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Oso Negro Coffee

April’s CoffeeCollective feature comes from beautiful Nelson, British Columbia. Jim May and Jon Meyer, two friends that worked in the forest sector and had a mutual desire for change, and founded Oso Negro in 1993. After learning as much as possible about the coffee roasting business, they left the trees and open spaces for a small 200 square foot roasting room.

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The Spanish name Oso Negro translates to “Black Bear,” and was chosen by Jim and Jon for numerous reasons, apart from their common love of black coffee. First, after years of working in the forest and living in Nelson, spotting the animal was not rare. Black Bears are often used as a common symbol to represent the area. Choosing the Spanish word and flair also brought forth a reminder of how far coffee travels from foreign lands to Oso Negro customers.

At first, Oso Negro began with single varietal roasts, sourcing beans from coffee brokers, West Coast Coffee Traders and Royal Coffee. From ordering only five bags of beans to 260, it is fair to say that ON has expanded it reach and popularity through out Nelson and the rest of Canada.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Anne Bokser Wishlow, a co-owner of Oso Negro who began with the company in 1995 as a barista. In her 10 years with the roasting company, Anne has taken part in its growth from three to 60 employees and says she has acquired a true taste and passion for coffee in the process.

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“Oso Negro was a slow methodical evolution through tremendous amounts of customer engagement,” said Anne. “We listened to feedback and developed from there. Customers wanted more out of a cup of coffee, more flavour and dimension.”

Through understanding coffee and giving it away to our customers, Anne says Oso Negro was able to expand and outgrow their roasting space and build a community hub with the Oso Negro Café all while including the opinions of their supporters. Although ON grew slowly, Anne says this has given the company the ability to “expand with quality in mind.”

“We keep hands on and eyes on every bean so that we can make sure it is consistent and top notch.”

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Today, Oso Negro has moved onto blending beans from Central and South America, Africa and Indonesia, which allows for the roasters to play with ratios and roasts. By combining the sweetness of Ethiopian beans with the creamy and buttery body of Indonesian, Oso Negro creates different flavour profiles in their unique 24 blends.

Lucky customers of the Oso Negro Café are able to try a new blend every day of the week as the baristas use freshly roasted coffee brought down from the roasting house each morning. The café, which used to be a house, has been transformed to a local hangout with multiple benches, tables and couches spread through its many rooms. Ann says the location on Nelson’s main road, Baker Street, fits in perfectly with the quaint and artistic community.

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CoffeeCollective featured two blends from Oso Negro in April including the medium roast, Full Organic Blend and dark roast, Meteor Blend. Both of these roasts use beans sourced from Central America and Indonesia and come from certified organic and certified fair trade farms.

If you get the chance to stop by Nelson this summer, we definitely recommend visiting Oso Negro Café. We look forward to doing so ourselves. You can also visit the roasters website for more information on their roasts and to order some of their deliciously blended coffees.


March CoffeeCollective feature: Bean North Coffee Roasting

For the month of March, CoffeeCollective searched Canada’s beautiful northern territories for the perfect cup of coffee.

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Bean North Coffee Roasting is nestled in Whitehorse, Yukon. While you may think the beans suffer in their journey from heat to frozen temperatures, Bean North owner, Michael King sees its many advantages.

“When we are roasting in the winter months in very cold temperatures, the conditions are perfect for hitting the sweet spot in the cup profile, every time.”

Another benefit the cold brings is the common need to wrap one’s hands around a steaming mug, hence why Bean North Café has become the community hangout and a local tourist destination. Surrounded by spruce and pine trees, the café offers more than just a quality cup of coffee. Cupping courses and roastary tours are hosted from the café in addition to the charming social atmosphere where guests can discover coffee farmers, Bean North and its beginnings.

In 1996, Michael says he and his wife, Helen “travelled to the coffee lands of Central America on a mission to learn everything we could about coffee.”  After being exposed to the realities of coffee farming just as Canada’s Fair Trade label was newly launched, Bean North was signed on as western Canada’s first 100% fair trade coffee roaster.

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Bean North founder, Michael King. Photo by Gary Bremner

To reach their dreams of sourcing coffee directly, Michael and Helen linked up Cooperative Coffees. By joining forces with other small roasters, Michael says opportunities to import coffee from Africa, Central and South America were now available. Today, after a decade, various farmers still work closely with Bean North and Cooperative Coffees.

