Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gayo Mountain Pics...

photos by mason sager

We just returned from a remarkable trip to the Gayo Mountain region of Northern Sumatra. For several years Vita has been buying large quantities of exceptional coffee from a revered cooperative in the Lake Tawar area. On this trip our green coffee buyer Mason Sager was able to visit individual plots within the co-op, bring back detailed notes and samples, and focus our buying specifically to three brilliant farms near the Gayo River.

click here to grab some from our online store...
or starting tomorrow Tuesday May 12th grab a bag at one of our 5 locations.

The farmers in this valley are extraordinarily dedicated to their trees and surrounding environment, their passion for organic and sustainable technique is awe inspiring and these farms are in the final stretches of obtaining Fair Trade certification. Chilies, bananas, passion fruit, papayas, and towering shade trees all grow harmoniously amongst the coffee. It is a joy and an honor to be able to bring this coffee directly from the farmers hands to you, especially given the warm reception of hospitality and generosity we experienced in Gayo.

And the coffee? Hands down this is among the finest Sumatrans we have ever encountered, with impeccable flavor profile, low acidity and swaggering body. A rich, aromatic cup with well balanced flavors of dark berry, vanilla, baking spice, smoke and earthiness. Accented with notes of tobacco and hops throughout the warm, comforting finish.

And in the coming weeks expect a in-your-face essay from about our days on the ground in the Gayo Mountains. The remarkable story of the Aceh region rising from the ashes of the '04 tsunami, and how this tragedy put an end to the heartbreaking rebel fighting that made this one of the most dangerous places on the planet.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Back from Sumatra Feast with The Burke Museum, UW Scholars, and Special Guest Mark Pendergrast. April 9th.

Caffe Vita and One Pot just got back from yet another coffee sourcing adventure - returning from the once-treacherously-violent Gayo Mountains of Northern Sumatra. To celebrate and further investigate the culture and the coffee of this region we are hosting a remarkable feast with several scholars from the University of Washington, the curators of the Burke Museum "The World in Your Cup" exhibit, and famed author Mark Pendergrast author of Uncommon Grounds.

We will be showing our video footage of the grueling journey and resplendent coffee harvest, cupping many coffees of the Gayo region (and the notorious Kopi Luwak), eating the food from those lush mountain villages, and embarking on a conversation with Pendergrast and professors Max Savishinsky and Joshua Tewksbury. And enjoying chocolate from our inspired collaborators Theo Chocolate.

FARM DIRECT. This is a continuation of our Farm Direct program to source the best coffees directly from the best farms around the globe. Vita has made the commitment to not only purchase coffee from exemplary farmers, but to go further and investigate deeply into the cultures that produce these glorious coffees - and to openly share our findings with our community. Coffee is culture.

"Few coffee drinkers suspect that they are affecting American foreign policy, the domestic policies of Latin-American and African countries, and the habitat of migratory birds. Pendergrast shows how and why they are. He has taken on a huge subject, but he organizes the facts skillfully and puts personalities in the perspective of their times. This encyclopedic volume is the entertaining result." --New Yorker on Uncommon Grounds. Mark Pendergrast.

Only four seats left for this dinner - $50/person - email onepotorg@gmail asap to grab them...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Packing our bags for Sumatra.

From our collaborator One Pot:

on sunday night caffe vita and i head off over the horizon for the fourth part in our global mini series whereby we cook with, feast with, and delve into the (sometimes dark) realities of coffee production with coffee farmers around the world. this episode has us headed to the jungles of sumatra - and up tangled roads into the aceh region which became a household name during the 2004 tsunami. when we return expect a series of dinners where we will be sharing what we learned. one such dinner is happening on april 9th in collaboration with the burke museum and UW - i will be in conversation with professor max savishinsky and archeologist peter lape about life after the tsunami, guerilla warfare, corporate responsibility, and (as it turns out) coffee. details tba - stay tuned.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


one pot + god in a cup + caffe vita = oct. 21

michaele weissman's
critically acclaimed new book "god in a cup" hit bookshelves this summer – an elegant and carefully researched ode to the new frontier of coffee – she headed off to farms in east africa and central america with our friends from intelligentsia and counter culture, had a daunting run-in with the founder of stumptown who offered her a bong hit during their first interview, and lost much sleep decoding the mystery behind the panamanian esmeralda that cost about as much as diamonds.

