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Fazenda Santa Barbara, Brazil

From the biggest of the beans to the smallest, this week our coffee comes from Brazil, land of small, soft coffee beans. Although Brazil has high altitude growing regions, they’re not quite as high as other coffee producing countries and so coffee from Brazil grows faster, producing smaller beans which aren’t as dense. This means they need a longer, slower roast otherwise they can burn quickly. They also need a good rest after roasting as they have a tendency to hold on to a lot of smokiness and feel a bit fizzy from CO2 for a couple of days after roasting. You’ll find the taste significantly different the longer you leave it. 4 days after roasting gives a good sweet chocolate flavour, and after 10 days they’ve really settled down for a much smoother taste.

Much of the coffee in Brazil comes from mega farms and is grown for the commodity market, with very few reaching speciality grade, which is a SCA (Speciality Coffee Association) grade of 84 and above. But there are some small scale farmers who are ensuring Brazil gets some representation in the speciality coffee world, Olney Barreira Junior, the owner of Fazenda Santa Barbara being one of them. Olney Barreira Junior acquired the farm in 2012 and has since replanted the farm with new varietals such as the rare Acaia which is the type we have sent you. He has also upgraded the farm’s equipment and improved processing facilities to improve the quality of coffee that the farm is able to produce. His efforts have been rewarded with high grading coffees, this one being an 84, and we expect to see this rating go up as the farm continues to improve.

Fazenda Santa Barbara is located in the Campo de Vetentes region in the Mantiquira Fields mountainous region which provide the high altitude, cool temperatures, and rainfall which are essential to growing good coffee. The coffee is shade grown and, as is required by Brazilian law, 20% is dedicated as natural reserve where native plants are able to flourish and no coffee planting is allowed.

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Bigger bag sizes and increased postage costs

Up until now we’ve used 200g for the practical reason of it fitting Royal Mail large letter size. However we recently switched to using more rigid cardboard mailers instead of brown paper for posting our coffee. These mailers offer much better protection for the coffee but they pushed us in to the next postal bracket.

We held off passing on to this cost on to customers until we were sure we were going to stick with the mailers. They cost £1.71 to send but we were charging you £1.27. As we’re really small it is hard for us to absorb this cost. Eventually we have decided that we really like the added protection and so we will continue using the mailers but the time has come to charge the right cost for postage.

However this isn’t all bad news – the more rigid mailers mean that we can send a 250g bag for the same price as a 200g bag now. Previously the 250g pushed us in to the higher postage bracket so we stuck to 200g but now we’re in that bracket anyway, we thought we could at least make up for the increased cost of postage by giving you more coffee! So for 44p extra in postage you are getting 50g extra coffee.

Of course if you live in Nottingham the postage is exactly the same – completely free! And our free postage for orders over £15 remains.

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Make the leap from instant to specialty coffee for only 32p per cup

We meet a lot of people who are interested in what we do and like coffee but only have instant at work or at home. A lot even apologise for drinking it – you don’t have to, really. We drank instant once upon a time and if you are from the UK instant was probably your first ever taste of coffee. It’s easy to make and has the caffeine we crave.

To make that leap though takes some knowledge or faith and it can leave some feeling stupid not knowing what they want/need because those in the business are talking “single origin”, “hard bean” “V60”, “flat white”, “bourbon varietal”, “cupping”, “screen size”… the list is endless.

cafetiereIgnore them. All you need is a cafetiere to make great coffee and chances are you have one in the cupboard or if not you should be able to pick one up for £10 at a supermarket.

The second thing you need is great coffee. We recommend the naturally sweet Organic Bali with a very coarse grind. It’s £6.35 for 200g and using 10 gram per cup you will get 20 cups which is 32p per cup (even if you had to buy the cafetiere it still under £1 per cup for your first bag).

Method: Add 10 grams of coffee (one and a bit table spoons) per 250ml just off the boil water (a standard ‘8 cup’ cafetiere is normally 1 litre). Stir. Wait 6 minutes before plunging. Pour into cup.

