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Kickapoo Coffee Roasters - Kabingara AA Kenya

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I’m starting to believe Wisconsin is home to some of the greatest coffee roasters in the US.  It has been a great, great ride with these last several Kickapoo Coffee offerings.  I’ve loved getting a closer look at the company I was so fond of earlier in the year from their Congolese offerings, and quickly learned that saturating the palate with flavor wasn’t a fluke only found in those early offerings.  Kickapoo has quickly become one of my favorite roasters I’ve been able to experience, as I know any offering I select is not only going to be linked to great sustainability, but I know the profile I find will always be worth the price of admission.  They say their fanaticism pays off in some of the best coffees available on the market today, and I’d have to agree with that.  As you read this, five new offerings exist on their site from the ones we visited as well as four of the ones we’ve seen already, including this Kabingara AA Kenya we’ll be diving into today.  Check out the site, and keep up to date with these guys as they do great things in specialty coffee.

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Kickapoo Coffee Roasters - Sidama Ethiopia

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If you’ve noticed by now, you may be thinking, “Man…those Kickapoo Coffee tins look really sharp.”  If you have been, you’d be correct.  Designed by Neal Olson, these tins are incredibly awesome, a welcomed change from the typical bags we see these days, and they do more than just promote a local graphics designer.  Being from the Midwest (and owning it), Kickapoo loves keeping with the Midwest aesthetics and the rural feel.  These tins are one way they can not only be sustainable (read 100% recyclable and easily reused), but also gives a throwback to the Midwest.

Plastic packaging is one of the major environmental costs of the coffee industry. At Kickapoo Coffee, they strive to eliminate plastic from their operations. All of their prepackaged coffee is sold in reusable, recyclable steel cans containing 80 percent post-consumer recycled steel. Their one-pound bags feature a biodegradable glycine liner, and they package the majority of their bulk five-pound bags in biodegradable kraft bags.

Let’s open our can of Ethiopia Sidama Fero and see what’s inside.

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Kickapoo Coffee Roasters - Yirgacheffe Idido Ethiopia

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Today is an absolute treat for me.  The next two reviews we visit are going to be two new washed Ethiopian offerings from Kickapoo Coffee.  If you know anything about me, you know I’ve been tracking washed Ethiopians pretty closely this year, so I’m really excited to see what Kickapoo offers up, and something tells me we will be impressed.

Kickapoo begins each roast with an open mind. They consider the micro-region, processing methods, and growing conditions that influenced the harvest. Then they roast in small batches, cupping as they go, in an ongoing search for the perfect expression of the bean’s natural characteristics. By focusing on the best flavor profile for each variety, they end up with a rainbow of subtly distinctive roasts, each beautifully expressive of the inherent qualities of the beans.

Roasting fresh, high-quality green coffee is vitally important. To this end, they designed and built a custom green storage room that is temperature and humidity controlled. Because each origin has essentially only one harvest per year, properly storing raw coffee is crucial. They roast their coffees weekly, to order, in small handcrafted batches in our refurbished German-made Probat roaster from the 1930s. In refurbishing it, they used all original parts, while adding customized elements to increase their control. These modifications include a frequency control drive to control the speed of the drum, special adaptations to maximize cool times, and probes to measure bean and environment conditions with digital precision.  What better way to experience that precision through roasting, and sourcing we read about last write-up than visiting a bean that shows a prime example of that- one of last year’s Good Food Award winners, the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Idido.

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Kickapoo Coffee Roasters - Agustin Gomez Mexico

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Maintaining truly direct and meaningful relationships with farmers is extremely difficult for coffee roasters, as importing and communicating with farmers takes resources most small companies do not have. To overcome this obstacle, Kickapoo Coffee is an owner-member of Cooperative Coffees, a fair trade importing business owned by 23 like-minded roasters who are actively engaged in supporting our own importing cooperative. They import over 85 percent of our coffees through Cooperative Coffees, and this number is increasing each year as they develop partnerships with new producers around the world.

Through Cooperative Coffees they set the bar higher for the fair trade world. Their pricing minimum is set at a price that is substantially above fair trade standards. They also offer our farmer-partners much-needed pre-harvest financing.

Fair trade at Kickapoo Coffee goes beyond pricing to building relationships and partnerships with their growers. Because they import our own coffees, they are communicating with growers directly, not through a middleman. Maintaining direct relationships with producers is very different from buying and selling fair trade coffee from an importer. Kickapoo gets to participate in the lives of our farmers directly, seeing where the roadblocks are, and devising solutions for a more sustainable partnership.  One of those farms happens to be Agustin Gomez Hernandez, let us learn more.

