Who would have thought... Volta baristas are migratory. Most are flying south; one loon is flying north into the winter storm up in New York. A few resident baristi are sticking around to help keep the shop going over the Christmas break. With a smaller staff around, we're going to hold shorter hours from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day:
Dec. 24: 8am - 6pm
Dec. 25: Closed
Dec. 26: 9am-6pm
Dec. 27: 9am-5pm
Dec. 28-Jan 1: 8am-6pm
Regular hours resume Jan. 2
While some people might have dreams of sugarplums around this time of the year, here at Volta we're always looking forward to December for a more coffee-focused treat: the return of the in-season South American coffees. We already had a preview of the new coffees in November with Peruvian selections from both Ecco Caffe and Intelligentsia. The first weeks of December brought us the first two coffees from one of Intelligentsia's favorite farm projects: Colombia's Finca Santuario. Santuario is, in the best sense, an experimental collaboration between farmer and roaster. With input from Intelligentsia's Geoff Watts, farmer Camilo Merizalde has planted small plots of some of the most treasured varieties of coffee, optimizing the farm's elevations and micro-climates to bring out the best of each different crop. The first two coffees from the farm for 2009 are the wonderful El Mirador Typica and Heliconias Bourbon. The Mirador's syrupy body starts out with flavors that are are nutty and aromatic, but bloom into dense molasses, raspberry candy, and dark cherry as it cools. The Heliconias Bourbon (as in coffee variety, not Kentucky whiskey) has fewer bright fruit notes, but has a big body with hints of roasted nut and caramel as the cup cools.
From here out, the South American coffees come fast and furious. We already had preview samples of Ecco Caffe's Cachoeira Yellow Bourbon Espresso and Brazil/Yirgacheffe Ecco Espresso on the machine last week. Next week we'll have a sample of the single-farm Brazil Fazenda Sertaozinho espresso. Look for much more Ecco espresso to turn up throughout the rest of the year and into 2010. We'll also see two micro-lot coffees from different Colombian farms from Intelligentsia in two weeks, along with the return of Brazil's Agua Preta coffee. We hope to see Bolovia's Anjilanaka back in the shop by the first week of January.
In other coffee news, we will be featuring two exquisite coffees from Vancouver's 49th Parallel Roasters this week: the Epic Espresso Holiday Blend on the guest espresso grinder, and Ethiopia's Wonda Worka Collective Yirgacheffe coffee. We look forward to working with 49th to bring many more exclusive coffees to Gainesville.
New Chocolates & Gifts
Thanks to local Italian foods importer Andrea Tosolini, we have several new chocolate bars from both Maglio and L'Artigiano. From Maglio, we have new crop single origin bars from Cuba, Santa Domingo, and New Guinea. We also have their fine milk chocolate bars in stock, along with a real treat: dark milk chocolate with carmalized popped rice. Think of it as the best Crunch bar ever devised. We also picked up another twist on L'Artigiano's amazing combination of chocolate with sweet sea salt from Cervia, Italy: 54% dark milk chocolate with a layer of hazelnut buttercream and a sprinkling of Cervia sea salt. It is my single favorite new bar of the season.
We are also pleased to announce the return of the new, improved Escazu bars, from Raleigh, NC. All Escazu bars are now made in-house from bean-to-bar. Hal is importing the best beans directly from farms in Central and South America; the beans are toasted, crushed, extracted, and blended entirely in his workshop. The result is a jump in quality across all of their bars, along with more special runs of limited edition bars like the 60% Carenero Venezuela bar with goat's milk. Taza Chocolate, from Somerville, MA, is also working bean-to-bar; their chocolates are all stone-ground and have a rustic crunch that brings to mind old-new-world chocolates from Mexico. Their limited edition 75% dark bar from a single co-op in Chiapas, Mexico, is a very special example of their craft.
Finally, we made sure to stock up on coffee-making and gift items around the shop. We have Chemex brewers and filters, Hario Syphon brewers, Intelligentsia diner-style mugs, and many varieties of whole-bean coffee to choose from.
Volta will be closing at 2pm on Wednesday so our staff can scatter around the country to be with their families for Thanksgiving. We will be closed Thanksgiving, and then back to regular hours on Friday.
