My first coffee origin trip to Nicaragua was joyous, enriching, and breathtaking. Ben Weiner, the owner of Gold Mountain Coffee Growers, was my guide. We visited over 16 different farmers, sat with them, and discussed business and coffee with them. Throughout the year, we will be sharing some of the coffees from the farmers that we visited. Dona Sebastiana was one of our first visits. Her son, Reynaldo, was gracious and warm and invited us into their small home. I forced myself to speak in Spanish throughout the visit, no matter how painful it might have been for Ben or for the lovely farmers.
Part of my dream was realized at their farm. With all of the coffee expertise that I have acquired over 16 years, I had never tasted or held in my hand, a freshly picked coffee cherry. At Dona Sebastiana’s farm, I tasted my first coffee cherry! (In Judaism, when you do something special for the first time, you say a special blessing. I am quite sure that I was the first to make such a blessing on that farm.)
Sebastiana Dias Ortiz (61) was the matriarch of a family of small-plot coffee producers in the Las Nubes community of Matagalpa, very far off the grid. She passed away after the 2015 harvest and left behind her son Francisco on the farm and her husband, Facto, as well as five other sons and daughters who produce coffee next door. The prices they have received from Gold Mountain Coffee Growers have been the highest they have received in the 35 years they have been farming coffee, well-deserved because of the meticulous care they take when producing their coffee.We miss Doña Sebastiana dearly. She was originally a cook on a large plantation.
A friend gave her a piglet, which she raised and sold to buy a calf. The calf grew to be a cow and produced two more cows. Doña Sebastiana sold them and bought the picturesque and remote “El Naranjo” farm, on which the family now grows coffee, beans, and fruits and vegetables.To get the farm and its high-cupping specialty coffee, Gold Mountain Coffee Growers has to drive past armed guards (with large guns) of another farm, literally through rivers, and down nearly impassable roads. During our extremely long road trips, I would pray fervently to G-d because the roads were treacherous. I truly didn’t believe that I would survive some of the roads.
“We would like to keep working to improve our situation for our children and our grandchildren. That is our main goal,”she told Gold Mountain Coffee Growers.
Her family removed their lower-cupping catimor (a mostly inferior coffee varietal) coffee trees in favor of higher-cupping varieties several years ago, and Gold Mountain Coffee Growers gave them long-term loans to renovate their coffee and defend it from diseases.
Her family is a member of the Las Nubes(The Clouds)Cooperative, whose President, Vice President, and Treasurer are all women.The coop has solar panels on its collection center and uses many sustainable methods including worm composting. Las Nubes Coop is well-known for producing some of Nicaragua’s finest coffee due to the fertile soil and high altitude. Chazzano Coffee Roasters have offered some of these incredible coffees a few years ago. The Las Nubes coffee is deeply complex and one of my favorite coffee growing regions.
Chazzano Coffee Roasters will be selling this rare Dona Sebastiana single origin microlot coffee for $36/ pound. A portion of the proceeds from every cup and pound sold will be donated back to the women of Las Nubes. Our friends at Gold Mountain Coffee Growers will provide the coffee farmers micro-loans repaid with bags of high quality, low defects, specialty coffee. I quickly learned Spanish before my trip, but my favorite Spanish word spoken on the streets of Nicaragua is tuani, or awesome. This coffee is tuani. The good deeds of Gold Mountain Coffee Growers is tuani. Our partnership with these farmers is tuani.
My Italian grandmother loved a specific coffee soda that was produced around the block from her two story walk up in Brooklyn, New York. It was called the Manhattan Special Espresso Coffee Soda and my grandmother, Mary, of blessed memory, would ask my father and me to buy a few cases of this soda every week. From a nostalgic point of view, it was delicious, refreshing, and my first real coffee soda. Since I created Chazzano Coffee Roasters in October 2006, I have been dreaming about bottling our own coffee soda.
The problem with Manhattan Special and many other coffee soda beverages is that their added ingredients change the flavor profile of the coffee or include sugar and other unnecessary flavorings, both natural and artificial. When you come to our cafe and ask to add sugar or cream to our coffee, we gently say, “Try it, first. Do you know what happens when you put cream or sugar in Chazzano Coffee? G-d cries and an angel loses its wings!” We say that because we want you to enjoy the many possible flavor profiles, the mouthfeel, the body, depth, and complexity. When you put sugar or cream in your coffee, those variables change, are hidden, or are now masked by the additives. However, we gently encourage you to drink it black for health reasons. Does anyone really need to add calories and sugar to their diet? We want you to enjoy this refreshing beverage all day long without any health concerns.
