On Bar

Kuma Coffee Roasters by Caleb Savage

With a singular focus of sourcing and roasting the highest quality coffees, Seattle’s Kuma Coffee never disappoints. We had the pleasure of tasting a few samples from Kuma a couple weeks ago and are excited to share with you a little bit more about Kuma alongside their Ethiopia Chelelektu.  

ORIGINS TO ORIGIN

Kuma’s founder, Mark Barany has been around coffee since the mid-90s when he and his parents moved to Nairobi, Kenya as missionaries. “I learned to play rugby. I learned to speak Swahili. But most importantly, I learned I loved African coffee,” reads Mark’s letter on Kuma’s website. After a few years as a barista and later as a hobby roaster, selling to friends and local stores, Kuma ramped up production in 2009 with “a desire to make something available that wasn’t before in Seattle: high scoring, super specialty coffee that is roasted really well.”  Out of this desire, Kuma has “grown to sourcing most of our volume at origin, and even buying green coffee for other roasters,” says Peter Mark Ingalls, who we spoke to for this article.  This relationship with farmers has been essential in the development of Kuma as a specialty roaster.

Peter Mark Ingalls (left) and Mark Barany (Photo courtesy of Kuma Coffee)

Peter Mark Ingalls (left) and Mark Barany (Photo courtesy of Kuma Coffee)

ROASTING AND SEATTLE

Kuma roasts on a Loring Kestrel 35k for their friends and wholesale partners in Seattle and around the US, so they recommend finding Kuma in Seattle at some of their cafe partners like: Milstead & Co., Ada’s Technical Books, Mr. West, Tougo, Empire, Convoy Coffee, or Sea Wolf Bakers. Kuma also recommends brunch at Porkchop & Co. followed by a walk around Discovery Park alongside the Puget Sound.  

Staff Joel Harrison and Christine Esparolini cupping production (Photo courtesy of Kuma Coffee)

Staff Joel Harrison and Christine Esparolini cupping production (Photo courtesy of Kuma Coffee)

COFFEES TO ANTICIPATE

From Peter Mark: “I think our Colombians are really top notch. We work hard on sourcing all of our origins, but our Colombians are super dialed in. We travel there each year with Azahar Coffee and visit some of the farmers that grow our coffee. These are pristine farms, tiny, like 1-8 hectares, high up in the mountains, usually hovering around 2000 meters above sea level. The farmers take such pride in their coffee, and do such a pro job. They do all their own fermentation and drying as well as growing the crop, unlike most other origins. This is hands on all the way. We love meeting with them, and paying them a serious premium for their excellent work. Colombian coffees are some of the most complex cupping coffees out there for me, I’m super proud of them and look forward to roasting and selling them every winter.”

We’re always excited about serving Kuma at the shop. As always, we’ll have the Ethiopia Chelelektu on Espresso and Chemex Pourover. If you’re interested in checking out the crazy complexities of this coffee, try it out both ways!

On Bar: Ethiopia Shakiso from Cat & Cloud by Steve Willingham

We've got a new coffee from Cat & Cloud Coffee Roasters on bar right now from Guji, Ethiopia. Some of our favorite coffees this year are from this region. They're always fruity, sometimes with exotic tropical fruit flavors, or simply juicy citrus and super clean like this one.

More specifically, this coffee comes from one of the lesser known areas of Guji, called Shakiso. It's basically a giant forest of coffee trees, and it's a pretty dangerous place due to tribal clashes.

The trees in Guji tend to be heirloom, so they're very uniquely Guji. The cherries are dense and grown under local Acacia trees. The conditions are perfect for excellent coffee: high elevation, good soil, generations of coffee-loving farmers, basically ticking every box on the good-coffee-checklist.

Cat & Cloud has been one of our favorite roasters since the day they started. Check out this post we did the first time we featured their coffees here.

We'll have this coffee on for the next couple of days, so come by and grab a cup.

Why does our decaf actually taste good? by Michael Power

Let's talk about something that, in the specialty coffee world, does not get a lot of attention: decaf. Yes, I hear all you "death before decaf" people out there, but let's think about it. There are some wonderful coffee drinkers out there that cannot have caffeine, and people who want to both drink coffee after 4pm and sleep at night. This has created an increasing amount of people who are interested in how decaf is being prepared. So, this week at Clarity, we are going to put the spotlight on our decaf. 

ABOUT THE COFFEE

Los Idilos is a Columbian coffee from the Huila district. This blend of Typica and Caturra varieties is grown between 1500-1700 meters above sea level in partial shade, which plays heavily into the flavor. Then it is fully washed and sun-dried, just like most of the other coffees we have. In fact, it isn't grown in any special way as a decaf coffee. Its caffeine content is the same as any other coffee we might feature. It's only after the cherry is turned into dry green coffee that it is sent not far from the farm to the decaffeination mill, Descafecol, before it is then shipped to Portland to be roasted by our friends at Heart Roasters.

ARE THERE CHEMICALS INVOLVED?

There are multiple ways to decaffeinate coffee. Here's the cool thing about this decaf: a natural compound called Ethyl Acetate (EA) is used to remove almost all the caffeine. This is sometimes called the natural decaffeination process. 

Ethyl Acetate sounds scary, right? Well, it isn't. EA can be found two ways. There is a synthetic EA that is used for multiple household items, and also a naturally occurring EA that is created as a natural product of fermenting sugar cane. This coffee uses the latter, which is our favorite because we like keeping things natural around here. Natural EA is found in beer, wine, vegetables, and fruit. In fact, EA is one of the most common esters found in beer. Bonus: coffee cherries have natural sugar cane present in them, so a lot of farms are repurposing their cherries to create EA to leave a smaller carbon footprint. EA is sweet and a natural solvent, which makes it ideal for decaf coffee.

HOW IS THE CAFFEINE REMOVED?

Now that you understand Ethyl Acetate, here's the process of decaffeinating this specific coffee. 

  1. After the coffee has been picked, depulped, and washed, it is sent to Descafecol, the station that decaffeinates coffee. 
  2. The beans are hit with steam in a chamber to allow the pores to open.
  3. EA is mixed with water and the beans are washed, naturally dissolving the caffeine.
  4. The coffee is hit with steam again to wash off most of the EA before it is packed and sealed. A small amount of EA is left on because EA is a byproduct of sugar cane, so it is naturally sweet. 

All of this leads to a decaf that has definitely changed our perception of what decaf can taste like. Currently, we are getting tasting notes of sweet berries with an extremely clean finish like our favorite fully-washed Ethiopian coffees. 

This coffee is available as both a pourover and espresso.

For more reading, check out this blog post from Ceremony Coffee and this from Sweet Marias.