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Caribou's Proactive Partnership with The Rainforest Alliance

Posted by brett struwe

February 15, 2014 13:46 PM

For those of you who have been following the story of our relationship with Rainforest Alliance, you are of course aware of our 100% position; the first major coffee retailer in the US that can make this claim. But that was just over 2 years ago, and it's only where our commitment to responsible coffee sourcing begins.

Since 2011 the coffee department at Caribou has been proactively seeking out recently certified coffee origins, new lines of source, and supply chains that support ongoing sustainable activity with our friends at the Rainforest Alliance. We knew that when we made our commitment we couldn't simply idly rest on our laurels. Instead we understood that bringing the best of the world's certified coffee to our customer meant that there was yet more work to be done.

Since then we can lay claim to yet more achievements and share our proud updates with you. Within the past year we have begun to purchase some of the first-ever available Java and Papua New Guinea RA certified coffee and we are actively refreshing our blend portfolio with these exquisite and deeply rich coffees. We have also bolstered our position in Colombia and Sumatra as price volatility has created significant sourcing difficulties there, but Caribou will not be swayed in bringing these classic offerings to our coffee shops and your kitchen counter. And lastly we intend to surprise and delight you with additional East African origins that have never before been certified by the Rainforest Alliance.

At Caribou we understand that in order to continuously offer the world's finest coffee we must seek out new relationships while reinforcing our commitment to sustainability. You should only expect the best from Caribou and together we can do well while Doing Good.

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Hacienda La Minita 2014

Posted by brett struwe

January 05, 2014 09:47 AM

Spending some quality time with six esteemed Caribou compatriots who have earned the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and spend time with our valued supplier, La Minita. This offers key people in the Caribou family the first-hand experience of walking one of the world's most prestigious coffee farms, and gaining the insight into their quality controls and operations from field to mill to cup. These types of excursions for folks such as our store managers, human resource personnel, and business services representatives is what makes Caribou a breed apart from other coffee companies that don't live and breathe this sort of coffee culture. So the next time you're in a store, feel free to ask more about our La Minita Peaberry, and there might just be a chance that the person you're talking to has been there and can share their personal experience.

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Huila, Colombia

Posted by brett struwe

December 13, 2013 14:37 PM

One of constant, yet still unexpected, privileges of traveling to a country of coffee producing origin is the sheer graciousness of the people involved in the farming of coffee. Nate Hrobak (our origin buyer for Colombia)and I are just completing a trip to the department of Huila where arguably the best coffee in the country is grown. But nevermind the fabulous opportunities we have had to cup this extraordinary coffee; the real treat is the people! Whether it be the constant offering for lunch on the farm (often featuring delightfully savory chicken, whose friends are still walking about you!), or the impromptu offer to squeeze fresh a bucket of aguapanela, these folks understand the true meaning of hospitality. More to come on Caribou's efforts in sourcing world-class Colombian coffee, but in the meantime I wouldn't hesitate to encourage an excursion to the finer places in the Colombian coutryside.

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Blending Alchemies

Posted by brett struwe

December 13, 2013 14:36 PM

It's always curious how the seemingly most menial and subtle changes to a blend recipe can have such profound radical effects on cup quality and flavor. It's also reassuring to know there is so much validation for sourcing such a wide array of different coffee origins. Guatemala is distinctive from El Salvador, which is distinctive from Costa Rica, etc. And even within a country there is a tremendous amount of disparity and variety. Reduce a blend by 10% of one Central American quality and replace it with 10% of another, and you suddenly get brothy instead of cider. Who knew?!?!