I was pleasantly surprised, really thrilled, that our first attempts at creating a coffee soda without sugar or additives was successful. We brew our fresh roasted coffee as a Cold Brew and then add water and carbonate it. That’s it. All of this wouldn’t have been possible without our Roasting Manager, Austin Giles, who is a beer home brewing enthusiast. With his help, we’ve been perfecting our coffee soda brewing, kegging, and bottling skills.
The Chazzano Cold Brew Coffee Soda has an unique mouthfeel and the flavor profile is similar to a beer. Our most recent coffee soda has rich caramel notes. Our coffee soda is available on tap at our cafe now. It is also available by the bottle or 4-pack. While you’re at Chazzano Cafe, try the new Fruit of the Bean Cascara Soda. It’s sweet, with pineapple and passion fruit notes.
In the past, when a customer asked, “Hey Frank, what do you think about K-cups?” I would say:
“K-cups are against G-d. If you have a K-cup machine or you were gifted a K-cup machine, bring it to the police station along with your guns during amnesty week.”
That would elicit a smile, perhaps a small chuckle, but I meant it…at the time. Most K-cups are purposefully staled. When our fresh roasted coffee leaves the roaster, it begins the degassing period where carbon dioxide leaves the beans for about 3 weeks. Did you know that 70-80% of the taste of any food is its aroma? When your olfactory system is a bit wonky due to a cold or a smoky bar, you are unable to fully taste your food. Therefore, when your fresh roasted coffee stops degassing or in other words, when the carbon dioxide that is releasing the coffee aroma is fully spent, the coffee is stale. The problem with putting fresh roasted coffee in k-cups is that most macro roasters need their k-cups to stay on the supermarket shelves for months, if not years. Eventually, if you don’t degas the coffee completely, the K-cups will explode because the carbon dioxide will have nowhere to go.
In fact, various national publications have queried me on my belief about the future of K-cups. I would gamely respond, “It will never compete with specialty coffee.” But then came the day that I ate my words, or rather I drank my words. I was cold called, or cold emailed, by Ground Level Packaging who told me that they can package K-cups in smaller quantities without staling the coffee. I was incredulous but curious. I drove 2.5 hours to Clare, Michigan to sample Chazzano Coffee as a K-cup. I brought with me about 5 different pounds of fresh roasted coffee with vastly different flavor profiles: Sumatra Mandheling, Tanzania AA, Ethiopia Mokasida, Nicaragua San Juan de Rio Coco, and Brazil Sao Paolo. The hospitality at this family owned business was warm. On the spot, they were able to make small batches of K-cups with various amounts of coffee in them. The main question that I had while tasting the different K-cup brews was: “Does this k-cup brew taste like a cup of Chazzano Coffee?”
Our favorite K-cup contained Ethiopia Mokasida. The mouthfeel was somewhere between a French Press and a Vacuum Syphon, maybe even a richer pourover. The chocolate and berry notes that we covet in the Mokasida were shining in the cup. We had a winner. But will the fresh roasted coffee cause the sealed foil top to pop or even explode? Over three weeks later, the comically bloated k-cups have not exploded. We would love to print on the cases, “Please brew within 3-4 weeks to prevent a coffee explosion.” I’m sure that our specialty market accounts would not appreciate that funny disclaimer.
Thanks to Ground Level Packaging, we are now selling Ethiopia Mokasida K-cups in 12 cup cases. Remarkably, we’ll have the only K-cup in the market with the roast date on it. So, just purchase enough K-Cups for the next three weeks to ensure the freshness of each cup.
I am a changed man, but not completely. Although our K-Cups taste great, I will often prefer the richness of a French Press brew, the rich, balanced mouthfeel of espresso, or the clean, crisp body of a Vacuum Syphon brew. I love the immense flexibility and variation in brewing methods that expose certain flavor profiles with Cold Brew, Pourover, Coffee Soda, and the other ten ways to brew coffee at Chazzano Coffee. Life is short, no one should drink their coffee only one way.
We want to make it easy for you to enjoy an awesome cup of fresh roasted coffee at home, the office, or at your favorite restaurants. Now, with the addition of our Chazzano Coffee K-cups, you have another way of enriching your life with a great cup of coffee.
