Meeting Don Jaime

Dallis Brothers roasts for our 8th Avenue and Bleecker St. stores. The Dallis Think blend used to consist of three coffees: (1) Nossa Senhora Aparecida, from Brazil, (2) Ardi, from the village of Kalenso in Ethiopia, and, (3) Finca Himalaya, from Mo Salaverria in Ahuachapan, El Salvador. As of about three weeks ago, we’ve used up all of the Salvadoran component. When this happens, to ensure that Think Blend stays consistently delicious without becoming too expensive, our director of coffee Matt Fury meets with John and Byron at Dallis Brothers to reformulate the coffee.

This reformulation around, after sampling some different ratios of Nossa Senhora Aparecida and Ardi, the consensus was that our coffee is delicious as it is. But it could be equally delicious, support another farmer, and be slightly less expensive if we found a third blend component. If we reduce the amount of Brasil, and put something else into it, something thick and sweet, then we have a new incarnation of an awesome blend.

Nicaraguan coffee tends to be very thick, with sweet and subtle tones of tamarind and banana. Think Blend would be nice with some new thickness and sweetness.

Last August, Fury and I went to knock on the door of Luis Alberto Balladerez, producer of our Un Regalo de Dios coffee, in Ocotal. Our visit was rushed, we knocked on the door of his mill at 7pm on a Sunday night, the guard at the gate said, ‘He’s at church, want to meet him there?’ Everyone else we met in town said ‘Luis Alberto? He’s the best coffee producer in the north of the country.’ We declined rushing in on Sunday service, but didn’t forget about Luis Alberto.

So, last week I went back to find a Nicaraguan coffee for Think Blend. I bought a torta and a bottle of water at the bus station in Managua, headed northbound for Ocotal, back to Sr. Balladerez, to Beneficio Las Segovias, with a lead on a coffee from his mill produced by one Jaime Lovo of Dipilto.

On arrival at Las Segovias, I was welcomed as a green coffee buyer. It’s unusual that a cafe of our size doesn’t roast our own coffee. Even more unusual is for someone who doesn’t roast coffee to be at origin buying green coffee. Luis Alberto and his head saleswoman, Claudia Lovo, started out a little confused about what I was doing there, a little unsure of why I wanted to buy coffee.  We spent a day with me at Beneficio Las Segovias tasting coffees. We discussed how we’d like coffee producers to travel to cafes, baristas in cafes to travel to work the harvest. The Segovias faculty is, like us, interested in tracing the direction of coffee, making sure that the quality of coffee being harvested translates to the quality being sold in coffee cups, making sure that everyone down the production line is given credit for their work. Eventually, after cupping for a long time, feeling like I had a new batch of friends, I decided that Jaime Lovo coffee was right for Think.

Jaime Lovo took me around on his coffee farm, Santa Isabel, which was incredibly clean, with bathrooms, mattresses, more shade than I’ve ever seen on a coffee farm, a ton of compost, mangos and parrots, lots of little streams flowing around. It’s right near the Honduran border, and it’s gorgeous. Jaime liked talking about his family, how the farm has been around for a while, how he’d like to be Rainforest Alliance certified soon. He also took me to see his meat and dairy farm, and showed me some happy cows and a one-eyed horse. He offered me a home in the house on the farm, I told him he could stay in my tiny apartment if he ever came to New York.

So I bought the coffee. It will be in Think Blend in the next month or so, once it arrives on the coast. We’ll buy more Jaime Lovo coffee in the future. We’ll certainly buy more coffee from Luis Alberto Balladerez. After only a few days with these guys, Think Coffee has a new relationship, a group of people that we can trust to provide us good coffee that follows our guidelines. It’s started quickly, but I have lots of faith in our new friends.