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Posts Tagged ‘Direct Trade’

Raising the Bar on the Coffee Bean

In Coffee Education, Coffee Projects, In the news, Product Reviews on December 5, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Reprint courtesy of THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR

Stephen Armstrong simply doesn’t accept that some people don’t like coffee.

He can’t relate to it. It’s incomprehensible.

He’ll find them the right coffee.

It’s only a couple of minutes into an interview with a coffee non-convert when he declares that java has 800 flavour compounds, compared to wine with 250.

What’s not to like?

“Coffee is, hands down, the most complex beverage on the planet, ” says Armstrong, 42, a man with a variety of careers in his past, who’s decided that coffee is the way he can make the world a better place through his company Speakeasy.

Armstrong is a direct trade coffee importer, roaster, wholesaler and retailer.

Armstrong operates the Speakeasy Café on Ferguson Avenue North on weekends. In the small art deco space painted mauve outside, customers can buy coffee by the pound (prices ranging from $20 to $70) or the cup, sample new beans or take part in tastings (cuppings in the coffee world) or learn the right way to brew the perfect cup. More on that later.

His business is in growth mode. Armstrong has just opened a new micro-roastery in a former industrial site on Sherman Avenue North, that will join a roastery he owns in Kingville, Ont. He’s also this week closed a deal to buy The Ultimate Bean, a fair trade and organic coffee company out of Georgetown.

That acquisition will give him a client roster buying 4,000 pounds of coffee each week, roasting equipment, grinders, an invoice and accounting infrastructure and a developed brand. He will run The Ultimate Bean as a fair trade organic company and Speakeasy as a direct trader.

Armstrong works directly with coffee bean growers, helping them improve their crops and, if satisfied with the quality, buying the entire harvest. He calls it sustainable direct trade, pointing out that 90 per cent of the world’s coffee is grown on farms of three hectares or less.

While he supports fair trade, where growers pool together in a co-op to have some power in the market, he says that model isn’t about quality.

“When you work directly with the farmers, the ethics and sustainability is built in. I’m not selling politics without the quality to back it.”

So, Armstrong travels to coffee farms in Mexico, Kenya, Colombia and elsewhere to offer advice and direction to growers. His training allows him to detect problems and identify where they’ve happened in the production chain.

He is one of only 14 Q-Graders in Canada. It’s a licence earned through the Coffee Quality Institute after five days of rigorous exams. Armstrong is also a member of the Roasters Guild and teaches roasting classes for Toper North America.

Of his current offerings, Armstrong is excited about a Blue Mountain bean grown in Mexico, the only crop of the variety grown outside Jamaica. He has bought all 13 bags of this crop (152 pounds each). Where other Blue Mountain coffee sells for $60 or $65 a pound, Armstrong sells his Mexican beans for $25 a pound.

Armstrong was also the winning bidder for a Nicaraguan coffee deemed a Cup of Excellence. Those 17 bags of beans are considered among the top in the world.

This year, he added award-winning coffee creator to his list of accomplishments. Armstrong’s blend of Ethiopian coffee beans, called Kochere Gayo, was the Gold Bean java at the prestigious SIAL competition in Toronto. Based in Paris, SIAL is one of the world’s biggest food expositions.

For Armstrong, coffee is a niche business.

About 90 per cent of the coffee market is covered by corporate sellers, but Armstrong says there is plenty of room for small, independent roasteries selling interesting coffees.

“This couldn’t be more different from the double-double to go.”

Armstrong markets his world exclusives to coffee aficionados around the world. For instance, he has Japanese clients who pay $55 just in shipping every two weeks for four pounds of his Cup of Excellence coffee, which costs $30 a pound.

He is particularly proud of the world exclusive on his Kenyan Othaya coffee. With undertones of lychee fruit and red currants, it’s the most expensive green bean he’s ever bought at $9 a pound. To put that in perspective, he could buy a quality fair trade organic green coffee from an importer at $4.

