Latte Art Fundraiser for Coffee Kids

Hiroshi, a world latte art champion, will demonstrate his coffee art at the following California locations from 12/16-19. Tips/proceeds from the sales of his drinks will go directly to Coffee Kids.
•12/15  Kali’s Café @ Clif Bar, 1415 66th Street, Emeryville (private event)
•12/16 9-11 AM & 2-4PM @Four Barrel Coffee, 375 Valencia St, San Francisco
•12/17 10-Noon @ Ritual Roasters at Hayes Valley,  432b Octavia St, San Francisco
•12/19 8-10 AM @ Patagonia, 259 W Santa Clara St, Ventura CA (12/19, 8-10, RSVP only)
•12/19 9-11AM @ Coffee Bar LA, 600 South Spring St, LA, CA
•12/19 1:30-3:30 PM @ Gjelina Take Away, 1429 Abbot Kinney, Venice, CA


About Coffee Kids:

Coffee Kids works with local organizations in Latin America to create programs in education, health awareness, microcredit, food security and capacity building in coffee-farming communities. These efforts allow coffee farmers to reduce their dependence on the volatile coffee market and confront the most pressing community needs.

About Hiroshi
In 2008 Hiroshi Sawada won the Milrock Latte Art Championships and a prize of $5,000 which he immediately donated to CoffeeKids, with the simple explanation, “I don’t need it.” He is the owner of Streamer Coffee in Shibuya and Harajuku, Japan. His art has been featured in a number of ad campaigns including those for Nikon and McDonald’s Japan.

About Mark
As an employee of Patagonia Mark Shimahara headed to Guatemala to participate in a Patagonia Environmental Internship to photo document Coffee Kids projects. He is a Specialty Coffee Association of America Level One Barista. In his spare time he races for the Clif Bar Cycling Team.

Thanks to support from Counter Culture Coffee (for coffee for the Clif Bar and Patagonia events), Clif Bar, Four Barrel, Ritual Roasters & Patagonia.

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The Man Who Wrote the Book on Latte Art

I met coffee ambassador Hiroshi Sawada last fall in Shibuya last fall. Hiroshi introduced latte art to people around the world with his book “Free Pour Latte Art Handbook.” I’d gone to Japan to photograph cafés including his own—Streamer Coffee—which he let me shoot without hesitation. (This kind of reception is unusual in Japan, where establishments are typically guarded about photography.) During my visit I ended up writing an article that appeared in the February/March Issue of Barista Magazine, and we developed a friendship. Hiroshi’s coffee celebrity recently landed him a guest-appearance on a Japanese game show in which contestants guessed who he is based on a list of personal facts.

The other day he sent a photo of himself sporting an espresso-shots backpack. Arigato Hiroshi!

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Time for a Coffee Break

bake sale for japan cranes

I’m breaking out of context for a moment here to consider something very important to me: Japan.  All my relatives live there. Fortunately they are okay, but many of their neighbors—now homeless, orphaned, robbed of loved ones and all possessions—are in desperate need of help.  While the worst of it appears to have passed, the Japanese continue to be assaulted daily by aftershocks of earthquakes and alarming reports about radiation scares, rising death tolls, fuel shortages, and toxic food.

Japan is a nation with a sterling reputation for contributing to the humanitarian efforts of other disaster-stricken countries. Now, it needs help.

Ok, back to food and coffee.

Berkeley-based cook and community-organizer wizard Samin Nosrat has put together a nationwide comfort food extravaganza. “Bake Sale for Japan,” to benefit Japanese tsunami and earthquake victims, will take place next Saturday, April 2. We’re not talking about brownies made from Duncan Hines. We’re talking the likes of Tartine, Four Barrel, Chez Panisse, and Blue Bottle.  Plus special treats from home kitchens, music, and crane-making by the hundreds.

California boasts no fewer than 19 locations of Bake Sale for Japan, many concentrated in Northern California. But quite a number of them are down here in LA (YESSSSS), including at Forage, Angeli, BLD, Black Cat Bakery, Akasha …not bad, not bad! There are many locations outside of California too.

Come to the Bake Sale. Bring your appetite for comfort food and the land which brought us sushi, karaoke, Pokemon, Nomo, Kurosawa, Pizzicato Five, the V60, Godzilla and ramen. You will feel better.

Photo: Sylvan of Peko-Peko, one of the initial participants, at the Pop-Up General Store on March 18.

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The Women of Chajul

The second Coffee Kids project we visited was in Chajul, located in the Ixil triangle. To get there, we drove five hours from Antigua till the pavement ended and another two hours on dirt roads. Chajul is still battered from the thirty-year civil war which devastated its indigenous community. Non-profit organizations have responded by contributing funds and resources over the years, but few visit to see how money is being used for progress. It’s visits such as these, we were told at a community meeting, that encourage and motivate progress.

