Feeling Uncomfortable in a Good Way

Hey everyone, 

I last left off with a post saying I was off to Colombia (which I ended up writing about here) and since then, my life has been pretty nonstop since. 

As you can see, this blog has had to take a back seat to focus on my new position in a green coffee sourcing company.

It feels weird writing about it because within a year my entire world of coffee has changed.  There was such a dramatic jump from café roastery side to green coffee buying and sourcing.  The learning curve has left me a bit paralyzed. 

And I know, I know. This is a good thing.  I've read somewhere (or more accurately heard on a TEDx Talk or podcast) you will have these phases in your life - you go from an expert phase back to a learning stage and the cycle continues on. It's how you grow.  It's the only way to grow. You step into something uncomfortable - sometimes very uncomfortable - and you live in this squirmy phase until you get a rhythm of things. 

I am very much in the squirmy phase. But I digress. I know this is a good thing - this far leap into an industry I've always wanted to learn about.

But most of all - writing about coffee sourcing & buying scares the shit out of me.  It is one of the most intimidating subjects I've explored.  Leave coffee quality aside.  There are other vital roles that play into coffee production; agronomy, international politics, culture, international trade, botany and goodness knows what else.

But I do know one thing to be true; It is impossible to know everything about coffee.

That being said, there are a few things I do want to talk about that connect the person ordering the coffee to the person that walks the land in which they grow the coffee.

I suppose the best way to do this is to start with the basics: how does coffee get to us? How many hands touch it? (And why I think organic and direct trade can be utter *bullshit).

*sometimes
*but sometimes is quite often

We will get to that later. 

Cheers and Mugs up from
x Oslo x

Erica

Colombia-bound; Let's Find Some Good Coffee

Hey everyone👋

I'm currently writing to you from an airplane that is Colombia bound! 

Now, Colombia has an interesting reputation for coffee. It's probably the first country people think of when asked, "Where does coffee come from?" And while yes, Colombia has long been a producer of some of the best coffees in the world, it's important to note the difference between Colombian coffee you may see at grocery stores versus the really great stuff being produced today by progressive and highly dedicated producers (or farmers) that you can find among specialty coffee roasters.

As you may know, I was in Norway for the first four months of the year and it was there I was able to meet a producer who our company, Nordic Approach, has been working with

"When people think of Colombian coffee, they think of Don Jose with a sombrero riding a donkey with a bag of coffee on its back," says Colombian coffee producer Juan Saldarriaga. His body is leaned into the table as if he is sharing a secret with the table.  It's April in Norway and the harsh winter has subdued to a mild chill.  Locals are sprinkling the outside seating in the hip pub - a sure sign that winter is leaving. But for Saldarriaga this is anything but a mild chill - it's freezing.  He wraps his arms across each other as he presses on.

"But that is the past. We, the new generation, are tired of that. We want to be something different." 

Juan Saldarriaga is a stunning example of the future of Colombian coffee and it's perception. He respects where he came from, a long line of generations of coffee producers, but knows where he wants to go.   

He traveled to Oslo to receive feedback on his coffees purchased from Nordic Approach - the green coffee importer/sourcer that works with producers like Saldriagga all over the world.  He knows Morten, Founder of Nordic, won't hold back on any criticism of his coffees.  

The following day - after an evening filled with a few beers and covering a whole slew of coffee topics on both ends, we get to cupping coffee. 

Cupping is much like what wine tasting is for sommeliers. Buyers and roasters will score coffees based on factors such as body, acidity, structure, flavor, aroma and other items to make purchasing decisions.  The value of the coffee is determined using the SCA scoring methodology.  It also ultimately defines the value of the producer's work for that past harvest. 

Morten, the founder of Nordic, is a bit of a wiz at this stuff. I remember the first time I met him in his home in Oslo with his lovely wife (a badass in her own nature as she has a background in wine) and two incredibly adorable children. He showed me his homemade beers and after tasting them I just said a loud, "Wow." Then without missing a beat he said, "You should see what I can do with coffee." Any way, this guy can take a tiny slurp of a coffee and determine any processing flaws, plant mutations, how well a coffee a hold up in the long run. When your cupping with Morten it's education and entertainment all in one. 

And so when a producer commits to flying to Norway to get feedback you know they are serious. And when they are receiving that feedback from Morten, you know they are looking for one thing; to constantly improve. 

Juan that day had put forth some Colombians I have never tasted before that blew my mind (not that I am experienced in cupping Colombians).  But the point was is that I loved them. Heck - our whole team was obsessed with them. They were natural processed Colombians that while were bold in their fruit flavors it was still a clean cup of coffee. I could drink that stuff all day.  But there was also the classic Colombian coffees that we have grown to love full of nuts and caramels. 

So what do producers like Saldriagga exactly do to develop such mouthwatering coffees? And how are they changing things that have long been the norm? 

Well, we are about to find out. 

See you in Bogotá ☕️

Mugs Up,

Erica
The Coffee Nomad

I Owe You a Little Catch Up Post

Look, I honestly am not even sure who reads my blog.  But I know one thing is for sure - it looks like I have been ALL OVER the place.  And well, you are right.

A lot has happened within these past several months.  Let's review shall we?

September: Move from Southern California to Charlotte, North Carolina (Could I be any further?)

January: Move to Oslo, Norway for a couple months to hang out with some of the best in the coffee sourcing industry at Nordic Approach

March: Swing by the states for a week to make sure I still have a puppy and a boyfriend but mainly a puppy.  Good. They are both still there. Then I return to Oslo.

April: Return from Oslo and fly straight to Seattle for the coffee industry's largest event, SCA Expo in Seattle.  I am not social at evening events since I am falling asleep at dinners (thanks, time difference.)  Then I finally fly back to Charlotte where I regroup mentally and physically and remember I am now, somehow, part of the team at Nordic Approach.

Let's Rewind 

But to explain where I am today, I should probably take you back to my lonesome apartment in Killeen, Texas circa 2014.  My boyfriend had sent me a book as a gift called Coffee: The Guide to the Bean, the Beverage and the Industry.  While he didn't realize it at the time (and heck - neither did I) it would lead me down a never-ending road to coffee - all the way to Oslo.

You see, there was a concept that was first introduced to me in that book - green coffee sourcing.  Buyers were traveling to remote places in foreign lands to find good coffees and meet interesting people and see interesting things along the way.  That alone is what made my heart yearn to better understand the beginning of coffee's journey.

But I thought - as I sat there in that dark apartment after another long day of news reporting - that I would never really find myself in that world.  I didn't know anything about coffee and that entire world seemed so far away from the people I surrounded myself with and what had been my reality those past five years.

But when you are really passionate about something, you find yourself making decisions that lead to your passions - no matter how subtle or how subconscious they are.

It's like the moment I decided to start a coffee blog - even though there were and are better ones out there I'm sure.

It's like the moment I asked the barista what is coffee? And the other 100 dumb questions after that one.

It's like the moment I realized I really wanted to know where coffee came from and I made my first trip to origin happen. #PuraVida

It's like the moment that when I moved to a new city and decided I wanted to learn how to make coffee and started working as a barista. 

It's like all of these little moments leading up to the big ones - like where I said yes to move to Norway to better understand something I've always longed to understand.

Coming Up

So, to say my blog has taken a back seat is an understatement.  But I am excited because these past several months have taught me much more than I could possibly imagine about coffee and I can't wait to share with ya'll. 

I am going to go beyond coffee shops now. We are going to talk about some home brewing and coffee gear, as well as travel tips and stories and things I learn along the way. I may throw in some videos in here and there as well :)