Honduras and Nicaragua trip report February 09 2016
In January of this year, I was given the opportunity to travel through the coffee-growing regions of Honduras and Nicaragua, where some of our producer’s farms are located. I’ve been in the coffee business for a few years and this was my first chance to see the process in such an intimate fashion. Prior to this trip, my perspective on the fair trade movement and the coffee industry, in general, had been missing that crucial element. I challenged myself to come away from the experience with a firmer grasp on our farmer contributions so I can convey that to you, our customers.
As a coffee roaster, Desert Sun Coffee is only a singular link in the diverse chain of people that connects everyone involved in a coffee bean’s journey, from seed to cup. This chain begins with the farmers, pickers, producers, exporters, importers, roasters and ends as you take a sip from your morning cup of coffee. Every step of this journey is composed of countless people, working hard every day to bring out the best in each and every bean. Our responsibility as a roaster is to act as stewards to all of that hard work that preceded us. To do otherwise would be a disservice to all of the many people vested in this industry. Something as simple as accidentally spilling a handful of beans on our production floor has taken on a new level of meaning for me; thousands of miles travelled, only to be butter-fingered at the penultimate moment.
I've gained some valuable insights as to how fair trade is affecting the people working on the ground-level. For every person you ask, you might receive one or, even more, opinions on the topic. From my own perspective, fair-trade simply means forging meaningful relationships. It means knowing the individuals who grow your coffee on a personal level and understanding what hurdles they have and still need to overcome. That sentiment was the foundation for the entire trip and I think that our co-op, Coop Coffees, continues to do an outstanding job of promoting these interpersonal connections that span the globe. Whether it be helping our farmers get through the La Roya crisis, currently sweeping through Central America, or ensuring that they are being paid an honest price for each batch of coffee they produce, we strive to have as much of a positive impact on their lives as they have had on ours. Without the dedication and hard work of the coffee-growing community, this entire venture would be utterly impossible.
I'll be sharing more from my trip in the coming months. Please feel free to call us or to send an email if you have any further questions regarding how we acquire our coffee. We love discussing all aspects of the business and want you to understand your part in the chain that connects us all!
Congo Gorilla Roast December 31 2015
Gorilla Roast of Congo
At Desert Sun Coffee, we take pride in representing the farmers who grow our coffee on farms all over the world. We consider ourselves to be stewards to their hard work and feel a responsibility to bring out the best in each batch that we roast. With that in mind, we're excited to re-introduce our Single Origin coffee, Gorilla Roast of Congo.
Desert Sun's head roaster, Wade Wilderman, has been roasting test batches for the last two weeks on our small Probat Roaster. After tasting six separate sample roasts, we're confident that we've brought out the best in this Congolese coffee. It has a very clean flavor with additional notes of citrus/orange juice, floral, black tea, and chocolate. Expect a body that is heavy and creamy with lingering aftertastes of toffee and chocolate.
The SOPACDI grower's co-op is helping to steadily revive the reputation of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as a region that can produce outstanding washed Arabica coffees. For decades, there had been no markets for the farmers’ coffee due to civil war and regional instability. Many had no option but to take the dangerous smuggling route across Lake Kivu, bartering their coffee for food and everyday essentials. Others were even forced to flee their land entirely to escape the violent civil war.
SOPACDI is comprised of farmers from varying ethnic groups – they speak Kirundi, Kihavu or Kinyarwanda – yet they are united in their vision to improve the lives of their families and communities through the specialty coffee trade. Many SOPACDI coffee farmers are widows, their husbands drowned smuggling coffee across Lake Kivu. SOPACDI pays a price-premium for "Women’s Coffee" to its female members, which helps them to overcome all of the tragedy and hardship they have endured.
Nine years ago, a small group of farmers came together, inspired by the newly formed specialty coffee co-operatives in Rwanda and talked about doing the same. In 2008, they found their first specialty coffee buyer and since then the momentum has been building. Today, SOPACDI has over 3,200 farmer members and they have recently achieved Fairtrade and organic certification. The Muungano and Furaha co-operatives are now gathering strength as well, their members heartened by the success of SOPACDI.
