 

Pushwater Coffee is a small batch coffee roaster with a big mission. They put their farmers first.

 

unknownSummit Coffee Company, Davidson NC

Summit’s story began in 1998 and theirs is a story about coffee, adventure, and people.

 

Coffee Competition Focuses on Specialty Coffee In North Carolina

So what exactly is “specialty coffee?” And what is the process of getting to the point of having a roasted bean ready for a coffee competition?

As many coffee shop owners may or may not know, specialty coffee is defined as any coffee that scores above 80 points on a 100-point scale. Typically, specialty coffee is grown at high altitudes, with lots of attention and care from the farmers. Then, it is sold at a premium direct to coffee roasters or to coffee traders.

The roasters then create custom profiles for each coffee highlighting and showcasing the natural flavors of the bean. This is where the craftsmanship of roasting takes place and this is where we at Stockton Graham & Co. and all roasters have an opportunity to shine.coffee competition

It is clear that there is an art to the sourcing, storing and roasting that makes for coffee perfection, but this is only one side of the coin for the roaster looking to make an award-winning cup.

The next step (and this is what twelve different North Carolinian roasters set out to showcase in a coffee competition) is preparation. This will involve decisions for the competitors about water, grind and method they will use to compete.

Which brings us to another new defining factor in this new age of coffee competition and that is an attention to detail that takes coffee to a level of fussiness previously only seen in wine circles. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that coffee has two to three times as many flavor compounds as wine does.

“We are going to be judging the best coffee, best prepared,” said Brad Kirby, who is the Director of Coffee at Stockton Graham & Co. “If you are going to prepare an Ethiopia, it’s going to need to have a certain acidity and a discernable fruitiness.”coffee competition

When asked more specifically about the reason coffee is just now being noticed for the craft beverage it can be, Kirby says he believes that it has taken coffee longer to position itself in the specialty market because where coffee is grown and where coffee is roasted are so far removed from one another.

Although we obviously can’t grow coffee here, North Carolina is rooted in agriculture. It is our leading industry. We are number one nationally for flue-cured tobacco and sweet potatoes and we are second in the nation for Christmas trees, hogs and pigs, trout, and turkeys. There are about 48,000 farms in North Carolina and agriculture alone is an $84 Billion industry.

Globally speaking and when it comes to coffee there are approximately 25 million farmers and coffee workers in over 50 countries involved in producing coffee around the world. Coffee was traditionally developed as a colonial cash crop, planted by serfs or wage laborers in tropical climates on large plantations of landowners for sale in colonial countries.

Coffee is the US’s largest food import and second most valuable commodity only after oil. In recent years, new cafés have been opening at an explosive rate, making specialty coffee mainstream and increasing profit margins for specialty coffee roasters and retailers.