Category Archive: Coffee Offerings
According to the International Coffee Organization, 71.93 million bags of Arabica coffee were exported from approximately 70 coffee producing countries around the world in 2016. This is a baffling number, but considering the average consumption per capita is nearly equivalent to 1 cup per person, the United States alone consumes around 325 million cups of coffee each day.
As a roasting company, our main goal is to provide fantastic coffees to our customers. At each level, we are working to break down the barrier between delicious coffee and the consumer, but this is no simple task. In essence, part of what Utopian does is filter through innumerable coffees to find what’s best and bring it to you. This past week, the Utopian team cupped about 50 different coffees to hopefully find new offerings for our customers. We would like to share a bit of this process and hopefully give you some insight into our day to day work.
Ashley cupping coffees
Step 1. Order samples from producers and importers
The first step in choosing what coffee we will offer is to connect with people who work exclusively with green coffee. This takes several shapes and forms; one day we will be communicating with a large coffee importing organization, and the next day we will be exchanging emails with farmers and cooperative owners in Latin America. No matter what we do, Utopian works hard to establish relationships and partnerships with various members of the green coffee community.
Once we have made a connection with a producer or importer, we will then start choosing green coffee samples. The goal of this is to obtain a small portion of a given coffee to evaluate before purchasing several hundred pounds. Samples come in various sizes, but typically we will receive anywhere from 150-500 grams at a time. This may seem like a small amount, but with this amount we will be able to fully evaluate any given coffee and decide how to move forward.
Our Ikawa sample roaster with green coffee
Step 2. Sample Roast
When green coffee samples arrive at Utopian, they are stored in our Coffee Lab until they are ready to be roasted. The most difficult part of evaluating samples is creating consistency. Without this, we would not be capable of making sound judgements regarding what coffees we will purchase. One way we eliminate variables, mistakes, and inconsistencies is by roasting all of our samples using the Ikawa sample roaster.
Using the Ikawa to create great samples!
The Ikawa is a small-scale fluid-bed roaster which uses hot air to roast the beans instead of a flame. By using air, we keep unwanted flavors away from the beans, resulting in very clean cups of coffee to evaluate. Additionally, the Ikawa Pro is a profile-driven roaster, which creates consistency throughout the entire sample roasting process. For those curious, a profile is a graph created for the beans to be roasted. By following this graph, we are able to pull forward all the unique characteristics from each sample batch roasted. Even moreso, with the Ikawa I use our standard sample roast profile for 10 different coffees, which roasts each sample to to the same level, leaving only the coffee’s natural flavor to be the defining difference as we begin to taste.
During cupping we will taste several different coffees and compare the unique characteristics of each
Step 3. Taste!
The third and final step in evaluating a coffee is tasting the roasted samples. At Utopian we do this by “cupping” the coffees side by side with as many as 10 coffees at a time. Cupping is a form of brewing and evaluating the coffee with limited variables so we can taste the essence of each sample. We do this by taking a small glass and filling it with several grams of the ground sample. We then sniff the dry coffee grounds, taking notes of any scents we perceive. Afterwards, we fill up each glass with hot water and return to smelling and inspecting each glass individually.
After letting the grounds steep (brew) for several minutes, we break the crust and smell the wonderful aromas beneath. At this point we begin tasting each cup, meticulously writing down what we taste. We do all of this while remaining completely silent to avoid any interference that could cause bias against or for any given coffee. After each team member has tasted the samples, we compare our notes and talk about which coffees will best fit into our lineup.
To break the crust we use a spoon to stirr the grounds at the top which “breaks” the crust formed, releasing aromatics!
More often than not, all of our team members enjoy the same coffees and agree on which ones would be best to source for our wholesale and retail customers. However, arriving at the correct coffees becomes an intricate and often trying process as we scrutinize every coffee that comes through the door. We taste many coffees only to find one which we are excited to share and present. Nevertheless, when we receive positive feedback for even one coffee, it encourages us to continue pursuing the best coffees in the world.
The winter season, unlike any other, profoundly influences the coffee experience. As the seasons change and we awake to a frost blanket coating the earth, we naturally begin to gravitate inward toward warmer, cozier spaces. Let’s be honest, nothing sounds better than a comfortable couch situated near the fireplace on a cold winter day.
Homeostasis is the body’s response to change. In a physiological sense, homeostasis is the body trying to keep things running as they should amidst internal and external fluctuation. When changes occur, our body responds and attempts to return to a state of stability. This could easily explain why on a cold day we seek the warmth of the indoors, or why a huge home-cooked meal never sounds as good as it does when the first snow of the season falls, but I’d like to think homeostasis is a lot more than a mere physical response.
Unlike any other season, the coldness of winter invites us to seek another kind of warmth, one that isn’t found in a fireplace or warm sweater. The warmth we seek is much greater, more personal, and quite deeper in every way.
Warmth is the feelings of friends and family to share meals with. Warmth is cuddling with your pet while watching your favorite movie. Warmth is opening presents surrounded by your family, and eating too many cookies with you siblings, and telling someone you profoundly care for that you love them.
I remember the frequent gatherings of family and friends around the household during the winter months. There was always a pot of coffee ready, and everyone was quick to drink as much as they could before braving the cold once more. It was in these small moments, between the coffee, the laughing, and the holiday cookies that we all received and gave warmth to one another. As I’ve grown, I’ve come to appreciate these moments, and how such a simple drink as coffee played a central role in these interactions. It was these moments that inspired me to curate our Winter Blend.