90 Proof Coffee November 20 2015
At Desert Sun Coffee Roasters we’re always looking for creative ways to share our love for coffee and the nuances that make it special. Last year, while at a Coop Coffees annual meeting in Louisville, KY, Desert Sun "Chief Bean," Glenn Lathrop, visited the Woodford Reserve Distillery. Walking through the oldest working bourbon distillery in the US, Glenn was intrigued by the idea of aging green coffee in one of the American oak barrels used for aging the whiskey. Green coffee is known for its ability to absorb the flavor characteristics from its environment, which is usually something to be avoided. But in this case, that characteristic proved useful in creating a very dynamically flavored cup of coffee. Glenn inquired with a friend who worked at Woodford about purchasing an oak barrel and a month later one arrived at Desert Sun Coffee in Durango.
Once the barrel was unloaded at Desert Sun, our head roaster, Wade Wilderman, funneled 30 lbs. of green Peruvian coffee into the barrel. He then sealed the top hole and we let it age for quite a few weeks. Wade roasted a sample batch in our smaller roaster and when we tasted the coffee we knew we had something special.
Think of sitting by the fire, after a long day skiing, enjoying this flavorful cup of coffee with friends and loved ones. We hope you take advantage of this limited edition roast and share it with the special people in your life who accompany you in your adventures this winter season. Drink up and happy holidays!
La Fem de Las Diosas October 16 2015
Back by popular demand, the exclusive La Fem de Las Diosas (The Goddesses)! Dedicated to more than just growing coffee, La Fem is a dynamic network of community based cooperatives run by women and support true development and respect for women’s rights. Fiercely independent and determined to succeed in the coffee industry, the 250-member cooperative has made much progress, both in terms of sustainable commercial relations for their coffee as well as the promotion of issues such as women’s education, housing and health.
Las Diosas develops project work focused on issues concerning women’s health, universal access to education and economic and moral support for single mothers. Purchasing this coffee you support women’s empowerment, organic agriculture, food security, sustainable development and more.
Once at Desert Sun this coffee is roasted to a medium level and tasting of citrus and spice
Welcome Back Piura August 04 2015
The Norandino Coop and their farms have distinguished the Piura region of Peru, as one of the only producers of this high quality unwashed coffee. Piura Gold is grown in fields located between 3,280 and 5,249 feet above sea level. The unwashed process for this coffee dates back many years and is widely sought after for the unique flavor this process creates. This is one of the most popular Desert Sun single origin offerings and we’re proud to have it back in our single origin family. Piura Gold is characterized by its consistently sweet blend of tropical fruit and caramel flavors, full body and cocoa finish.
Marcala Honeyed of Honduras June 23 2015
We are excited to introduce the newest member of our Single Origin family, Honduras Marcala Honeyed.
May Coffee Workshop May 05 2015
April Training April 07 2015
Ecuador Specialty Lot March 10 2015
The Ecuadorian Bracamores Cup is a limited offering from our friends in the APECAP cooperative. This cooperative blended together the finest Bourbon and Typica coffee cherries from the Benito and Segundo's farms located 1,200-1,400 meters above sea level. This coffee was set aside to be submitted into the Bracamoros Cup competition held in Palanda, Ecuador and placed 8th. This coffee is a limited offering from Desert Sun Coffee Roasters in celebration of the new spring season. Enjoy tasting notes of milk chocolate, vanilla, caramel and mandarin oranges. The coffee finishes with a bright "tangy" acidity and a syrupy body with a sweet lingering aftertaste.
-A careful cherry selection was conducted selecting fully-ripe and over-ripe red cherries, floated to screen for immature cherries and afterwards depulped.
- After depulping the coffee was fermented for 12 hours in plastic tanks and washed.
- An additional selection was conducted post-ferment, taking care to remove all visible defects.
-Dried on Raised-Bed, ventilated solar driers for 30 days, turned every 2 hours to ensure uniform and consistent drying down to 12% moisture content.
The 5 Elements to a Good Cup of Coffee March 09 2015
According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) there are five elements necessary to transform roasted beans into a great tasting beverage:
- Correct ratio of coffee to water. This ratio is the main factor in determining the strength of the brew. The SCAA recommends a ratio between 3.25- 4.25oz. coffee per 1⁄2 gal. water.
- Matching the grind level to your type of brewing equipment. Grind level and type of Brewing method work hand in hand.
- Proper operation of the brewing equipment. This element refers to time of contact between coffee grinds and water, temperature of the water, and the uniform flow of water over the grounds, or turbulence.
- Finding your optimum brewing method. Brewing the same coffee in different brewing equipment greatly affects the taste and body characteristics of the finished beverage.
- Good-quality water. Since an ideal drip coffee beverage is actually more than 98% water, it is crucial to make sure that water is as clean as possible. A filter that removes chlorine and inhibits scale build-up is usually essential in our region for clean taste and proper brewer operation.
