Our next (free) public coffee cupping: Sunday, 21 June, 11am. New crop Central American coffees from Intelligentsia, together with Counter Culture Coffee's Burundi Bwayi Lot No. 8. The cupping is free and open to the public. No prior experience (beyond a love of coffee) is necessary; we'll provide instructions and guide the cupping from start to finish. A cupping is a structured tasting that is used in the specialty coffee industry to evaluate the quality of specific coffees, both in the field before auction/purchase and at the point of roasting to determine the best roast level. We'll start by evaluating the dry and wet aromas of the coffees, then move on to the "slurp" to develop an evaluation of each coffee's taste. All we ask is that you refrain from wearing perfumes or other strong scents when cupping with us-- there's just so much that a nose can take in before the individual fragrances of the coffees are overwhelmed.
Saturday, 20 June, from 8-10 pm
Direct Development International and Volta present a benefit art show for school children in Uganda who have been orphaned by HIV.
The show features children's works, micro financed crafts from local Ugandan entrepreneurs, and photos, all for sale! All of the proceeds will go directly to Direct Development partnered schools in Uganda.
As one of the founding directors of Direct Development International (and ex-Volta barista), Kelly Heber spent the last few months in Uganda working on projects for a UN-sponsored NGO. Her posts from the field paint a cautiously optimistic view of a Uganda emerging from decades of strife and neglect into development and self-determination. Kelly's post about a visit to Uganda N.O.W.'s project to provide education in rural areas of the country illustrates the difficulties that are still ahead:
The most shocking factor of Busagazi is this: of the ten students, aged 14-16 that stood in front of me to welcome me to their school, nearly all were heads of household, some even caring for children younger than themselves. The reason? HIV.
HIV has devastated these remote villages, because of an extreme lack of infrastructure, education, and public health measures. The children looked onto Deo with awe, as he spoke to me in English and then to them in Luganda. He told me that this sort of experience inspired these students to mind their lessons, so that they may also interact with people from around the world.
What can we do to help?
While Kelly was still in Uganda, she began writing me about the possibility of Volta contributing to a fundraising effort to help DDI-sponsored schools in rural Uganda. To that end, we are sponsoring a month-long exhibit of Ugandan children's art, folk art, and Kelly's photographs. All of the work is for sale, and all of the proceeds will go directly to aid the children in the schools that Kelly wrote about. This show is so special that we're having two openings; the first will be a DDI-sponsored event from 8-10pm on 20 June (immediately following James Hannaham's presentation), the second will be the show's presentation on Gainesville's ArtWalk, from 7-10 on 26 June.
Saturday, 20 June, 7 pm
Thanks to the support of McSweeney's Journal/Publishing/Internet Tendency, Volta presents James Hannaham as he reads selections from his new novel God Says No. Jennifer Egan, author of Look at Me and The Keep, says that James Hannaham's God Says No introduces a groundbreaking new American voice: a writer of spectacular sentences who has trained his sights on a world that has hardly been touched by literary fiction. Topical and ambitious, disturbing and hilarious, God Says No is everything a person could ask of a first novel − and twice that much.
Jim Lewis, who wrote Why The Trees Love The Ax, sums up God Says No as "a book that was desperate to be written but well out of reach. And then James Hannaham came along and wrote it, with the kind of care, wit, sympathy and fury that the book deserved. Imagine Candide ... − okay, imagine Candide as a black man, a southerner, a Christian fundamentalist, middle-class, obese, married, a father, and utterly, even profoundly gay. If a comedy, in the classical sense, is a story then ends in a marriage, and a tragedy is a story that ends with a death, then what do you call a book that ends with a split and a resurrection? A truly daring first novel, and something to read."
Immediately following Hannaham's reading, Volta kicks off a month-long exhibition of art and photography from Uganda as part of Direct Development International's fundraising efforts to aid children in Uganda orphaned by HIV.
A little behind-the-scenes view of Intelligentsia's Chicago roasting works:
The machine in use at the end of the video is the Agtron Roast Analyzer, the coffee roaster’s equivalent of a spectrometer, taking “near-infrared” readings of the degree of roast and assigning a numerical score between 1 (dark) and 100 (light). The machine allows Intelligentsia's roasters to verify the degree of each roast, achieve better calibration between roasters (which have very slightly different digital therm probe readings), and identify in their cupping sessions where the ’sweet spot’ of a coffee lies, not only in length of roast and end temperature, but also in roast degree. (Info about the Agtron taken from First-Crack Addicts, the blog run by the Chicago roasting team.)