Armstrong bought all 750 pounds of Othaya from its grower and was offered world exclusivity for future crops.

“If I can’t sell that, I’m in the wrong business. I should be selling blister packs to food service industry.”

Speakeasy supplies to restaurants and cafés and has recently signed a deal to provide some of the coffee services to the University of Windsor. Armstrong says he can offer better coffee at the same as the current supplier to the university. He hopes to work out similar deals with other campuses, including McMaster.

Armstrong is a father of five, ranging from 2 to 15, who landed in Hamilton when his partner Andrea Robertson came to McMaster for the midwifery program. She is now a professor at Ryerson and is working on a PhD from the University of Western Ontario.

The son of oil industry employees, Armstrong was born in Northern Ireland and grew up in Thailand, Saudi Arabia, East Germany and Portugal. His career path has been just as varied. He’s a journalism graduate from Concordia and has worked as a freelance writer, a music producer, a DJ and a chef.

Armstrong is fascinated both by the science of coffee growing and roasting and the sensory experience of enjoying it.

He brews a cup of coffee with the care of an artist. He weighs the water and the freshly ground beans.

“What you don’t measure, you can’t make better, ” he explains.

He puts the grounds in a heavy, waxy-looking filter balanced in the opening of an hour-glass-shaped glass vessel called a Chemex coffee maker. He pours a small amount of hot water (he lets boiled water sit 45 seconds first) over the grinds.

He calls this blooming, and says it allows carbon dioxide to blow off and aids with flavour extraction. Finally, he pours the water through the filter, carefully watching the digital scale.

He has a probe that measures the total dissolved solids in the liquid. The ideal is 1.25, he says. If it’s not there, you have to look at the variables like whether the water was too hot or the grind too fine.

The difference between experiencing his coffee and that sold in tins in grocery store, is something like the difference between a frozen dinner and a gourmet meal, he says. Store-bought coffee is stale, he says. It has to be because fresh-roasted coffee gives off carbon dioxide and would blow up its packaging.

“I want to sell coffee that is remarkable, spectacular and unusual. My real objective is to do that with world exclusives.”

Kenya AA Othaya Microlot

In Coffee Projects, New Products, Product Reviews on June 22, 2011 at 10:52 am

Othaya originated from the words “on their own” which came about as the indigenous people were trying to defend their land, “on their own.”

The heart of the Aberdare National Park is home to numerous species, including the rarely seen Bongo Antelope. Other wildlife includes the endangered black rhino, elephants, leopards, bushbucks and many others. It’s also famous for safari lodges Aberdare Country Club, The Ark, and Outspan Hotel; a tree-top hotel famous for housing Queen Elizabeth II on the night of her coronation.

We are pleased to have aquired this spectacular Kenya microlot which is expected in the roastery mid-July (flavour notes of lychee fruit and blackcurrent acidity) Even better, Speakeasy will have a first access “relationship” opportunity on future lots.

Location: Nyeri district and on the western side of Mt.Kenya

Othaya co-operative society constitutes several factories

e.g. Kagere factory, Iriaini factory, Kagonye factory

Altitude: 1700 – 1800 metres

Nearest town:  5Km from Nyeri Town

Soil: Rich Volcanic Sandy Soil

Coffee Variety: SL 34 and SL 28

Flowering season: Between March and April

Harvesting Time: Between November and December

Fermentation: Fresh River Water from Mumwe River.

Drying method: Sun Dried

Organization: Small-scale farmers in well-managed central pulverises

Growing area: Central highlands mainly at high altitude

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Make Grounds for Health

In Coffee Education, Coffee Projects, In the news, Social Justice & Environment on May 31, 2011 at 5:21 pm

We have the best coffee…and now we’re making it even better

On the heels of our international win for best new blend at SIAL 2011, Hamilton’s Speakeasy Roasteries partners with Grounds for Health to help raise money for their award-winning Cervical Cancer prevention program.