Carefully ensuring that all five of the essential elements are in harmony with each other is crucial to setting up a quality brewing process.
But, how can we know if harmony has been achieved? Beyond the simple taste test what else can be done?
Luckily, modern technology offers us a more in-depth view in regards to the basic make-up of a coffee beverage. Through careful analysis of the finished beverage using state of the art diagnosis we can adjust parameters of a given recipe to maintain consistency and quality in every beverage you prepare and serve.
That is why we have developed a brewed coffee analysis program that allows our customers to get as close to the ideal cup as possible. So, let us stop by your business and provide an analysis of your brewed coffee, because the goal of our Brewed Coffee Analysis program is to help you bring out more of what you love about our coffee. Together, we can create the perfect cup for you!
Give us a call today, 970-247-1100, to schedule a brewing analysis at your shop!
10 Blend is here! November 06 2014
Ten, its how many fingers you have, how many toes you have, a perfect score in sporting events, the base for our numbering system, the limit on an amplifier level knob, the top of the scale used to measure many things, a measure of perfect beauty, and many other things.
Ten is also the number of years that Desert Sun Coffee Roasters have been roasting 100% organic, fair trade coffee in Durango Colorado!
To celebrate ten years in business, we have created a very special coffee blend of 3 unique African coffees to tempt your pallet! We call this blend TEN BLEND. Ten Blend is an intense, medium roast coffee blend that is rich and full bodied, with notes of citrus and berries. Ten Blend is different from any blend we have ever done, and it is only available for a short time, so be sure to get yours!
The Coffee Plant October 28 2014
While coffee is one of the worlds most popular drinks, most people are not even sure exactly what it is. Coffee comes from a small tree or shrub like plant that only grows to fruition naturally in the tropics (we actually have a few plants growing at the shop). I digress; coffee beans come from inside the cherry on the plant from which they grow (they are botanically considered seeds, not beans, yet they are referred to as beans because of their similarity). Inside this cherry there are two seeds, the actual green coffee beans.
The two most commercially common species are Arabica and Robusta. The important differences between Arabica and Robusta are in the quality of the cup. Arabica beans produce a superior taste in the cup, being more flavorful and complex than their Robusta counterparts. Robusta beans tend to produce a more bitter brew, containing more caffeine. High quality coffee consists of 100% Arabica beans. Lower quality, cheaper blends may have some proportion of Robusta beans, or they may consist entirely of Robusta.
The plant itself grows 8 – 15 feet tall depending on the variety and growth conditions. In Arabica coffee, clusters of 2-19 white flowers, with five or six petals, grow at the leaf axils on the branches. After pollination, the flowers wither and bring forth a fruit, the ‘cherry’, just over a half inch in diameter, ripening in 7-9 months (9-11 for Robusta). The coffee cherry has a red or yellow skin when ripe (green when unripe). The pulp of the cherry is rich in sugars and water which are glued over the parchment that covers each bean.
When the cherries are ripe it is time for them to be picked and processed. Only ripe cherries will make the best tasting coffee. All of our coffees are hand picked, as opposed to machine picked, so our producer partners can ensure that the only the best cherries get processed. Processing is the final step before the beans are ready to be shipped out of country of origin.
Thank you for the last DECADE! October 16 2014
Thank you so much for the last 10 years! Please join us in celebration
Weekly Coffee Facts August 21 2014
Hope for the Congolese Coffee Farmer July 11 2014
For more than twenty years the DRC has been facing a war that has left millions dead and several millions displaced. Before the war the region was a hot spot for coffee production, but with little access to international markets and rudimentary equipment the industry withered. To sell their coffee farmers had to smuggle their coffee across Lake Kivu into Rwanda. This plight claimed the lives of one thousand people each year.
Today in the countries eastern hills the coffee bean is bringing hope and a brighter future to the farmers living in the fertile highlands of the Lake Kivu region once again.
Desert Sun’s green coffee importer, Cooperative Coffee is working with farmers in the DRC to bring their coffee to the specialty markets. This means Congolese farmers no longer need to risk their lives crossing into Rwanda.
Coffee farming is now viewed as something to strive for, whereas in these communities before, the role model for wealth and success for rural youth was extortion, or illegal mining, or illegal lumbering of the rain forest. Now that’s changing.
Visit the Sopacdi website to learn more about their promising future.