You are now drinking specialty coffee for 10 times less than what you may pay in a coffee shop. There was no queuing, it was in the comfort of your own home and lovely smell of freshly roasted and brewed coffee lingers. Enjoy.

No need to consider next steps yet but when you’re ready we are only a tweet away.

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UK Coffee Week deal – get 50% off your first custom subscription delivery

To celebrate UK Coffee Week, we’re offering 50% off your first custom coffee subscription delivery when you sign up before the end of Sunday 10th May 2015 using voucher code UKCoffeeWeek

Our build your own coffee subscription allows you to create the perfect subscription package for your preferred taste and brewing style. You can be as specific or as vague as you like in your choices. Options include whole bean or ground, brewing style, roast profile, and origin. Choose whether you want your delivery weekly, fortnightly, or monthly.

This is normally £7 per delivery but if you sign up between now and the end of UK Coffee Week, the first delivery is £3.50. You’re free to cancel at any time.



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Four years as a trade coffee buyer – what I’ve learned

When I started roasting in 2011 my knowledge of coffee wasn’t what it is today. I learn more everyday about coffee and will be the first to admit I don’t know it all because nobody does. However, I have noticed a slow change in how we buy coffee compared to those early days when I started off as a trade coffee buyer.

In 2011 buying Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance was top of the list, cupping results came second, then came price. This was down to ideology because naturally I thought certification is better. However, I soon realised this wasn’t the case and in the days when starbucks and costa is Fairtrade or RFA  yet hover at the bottom of most ethical trading lists, my realisations have proven true.

If you browse our website for RFA or Fairtrade you will find them tagged but it’s not part of the advertised part of the bean. The Roasting House (in terms of certification) are not Fairtrade or protect the Rainforest yet our ethical standards are higher than ever.Traceable information, good sustainable farming practices, and great cupping results are what I look for first and I think this matches the changing attitudes of consumers. Price plays an issue but I have also found that consumers will pay for great coffee as even our current most expensive coffee* works out under 50p a cup when made at home. Certification is now just a tag in the ‘what else?’ section of sourcing coffee – ‘oh, these beans are also from a Fairtrade farm’ and that is as far as it goes. I also notice this changing attitude in consumers.

There may be evidence of us roasters telling consumers what they should be buying because we second guess what the changing tides are. The farmers have to think even further ahead because they are guessing what the roasters might want. The results of which has seen a rise in small single origin farms and micro-lots because of the diversity that already exists out there. The make or break of cupping has a massive influence on the fortunes of farms. You can no longer put all your coffee into one farm.

New and old roasters

New roasters are appearing all the time and we see some making the same mistakes as we did. Suppliers now are more than happy to split down 60KG bags unlike they seemed to in 2011 but one great bean won’t be the same great bean in a year, and if not stored correctly (damp free, air tight if possible) will soon become old bagged beans that will be hard to shift (and why to avoid buying off ebay).

There is also a lot of copy paste out there and it’s badly done. An example that springs to mind is our Organic Bali beans where you will find written on some sites providing the same or similar that Bali bans all pesticides making all coffee from Bali organic. It doesn’t but does discourage their use to keep the biodiversity in check. I’m sure who ever first wrote made a genuine mistake or mis-translated but it shows how careful we need to be in not becoming lazy.

It’s not for the consumer to double check if roasters are telling the truth. Some of the now biggest names in coffee are slightly suspect in their trading and that reflects badly on all of us. We welcome new roasters to the market but not all will survive as although it seems like a gold rush, it’s hard work in a sea of overwhelming choice.

As a trade coffee buyer I’m always on the look out for the next big thing (hint; Heirloom varietal for 2016 – maybe ;-)). It’s second nature for me to only buy from sustainable farms. Tags are just that, and not the whole story.

Adam – The Roasting House

*excluding 100% Jamaican Blue Moutain