Volta is going to be at ground zero for one of the largest punk rock festivals in the US over halloween weekend: The Fest. We decided to have a fest of our own this year to coincide: Volta's Festival del Cafe, our own EspressoFest. Starting on Tuesday, October 27, we'll be rotating through some of the best espresso coffees that we could find:
- Black Cat and Black Cat Project Honduras Finca la Tina, from Intelligentsia
- Ecco Espresso and Brazil full natural Cachoeira SO Espresso, from Ecco Caffe
- Espresso Toro and Nicaragua Jose Alfredo Zeledon, from Alterra
- Epic Espresso and SO Costa Rica La Loma, from 49th Parallel
- 3-process El Sal Finca Mauritania, from Counter Culture
- Hairbender and SO TBA (by Duane), from Stumptown
Tues-Thursday we'll be offering two different espressos, all day long. Fri-Sunday we will be rotating the espresso selections every three hours, untill it's all gone. I'm guessing that it's the first time any of these coffees (other than the CCC and Black Cat) have been served in a shop in the Southeast, let alone in Gainesville. We'll also have a few guest baristas dropping in to pull shots at the bar from all over the northwest/midwest/northeast. And a few hundred very noisy bands playing at a dozen venues within a block or two of Volta. It should be fun.
We also have a limited edition Festival del Cafe shirt available at the shop. The front of the shirt features Aly's Dia de los Muertos barista riding a zombie black cat; the back has the Volta logo in black. The 3-color shirts were printed locally on American Apparel shirts in both women's and unisex sizes.
Special Fest Hours
- Thursday-Friday: 7am-11pm
- Saturday: 9am-11pm
- Sunday: 9am-7pm
The season for Central American coffees is winding down, and we're now able to post the best array of African coffees that we've seen since we opened. The South American coffees should be arriving in port by early November. We can look forward to the return of favorites from Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru by Thanksgiving.
We'll be returning to Ecco Caffe for this week's espresso. After we burn through the last few pounds of custom-mixed Black Cat this weekend, our primary espresso will be a blend of a natural Cachoeira Yellow Bourbon coffee from Brazil and the stellar Guatemala Finca La Maravilla Bourbon. As an interesting experiment, we are also offering the Cachoeira Yellow Bourbon as an unblended single origin espresso. It is a unique opportunity to taste espresso from the same coffee both blended and unblended. The Cachoeira is a very subtle shot that is best straight, or with very little milk as a macchiato or cappuccino.
On the brewed coffee side, we are featuring two coffees from Ecco Caffe: the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Konga Reserve and the Nicaragua La Guatusa. The Konga is a special selection Yirgacheffe, culled by Ecco's Andrew Barnett and Abdullah Bagersh. It's back on the menu by popular demand. The La Guatusa comes from the farm of Donal Canales, whose family is also responsible for Intelligentsia's Los Delirios coffee.
The menu is rounded out with outstanding coffees from Intelligentsia: the Kenya Ndaroini and Zambia Munama show two sides of the SL28 coffee variety known for deep apricot acidity. Finally, Finca Matalapa continues to represent the extraordinary coffees of El Salvador that we've seen this season.
Los Luchadores: Paca vs. Mara
The summer of 2009 has certainly been a celebration of the coffees of El Salvador: Intelligentsia's two Los Inmortales crops (Finca Matalapa and El Borbollon), Ecco's Santa Adelaida, Counter Culture's Finca Mauritania. El Salvador continues to run the table with yet another fascinating coffee from Counter Culture, via the guiding hand of farmer Aida Batlle: Los Luchadores. The spirit of El Santo lives on in this spicy coffee.
While the other El Salvador coffees have been focused on the Bourbon variety of coffee, Los Luchadores is one of the few releases of a pure Pacamara heirloom variety of coffee. As Counter Culture's Peter Giuliano notes:
One of the joys of great coffee is learning about the myriad varieties of coffee that are grown on coffee farms around the world. And, just as in other produce, there exist “heirloom” varieties—traditional cultivars that produce delicious, unique flavor experiences.
Pacamara is one of these special, heirloom varieties. Owing its discovery to Don Alberto Pacas, and the cultivar Pacas named after him, and its mixture with Maragojipe, the famous “Elephant Bean” of Brazil, Pacamara is a Salvadoran original. It sometimes happens that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the Pacamara variety seems to have taken only the best qualities from its parent varieties—the delicious sweetness of Pacas and the large beans of Maragojipe—and added to those qualities a unique, fruity, savory strength, unique to Pacamara.