This fundrasing event is coupled with the launch of Speakeasy Cafe this Saturday June 4th at 445 Ferguson Ave. North

For the entire month of June, Speakeasy will donate $1 from the sale of every pound of our award winning Kochere Gayo to Grounds for Health. Buy 5 lbs and we’ll douible our commitment to $10.

Despite being one of the easiest forms of cancer to screen for and treat, cervical cancer kills more women in coffee-growing countries than any other form of cancer.

Women are dying from cancer that is preventable.

“Grounds for Health develops sustainable community-focused cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment programs in coffee growing communities so that no woman need die in her prime from this preventable and curable disease. This is not only the moral thing to do; it also makes great economic sense. Research clearly shows the premature death of a mother in the developing world sentences her children – especially girls – to lives of poorer health, and fewer economic and educational opportunities. Lost productivity to the community is almost incalculable. We applaud Speakeasy Roasteries for caring about women around the word whose labors brings delicious coffee to our daily cups.” August Burns, Executive Director, Grounds for Health

Help us combat cervical cancer in coffee producing countries. Stop by Speakeasy Cafe between 8 am and 6 pm any weekend in June, or place your orders for Kochere Gayo through our webstore.

Speakeasy Cafe

445 Ferguson Avenue North

Hamilton, ON, L8L 4Z1

Saturdays & Sundays: 8 am – 6 pm

Google Map

Fresh roasted beans on-demand

“To-the-cup” brewed coffee

Espresso / Americano / Latte

Black,  green, & herbal teas + soft drinks

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The Golden Bean

In In the news, New Products on May 13, 2011 at 10:32 am

Speakeasy Coffee is very pleased to announce that we were the Grand Prize “Golden Bean” winner for best new blend at the 2011 International SIAL “Coffee Cup.” Long live the art of the blend!

There were 30 finalists representing 7 different countries. Results are as follows:

Single origin

“Gold Bean”

CAFÉ QUINDIO S.A.S (Colombia)

“Silver Bean”

GABRIEL DE CARVALHO DIAS (Brazil)

Blends Category

“Gold Bean”

Speakeasy Roasteries (Canada)

Certified Category

Universal Caffe (Italy)

Story & Photo reprint courtesy of Gary Yokoyama @ Hamilton Spectator

Move over Tim Hortons, Hamilton just might have a new iconic coffee.

It’s called Kochere Gayo, and on Wednesday it was named the best blended coffee in the world at the SIAL competition in Toronto.

Kochere Gayo is the creation of Stephen Armstrong, owner of Speakeasy, a specialty coffee roasting and wholesale company on Ferguson Avenue North. “This win is fantastic,” he said Thursday. “It demonstrates our commitment to quality and is great for the Canadian coffee industry.”

SIAL is one of the world’s biggest food industry expositions, headquartered in Paris and held every two years in a different locale, drawing thousands of exhibitors from all over the globe. Armstrong isn’t sure exactly how many competitors he faced in the Coffee Cup showdown, but estimates it was in the hundreds.

There were three categories for coffee — blended, single origin and organic — and Armstrong says the blended category he won “really is the craft of coffee.” His prize for the victory? “The accolades,” he says “but of course winning a competition of this calibre will have a great affect on business for me.”

Speakeasy is a direct-buy wholesaler, meaning Armstrong travels to coffee-producing countries to purchase raw beans directly from the growers, roasts the beans and blends them here, then sells to numerous restaurants and cafés. However, you can buy his coffees, including the Kochere Gayo, online at speakeasycoffee.ca and arrange delivery (free in Hamilton & Wndsor-Essex) or pick it up.

Armstrong explains the Gold Bean winning coffee is a blend of Kochere Yirga Cheffe and Amaro Gayo Sidama (washed) coffee grown in two different regions of Ethiopia. He describes Kochere Gayo as a rich blend that is balanced and fruity, and has citrus, chocolate and pipe tobacco characteristics. It sells for about $19 a pound ($42 a kilo).