“In most cases we were introduced to the farmers while travelling in the region or through connections in the coffee industry,” Michael says. “In some cases, our coop is still the only buyer.”

Apart from their exclusive selection, Bean North sources only farmer friendly beans and the facility is the only roastary in northern Canada that is certified for organic processing.

 

Screen shot 2014-03-18 at 2.51.05 PMCoffeeCollective members received the following two roasts in their packages this month.

Colombian Fondo Paez

From the Cordillera Central region, this dark roast is brewing in the CoffeeCollective kitchen at this very moment. The coffee showcases notes of berry and wine under its rich and creamy body.

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Peruvian Canchaque Natural

A lighter roast from northern Peru. The coffee has sweet and fragrant aromas that trail onto the palate with ripe berry and cocoa notes.

 

When selecting beans, Michael says there are many farming practices that Bean North looks for. Traditional and organic practices such as “under the forest canopy,” and natural fertilization is considered as well as how the beans are dried, depending on the region.

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Members who received this month’s package, be sure to leave your comments and ratings on the site! For those without a subscription, sign up today or visit CoffeeCollective’s online store to purchase this months feature or BeanNorth.com for their full range of roasts.


Other Brother Coffee Roasters

After a few years of running his own coffee shop, Jon Plett, joined forces with his brother Sam, who had been roasting coffee from home for several years. Using the coffee knowledge of the “Other Brother,” the two launched the commercial coffee roasting company, which CoffeeCollective is excited to feature for February’s package.

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Since 2012, Other Brother has been roasting coffee in the quaint farming community of Winkler in southern Manitoba.  Apart from various retailers in Manitoba who sell Other Brother roasts, coffee fanatics are able to reserve bags of beans to enjoy, which are later mailed directly to their front door.

Lessons of coffee roasting were passed down from Jon and Sam’s grandfather and father. As third generation roasters, Jon says the family’s stance on quality and “delivering exceptional products,” are admirable promises that both him and Sam are proud to stand behind.

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On top of their roasting know-how, the brothers grew up in Bolivia and Mexico where they became very familiar with the typical life of a coffee farmer.

“From that experience alone we learned a lot about how to treat people and consider what’s best for the global village,” says Jon, which is a main concentration for Other Brother when selecting coffee and working with farmers and partners. “We focus on treating people as people and having a relationship with our suppliers.”

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Jon Plett discovering coffee in Dominican Republic

While most of Other Brother’s beans are sourced with help from their partners, at times Jon does discover farms himself. This past November he took a trip to Mexico to meet and deal with farmers and coop representatives directly. Other Brother aims to feature some of newfound beans from this year’s crop by the end of 2014.

In searching for beans Jon says Other Brother looks for quality farming practices including handpicked beans, responsible water consumption and excellent storage facilities. However, more importantly, Jon wishes to see that both the farmers and crops from which the beans are sourced are advancing and better off.  “We believe we are accountable to the farmer,” says Jon. “To represent his life’s work the best that we can.”

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Because organic certification is expensive, and coffee farmers among the poorest in the world, Jon says Other Brother looks onto organic farming practices and past technical labels.

“We are people serving each other through the median of quality coffee, and if we happen to stumble upon a certification along the way, that’s nice too.”

This month, CoffeeCollective featured two Other Brother roasts:

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Guatemala – Huehuetenango

A dark roast that exhibits many layers of chocolate with lemon undertones.

Kenya – AB Kabare

Lightly roasted with a variety of flavours such as deep red fruit, chocolate and citrus.

 

Visit otherbrotherroasters.com today for more information on this Canadian roaster. You can also find the brothers on Twitter @obroasters or Facebook.com/OtherBrotherRoasters.

Non-members check out the CoffeeCollective store today for your own shipment of Other Brother coffee. For those of you that received your February shipment, let us know what you think!

 


CoffeeCollective feature: Backyard Beans

This past month, CoffeeCollective members received two blends from Backyard Beans. A “true micro roastery” or mom ‘n pop roaster in Summerland, B.C., named after the roasting location – their backyard. Only a decade ago, the founders of Backyard Beans began roasting in their garden shed. Today, BYB roasts half a ton of coffee each month in their roasting barn.

BYB sources ethical beans from around the world and aims to stay ‘farmer friendly.’  Regardless of the location, beans are of the highest quality and come only from organic farms. BYB promises that while some of their farmers are not certified organic, due to financial limitations for certification, they all follow practices that are environmentally and bean friendly.

