49th Parallel Coffee & Tea by Caleb Savage

49th Parallel Coffee Roasters is a coffee and tea company founded in 2004 by brothers, Vince & Michael Piccolo. Now with three cafes, a tea sourcing program and a doughnut shop called Lucky’s, Vancouver’s 49th Parallel is an exceptional company valuing relationships with producers to ensure the they are able to serve the highest quality coffee and tea available. We spoke to Gianluca Zavarise about 49th, Vancouver, and 49th’s coffee and tea sourcing.

 Photo courtesy of 49th Parallel

Photo courtesy of 49th Parallel

City & Cafe

 Photo courtesy of 49th Parallel

Photo courtesy of 49th Parallel

Vancouver, British Columbia is home to an exceptional coffee community, and 49th leads the pack. Each 49th Cafe has its own Lucky’s Doughnuts and their downtown location currently serves breakfast, burgers, egg sandwiches, and more! But Vancouver is more than just a continuation of the Pacific Northwest’s coffee dominance.

If you make your way to Vancouver, the 49th team recommends a walk or bike ride along Stanley Park, A visit to Grouse Mountain, Lynn Suspension Bridge, and Kitsilano beach or Jericho beach for an evening sunset. For experiencing the city's urban culture, the team recommends checking out  Gastown, Robson Street for shopping, Mount Pleasant, Chinatown, or Yaletown.

The Source

Focused on “open communication and strong business partnerships with coffee producers”, 49th seeks to make “financially sustainable [decisions] for all involved – especially for those who make a living growing coffee.”

From their website:

“49th Parallel has two coffee buyers who travel throughout the year to Central America and Africa to source the highest quality coffees. The most cherished thing about the sourcing program is that 49th works with many of the same producers each year, building strong relationships. This not only guarantees the best coffee but also benefits the producers and their communities. 49th pays a premium for these coffees often paying producers 3 to 4 times the commodity market price.”

 Coffee farmers in Honduras. Photo courtesy of 49th Parallel

Coffee farmers in Honduras. Photo courtesy of 49th Parallel

We’re serving Ecuador Gilda Carrascal and Ethiopia Mesina as well as a new green tea, Yellow Mountain Tip. It’s easy to taste the intentionality and care 49th Parallel puts into its offerings. Stop by the shop and try them before they’re gone!

Mexican Coffee by Caleb Savage

We’ve said before that a great cup of coffee is a coffee you enjoy drinking. While some see it as a polite non-answer, we truly believe that while there are strict standards to determine quality as well as scientific answers to how we taste, ultimately, your preferences in taste, the information you have about the coffee, and the setting in which you drink the coffee all determine your overall enjoyment of the coffee and therefore, its perceived greatness. While we work hard to source, prepare, and serve some of the best coffees available to our friends and family in Downtown OKC, every once in a while a coffee comes along that excites us for more than just checking the boxes for quality in care and cup. Heart’s Mexico Miramar Especial is one of those coffees. It’s not just that it’s a great cup of coffee, (it is) but the story of Specialty Coffee in Mexico is too good not to share with you.

Hecho en México

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Coffee has been a vital part of Mexico’s economy since the late nineteenth century. Often ranking in the ten largest coffee producing countries and accounting for around sixty percent of the world’s supply of organic coffee, our southern neighbor is a coffee producing machine. So why is Miramar Especial the first Mexican coffee ever roasted by Heart or served in our shop? A handful of issues arise: Mexico’s government began investing in the need for organic certification on coffee as the emerging specialty coffee market began shifting to a focus on quality, followed by a national bankruptcy which crumbled institutional support for farmers, and, in more recent history, issues with la roya or coffee leaf rust has decimated entire crops, causing a dramatic and devastating decline in production, due in part to rising temperatures. But these reasons alone aren’t the only things making it difficult for the best coffees being grown Mexico make it to the United States.

Drift: Mexico City

A magazine devoted to coffee, culture, and city, Drift Magazine prints dives into cities around the world with a passion for coffee. In its sixth volume, Drift captured the emergence of specialty coffee and the passion that comes from having coffee growers so close to consumers, roasters, and baristas in focusing on Mexico City, “the most populous and one of the oldest cities in North America.”