Would you like a cup of the Colombia Castillo Cauca? Or some Colombia Villa Maria Caldas Supremo? Or perhaps the Bolivia La Paz AA? At many other coffee shops, you’ll find names like, “House Blend” or “Espresso Roast.” So, what’s with all of the crazy long names? Did you know that “Mandheling” (of Sumatra Mandheling) means “lost mother” or that “Yirgacheffe” is actually two Amharic words for “cool marshes?” Here are three reasons why our coffee monikers are long:
1. Shameful attempt to impress
Wouldn’t you rather drink a coffee with the name Guatemala Huehuetenango or Colombia Valle de Cauca, instead of the house Colombian? The long names and designations create some mystery to your experience. In addition, you’ll learn something about the world of coffee, about geography, and about various coffee designations. It may also force you to ask, “Hey, how do you pronounce “Huehuetenango,” and what does “Castillo” mean?”
2. Pure Education
Here are a few designations that are found in our long coffee names:
AA: In Kenya, as in Kenya AA, or Kenya AB, it is about the size of the coffee beans. In Bolivia, Bolivia AA means that the quality is higher than the Bolivia AB.
SHG: Sometimes, if there’s room on the label, we’ll let you know that the coffee is SHG (Strictly High Grown) or that it has been grown over 4500 feet above sea level. Sure, we’re showing off, but coffee that’s grown at that high altitude is often more complex and hardier than lower altitude coffees. We can roast these high altitude coffees darker without ruining the flavor profile because when it takes a longer time to grow, the bean becomes more dense, grows larger, and more of the sugars are allowed to develop in the bean.
Peaberry: When one of the two coffee beans growing in the coffee cherry dies, the remaining coffee bean is often smaller and is called the peaberry. The farmer has the opportunity to separate the peaberries from the larger beans and sell it separately. Will the quality of the remainder of the crop suffer or is it too much trouble to separate the beans?
Supremo: Wow, that sounds like the coffee would taste, well, supreme. It might be great, but Supremo means that the coffee is the largest of the coffee beans in Colombia which measures, 18/64″ diameter. The next designation is Excelso which measures about 16/64″ in diameter. The terms Supremo and Excelso are similar to the Jewish dietary term, Kosher. Many people believe incorrectly that any food marked “kosher” is higher quality than non-kosher food. Farmers will separate their coffee by bean size to find the best possible flavor profile available. Su
Coffee Varietal Names: The various coffees that you purchase from Chazzano Coffee are from various different varietals like Tipica, Caturra, Maragaturra, Maragogipe, Paca, Bourbon, Pacamara, Catuai, or Catuai Amarillo. Would you buy a bottle of wine that’s labeled “Red Wine from Chile?” If you would buy nondescript wine, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog post. Now, with the knowledge that coffee is twice as complex as your favorite Barolo, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, or Bordeaux, why wouldn’t you want to know what kind of bean is in your coffee? Maragoturra is a natural mutation of the Tipica coffee varietal. Which coffee beans do you like, Brazil Peaberry, Brazil Bourbon, Brazil Yellow Bourbon, or Brazil Cerrado pulped natural? Did you know that Castillo is a hybrid of many different coffees that have been blended for decades to create a hardier bean that coffee pests don’t like.
SWP/MWP: These are designations for two organic ways of decaffeinating coffee- SWP (Swiss Water Process) and MWP (Mountain Water Process). The organic process retains most of the flavor profile of the coffee. When you find coffee without these organic decaffeination processes, you’re probably buying MC (methylene chloride) decaffeinated coffee. DMC (Dichloromethane) or just methylene chloride is often used as a paint thinner, degreaser, aerosol spray propellent, and for…decaffeinating coffee. Is the DMC found in the final cup of coffee after roasting and brewing? I have no idea, but I’m just not comfortable serving coffee that has been treated with a popular paint thinner.
3. Knowing the source of your food
It’s interesting, at least to me, that coffee grows in Kenya, Tanzania, Peru, Guatemala, Yemen, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Timor, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Brazil, Honduras, Sumatra, Nicaragua, and many more places around the world. But where exactly in Nicaragua, in Matagalpa or Jinotega? Which coffee farm? Is it a large farm (Hacienda) or a small farm (Finca)? Is it from Don Francisco’s farm or from the Yader farm? If you know the source of your food, you make better choices in your diet.
