• It’s gotta come from somewhere… To the surprise of nobody at all, Starbucks is looking to double its coffee imports from Africa by 2009.

    “People are looking for something different, and East African coffee is very exotic in terms of its flavors and characteristics,” says Philip Gitao, director of the Eastern African Fine Coffees Association. The fine Arabica varieties found in East African highlands currently provide 18% of the world’s coffee, the largest share from Ethiopia, which claims to be the birthplace of coffee although Yemen disputes that claim. Says Gitao, “Starbucks is now taking African coffees very seriously.”

  • I don’t know just when it started but I’ve taken to calling the collective of Stumptown, Intelligentsia and Counter Culture the usual suspects. Not only are they consistently purchasing the top lots at auction, but they’re also on the ground at origin wherever great coffee is to be found. Or is it that great coffee is getting found because they are on the ground at origin? Hmmm. In any case, they’re all getting some great press this week in the NYTimes in the feature, To Burundi and Beyond for Coffee’s Holy Grail, a piece that highlights the nascent Direct Trade model of coffee sourcing.

    “Direct trade — which also means intensive communication between the buyer and the grower — stands in stark contrast to the old (but still prevalent) model, in which international conglomerates buy coffee by the steamer ship, through brokers, for the lowest price the commodity market will bear.

    It also represents, at least for many in the specialty coffee world, an improvement on labels like Fair Trade, bird-friendly or organic. Such labels relate to how the coffee is grown and may persuade consumers to pay a little extra for their beans, but offer no assurance about flavor or quality. Direct-trade coffee companies, on the other hand, see ecologically sound agriculture and prices above even the Fair Trade premium both as sound business practices and as a route to better-tasting coffee.

    By spending months every year visiting farms, these roasters seek to offer coffee that is produced as well as it can be, bought responsibly and roasted carefully. They aim, simply, to sell the best coffee possible.”

    Good stuff.

  • You know you’ve always wanted one… Finally — and just because — the Internet-enabled coffee maker.

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