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Kickapoo Coffee Roasters - La Gabriela Costa Rica

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It’s hard to even figure out where to start when it comes to Kickapoo Coffee Roasters.  My first experiences with this Wisconsin based roaster were two of their Congo roasts that came in Craft Coffee boxes earlier this year.  In those bags, not only did I find some of the most flavorful coffees I’d had to that point, I found stories of farmers and struggle that, again until that point, I have never known existed.

Flash forward to a few months ago when I was contacted by Kickapoo about interest in visiting more of their offerings, and you can imagine my excited.  I spent a good hour on the phone with Alex, just talking about the family-owned business, about sustainability with cooperatives, farms, and packaging, living in and representing the Midwest, and about their 1930’s German Probat.  All these are things we will dive into more detail about in the next several days, but for now, let’s just dig into one of the many amazing offerings that Kickapoo has: La Gabriela Costa Rica.   

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Black Oak Coffee Roasters - Ethiopia Konga

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A cup of coffee is practically a religious experience for us. We revere it, we crave it and we anticipate brewing and drinking it every day. Every coffee has a story, a history of soil, people and culture that make each one special. And it’s that combination that keeps us curious to learn about and eager to experience the next cup.” - Black Oak Coffee Roasters

When I first started writing on this site, I was just a guy who wanted to record the coffees he was drinking.  Somewhere along the way people began to come alongside me and share their craft with me.  In doing so, I’ve been exposed to more regions, farms, farmers, cooperatives, stories and practices that shape the cups that I drink.  Places like Black Oak Coffee Roasters, heck, most of the coffee roasters you and I both interact with, exist to help bridge the gap between coffee producers and coffee drinkers to some degree.  I’m always thankful for those roasters who see the importance of that, and from the last three write-ups we can see Black Oak keeps an eye to detail in their craft, and how they connect with the community as well.  Closing out the Black Oak selections we will be sharing together, let’s take a look at the natural processed Konga, Natural.  

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Black Oak Coffee Roasters - Kabatha AB Kenya

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For Fans Of: Jazz, dessert.

Black Oak Coffee Roasters’ desire is to be a hub for community from within and without Mendocino County.  They want their coffee to be so good you would drive across the county for a cup. They feature regular concerts of local and touring musicians, an in-house vinyl collection being spun, and baristas whose skill and passion for making the perfect coffee drink matches their reverence for roasting the perfect batch.  They have also created a signature drinks menu to reflect their desire to present something unique for our customers.  While that might not be new to a lot of shops around, it isn’t something that I see very often in my parts, at least not in the third wave coffee roasting scene.  I can tell you one thing, if this Kabatha AB, Kenya is on the brew bar, fire up the car and get there… now.  

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Black Oak Coffee Roasters - San Diego Buena Vista Guatemala

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For Fans Of: Autumn, Christmas, Black-tie affairs.  

Black Oak Coffee Roasters is a roaster I have seen a lot about.  No surprise, they seem to have a lot going for them.  Based in Ukiah, California they approach coffee in a culinary manner, both for Mendocino County and afar.

Their desire is evident when looking at their lineup of coffees.  Not only is their branding on point, but for for every white bag of single origin in stock, they seem to have a black bag of blends, enough to visually please and also allow for easy identification to customers of all sorts.  We’ll talk more about Black Oak in the coming write-ups, but for now let’s dive into our first selection, San Diego Buena Vista, Guatemala.  

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Quill’s Coffee - El Eden, Guerrero, Mexico

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I was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky.  I lived the first 19 years of my life in that city, and never once stepped foot inside of Quill’s Coffee.  Well, that isn’t true, I walked in there once.  Flash forward to a few years ago when I started getting more into coffee, and I was trying a lot of Quill’s offerings, as I wanted to see what I had been missing out on.  Two coffees specifically jumped out to me last year, and both part of Quill’s Top Shelf line of offerings, the Kiungu Kenya and El Eden Mexico.  I don’t know exactly what captivated me about this coffee, but I know I went through about 6 bags of it over the span of the summer, and frequently bought it on brew bar locally at Collective Espresso.  While I have had a few other Quill’s coffees this year, I wanted this to be the offering I first wrote about.  It is a bit out of character for me as I’m not the largest natural fan, but let us discover the El Eden, Mexico from Quill’s Coffee.    