Chajulene speak Ixil, an indigenous Mayan language. All the women wear a traditional cranberry-colored skirt signifying the Chajul region. Women here are given more opportunities to exercise autonomy and make decisions in at home or in the workplace than their counterparts I saw closer to Guatemala City. Because the coffee coop community is tight knit, it thrives on interdependence to succeed. As part of this workforce, women therefore have greater respect and say. They do not enjoy gender quality, however. After the last coffee crisis, it was women employees who were the first to be let go. As part of its efforts to address these gender inequities, the Coffee Kids program here offers micro credits to women and their families to provide them with loans to start business which so they don’t have to be reliant on coffee for their livelihoods. Loans are used to support local shops and textile manufacturing.

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Anabella and Her Coffee Kids Projects – ADESPA

Anabella at ADESPA

This is Anabella.  She runs her family’s farm Finca Santa Felice in Acatenengo.  She coordinates the Coffee Kids project (ADESPA) that serves the area around her plantation. Today she celebrated her birthday with the kids at the community center and then drove us an hour to Antigua.  Her dog came along too because Anabella wanted to get her checked by the vet in town.  She has three dogs, all of which are the healthiest I’ve seen in Guatemala.  Most of the dogs here are homeless and many loiter the busy highways prowling for food. On the way to Antigua, Anabella pulled over to rescue a dog that was hit by a car. She has done this before.

The ADESPA project was the first Coffee Kids project I saw.  Anabella dedicates considerable time and effort in educating and empowering her workers to become independent from the coffee industry.   Two of her projects (textile and shoe workshops) are for economic diversification; teaching them skills so they don’t have to rely on coffee for an income. 

Anabella’s farm is beautiful.  It’s at the base of Mt. Fuego, which erupts daily.  It’s organic, certified by Japanese and European standards, which are stricter than the US.  Beyond making sure the ground is free of fertilizers, the European regulations require that the soil is full of necessary nutrients adding to the sustainability of the land.  I look forward to the Geisha coffee she will plant (as well as it returning to the States. Allegro once carried it).  Anabella recently returned from Panama where she got to check out where la Esmeralda is grown.

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Certification…For The Birds!

Hiking the farm with the Recinos twins and friends from Counter Culture.
First stop in Guatemala was Finca Nueva Armenia, owned by the Recinos twins, a farm certified as bird friendly by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC). So what’s bird friendly? Basically it’s a farm that puts the birds interest in mind, and has a number of wonderful residual benefits. First, it’s organic; no fertilizers. Coffee is shade grown. Coffee is sometimes labeled as shade grown to yield a higher price, because shaded plants need to work harder to absorb more oxygen thus producing a more acidic bean and a more vibrant flavor. But the shade grown designation alone isn’t regulated, so unless you see the SMBC’s bird friendly certification, you aren’t sure what you are buying. SMBC has a strict canopy height minimum of 12 meters and requires at least 40% foliage coverage on the plantation.

Plants on the farm must also be native, so local and migratory birds can live without their habitat being impacted. Finally plants on the farm must be diverse, with at least 10 wooded species. This promotes a natural and healthy eco system that will improve the sustainability of the farm, which is for the birds.

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Out of the Box Berkeley

Roger instructing the espresso machine maintenance clinic.

Out of the Box was a two-day coffee event for professionals and enthusiasts to check out the latest at La Marzocco.  Participants got to see the company’s current product line, find out about new technologies in portafilter baskets and grinders, and learn how to maintain their machines.  Top local roasters including Verve, Ecco, and Four Barrel were also on hand pulling shots on La Marzocco’s new Strata espresso machine.  As a volunteer, I got a chance to barback for the staff at Blue Bottle, which was a treat since I got to meet James Freeman, the owner.  I credit him for popularizing a lot of Japanese coffee techniques in the States—particularly the siphon (my new fascination).  We had an engaging conversation about Japanese coffee culture (which I write about in the February issue of Barista Magazine). If an Out of the Box comes to a location near you, I recommend attending and–if you’re really interested in getting the insider’s perspective on the coffee business–volunteering.

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Getting Ready For Guatemala

At the end of the month I head to Guatemala to volunteer with Coffee Kids and the Migratory Bird Institute. On this trip, which is sponsored by Patagonia, I’ll divide my time between the Recinos Farm in Huehuetenago, a “bird-friendly” certified plantation and Coffee Kids’ projects which support developing communities through education and micro-loans. I will be photo-documenting my entire trip. My hope is to emulate the artistry of the photographers of “Inspired by Coffee,” a collection of images featuring Guatemalan coffee regions, currently on exhibit at the LA Art Association.

Images from Guatemala

An image from the "Inspired By Coffee" exhibit.

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So here goes…

This blog is my attempt to justify my coffee obsession to my friends, colleagues, fellow riders and any visitors who may stumble across this website.  I hope you find it interesting and learn something new about the world’s favorite drink. Enjoy.

I want to thank my sister for her precise editorial skills.  She is a writing ninja.

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