For eight generations, Ralph de Castro Junqueira's family has been working the Brazilian highlands to produce some of the world's most desired coffees. His Fazenda Kaquend (Kaquend Farm) is part of the larger Serra da Três Barras, which has in turn been producing coffee for almost two hundred years. The families that work the farm also live on the farm, and they make every effort to promote shade tree growth and spring preservation on the property. Because of the rugged terrain of the farm, the coffee at Fazenda Kaquend is hand-harvested over cloth. Once it is pulped, the coffee berries are taken to the hanging patios to complete the process of drying. After that, they are kept in wood storehouses to rest from 60 to 90 days.
The results of this effort are telling: four coffees placed in the top ten of Brazil's Cup of Excellence competition in the last five years. Three coffees were finalists in Illy's Espresso Brazil competition. Two more were top-three finalists in the Certifica Minas quality competition.
For 2008, Fazenda Kaquend hit the jackpot: their coffee was selected as the winner of Brazil's Cup of Excellence competition. Only 22 bags of this pulp-natural Bourbon/Catuai blend were available to be judged (and then bid-upon). With a winning score of 93.65, the coffee had an amazing spread of descriptors that came off of the cupping table during the judging: Aroma-Flavor- extremely sweet (20), floral (18), chocolate (15), honey (15), fresh sugar cane (11), muscat wine (9), stone fruits (7), dark plum (7), passion fruit (7), jasmine (7), raspberry (6), strawberries (6), dried apricot (5), cherry (5), bergamot (5), lemon lime soda (3). Mouthfeel- creamy (15), rich (15), velvety (11), structured (10), concentrated (7), chewy (6), overwhelming (4) . Acidity- elegant (15), bright (15), sweet (11), lime (8), racy (8), firm (6), with spine (6) long and pleasant aftertaste perfectly balanced. (The numbers indicate how many judges arrived at the same description independent of each other.) When the coffee was sold at auction, it brought $9.05 per pound green and undelivered.
Intelligentsia split the lot of the coffee with a roaster from Japan, a roaster from Taiwan, and with San Francisco's Ritual. With only 100 pounds available among all of Intelligentsia's accounts (including their own stores), the coffee retails for $50 a pound. Volta was able to secure 7% of the total available lot for our customers to be able to experience this amazing coffee here in Gainesville. Intelligentsia's description of the coffee is spot on: "To begin, the aromatics entice you with citrus, almond and fresh berries. The first sip blossoms into lemon candy and white grape as black raspberry notes come to the forefront. The mouthfeel strikes a synergy of effervescence and silkiness as the body crescendos in the finish with caramel, walnut and fudge."
With a coffee this special, we've decided to offer it three different ways: on the Clover, brewed with a Chemex, or a special preparation using a Hario Syphon brewer. The syphon takes about five minutes extra to prepare, but it does bring out an amazing depth of body and intensity that can easily be split among two friends. Our Fazenda Kaquend costs $4.50 a cup brewed on the Clover or Chemex, $5.50 on the Syphon.
For the uninitiated, the idea of a barista championship might seem about as exciting as competitive crossword (and more on that one soon...). But in the world of specialty coffee, the various barista competitions are very serious business. Baristas train all year to craft espresso drinks with exacting precision. Roasters tweak blends and roasts, timing the production to maximize flavors at the precise time of competition. Grinders are modified and lugged around the world with the hope of providing the slightest edge in producing consistent and predictable extractions.
Intelligentsia's Mike Phillips won the US Barista Championship with an extraordinary preparation of the Bolivia Anjilanaka single origin espresso. The Intelli roasting crew had gone to great lengths to produce single origin roasts for the US championships in Portland, with special roasts of the Bolivia, Yirgacheffe, and Guatemala coffees for their four different baristas. In the end, Mike Phillips won the US title. Having tried Mike Phillip's Anjilanaka espresso from the US Barista Championship, I was skeptical when I heard that he was switching to a Rwanda Cup of Excellence-winning coffee for his World Barista Championship try. Then I had the chance to try it myself, first as a syphon brew and then as an espresso. I'm not sure about the "articulate" description (it speaks well for itself?), but tamarind and gingersnap is spot on. It is stunning.