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If you go to Africa, they don’t have many specialty coffee shops. If you go to South America, they are starting to have specialty coffee shops. But, for example, they don’t have brewing methods yet because it’s expensive. Mexico has the U.S. in the North, and that gives us huge access to machines, equipment, and industry trends. But we also have the fortune of being a coffee-producing country. We can have coffee from our backyard and the technology from the North.
— Carlos de la Torre, Café Avellaneda (Drift: Mexico City)

With a growing specialty market, coffee professionals are developing relationships with producers and farmers to serve the highest quality coffees from southern states like Oaxaca, Veracruz or one of the twelve other coffee producing states in Mexico in cities like Mexico City, and Guadalajara. More than pride or novelty, cafes and roasteries are investing in specialty coffee in Mexico to close the knowledge gap from consumer to producers, to mitigate the effects of La Roya, and to support farms and co-ops that international buyers might avoid paying premium prices for when a similar scoring coffee might be found in Peru or Colombia for a cheaper price. It’s not all doom and gloom for Mexican producers though, with four coffees scoring above 90 points in the 2018 Cup of Excellence competition, with all 28 winning lots scoring above 86 points, with the winning lot selling at $100.20 a pound.

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Miramar Especial

The coffee we are featuring comes to us from the state of Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s most southern states and one of it’s most well known coffee growing regions.

From Heart:

“Miramar Especial was our favorite lot produced by the Sierra Mixteca co-op. The co-op is located close to the village of Guadalupe Miramar, in the State of Oaxaca. Sierra Mixteca is relatively small, with only 15 members. Our lot is a mix of entirely Bourbon and Typica varieities. Once the cherry has been picked and depulped, the farmers dry ferment their beans for between eighteen and twenty-four hours, then the coffee is washed. The farmers of Mixteca utilize both patio drying as well as raised parabolic beds.”

We’re thrilled to be able to share this special coffee with you! We taste notes of milk chocolate and guava.

Seed to Cup Part 2 Roasting Class Recap by Steve Willingham

Thank you to everyone that came out to our Seed to Cup Part 2 Roasting Class! We had a blast and can't wait for the next one. 

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Find more info here if you want learn more about roasting. If you want to be notified about the next class, sign up for our newsletter. We will be doing classes monthly with some special mini classes as well. Be the first to know so you can snag a spot before these fill up!

Check out these photos from the class. See if you can find yourself!

Coffee Questions: What is Specialty Coffee? by Caleb Savage

Specialty Coffee

“What’s the difference between a good cup of coffee and ‘Specialty’ coffee?”

Simply put: A good cup of coffee is any coffee you like to drink. Specialty coffee is a technical standard given to green (unroasted) coffees that meet or exceed a list of standards defined by the Specialty Coffee Association or SCA.

 Green Coffee

Green Coffee

Grading & Defects

Why do some coffees have letters like AA or PB following the name?

It’s their grade or size! Countries may use terms like “Supremo” or lettering to give designation between sizes of the beans or number of defects like rocks or chipped beans found in a small sample of the coffee. 

In Kenya, where lettered sizing is the standard, AA refers to the largest sized beans, AB the size immediately smaller, PB referring to Peaberries, a mutation in which a coffee cherry forms only one seed (or bean) instead of two, and E for Elephant referring to an ear-like shape, similar to the mutation that creates peaberries.

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Effects on Taste

“Is a Peaberry sweeter than a normal coffee bean?”

Maybe, maybe not. While most grading systems give some sort of designation to quality, defect, or taste in cup, coffee is still a complex drink with varying techniques of care, preparation, production, and consumption. Coffees harvested from the same farm may contain different varieties of coffee plants. Coffee cherries from the same plant may be processed a handful of ways. Entire crops of coffee may be bought by dozens of roasters and prepared with varying beliefs of roast time or the natural flavors of the coffee. Finally, a brewer may manipulate the taste of the coffee based on all the previous steps to produce a cup that a co-worker might interpret completely differently.

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Good, with guidelines

Ultimately, a cup of coffee is only as good as the experience surrounding it. While the diversity of coffee and the diversity of palates create a multitude of definitions of “good”, we can use grading, the standards that define “Specialty”, and the interpretation of coffee that roasters and cafes use to define and describe the coffees they serve as a framework to give us a better understanding of what makes coffee so special.

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Coffee Questions

This post is a part of a series of articles written to answer the questions you may have wondered but might not have asked. Have a question? Contact us here!