Much like the farmers who direct all of their attention into caring for the coffee trees, BYB is recognized for putting their love and values into each blend. Each step in the process from roasting, filling bags and labeling them is done by hand.

For January’s package, CoffeeCollective members were sent two BYB blends.

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Shipwreck

Medium roast. Spicy then sweet flavours with a big body.

Dancing Goat

South American and Caribbean blend. Deep, dark and rich with mocha tones.

 

BYB’s core goal is “to live a good life, roast coffee, drink coffee, support small coffee farms, keep our values and integrity alive and not get caught up in all the things that are not important in life.”

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Should you share the same ideas (we sure do) then check out the CoffeeCollective store today for your own Backyard Beans shipment.


Fratello Coffee Roasters

This past month, CoffeeCollective featured local and favourite Calgary roaster, Fratello Coffee Roasters. After 30 years in the industry, with knowledge and premium standards passed down from father to sons, Fratello has shown how conscious and responsible decisions can result in the best quality of coffee.

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Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Fratello for an unforgettable and delicious experience. The smell of freshly roasted coffee and welcoming café set up was all I needed to be convinced of Fratello’s charm; nevermind the numerous smiling faces that greeted me upon walking in. Clearly, the staff had already had a few cups of coffee themselves.

Soon after, sales representative John Mitchell, made me the #bestlatteever before taking me on a tour of the roasting house and sharing the philosophies that Fratello follows with care.

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Similar to wine, coffee in its many varieties plays out the characteristics of land, climate and soil in its flavour, density, acidity and aroma. Fratello experts, including co-owners and brothers Chris and Russ Prefontaine, search far and wide, largely in South America and Africa, for coffee that is distinctive and complex prior to the roasting that takes place at this mom ‘n pop house.

However, even before taking a look at the beans in farms across the world, Fratello seeks out socially responsible growers to partner with. In ensuring these coffee farms work with a positive influence to the environment, Fratello is proud to roast and brew only ethically sourced beans.

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The standards at Fratello, along with their direct trade with farmers, John says is “enhancing the coffee environment.” Coffee farmers produce and provide quality coffee in exchange for 30% – 40% more profit and thus Fratello serves and distributes only the best.  For everyone, from farmer to roaster to consumer, the trade is a win-win.

In December, CoffeeCollective members received Fratello Los Pirineos Natural Bourbon Elite, from El Salvador. This coffee gave aromas of raisins with berry sweetness, while on the palate, the smooth blend hinted notes of almond with a vanilla finish. The second package was Fratello Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Aricha, which took on completely different characteristics including an ice-wine body with a black tea finish.

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Tasting the differences in coffee qualities is not an easily acquired skill. Fratello’s professionals use cupping practices to determine each profile of coffee at its peak in freshness. They also offer seminars and in-house lessons in coffee for those looking to expand their coffee knowledge.

Unlike large coffee companies, each of Fratello’s roasts remains authentic to the essence of one particular variety of bean, and at its best quality.  Instead of forcing a bean to suit a specific roast or category, Fratello enhances the characteristics of the coffee by searching for the roast that suits the particular bean.

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“We may want to change the acidity or body,” John says. “We can do that by changing how fast the bean gets to a certain point or roast.” Roasters at Fratello are able to play with the variables of the bean until they zone in on a specific profile to showcase the coffee. However, regardless of the roast or variety, John says coffee should be enjoyed in which ever way suits the consumer.

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In wanting to provide the best quality experience of coffee to the Fratello fan, Analog Café, located in uptown 17th Avenue, was opened late 2012. John says, “Analog shows Calgary how we intend our coffee to taste.” By delivering to consumers in every aspect, including single cup pour-over techniques, this café is providing an ultimate coffee experience that others are not. While these methods may take more time and energy, John says those looking for quality and care will find it at Analog. Due to the overwhelming popularity of Analog, as well as an increase in in-house sales, we’d say John knows what he’s talking about.

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From my visit to Fratello, one thing became clear. From receptionist, to roaster, the Fratello team truly does care for their coffee at every stage, especially the drinking part. While John enjoys roughly 10 cups per day, I highly recommend you start with your first. Check out Fratello Coffee Roasters or Analog today and experience for yourself their heartwarming and premium coffee.