In creating the Winter Blend coffee, I wanted to express flavors of the winter and holiday season. I achieved this specific flavor profile with coffee from a single origin: Honduras. Throughout the year I’ve tasted several Honduran coffees, all of which have similar flavor nuances. More often than not, these coffees display what I call “lower register” flavors such as chocolates, nuts, and deep fruits (plum, black cherry, etc). Recognizing these qualities, I combined two microlots from Honduras: Abelardo Reyes and Marta Licida Vasquez.
Abelardo Reyes displays notes of black cherry, dark chocolate, and caramel, with a relatively clean body. Marta Licida Vasquez complements this well with cocoa, walnuts, and a heavy body. The result is a exceptionally well-balanced cup of coffee with notes of cocoa, gingerbread, and peanut brittle. We hope this Winter Blend coffee is shared with your friends and family this holiday season.
Come for the warmth – stay for the coffee – together we create Utopia
As the weather begins to cool and the leaves begin to turn bright shades of orange and red, we all start to think about the fantastic autumn season. To some, this season signals time for the various holidays, as well as an excuse for eating too much candy and turkey. To others, this season is all about comfy sweaters, overindulging in Netflix, and everything pumpkin spice flavored.
Here at Utopian Coffee, we’ve been planning to release something special to all our customers. We roasted and tasted multiple coffees, and created a delicious blend that fits what this time of year is all about.
Our Autumn Blend is a delightful mixture of two coffees we’re quite fond of. The first is a naturally processed El Salvadorian coffee that brings mouthwatering fruits and deep cocoa notes to the mix. The other is a Mexican Chiapas Regional Select, which bursts with notes of hazelnut, milk chocolate, and baking spices.
The resulting flavors reflect baked fruit pie (think your Grandma’s kitchen), milk chocolate, and baking spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. This blend works exceptionally well as both a filter brew, or as a medium espresso. We’re very excited to share 2017 Autumn Blend with you.
At Utopian, we are always striving to generate new ways for our customers to connect with coffee, and this year we decided to create an awesome new blend to highlight one of our favorite coffee drinks: Cold Brew.
Cold brew is a method for brewing coffee that produces a smooth and refreshing cup of coffee totally ready to drink on a balmy, summer day! Similar to making a French Press, cold brew utilizes a full-immersion method, which means the coffee grounds will be completely saturated in water. The difference is you will not need hot water, but you will need nearly an entire day to allow the coffee to allow the brewing to take place!
Our blend is created using an heirloom Ethiopian which brings forth notes of subtle fruits and chocolate, while hearty Colombian beans bring a smooth mouthfeel and hints of lime. The result is a full-bodied and refreshing cold brew that is sure to help you cool down on a hot summer day.
To make Cold Brew you are going to need some basic supplies and a bag of our Cold Brew Blend.
2 – Large Jars (Approx. 40 ounces)
1 – Paper Coffee Filter or Roll Cheesecloth (or both!)
4 oz Utopian Cold Brew Blend
- Grind coffee to a coarse sea-salt like consistency
- Pour ground coffee into a clean jar.
- Fill jar with approx. 32oz cold water (leave 3” clearance – coffee grounds will degas and will need sufficient room to expand).
- Allow to sit in refridgerator for 18-24 hours (keep covered).
- After allowing to brew, remove the jar from refrigerator and uncover.
- Use cheesecloth or a coffee filter to cover the lid of a new clear jar. Pour the cold brew over the filter and into the new container!
- Pour cold brew over ice and enjoy!
If the flavor is too strong, feel free to dilute with cold water, milk or a similar substance. This recipe will yield a bold but smooth beverage. We hope you enjoy this refreshing summertime blend as much as we do!
*Cheesecloth will remove larger particles – the coffee filter will remove smaller particles giving you a cleaner taste, but this will also take much longer to filter than the cheesecloth. At Utopian Coffee, we suggest trying both and finding what works best for your setup!
We are excited to release our Direct Trade Colombia Pitalito! This offering is from the Huila region of Colombia, which happens to be my favorite region due to the amazing coffee that comes out of there. The name Pitalito refers to the town right next to where this coffee is grown.
The Pitalito is an exceptional coffee with notes of caramel, molasses, and red fruit. It has a medium body and a muted brightness…very smooth. There is a pleasant dryness to the finish, and the overall experience reminds us of enjoying a fruit preserve. This offering had a higher price at origin, so it will just be $2 more than our regular coffees. However, for our coffee subscription members, we will be including this coffee at no extra cost!
We have a brand new coffee blend called Excelso that comes from the Narino region of Colombia. This is a very unique blend because of the geography of this part of Colombia. It is very rugged and mountainous, which is good for the cup of coffee, however, it makes harvesting a lot harder for the farmers.
Most coffee in this region is grown on small, family farms on the side of a mountain. The good part about this is that since the farms are small enough the farmers take very good care of the coffee plants and the harvesting process, which you will be able to tell in the cup of coffee.
The reason mountainous coffees are desired is for many reasons, beginning with altitude. The higher up coffee grows, the better. In order for Arabica coffee to be considered “specialty”, it needs to meets an altitude requirement of 4,000-8,000 ft. Any lower than that and the coffee is considered robusta, which is a lower quality of coffee.
Another reason mountainous coffee is desired is because it typically has a volcanic soil. This is good for coffee growing because the soil holds many nutrients that affect the coffee growing process. We’ve found that coffees that grow in a volcanic soil tend to have a unique natural, cane sugar sweetness to them that other coffees do not have.
This is truly a unique coffee that is characterized by its subtle brightness, creamy body, rich chocolate taste and dried berry finish. Make sure to give it a try!