michaele and i have plenty to discuss – since my travels with caffe vita have been equally far flung. expect a casual evening of deep pots of food, conversation, and coffee – the talented scott emerick of cremant fame is going to be joining me in the kitchen to cook a couple dishes i prepared with guatemalan coffee farmers on a recent vita/one pot excursion – and vita will be serving forth farm direct coffee from the very same guatemalan farm. we will be tucked inside caffe vita's well-hidden private loft - the space alone is worth the ticket.

yet again we have the talented kim ricketts to thank for making this evening possible.

october 21st. caffe vita's private capitol hill loft. 6pm. $40/person. byow.

email to make reservations

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Just like they do in Addis...

Caffe Vita Presents: Green Bean Roasting at Home from hebberoy on Vimeo.

This video was inspired by our recent source trip to Ethiopia - where coffee plays a central role in the daily culture of that magnificent land. The smell of coffee roasting permeates the little villages and the large cities - the beans are roasted by hand in almost every household, caramelized over open flames, and prepared in a traditional ceremony that has been practiced for over 1000 years.

We were blown away by the reverence and respect given the bean - and thought we should pay a little homage by attempting to roast a small batch of beans in our own home. The process is relatively simple - requires a good cast-iron or steel pan - and about 15-20 minutes of attention. Vita has put some green beans up on their online store, take this link if you would like to order some and give it a whirl.

This morning we got up early and talked to the nice ladies at Martha Stewart Radio about green coffee and roasting at home - sadly we can't post the audio clip as it is a satellite radio thing - but if you are a subscriber check it out.

Monday, June 9, 2008

hebberoy blogs for grist...

first post...

they re-worked the title "bean there done khat" - cute - but not quite what i had in mind.

"I have spent the past year traveling the globe with Seattle coffee roaster Caffé Vita in their search for coffee, and I have the more enviable and slippery task of seeking out stories. Many Grist readers know that coffee is the second most heavily traded commodity on the planet, but unlike the elephant in the pole position (oil), we hear very little about the realities of the cherry-red fruit on which we are also dependent.

As long as Grist lets me, I will throw out some thoughts from the coffee road, and the other "tablemaking" adventures in which I routinely find myself..." continues at gristmill...

Friday, March 7, 2008

an introduction

getting under the skin of the coffee world. 

caffe vita has been sourcing and roasting remarkable coffee in seattle washington for thirteen years. one year ago vita decided to revolutionize the way they buy coffee and instead of buying via importers, distributers, exporters, coyotes, and other middlemen - vita made a pledge to begin buying as much coffee as possible directly from specific farms around the globe. the result: farm direct coffee for their cafes and the hundreds of acclaimed restaurants, hotels, and coffee houses that serve vita. 

under the skin? 

this is where i come in - i started a little project called ONE POT (long story) and have spent the past ten years creating guerilla dining events and ill-fated mini-restaurant-empires (longer story) and along the way have used the table to provoke as much conversation and heated opinion as possible. and now i am using that knack in this collaboration with vita. 

wtf? i travel with vita on all of their sourcing trips (ethiopia, brazil, guatemala, sulawesi) and do my best to find out what the hell is going on in these often war torn pockets of the world. if you follow the coffee world you know that coffee is immensely political, often violent, and millions of lives hang in the balance. the bean can be poetic, harsh, painfully discouraging, and often inspiring (bordering on spiritual for some), but more than anything it seems to be a world of hushed secrets and deep veils. those that buy the majority of the worlds production prefer to keep the stories behind coffee (the second most traded commodity on the planet) in dim shadow. this blog - and the writings and videos and dinners i am pushing into the world are meant to shine a bit of light. 

please comment and be in touch - i am new to the blog world and just beginning to follow other posts - i would love to hear about others doing similar work in this field. 

just back from ethiopia

we spent the last two weeks in the hills of sidamo and yirgacheffe - and many days in the whirling city of addis ababa - videos, stories, and pics coming very soon. 


dinner with 25 tribal coffee farmers among the coffee trees, morning swim in haile selassie's summer palace hot springs (not as glamorous as it sounds), in depth conversation with tadesse meskela (star of the movie black gold) about the future of ethiopian coffee while observing the first night of lent.