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Grapevine Radio

In Coffee Projects, In the news on January 3, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Transcription taken from http://localtabletalk.wordpress.com/

Stephen Armstrong of Speakeasy Roasteries answered a few of my questions about his connections to coffee in Hamilton. Stephen has a café in downtown Hamilton, a roastery in Kingsville (near Windsor) and a Hamilton-based roastery opening in January.

What made you interested in coffee?

“I am a classically trained Chef De Cuisine (British Craft Guild of Chefs) and a recovering alcoholic; but I gave up alcohol and kitchens at around the same time (’95). My story is that I’m basically a foodie with OCD and addictions issues, so me and Specialty coffee were a natural pairing.”

You can see Stephen’s blog “Ten things I love about Specialty Coffee” on his blog. One reason he includes is: “Specialty coffee is a ‘culture’…a slow-food approach of sitting down with people and making connections over a cup of the world’s most complexly glorious beverage. This ain’t no ‘double-double to go.’”

What are Speakeasy’s personal values and goals for coffee roasting?

“[Our goals are to be] quality driven, environmentally conscious, ethically sourced, sustainably produced, transparently operated… I love that at least 80% of what I pay for green coffee is going directly to the farmer; I love that these coffees have personalities behind them…not faceless co-ops, but individuals and families that are invested in producing something ‘better.’ It’s also satisfying as a business to be able to offer world-class, world-exclusive coffees that really make a significant difference in the lives of their producers. These are the intangibles of what I do that I find the most satisfying.

[Additionally] all Speakeasy facilities try to be as close to zero emissions as possible so I am having an afterburner made for the Ferguson location. An afterburner is a Ministry of the Environment approved emissions incinerator that is fitted to the roaster.”

What do you see Hamilton’s role being in ethical coffee consumption?

“To my understanding, Speakeasy was the first coffee roastery in Hamilton’s recent history (est. 2004). It was certainly the first Fair Trade Certified roastery in Hamilton, so I’ve always felt Hamilton could play an essential role in the growth of the ethical purchasing movement. Hamilton offers a unique environment where the mainstream coffee consumer might also be labour-issues aware; given a push in the right direction. We access a unique urbanicity that’s surrounded by a wealth of local artisan food providers, vineyards, orchards, and family run farms.”

Why have you chosen to work with Cup of Excellence and Direct Trade?

“Cup of Excellence is a third party organization that conducts ‘competitions’ in coffee producing countries. Anyone with a crop can enter. [The Cup of Excellence] jury narrows this down to the best 20 – 25. Members…are then able to bid on these coffee lots via a live auction. In this auction year, Speakeasy has acquired two different 2010 Cup of Excellence coffees.

The Direct Trade model sees coffee as a ‘seed to cup’ product – everything along the chain of production has impact on quality in the cup. In this model of quality, if you can’t eliminate links in the process chain, then the strategy is to make those “relationship” links stronger. This model rely on the roaster to do the import, shipping, quality assessments etc. (and absorb the associated costs) These models are about purchasing directly from the farmer based on quality…and based on quality, my cheapest green coffee costs me 3 times the Fair Trade minimum of $1.25 USD / lb. I might not have a certification group behind me to logo my bags, but my money couldn’t possibly be doing more.

Cup of Excellence and Direct Trade coffees guarantee ethics, sustainability, and quality. I think what’s prohibitive about Direct Trade and Cup of Excellence for many small roasters is cost. Direct Trade is often an all-or-nothing way of sourcing coffee. Single lots of coffee may cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars…and that’s just for one new coffee addition. With Direct Trade, there’s no one-bag option…it’s the whole crop or nothing. Then there are the issues of traveling to ‘origin’ to source coffees, and having the skill set to assess whether prices are reflective of quality. [The next step] is getting your coffees out of origin and into Canada. Currently, Speakeasy warehouses over 20 different single-origin coffees that are direct trade, Cup of Excellence, or microlot, with a value of well over $300k; significantly different from purchasing one or two bags at a time from an importer (at a cost of about $400 for a [Fair Trade certified] bag).”