Quality Coffee May 29 2014
When we talk about quality coffee what exactly does that mean? It means care and attention throughout every step of the process until it reaches the consumers hand. One mishap in any of the steps will produce a poor quality cup of coffee. This is how we ensure quality at Desert Sun Coffee Roasters:
The first step in great coffee starts all the way back to the plant from which it came. The Coffee Plant will be ready when it has ripe cherries on it. All of our coffee is hand picked (as opposed to machine picked) to ensure that only the ripe cherries get selected for use. If un-ripe cherries get picked, they will impart off-flavors in the coffee. Imagine eating an un-ripe strawberry. Yuck. Since coffee is a large source of income for the farmers that we work with, they take a lot of care in picking only the ripe cherries from the coffee plant, and how they dry and handle the coffee before taking it to the coop. At the coop, they will test the farmers’ coffee for moisture levels and if it’s too moist, reject their coffee. The coop then sorts the coffee by size for consistency. They also sort out green coffee for defects. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has a list of standards and protocols which you can find here to learn more. In order for coffee to be considered specialty grade, it cannot have any primary defects, a maximum of 5 secondary defects, 0 quakers and a cup evaluation of at least 80 points (This rules out mainstream supermarket coffee). You can see the specifications here or you can click here to read about all the standards and protocols for specialty grade coffee. After the coffee has been rigorously sorted through, the farmer coop is ready to send samples to our importing coop.
Our importing cooperative, Cooperative Coffees, will receive a pre-ship sample for our evaluation. This sample is graded, sample roasted, tested for defects and scored by our on staff cupper/evaluator. They will then determine if the sample is to be accepted or rejected. If accepted, the coffee is shipped to our warehouse where it will again undergo a random sampling. From here we will once again decide whether to accept or reject the sample. Once accepted the coffee will then be available for us to purchase from the coop. We also manage a website called Fair Trade Proof that contains every document for the coffee from farmer to roaster.
Now that the coffee has been through several quality steps, when Desert Sun orders our green beans we can be assured that we are receiving the highest level quality of green bean. But that’s not the end of the quality process. Like I said before, quality must be assured throughout the entire process of the bean. When Desert Sun receives green coffee, the coffee is put into a humidity controlled room to best preserve the bean. Since we are a certified organic processing facility, this also means the beans are not exposed to any sort of chemicals. We begin our quality steps by sample roasting to profile the flavors of the bean. Sample roasting is our small roaster that we can roast small batches of coffee several different ways to see what flavor profiles each bean is capable of. After determining the best profile for each bean we will then re-create that roast in our large roaster. Every bean is roasted and cupped, roasted and cupped, again and again for quality assurance. Coffee cupping is a professional technique for evaluating the characteristics of coffee. The best of the best coffees are what we offer for our Single Origin line up; even our best single origins go into our blends.
Lastly, quality is also about freshness. At Desert Sun we roast to order, meaning that your coffee is fresh when you order it. Once roasted, the coffee is put directly into airtight bags with gas valve. This is because coffee, once roasted, degrades with exposure to air. Airtight bags ensure that the bean is not exposed and stays fresh while allowing the gases from the beans to escape. We wouldn’t want your coffee bag to explode!
Now we have a quality product. Every step in the chain has carefully been attended to and results in the highest quality specialty coffee. Now preparation is of the utmost importance. If coffee is incorrectly prepared, then a poor quality product will still result. The SCAA has a set of standards for quality preparation. It offers a Golden Cup Award to those who have proven their ability to brew coffee to defined standards of quality. Desert Sun has received a Golden Cup Award for our commitment to quality and proven ability to brew coffee according to the standards prescribed by the SCAA.
What is quality coffee? Quality coffee is care and attention to the product from farmer to cup. One missed step along the way can result in loss of quality. At Desert Sun we are passionate about quality and through the networks of small farmers and our importing cooperative we ensure that our coffee gets the attention it deserves, every step of the way.
The Coffee Rust Crisis April 07 2014
Have you heard of the leaf rust crisis affecting coffee farmers in Central and South America? Leaf Rust, or Roya as it’s called in Spanish, is naturally occurring fungus in coffee fields. During the 2012-2013 growing season this fungus began to reproduce in catastrophic proportions due to abnormally high temperatures and humidity. These factors created the perfect recipe for the fungus to spread at an alarming rate, devastating local coffee farmers. Roya attacks the leaves of the coffee tree hindering its primary source of photosynthesis. This not only affects the ripening of the current season’s berries, but also lowers carbohydrate accumulation in the roots and shoots. This causes the next harvest's flowers to drop prematurely and can ultimately kill the entire tree.