When we combine the information about the size of the bean, with the exact coffee farm location, and with additional designations, you stop drinking a regular cup of coffee and you begin to bring greater meaning to your life and your place within the world. Come in at any time and ask us, I dare you, what the particular coffee names mean.
You’ve heard me share that wine has about 750 different flavor notes and coffee has over 1500. The life of a coffee roaster is filled with sweet aromatics. I am surrounded by the smell of coffee all of the days of my life. I spend many of my waking hours trying to discern the various notes, the mouthfeel, the body, and the best brewing method of each coffee we roast. Which coffee is a great espresso, or an awesome pourover? Which coffee is a great French Press, but a weak Aeropress? Each roaster has different methods that help us “taste” the coffee with precision. Here are some techniques that I have developed for my dream life of violently slurping and sniffing coffee:
1. If you’ve attended one of our coffee cupping parties, you’ve heard me talk about violently sniffing and slurping the coffee. Before you drink that next cup of fresh roasted specialty coffee, bring it close to your nose, and sniff three times violently. This awakens your olfactory system and causes your brain to take a mental snapshot of the coffee notes. When you vocalize your impressions of the coffee or just say that it smells “citrusy,” for example, the next time you smell that same note, you’ll remember the vocabulary word that you used. In this way, you become more mindful of the various interesting notes possible in this complex beverage. By taking dainty sniffs, your olfactory system believes that you’re just breathing. The violence of your sniffing will help trick your brain into discerning what you are smelling. What are you smelling? Is the coffee fruity, chocolaty, or spicy? What kind of chocolate do you smell- dark or milk chocolate? A teacher once told me repeatedly, “You need to be specific to be terrific.” That truth is important in coffee tasting- try to be as specific as possible. You’ll train your mind to enjoy your food and beverages with greater discernment.
2. .The violent slurp helps you to understand many aspects of the coffee- the mouthfeel, body, complexity, sweetness,and the various notes or natural flavors. By aerating the coffee, you allow the liquid to splash across your palate and your teeth. If you choose unwisely to take little, gentle sips, you will miss out on how the coffee feels on the back of your throat, the dryness around your teeth, the physical structure of the coffee that can feel like a bridge across your palate, or even the flavor notes. Let your coffee cool down to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit before you slurp violently. Your brain is unable to process the taste of food or beverages that are over 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, room temperature or cold coffee are the best temperatures for tasting.
3. When you slurp your coffee for the first time, ask yourself the following questions:
a. What flavors am I experiencing?
b. What is the mouthfeel? Is the coffee feel oily, rough, gritty, or viscous on my palate?
c. Where do I feel the coffee- around the front teeth, in the middle of the palate, or in the back of my mouth? Is there a discernible structure that I feel in my mouth?
d. Is the taste fleeting? Is there a crescendo of flavor and feeling in the front of my palate, but then the coffee quickly dissipates? Does the experience start soft and stay flat throughout the experience?
e. Is there a difference between the aroma that I violently sniffed and the taste when I violently slurped?
3. As if my personal tasting life could not grow stranger, I’ve learned a new technique that may border on lunacy- lip smacking. Yes, I just said lip smacking. This technique is best used for tasting espresso because this beverage spends more time lining your palate. By lip smacking, you are further aerating the coffee. I have learned that unique, unusual ways of tasting coffee allow your brain to think creatively. It may be similar to cross training where you use more of your muscles in different ways for greater health benefits. When you use this technique make sure that the person with you is prepared for an odd sight.
Tasting beverages with a plan helps enrich your experience with the beverage. I’m not a New Age kind of guy, but being mindful of your most pleasant experiences will grow your life. Most of us spend too much time devouring our food without truly experiencing the meal. Slurping or sniffing violently, or smacking your lips, are not only funny and strange to do, but those techniques help you truly understand the various qualities of the beverage. However, be warned. I advocate using these techniques a few times during your enjoyment of your beverage. Using these techniques with every sip of coffee may have deleterious effects: loss of every friend (except for the ones that are crazier than you) and loss of employment due to fear of mental illness. Enjoy your coffee drinking experience with humor, discernment, and creativity.
Frank Lanzkron-Tamarazo is the owner of Chazzano Coffee Roasters in Ferndale, Michigan. He is the author of “God Cries and An Angel Loses its Wings,” published by God and Coffee Consulting, Inc. His next three books will be published in the Spring of 2015. Chazzano Coffee Roasters has won Best Coffee Shop in Detroit from 2010-2014 and Best Tea Shop in 2013 & 2014.