How do you see Fair Trade in terms of ethical sourcing?

“Speakeasy spent it’s first 4 years are a purely Fair Trade roastery and I continue to maintain certification. Fair Trade is a global phenomenon and essential in providing market access to small-scale farmers (Direct Trade is small in comparison).

Contrary to the popular perception of ‘plantation’ grown coffee, about 90% of coffee is produced on small family owned plots of 5 hectares or less. If your farm only produces 5 bags of coffee every crop year then it’s very difficult to gain market access, and these farmers are open to exploitation. Fair Trade pools together the product of many farms and now the 5 bags is 500 and a more attractive volume to larger buyers. The flaw in the model is that one or two of those crop lots might be spectacularly high quality coffees that are being lost in the great blending pot of collectively milled coffee…good for market access, but not so good for quality.”

Do you have any future plans for Speakeasy that you’d like to share with us?

“I am working on creating ‘green’ buying co-ops (in Canada) that will make the issues of cost less prohibitive to artisan micro-roasters that may not have the pooled resources to engage direct trade on their own.

Speakeasy now works directly with an organization called NinetyPlus; they are aptly named because all of their coffees ‘cup’ (a set of protocols used to assess the quality of roasted coffee) at 90 points or higher. The members of this group work with farmers to improve all aspects of their coffee process. Speakeasy is discussing the possibility of taking on land in Panama that will be managed by NinetyPlus. What’s most interesting is that this group are not specifically coffee-based, but rather, specialists in the fields of agricultural micro-management, multi-culture crop environments, cross-strain varietals horticulture (i.e. agro-scientists).”

What’s your favourite Speakeasy coffee that you are currently offering?

“[My current favourite,] the Kenya Kagongo, tastes like freshly squeezed grapefruit… Speakeasy coffees try to offer experience…not coffees you would necessarily drink day after day… Because we generally buy small-lot coffees, it’s unlikely that we will even offer the same roster of beans 6 months from now. Love it or hate it, everyone who tries our coffees says ‘wow, I’ve never tasted anything like that in a cup of coffee before.’”

You can visit Speakeasy and drink some delicious coffee at the Speakeasy care at 445 Ferguson Avenue North.

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Celebrate Speakeasy Hamilton w/ Panama H2

In Coffee Projects, New Products on October 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm
Come out to the grand re-opening of Speakeasy Cafe & Roastery in Hamilton on Friday October 29th (7 – 9 pm) @ 445 Ferguson Ave. North, Hamilton
 
After a two-year absence, we are only days away from re-opening our Hamilton, Ontario north-end location
 
To celebrate, we will be hosting a public tasting of Panama Hartmann Honey (H2), Ethiopian Amaro Gayo (washed & natural) 2010 Cup of Excellence Nicaragua Linda Vista, Colombian Finca La Ceiba, and Cuban Serrano Levado Superior
 
To add a little dimension of fun, we will also be demonstrating a wide selection of single-brew methods: french press, aeropress, ceramic pourover, vacuum pot, and of course espresso.
 
Our “spotlight” coffee for the evening is our newest addition, Panama H2
 
“H2” refers to the family “Hartmann” and “Honey Processing”
 
The Hartmann family worked closely with Joseph Brodsky of Ninety-Plus to develop a multi-varietal coffee that is “honey-processed;” some of the pulp is left on the bean during the stringently controlled drying process. 
Farm Finca Hartmann
Habitat Finca Hartmann has been embracing biodiversity for decades. Their natural shade farm has been studied by Smithsonian & other wildlife organizations.
Labour Seasonal employees of the indigenous Gnobe tribe
Lot Size 50 bags
Mill Milled at Finca Hartmann
Process Honey Processing, a semi-washed method where some mucilage is left on the beans while they dry on raised drying beds.
Altitude 1600 – 1750 masl
Soil Volcanic
Varietal Caturra & Catuai
Region Volcan / Ojo de Agua

RSVP to speakeasycoffee@sympatico.ca

Don’t miss your chance to sit in on this “once-in-a-lifetime” cupping table!