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Green Coffee Evolution

Posted by brett struwe

January 23, 2010 10:28 AM

Interesting cupping today. Noted the difference in Papua New Guinea coffee residing in our warehouse here in Mpls for just the past few weeks. The coffee that is 'fresher' and due to deliver from NJ/NYC cups with a slightly more tart and sharp note, while the current has turned more milky, herby, and almost hint of rhubarb. Reminder of this is why we taste every day, and the roasters can adjust accordingly. ~B

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El Paraiso

Posted by brett struwe

January 22, 2010 15:28 PM

Our 2009 coffee offering from Guatemala, El Paraiso, is coming to its depletion. The roasters have roasted their last beloved batch of this coffee, which we began featuring in May. Caribou committed to sourcing and roasting this coffee, despite the fact we knew there wasn’t enough to last until the next crop cycle – and that’s fine by us! You see, coffee is best when it’s fresh – this you know – but did you also know that fresh green (raw) coffee just tastes better also? It’s true. But the trick for roasting is that as coffee resides in our inventory our craftspeople need to continually refine the roasting approach for timing and heat and airflow in order to best coax the flavors unique to each origin. So when one of our skilled technicians, like Anton for instance, approaches a batch roast of El Paraiso on his roasting machine, he has already mapped out a fresh and revised roast profile (a set of directions for machine settings and roast timing) that is perfect for that time in the coffee’s life cycle. For us at Caribou it wouldn’t be acceptable to simply treat this coffee in December that way it was roasted in September. And then that batch is cup tested so we can refine that roast profile again as need be. So enjoy your last chance at this unique offering from Guatemala, take the time to learn more about when the next best Guatemala coffees will be harvested, and savor the fact that Caribou’s roasters are relentless in their pursuit of perfect roasting. Happy Holidays! ~B

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Minus Below

Posted by brett struwe

January 08, 2010 16:46 PM

It's so cold in this part of the country this time of year that when a colleague of mine living in California asked what the temperature was, I could only respond, "It's like minus below." It's awfully good coffee drinking climate, as most would surmise, but the average coffee drinker wouldn't stop to think about what affect different kinds of weather has on roasting. The answer is, quite a lot! Aspects such as barometric pressure, humidity, and even outdoor temperature drastically change the desired settings for roasting coffee optimally. And one of the most important settings that our roasters adjust daily is what we call loosely, air flow. Air flow is velocity and pressure and volume all rolled up into one notion. But what a coffee connoisseur unknowingly cares about is that being able to adjust air flow in a roaster is the difference between coffee that is just roasted, versus coffee that is roasted to perfection - with nuance and delicacy combined with punch and vigor. Imagine something as simple as toast. You can adjust the toaster time, and sometimes the heat, but that's about it. Most roasters are serving you coffee that is kind of like toast that is made under these restrictive circumstances. Although they can adjust certain settings in their roaster, many cannot adjust air flow, and few try. Caribou's roaster technicians change air flow on a daily basis in order to have a machine that is set up just right and can change the operations of their convection fan with the turn of a switch or touch of a screen pad. And when you're roasting coffee at -20F while 6 months later it's 90F and July humidity, these things matter. And when you're a roaster in Minnesota, there is the added benefit working in one of the toastier places around. ~B

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Black Friday - Roasters Keepin' it Fresh

Posted by brett struwe

November 27, 2009 12:16 PM

It's the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) and Caribou's coffeehouses are flush with customers tracking down gifts, a cup of their favorite coffee, and perhaps a first-time experience with our delectable new line of mochas -- the heavenly combination of Guittard chocolate and Caribou espresso! And in typical annual fashion, the roastery is operational and busy. Our customers may wonder why shouldn't we just take that extra day off like a lot of other offices or operations would? Answer to that simply stated -- Freshness. Caribou's commitment to fresh coffee in our shops is backed by a guarantee that your cup of coffee comes from beans roasted no more than 21 days ago, and typically your cup is brewed from coffee much fresher than that. With shops all over the United States the roastery can't afford to take a day like today off, lest the stores be serving stale joe. Good news is we take the opportunity to treat ourselves -- Pizza! (What else for the lunch day after Turkey Day?)

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Nate Hrobak

Caribou Roastmaster since 2003
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Brian Aliffi

Caribou Roastmaster since 2005
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Brett Struwe

Caribou Roastmaster since 1995
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