Los Luchadores, brewed on the Clover, has quickly become my go-to coffee when I want something that I can drink all morning. It has classic deep walnut flavors that give way to a spicy flavor that reminds me of a summer fruit cobbler. Plus, who doesn't like Lucha Libre? CCC says that the “Los Luchadores” mark evokes the unique brawn and power of great Pacamara coffees. The Luchadores logo, with the wrestlers Paca and Mara ready to square off, is one of the most inspired designs in the industry.
We are featuring another week of Ecco Caffe espresso, including their standard Northern Italian Brazil/Ethiopia blend and the single origin Guatemala La Maravilla-- but the Intelligentsia Coffees are back on the board for the brewed coffee. Costa Rica Flecha Roja is joined by two new coffees: El Salvador Finca Matalapa and Nicaragua Flor Azul.
Intelligentsia's newly reformulated Black Cat Espresso will be back on the grinder next Saturday.
Mauricio Rosales's Finca Maravilla has been a cornerstone of Intelligentsia's Guatamala project for over five years. Situated in the volcanic mountains around HueHuetenango, the Bourbon and Caturra coffees of Maravilla grow on hillsides nearly 1900 meters high. Extra care is given during harvest to only select coffee cherries at the peak of ripeness-- lending a piercing clarity to the natural citrus flavors of the coffee.
Ecco Caffe and Intelligentsia are sharing this year's crop from La Maravilla-- providing a unique opportunity to try the coffee roasted four different ways. We previously carried the Intelligentsia version of the Maravilla coffee roasted as part of the Itzamna project. We currently have the coffee roasted by Ecco for brewed coffee. Ecco's version is obviously similar to the Intelligentsia version, but where we previously saw the emphasis on the citrus acidity, the Ecco version seems to bring out the cocoa-vanilla depth of body and lingering finish.
Next week we will see yet another iteration of the coffee when we are able to stock Ecco's espresso roast of La Maravilla as our featured single origin espresso. We'll finish the season's Guatemala run at the end of the month by giving a turn to Intelligentsia's Black Cat Project version of Maravilla as our featured espresso.
Intelligentsia describes La Maravilla as "gilded by an orange and lime citrus acidity, the center of this coffee radiates flavors of fruit punch and caramel. The compact mouthfeel provides a sturdy foundation while the finish elevates into rich Swiss chocolate with a hint of vanilla bean."
Volta cupping notes: fragrances of cinnamon toast morph into roasted nut aromas during brewing. Medium-light body; slightly off-sour Flemish ale notes highlight light citrus flavors that give way to vanilla and faintly bittersweet chocoalte as it cools.
Sometimes you just want a coffee that is full of crazy flavor notes that take you in unexpected directions. Other times, you want a coffee that has an uncomplicated sophistication-- a coffee that clearly articulates the classics from the flavor wheel: slightly bittersweet baker's chocolate, roasted nuts, the mild astringency of cedar. Ecco's El Salvador Santa Adelaida delivers these qualities in abundance. When we first dialed in the dose and brew time on the Clover, I was stunned by the clarity of the flavor of roasted Brazil nut and the wonderful baker's chocolate finish. It's a coffee that doesn't fatigue the palate and can be enjoyed all day long. Above all else, it is the perfect coffee to pair with Volta's bakery selections. I can't think of a better coffee to drink with an Askinosie chocolate-chocolate cupcake, or with a fatty cake cookie.
Volta cupping notes: Roasted pumpkin aroma while brewing. Medium body with malty-sweet overtones. Flavors range from toasted Brazil nut to pumpernickel bread and cocoa, with a very mellow acidity and slightly lingering bittersweet finish.
At one time, Santa Adelaida was one family-owned farm, but under a 1982 land reform program, it was split. Currently, the land is run by a cooperative of over 180 members representing more than 50 families.
Volta presents new paintings by Thomas John Baker as he flies in his hot air balloon over city streets or highways filled with night. Explore the dark and colorful places one can go on a simple evening. The works attempt to expose the conversation between the sky and the city by finding the peacefulness that surrounds the dynamics of a city or road. Many of life's hidden secrets can be found here, if you know where to look, you may find that you have known them all along... and stuff like that... enjoy.