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Everything you wanted to know about Cuban coffee (but were afraid to ask)

In New Products, Product Reviews on September 17, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Our Serrano is a rich, full bodied, well-balanced spicy-cup (black pepper, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon), with an incredibly long finish; making for a great single origin espresso.

Location: Cuba

District: Sierra Maestra

Varietal: 100% Typica

Certifications: Organic

Altitude: + 1,100 masl

Average temp: 24-26C

Relative humidity: 76-90%

Yearly rainfall: + 1,900 mm

Process: washed & sun dried

It is believed that coffee found a home in Cuba thanks to a man named Jose Antonio Gelabert; who introduced the plant to the island in 1748.

By 1790, Cuba was a one of the primary exporters of coffee to Spain. Not long after, French coffee farmers fleeing the Haitian revolution established themselves in Cuba.

By the 1820s, coffee was one of the largest industries in Cuba’s growing economy. Prior to the revolution in 1956, Cuba was exporting 20,000 metric tons of coffee and producing a yield of over 300 pounds per acre.

Following 1956, migration into the cities weakened the labour force available to coffee growers. In an effort to strengthen the industry, the government attempted to develop a coffee growing belt outside of Havana using a volunteer labor force. The replacement of skilled coffee farmers with volunteers (who knew nothing about coffee) aversely affected the industry. Production levels during the late 60s and 70s dropped. In the early 80s, the industry saw some recovery, only to be hit again  by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990.

Cuba continues to struggle to maintain coffee production as a viable industry; environmental disaster, outdated technology, and massive rural-urban migration have all contributed to its ongoing problems.

Ironically, Miami-based Café Pilon generates more than $70 million in annual sales, selling their version of Cuban coffee in the US as “the one to use when you want authentic Cuban coffee.” However, due to legal restrictions, Cuban coffee consumed in the U.S. is made of beans from everywhere but Cuba.

Today, Japan and France account for 70-80 percent of Cuban coffee exports. Italy, Spain, Germany, UK, Canada, Switzerland and Netherlands are also sizeable importers.

Traditional Cuban Coffee Drinks

Café Cubano…one teaspoon of demerara sugar moistened with coffee into a sugar paste. Pull an espresso volume shot of Speakeasy Cuban Serrano into the sugar and whisk during the pour

Cafe con Leche…two parts Cubano, one part steamed milk

Cafe Cortadito…Café Cubano with a tablespoon of steamed milk

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Support Canada’s Artisan Coffee Roaster

In Coffee Projects on September 2, 2010 at 6:53 pm

On September 26th and 27th, Speakeasy Roasteries will be exhibiting at the 2010 Canadian Coffee & Tea Show. You can find us at booth #343 in Hall 1 of the International Centre. Companies and individuals interested in attending Canada’s premier coffee and tea event can email speakeasycoffee@sympatico.ca to request a free show pass; compliments of Speakeasy Roasteries.

In preparation for this event, Speakeasy wanted to pull together a collaborative, “non-partisan” project that spotlights the highest-quality coffee providers Canada has to offer.  The “Support Canada’s Artisan Coffee Roaster”  t-shirt campaign was born. We put out the call to some of the best artisan coffee roasters across the country and ended up with an impressive list of sponsors. We are thrilled to have world-class coffee representatives from Eastern, Western, and Central Canada.

“Support Canada’s Artisan Coffee Roaster” t-shirts will be available through the Speakeasy webstore, or you can pick one up  at the Canadian Coffee & Tea Show. Quantities are very limited, so reserve yours today!

