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We Went There: The Cafe Imports Legendary Coffee P...

We Went There: The Cafe Imports Legendary Coffee Producers Tour

cafe imports legendary coffee producer tour spyhouse sprudge

The Legendary Coffee Producers Tour—an origin trip in your backyard—barnstormed across America last month, with tour stops at Olympia Coffee in Olympia, Washington, Square One Coffee in Lancaster, PA, and Minneapolis, Minnesota at Insight Brewing. These events, produced and presented by our friends & partners at Cafe Imports, sought to bring direct access to some highly notable coffee producers straight to coffee lovers here in America.

At the packed house event in Minneapolis, Sprudge co-founder Jordan Michelman livetweeted some of his favorite moments from the event over on our SprudgeLive Twitter feed. He also did formal sit down interviews with each of these remarkable producers, content that’ll be published soon here on Sprudge. But for now let’s look back at their Legendary Coffee Producers Tour talks and find out more about these progressive coffee producers from Brazil, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

The Speakers

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Jacques Carneiro, Carmo Coffees, Brazil

Jacques Carneiro is a passionate advocate for Brazilian coffee, and specifically, for the coffees of his home district of Carmo de Minas. His company, Carmo Coffees, is pushing max accessibility for Carmo-grown specialty and “luxury” class coffees, and the Carmo Coffees website itself is really wonderfully done—a window into the world of quality-focused coffee in Brazil.

Carmo de Minas is Brazil’s most progressive coffee growing region. With just 2,000 individual growers, the district has fielded 70% of all top Brazilian Cup of Excellence coffees over the last 15 years. Carmo Coffees, which works with farmers across the region, is located in the Serra Montiqueira microgegion, where Jacques Carneiro has pioneered a radical approach to pruning and built a state of the art cupping lab for the region. “I prefer to think of myself as a cupper, not a producer,” Carneiro told the crowd—a statement met with spontaneous applause.

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Noah Namowicz of Cafe Imports handing out coffee samples.

There were a bunch of inspiring quotes and moments from this talk, but our favorite was this, as Carneiro discussed the importance of looking to his fellow coffee producers and growers for inspiration and knowledge. “Life is too short to complain. We need to be willing to copy, admire & find solutions from neighbors.” Beautifully said. We’ll have way more information on that radical pruning method, plus so much more, in our upcoming spotlight interview with Jacques Carneiro.

Francisca Chacon, Finca Las Lajas, Costa Rica

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Francisca Chacon of Finca Las Lajas.

This was a memorable, firebrand speech from Francisca Chacon, an experimental and boundary-pushing coffee producer who owns Finca Las Lajas in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. Chacon began this talk by telling the audience: “I wish you could all go to Costa Rica someday, but I don’t have the money to buy you all tickets.” She proceeded to take us there in her speech, outlining the challenges facing the current generation of coffee farmers in Costa Rica—climate change, shifting cultural traditions, and rising land values—while explaining the clear path they’ve found at Las Lajas: organic agriculture, gleeful experimentation, and a pointed pursuit of quality.

cafe imports legendary coffee producer tour spyhouse sprudge

Folks sippin’ samples.

“Organic agriculture is our finest form of advertising and most important source of income,” Chacon told the crowd, and Las Lajas has been certified organic since 2000. But for new wave coffee nerds and flavor freaks, it’s the experimental approach to processing and especially drying that has put Las Lajas on the map in a big way. We’ve personally seen dozens of US Barista Championship competitors compete using the Chacon’s “Perla Negra” natural processed coffee, the very first such natural processed coffee in Costa Rican history.

Chacon bills this coffee as being for people whose “tastes are non-traditional, and those who enjoy exotic beverages”—and it is certainly that. Next on the horizon, Francisca Chacon and the team at Las Lajas are preparing for the release of a new, even more refined natural coffee in 2016, dubbed “Black Diamond”—you can learn much more about that project in our upcoming in-depth interview.

Juan Jose Moguel and Juan Jose Moguel Jr., Finca Nueva Linda, Mexico 

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Juan Jose Miguel Sr. of Finca Nueva Linda.

It would be hard to choose a favorite of these three talks, but we really enjoyed the generational interplay happening between Juan Jose Miguel and his son, Jose Jr., down at Finca Nueva Linda in Chiapas, Mexico. Sr. started growing coffee at the age of 17, brought in to the family business by his father, a strict man who did not want his son deviating from the style of coffee production typical in Chiapas at that time. But this strictness trait seems to have skipped a generation, as now Juan Jose Miguel openly encourages the experimental methods practiced by his own son at Nueva Linda.

This kind of generational interplay happens in all kinds of family businesses passed down generations—look at the cutting edge work Brant Curtis, of Wilbur Curtis Co., is pioneering there as a 4th generation member of his family’s company. In the wine world these kinds of generational narratives are common, too—in France, Domaine Labet‘s winemaker, Alain, makes some of the Jura’s most emblematic slightly oxidized white wines; meanwhile Alain’s son, Julien, produces fresh, bright, clean wines that break with Jura tradition, but are much sought after by wine geeks. From father to son, traditions change and mature, and the end results are delicious.

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Juan Jose Miguel Jr. of Finca Nueva Linda.

Disaster is the mother of invention at Finca Nueva Linda—the farm, which sits at the edge of a huge nature preserve in Chiapas, has twice been devastated by hurricanes in the last 20 years, including near direct strikes from hurricanes Javier and Gilbert in the late 1990s. When asked what the family will do if another hurricane strikes, Juan Sr. is direct: “We will start over. We’ve done it before.” Meanwhile Juan Jose Jr. is pioneering experimental practices like a solar drying facility, triple drying techniques, new Gesha variety plantings, sugar cane fermentation (!), and the cultivation of new and rare hybrid varieties. The mill at Nueva Linda processes coffee from over 24,000 small holder farmers across Chiapas, and is a major economic mover for the region.

As with all of the producers on the Legendary Coffee Producers Tour, we had the opportunity to sit down with Jr. and Sr. from Finca Nueva Linda and ask them questions—look for their interview on Sprudge soon.

Andrew Miller, Founder & President, Cafe Imports 

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This talk from Cafe Imports founder Andrew Miller was like a love letter to Jairo Ruiz and Elkin Guzman of Banexport, a Colombian exporting & development company that have long been partnered with Cafe Imports. The Banexport team were originally scheduled to speak on the Legendary Producers Tour, but visa issues prevented them from being able to join the events.

Miller spoke to the crowd about Cafe Imports’ origins (“In 1994 I borrowed money from my mother-in-law…”), offered a quick-sung tour through the growth of coffee culture in the last decade (to the tune of Billie Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire”), and offered a kind of mission statement for the Legendary Producers Tour as an event concept. Addressing the Minneapolis crowd, Miller said, “Take a trip to origin and you’ll realize—our lives are a little different than their lives. Coffee is hard work. And the idea is, we want to make the farmer famous. It should be about them, not us.”

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For crowds packed into event spaces in Olympia, Washington, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, these events were like an origin tour without leaving home. Following the event, a crowd packed the Cafe Imports green coffee warehouse in Minneapolis for hot dogs, beer, and a chance to chat with the the evening’s speakers. Judging by the crowds around the producers at this event, it’s safe to say that Andrew Miller’s goal—to “make the farmer famous”—is well underway, with events like this Legendary Producer Tour serving as yet another step down the path.

Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge.com. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge

Photos courtesy of Andy Reiland.


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