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Jacu Coffee Roastery - Monte Copey Costa Rica - Kaffebox - August 2014 

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We have a very exciting treat for you today.  Lately I have been intrigued by several overseas roasters- seeing their offerings in shops around the US or plugging in with them and their baristas on social media.  I was tipped off by a fellow coffee enthusiast about a subscription service that focuses on fresh Scandinavian offerings.  That service is Kaffebox, and we decided to give it a go.  It’s quite a desirable service, really, especially if you have been interested in trying out roasters you cannot typically order from for a reasonable price.  You can select several sizes, filter or espresso, even whole bean or various grind sizes. It was even desirable to see that the beans arrived on my doorstep right around 8-9 days off roast, with the hopes of bringing that even closer in the future. For this style of roast, that is a pretty great window to receive beans from the roaster here in the US.  Kaffebox has features roasters such as The Coffee Collective, Koppi, Kaffa, and today’s roaster: Jacu Coffee Roastery and their Monte Copey Costa Rica.

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Terminus Coffee - Ethiopia Aricha

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Just a little over a month ago we sat down with the debut of Terminus Coffee, the micro-roasting operation that grew from our very loved friends in Tacoma, WA: The Puristas.  What has always been so alluring about this duo is their pursuit of relationship through their journey in coffee.  In one moment one can easily head to Purista’s site and read their poetic cup-by-cup experience with a roaster’s offering, much like here, Corner of the Cafe, or The Coffee Adventures, or one can follow Mae’s progression with latte art on their Instagram account, or even get more intimate with the inner workings of Terminus through their Twitter feed.  

From early on I had been looking forward to sitting down with this coffee.  I already had high expectations, seeing as the Populace Aricha was such an outstanding and memorable coffee for me.  However, I know that David has been working to dial these coffees into something quite unique and impressive for what some might still deem as a “home roasted operation.”  Rocking a Huky 500, Terminus Coffee comes out of the tunnel speeding and showing you exactly how delicious exceptionally prepared and sourced coffees can taste, and quickly setting themselves up to be among some of the most respected and appreciate roasters to drink from.  Let’s dive into the lovely Ethiopia, Aricha.  

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Supersonic Coffee Co. - Chelelectu, Ethiopia

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Ruby’s Chelelektu really opened my eyes to what an exceptionally sourced and processed washed Ethiopian can taste like.  When PERC’s Chelelektu arrived at my door I was able to experience that yet again.  While nearly every washed Ethiopian coffee that has been brewed here this year has been stellar, this particular region is a bit special to me.  When I opened my package from Supersonic Coffee and saw that my second bag (another washed Ethiopian) was also from Chelelectu, I didn’t know what to expect.  I was a bit nervous at first that I’d hyped it up too much from all the buzz going around, and hadn’t had any experience of what a coffee sourced from Nordic Approach would be like, or if it had any difference.  All that was left was to dig into it and find out.  Here’s Chelelectu, Ethiopia.  

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Supersonic Coffee Co. - Wote, Ethiopia

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There has been quite a stir about upcoming Berkeley, CA roasters Supersonic Coffee Company.  I saw aesthetically pleasing tube samples from them in SCAA reports, saw Alpha Dominche brewing their coffees up, and most recently a lot of buzz surrounding their co-pilot program that gave 10 shops across the US the ability to serve and sell their coffee for the next two month before their public launch.  There’s also quite the chatter on social media about them, and a lot of talk among the coffee professionals as well.  As much can be expected though, with the names of those affiliated as well as having Nordic Approach be among the importers they will be receiving green from.  I was lucky enough to get a peek behind a few of their samples, the first of which we’ll look at is their Wote, Ethiopia.  

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Novel Coffee Roasters - El Meridiano Colombia

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There is something so lovely about story.  Something about letting the imagination run, getting caught up in the words, the lines, the pages.  Curling up with a good story and just getting lost.  Story can be so vivid, so haunting, so poetic and piercing.  The details unraveling bit by bit until you get the whole picture… the whole story.  The folks behind Novel Coffee Roasters know all about it, and know there is more than just the story behind the coffee, there is the story of the coffee.  The brilliant dance- the beauty within the binding.  Today we are looking at the second offering from Novel, another example of great sourcing and undistracted roasting to provide you with your moment to get lost in the story.  Today’s story is El Meridiano, Colombia.   

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Novel Coffee Roasters - Gedeo Konga Ethiopia

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Founded in early 2013 by Kevin Betts and Ryan Smith, Novel Coffee Roasters was born in Dallas, TX out of the desire to share profound taste experiences with our community.  Aside from having a very recognizable brand and aesthetically stellar logo and the tag line “Every Coffee Has A Story”, the duo knows that every seed is cultivated, harvested, processed, traded, shipped, roasted, and prepared before it reaches your cup.  It is then their goal that every person involved in this process is treated fairly and rewarded for their work.  All this is evident as we dive into the first offering we have of theirs, their Ethiopia, Yirgacheffe Gedeo Konga.

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