By James Guard
on June 28, 2017

Courage is different things. One thing it is is not accepting ‘well, that’s just the way things are’. The unbearable itch that forms the forward momentum of wanting to take steps to change something that is unacceptable. That always moves me, when people who have every reason to give up, just don’t.

Those who take that turn away from accepting defeat and then take steps toward a different option. The courage to choose that despite what everyone else sees, you see something better. That courage to see something better, to break the inertia of accepting defeat, opens the way for something to change. To be better.

 It was this vision and courage that led a group of coffee farmers to turn and move away from a stagnant commercial coffee market in Honduras, that saw farmers receiving little return for their work. COMSA had a vision, for a community that looked after each other, the earth that produces their coffee, and the children that that are the next generation of coffee famers. Being a Fairtrade co-op meant the price they received for the coffee was stable, and rather than that being an end itself, this stability provided a platform to build infrastructure geared up to producing fantastic coffee.

Central and foundational to COMSA’s (Café Organico Marcala S.A) vision is the use of organic practices that do no harm, and in fact feed the land from which all the coffee is grown, a revolutionary use of organic methods and processing that simultaneously blesses the earth, preserves water, creates masses of bio diversity, and encourages the growth of some darn fine coffee!

We’ve developed a freakishly serendipitous relationship with COMSA, from being found by Suita, offered some samples, loving the coffee, buying some, going on a somewhat impromptu visit to Honduras, and then being blown away by the sheer quality and scale of the coffee growing and processing, and now buying some more for this year, including a couple of stunning micro lots!

Those Micro-lots are from David Chavez, and Miriam Perez, two of the original rebel alliance that took up the gauntlet of intensive organic farming, and focusing on growing sensatioanlly tasty coffee.

Soooo…here’s the really exciting bit! Rodolfo Penalba, the GM and co-founder of COMSA, David Chavez a farmer who's also the president of the COMSA’s board a pioneer and passionate educator, our mate, and organisational legend Suita, and the people who run the COMSA school, are visiting Manchester from the 11th-14th July!

Now, this would be exciting in its own right, but as it happens, (and this is another Serendipty momement…) one of the coffees we chose in our blind cupping was a beautiful washed coffee from Don David Chavez, and we also chose a natural from Miriam Perez, a funky stunner from an awesome woman, who also happens to be Rodolfo’s wife!

Sooooo come join the family, cup their coffees with them and absorb some of that deep coffee farming knowledge!

11th July 7pm

At Rise at the back of Grindsmiths Deansgate:  We are going to have an evening of panel discussion around the issue of sustainability in coffee trade, with COMSA, Fairtrade and couple of respected peeps from the speciality coffee trade. This will be free, but we’ll do an event brite for it, as numbers will be limited! The panel will be Rodolfo, Howard Barwick (Head Buyer Bewleys UK/Grumpy Mule), Holly Bowman (from Northstar Coffee in Leeds)

And we'll have someone from Fair Tade there too.

With provenance and origin story being so important to Speciality Coffee...its a chance to really dig into this idea of fair 'ethical' 'direct' trade of coffee, and what this actually means to the farmers, hearing from the farmers themselves!


13th July 6pm-10pm:

We are having a cupping event with difference at the roastery, the main difference being the farmers will be there! We are going to set up all sorts of interactive stuff so we can really dig into the elements that influence how coffee is grown and processed and how this is fundamental to its character and flavour. We’ll also be brewing and pulling shots…well, you will!

The cupping will be structured, and there will be a talk about COMSAs organic vision and how this contributes to flavour. However, we also want to leave lots of time for you to just hang out and socialise, brew their coffee with them and chat to some awesome coffee brains, and ask all those questions you’ve always wanted to ask coffee farmers about!

This event will be ticketed £10 each, and will include a bag of coffee. All the proceeds will go towards Team COMSA’s travel costs. We’ll send out the Event Brite for it very soon.





Getting into Acidity...

By James Guard
on April 30, 2016

Sean set up a really great little workshop at the roastery...I love learning new stuff! Drawing on his CQI Q grader training, he set out tasting samples of Citric, Malic, Lactic and Tartaric acid.

We had 3 different levels of citric acid to taste, from relatively pleasant to lemon suckingly sour! Then there were the four different solutions to slurp, then we mixed some low acidity Brazil in with a few of the different acids, and had to pair them up...reallly hard!

For me it was fascinating to slurp on the different acids, then find taste memories of various coffees and origins come flooding back! For example, the malic acid, tasted of sour green apples, then a sense memory coming through of tasting coffees from El Salvador or Nicaragua. The sharp citric acidity of course brought to mind lemons, and that sort of clean lemon taste Ive found with some great Kenyan coffees. Tartaric was tricky and the dryness of it was hard to pin to a coffee, but the cranberry/rasberry quality finally dug its way through my brain to remind me of Guatemalan!

The really interesting one was the lactic acid, which seemed very flat compared to the others, but Sean mentioned it in reference to a good Brazilian...and then it made sense! There was much more of a texture, a mouthfeel to the lactic acid, which did have sense of coating the roof of the mouth, like a yummy buttery Brazilain, or other coffee with pronounced viscosity...

Anyhoo...just a few refections on a really interesting exercise, and one I am sure we shall be running more of!



A city style and the upward trend

By Sean Fowler
on October 07, 2015

Back in June I wrote a small blog post about the growth of Manchester, obviously focusing on coffee. 4 months on and it has become even more pronounced in my mind of a real shift in the quality and care going into sourcing better coffee by many places that would a year ago have served the cheapest possible beans. 

Business at Heart and Graft is much the same. We are still sourcing coffees that we love, roasting them well and delivering them to our lovely customer base. Business is growing alongside the cities growth and life is good. 

My thoughts have gone onto Manchester's style of coffee. The general trend is upward; moving upward to serve better coffee, more care in training baristas and generally an attitude to coffee that is more considered. 

Will Manchester be swept up along in the general trend of speciality coffee across the UK or will it forge it's own path in the coffee world?

I have no idea, although if history is anything to go by Manchester is used to forging it's own path.


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