Take the time to check out the extensive list of quality coffees available from any one of our sponsor companies. Discover the local artisan coffee roaster, wherever you live.

Detour Coffee (Dundas, ON)

Everyday Gourmet (Toronto, ON)

49th Parallel (Burnaby, BC)

Fratello Coffee (Calgary, AB)

Java Blend (Halifax, NS)

Phil & Sebastian (Calgary, AB)

Reunion Island (Oakville, ON)

Sammy Piccolo (Coquitlam, BC)

Slayer Espresso (Calgary, AB)

Speakeasy Roasteries (Kingsville, ON)

TAN Coffee (Wolfsville, NS)

Te Aro Roasted (Toronto, ON)

Transcend Coffee (Edmonton, AB)

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Colombia “Finca La Ceiba”

In New Products on August 18, 2010 at 5:18 pm

 

Past Awards:
2005 Cup of Excellence
8th Place / 86.39 points
 
Variety:
100% Typica
 
Processing:
Wet milling
 
Jury Descriptions:
Cherry candy, grape, almond, plum, balanced, vibrant, elegant, crisp, creamy
 
Adriano is the representative of a group of three coffee growers: Adriano Delgado, Jose Vargas and Ignacio Delgado. They are small producers of shade grown coffee. All the families live on the farms, and also produce sugar cane and citrus fruits. They practice ecological wet milling, shade grow crops, and use organic fertilizers.
 
Annual Production: 30 bags
Soil Type: Franco Arcilloso
Precipitation: 1,300 millimeters
Elevation: 1700 meters
Certifications: Shade Grown & Organic
Main Crop: October to January
 
 
Colombia Finca La Ceiba

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Business Scene: Speakeasy Roasteries

In Coffee Links, Coffee Projects on July 9, 2010 at 12:16 pm

by Dave Hall for CanWest Global Media

A local micro-roaster recently became the only Canadian roaster to acquire a prestigious Cup of Excellence coffee crop from Nicaragua and is now the worldwide exclusive supplier of Linda Vista coffee.

Speakeasy Coffee, which was established in Hamilton four years ago and has operated from Kingsville for the past year, is also rated as one of the top micro-roasteries in North America.

Owner Stephen Armstrong, a Londonderry, Northern Ireland-trained chef, first opened a fair trade store in Hamilton but quickly realized there was money in coffee beans, especially fair trade, direct trade, organic and specialty coffees.

“I knew I wanted to do something ethical and sustainable and it’s become very exciting,” said Armstrong.

“For someone with a social conscience, this was a match made in heaven.”

Once a roaster becomes involved in the direct trade market, the investment skyrockets because, as Armstrong says, “you can’t buy by the bag, you have to buy the entire crop which means needing $15,000-$20,000 up front so you can buy it when it comes up for auction.”

The Cup of Excellence is a competition conducted in nine coffee-producing nations with the winners chosen by a select group of judges who assess the coffees at least five times during the competition. Only those which score consistently high are allowed to continue.

Armstrong was the winning bidder for Linda Vista, a coffee produced in the region of Nueva Segovia in Nicaragua. Judged in a similar fashion to fine wines, Linda Vista is said to have the characteristics of chocolate, honey, apricot, vanilla, butter and raisin with a creamy feel on the palate.

Armstrong said that 80-90 per cent of what he pays for unroasted beans goes directly to the grower and “I’m paying between four and seven times the fair trade floor price for beans, which is $1.25 USD.”

Speakeasy coffees include Linda Vista from Nicaragua, Amaro Gayo and Longberry Harar from Ethiopia, Espiritu Santo from Costa Rica, San Julian from Guatemala, Altamira from El Salvador, Serrano Superior from Cuba, Mandheling Gayo from Sumatra and Purosa from Papua New Guinea, as well as a selection from Bolivia, Rwanda, Mexico and Brazil.

Speakeasy’s coffees are available online at www.speakeasycoffee.ca

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