Mike put on an amazing performance at the World finals in Atlanta last month, taking third out of a field of nearly sixty (you can watch the video of his performance here). Just after the competition, Volta was able to offer a very limited amount of Mike's competition Rwanda espresso. We're pleased to be able to offer it again this week on the second grinder. Not only did the coffee help to propel Mike to the finals, it itself was a winner in the Rwandan Cup of Excellence competition. Produced by the Abahuzamugambi Bakawa (“Together we work the coffee”) cooperative, the coffee had placed sixth out of all of the lots submitted for evaluation as the best coffees produced in Rwanda last year. Just fifteen bags of the coffee were available, with the lot split between Intelli and two other companies for $8.20 a pound green. In other words, we're talking about a very rare and limited coffee.
Volta is very pleased to have the Maraba espresso back on tap. I'd strongly suggest it as a straight espresso or as a macchiato to get the full expression of the coffee, but it is also spectacular as a cappuccino. The Rwanda CoE Maraba espresso is a .75 upcharge to the price of any of our espresso drinks.
Beginning on Monday, 4/13, Volta will be opening earlier and closing earlier:
Our mornings just keep getting busier, and we are consistently hearing requests to open earlier so that more people can stop by before heading out to work. At the same time, we're seeing that people just don't need/want that much espresso later in the evenings, and our staff need more time off on Sunday evenings to spend down-time away from the shop.
We've been enjoying the new Peruvian coffee Cruz Del Sur over the last month, and we're sad to say that it is no longer available from Intelligentsia-- they've already sold out of the entire lot from this year's crop. Although the regular Cruz will be off the menu by the end of this week, we now have a microlot version. Selected by the farmer as the highest quality coffee from this year's crop, the Cruz Del Sur microlot is more refined, nuanced, and less aggressively sharp than the standard Cruz. We're pleased to be able to offer the coffee at the shop; we're also glad that the crew at Intelligentsia put together the following video featuring the coffee's farmer and his family:
For this month's ArtWalk, Volta has been transformed into a temporary autonomous natural histories museum. The NeoNaturalist movement seeks to return the natural sciences to their amateur roots: entomologist and herpetologist working with illustrators, photographers, bike mechanics, cave divers, and baristas to document the esoteric reaches of the vanishing Florida landscape. Following the rallying cry of "Herping ain't easy," these intrepid volunteers spend long nights searching the back roads of north florida for traces of flora and fauna least likely to be featured in National Geographic or Florida Living: while the whales and wolves might be the poster critters of the environmental movement, the NeoNaturalists are documenting the last stands of the insects, reptiles, and plants most likely only to be encountered dead on the road by the residents of Florida-- the last traces of the true Florida landscape that is rapidly eroding in the shadow of development and the angel of history.
The installation includes specimen boxes and jars, line drawings, photographs, paintings, scientific research stills, including works by:
Quincy Masters III
Thanks to our friend Andrea Tosolini, Volta is debuting another new chocolate that is unavailable anywhere else in the US (yet). CioMod Neropuro is one of the more intriguing chocolates that we've come across. The packaging is extremely well designed; you'd think that the chocolates would be refined and sophisticated like Cuoronero or Maglio. The chocolate itself is unlike anything I've tried, anywhere in the world. CioMod prides itself on contemporary twists on regional Sicilian specialties. In their attempt to capture the “Terra del Sole” of Modica, they have developed a style of bar that seems ancient in execution. They don't use any cocoa butter in the bars: the pure dark, for instance, uses only cocoa mass and sugar. The pistachio bar adds only locally-grown Modica pistachios to the ingredients. The result is somewhat startling when you unwrap the bar. The surface looks like it has a swirling golden bloom, and when you snap the bar it appears to glisten with raw sugar granules. When you eat the chocolate, it has none of the characteristics that one would expect from a chocolate bar. There's no snap, no cocoa butter to smooth the flavor around. It's more like maple sugar candy: as the sugar and cocoa mass heats up, it dissolves into a luxurious buttery cream with profoundly deep chocolate flavor.