March 2016 Subscription Letter
Our featured coffee this month comes to us from a relative newcomer on the specialty coffee scene: Malawi. While coffee has a long history in this east African country (seedlings were originally planted in 1891 by British traders), quality control has been a challenge for many farmers. Historically, the rating system in Malawi was simple. Harvested lots of coffee were either labeled Grade 1 or Grade 2, and there was little attention paid to the quality and taste profile of the coffee through the cupping process. This lack of sophistication produced coffees with varying degrees of quality and made it difficult for importers to trust the consistency of coffee coming out of the country.
In recent years, several major changes to the grading system have taken root which have helped increase cup quality and consistency. Harvested coffees are now graded using a much more traditional screen-size system, with AAA coffees at 19+, AA at 18+, and AB at 16+. To determine the grade of a coffee using this system, beans are sifted through metal screens with smaller and smaller gauges until the beans no longer pass through. The number associated with each grade refers to the size of the gauge in the screen and is measured in 1/64’’ increments. In Malawi, AAA beans will pass through a 19/64’’ gauge, but not 18/64’’. While there is a general correlation between bean size and cup quality, many other factors influence the flavor profile significantly.
This particular lot of coffee comes to us from the Misuku Cooperative in northern Malawi. Misuku is one of the six primary members of the Mzuzu Cooperative Union, which helps members in sorting, processing, and marketing coffee lots. Coffees from Mzuzu and northern Malawi are highly prized due to the elevation of the region, fertile soil, and high levels of rainfall. When we first cupped this coffee, we were intrigued by the buttery sweet aromatic profile with subtle hints of spice and deep fruit. It reminded us of some of the best lots we’ve cupped from Peru and Kenya, while also possessing it’s own unique Malawian character. We’re excited to feature this up-and-coming coffee producing country, and hope you love the coffee as much as we do.
In addition to a brand-new coffee, we’ve also included a small gift for you this month. Way back in 2014, our incredibly talented designer Moriya and her friend Haley decided to venture out into the world of entrepreneurship and launch a paper goods company: Olive & Clyde. Since launching the company, Olive & Clyde has expanded into several retail outlets in Indiana and Ohio and has been featured on Buzzfeed. We really appreciate the chance to support our friends and fellow entrepreneurs, and hope you enjoy sending along the card to someone you care about as well. Feel free to keep it for yourself too :)
Moriya & Haley have included a special discount code with each card, so don’t forget to check out OliveAndClyde.com!