Honduras has declared a state of emergency due to the fungus and has lost an estimated 15%-25% in production losses. Guatemala and Costa Rica have been the hardest hit losing an estimated 30%-40%. Co-op Coffees producing partners have said there has been little real support for small-scale, organic farmer groups. Unfortunately, industry and government relief proposals are relying on small intensive, chemical solutions.
So what is Co-op Coffees and Desert Sun Coffee doing to help these farmers? Together we have initiated a special Roya relief fund. This relief fund is adding a per/pound charge collected off the sale of the coffees of our effected partners. These funds are being allocated to partners (in proportion to the volumes we purchase) to be applied to specific projects focusing on re-planting, organic fertilization or intensive organic training programs, food security garden projects or other initiatives to generate additional family income.
In conjunction, we are exploring alternative micro-initiatives, such as linking our purchase contracts to long term credits, supporting greater farmer to farmer exchange of best organic practices and exploring external fund-raising via non-profit organizations. Together we are working with farmers to overcome this epidemic. We’ll keep you posted throughout this year.
Types of Coffee: What is a Blend? March 05 2014
When you think of a blended coffee, think “just a great cup of coffee.” The main difference between blended and single origin coffee is simply that the former comprises a mix of the latter. That is, blends take on the distinct flavor notes and characteristics of distinct single origin coffees and strike a balance of flavor and consistency.
Blends comprise our flagship coffees. Their complexity and character lies in the artistic approach to creating a cup that is balanced and consistent year round. We combine a sweet coffee, a bright coffee, and an earthy coffee to create balance. Blending is creative and fun, but also labor intensive, and must be intelligently coordinated with green coffee supplies. What makes blending fun for us is that we’re given the freedom to express our own, unique style.
So next time your sipping a fresh cup of Desert Sun Black Velvet or Southwest Morning, note the varying complexity and flavor that makes each blend its own, and hopefully you'll be able to appreciate them all!
Types of Coffee: What is a Single Origin? February 19 2014
Single origin coffees are cultivated, harvested and processed from a single region in a coffee producing country. The coffee varietal, climate conditions, altitude, harvesting and processing each play a role in developing the character of a single origin coffee. Consequently, a single origin coffee from the horn of Africa takes on a dramatically different taste profile than a coffee grown in the jungle of Indonesia, and these distinctions can be a lot of fun to pick out!
Coffee connoisseurs often prefer lightly roasted single origins for their nuance, delicacy and challenge. For example, is a hint of mustiness in Sumatran coffee from the Gayo region a defect, or part of the coffee’s coveted character? Or the taste of blueberries in Ethiopia Sidamo; is it ferment or fruit?
Map of coffee producing countries around the world, with the top ten producers in yellow. (Credit: Natioinal Geographic)
At Desert Sun we offer an assortment of lightly roasted single origin coffees from around the world. These coffees, however, come and go seasonally and are limited in supply; so when one runs out, it might not be available for a while. Also, being a fruit, there is no guarantee that one season’s coffee crop will taste the same as the last.
You might see why single origins are not always the best choice for a “house coffee” at a coffee shop or restaurant, but do have fun with them and use them to learn more about the nuances of coffee flavors and origins. Check out a list of our current single origin coffees available!
Announcing Our New Website February 11 2014
At Desert Sun Coffee Roasters we have learned a lot in ten years, like how to fine-tune our roaster to optimize our blends, and how to bag a thousand pounds of fresh coffee without spilling any beans (okay, a few always manage to get away), but we understand there's always room to improve.
It dawned on us that our website could be improved. We wanted to make the process of buying delicious Desert Sun Coffee online as easy and straightforward as possible for you, are valued customers. So (drum roll please)...
Welcome to the new desertsuncoffee.com!
Here are some of the big changes:
- Learn about and shop for our 100% organic, fair trade coffees and enjoy a smoother, simpler checkout process!
- We now offer FREE shipping on all orders over $49!
So take a look around, cruise through site, and please let us know what you think! And as always, thank you for choosing Desert Sun Coffee as your source for the best organic, fair trade coffee roasted in the Rocky Mountains!
The Desert Sun TeamIt dawned on us that our website was due for a refresh. We wanted to make the online coffee shopping process easier for youIt dawned on us that our website was due for a refresh. We wanted to make the online coffee shopping process easier for you