Recently a new friend whose work is in international trade (not easy during COVID19) showed up with three kilograms of Ugandan green coffee to roast. He is trying to help a poor community in Uganda move its coffee to market. Surprisingly the green beans were very clean and they roasted well. The resulting roasted coffee was sweet tasting with nut flavours prominent, amond to me, and a hint of peach. This coffee ought to be saleable. The skill sets needed to move it from Uganda to western consumers are beyond me. So anyone out there reading this blog who can help out, we would be happy to connect you to Ben Stevens who is involved in international trade.
SHaBean has experienced an increase in demand for our espresso blend we call “Espresso Bold”. Of course we appreciate the up tick in business. But it also means people are taking coffee seriously. To make espresso at home requires serious equipment and knowledge on how to brew espresso. We salute these home baristas! Espresso is not a strain of coffee: it is a method of brewing. Hot water is forced through finely ground coffee to make this potent drink. And there are no end of recipes mixing espresso shots with foamed milk to make lattes, cappuccinos, and more. Of course all of our coffees are for people who want better than the unknown store blends on supermarket shelves.
Our roaster, John, after a bad head on collision last October was in hospital for five months. John put in some hospital time reading about coffee diseases. Phew! He got tired and confused reading about all the diseases that cripple coffee growing around the globe. He has new respect for the farmers and producers who too often risk everything to grow coffee. The most significant disease is coffee leaf rust, “Hemileia vastatrix” which has spread around the world starting from its home in Africa. Next in seriousness perhaps is coffee berry disease. Then the list goes on and on and on. Coffee Leaf Rust in the nineteenth century destroyed coffee growing in Ceylon, what is now Sri Lanka. Feel for coffee farmers every where who are now vigilant to check the underside of coffee leaves for spots to catch the disease early.
COVID19 has impacted the coffee business as it has everything else. Visiting with our favourite representative from our favourite importer/wholesaler of green coffee beans I found out that their business was down because of all the cafes and restaurants roasters serve, meaning with COVID19 business is down. SHaBean’s main customers are rural retailers, mostly grocery and food stores and our business is up: this was especially true in the tourist season in eastern Ontario. There were few Americans, but lots of Canadians escaping the cities and coming to the country buying our coffee in the stores. May we find a “new normal” where our industry and many others thrive.
The October 2017 to January 2018 crop of Sumatra Mandheling was a failure and it was hard to purchase this strain, one of our best sellers and favoured by many customers. The last crop of Guatemala Antigua was seriously impacted by rust, a fungus that damages coffee. Now it is hard to find Guatemala Antigua. We are fortunate enough to have some Sumatra Mandheling. With good luck our supply of Guatemala Antigua will return. High end coffee grows in the tropics at altitudes of 3000 feet plus. We read warnings of the impact climate change will have on temperature sensitive coffee trees. With warmer temperatures coffee will have to go higher up in altitude where there is less land. We do not want to even think about that!
Nestled among three volcanos is the Antigua valley in Guatemala more than 1500 metres above sea level. High altitude and rich volcanic soil in the tropics make for ideal growing conditions. Our Guatemala Antigua specialty coffee is a favourite with the roaster. Breathe in floral and citrus aromas. Roast the coffee medium dark to the edge of second crack and it has chocolate and caramel flavours with a bright hint of lemon. The mouth feel is full and thick. So good and in demand is this coffee that growers and producers need to protect themselves from others smuggling in coffees from elsewhere and trying to pass them off as Guatemala Antigua.
Tomorrow’s forecast was hot and muggy. I made up cold brew and put it in the fridge to “brew” over night. The next morning I made my morning pour over from Guatemala Antigua roasted two days earlier. Wow! Rested two days: that is perfect. As the day grew hot and muggy I had a glass of cold brew made from Papua New Guinea Kimel AA also roasted two days ago. Wow! How the flavours came through. There is a debate as to whether roasted coffee should be rested one day or two days after roasting. I try for two days if I can last that long. Regardless treat roasted coffee like produce. The roast date (not the best before date!) needs to be on the bag of coffee you buy. Almost all coffee in stores is hopelessly stale. Buy only freshly roasted coffee beans.
SHaBean Coffee Roastery is growing and we have outgrown our original roaster. This spring (2018) SHaBean acquired the Artisan 9 coffee roaster from Coffee Crafters located in the American north west where the specialty coffee industry tends to be located. The Artisan 9 is a state of the art fluid bed roaster, roasting green beans in a column of hot air. The process is clean, producing chaff free evenly roasted coffee beans. Our roasting capacity is now increased at least by a factor of four. We are in control of more variables and are doing great roasts. Of course we are still roasting only high end single source beans.
When we first started our home roastery we found a broker to sell us insurance who insured us through Lloyds of London. We make jokes about SHaBean Coffee Roastery being so huge, Lloyds of London is needed to spread the risk through many insurance companies. As we learned the history of coffee we discovered that Edward Lloyd owned a coffee house in London in the late 1600’s. One of the things he did in his coffee house was post lists of ships with their cargos and schedules. Underwriters frequented Edward Lloyds selling insurance. Our insurance company, one of the largest in the world, began in a coffee house!
For almost two years SHaBean Coffee Roastery has been using a converted BBQ to roast green coffee beans. In those two years we have done 557 roasts and roasted over 2200 pounds of coffee. For ambitious amateur roasters RK Drums provides reliable conversion kits to turn gas BBQs into roasters. The price is modest compared with alternatives. The roaster does need to be outside. There are various sized drums for various sized gas BBQs depending on what quanity of beans one wants to roast. See the detailed write up for RK Drums roasters on shabeancoffeeroastery.ca