"This coffee is HUGE - both the bean itself and the taste. Just after brewing look for sweet notes of chocolate and cherry but as it cools the coffee completely transforms to be much more savoury - think tomato, basil and bacon."
Mexico, the varietal pacamara and Winkler, Manitoba. All 3 wouldn’t be top of mind if someone asked you to describe delicious specialty coffee. In this instance however, it’s all coming together to create something fantastic. The Finca Kassandra roasted by Other Brother Roasters is done to perfection.
“This one was definitely not like roasting any of the other coffees we’ve done. It was fickle. This one it needed to be a bit more of a gentle roast – we couldn’t go at it too aggressively. A little bit of a longer drying time during the roast was important for this one.” explained Chris Hildebrand, Roaster at Other Brother.
When the cup is warm it has creamy notes of milk chocolate that dominate the cup, followed by a red cherry acidity and back to a chocolate truffle and cocoa nibs in the aftertaste. When the cup cools it transforms - essentially into a completely different cup of coffee. Savoury notes of basil, tomato and bacon.
This cup of coffee is ridiculously interesting. It’s an adventure of a cup of coffee. A roller coaster of a ride all in your morning joe.
At the annual barista competition it was the bean of choice for a barista from Johnny’s Java, a partnering café in Winkler. This was the one they wanted to use to showcase their best work and flaunt the skill. Flaunt it proudly, as this pacamara deserves the praise.
The farm established by the Rivas Family is minuscule - specifically the portion designated for growing Pacamara. About 4% of the total 600 hectares are for Pacamara. The rest is for other varietals and, surprisingly, macadamia nuts. Award winning coffee and macadamia nuts? No, this isn't Hawaii!
REGION: Veracruz - Near Totutla and Huatusco
PROCESSING: Fully Washed
"People indulging in this coffee should find caramel sweetness with a pitted fruit acidity and fresh floral aromatics."
“We believe that we are accountable to the farmer.” Jon Plett, co-owner of Other Brother Coffee Roasters tells us. They’re quite particular about their relationships with the farmers, however it’s not about the certificates on the bag. In fact, Jon won’t be bragging about any certifications their coffees have.
“We might happen to have coffees that possess those certifications but to date we have never put them on our labels” as he refers to Organic, Rainforest Alliance and the likes. “Each one of the certifications has its flaws and bottlenecks. We focus on treating people as people and having a relationship with our suppliers as well as our vendors.”
We focus on treating people as people and having a relationship with our suppliers as well as our vendors.
It’s a rather interesting perspective to take. The certification process could be arduous for the micro-lot farmer. With a limited amount of funds to the producers’ name, Other Brother realizes that coffee farmers are among the poorest in the world and can’t prioritize a certification in exchange for marketability. Don’t expect the farmer to be fleeced by this roaster because of it though – Other Brother is all about providing a fair price for beans.
“As a business person you want to be profitable but you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. You screw that farmer; he’s out of work, which means you’re out of work. Everyone has to be honored and treated respectfully.”
It’s not a self-serving thing for them. Why the extra respect for the farmer?
Jon & his brother Sam Plett were born and raised in Boliva & Mexico. Now they live and operate their roaster out of the small farming town of Winkler, Manitoba. In both locations they’ve had a lot of interaction with farmers, and they understand what the farmer has to go through.
“Farmers put so much in the uncontrollable situations and variables. It’s really tough. It’s been eye opening that experience to grow up around farmers, but it’s also been very frustrating since you try to be the voice of the unheard. With coffee farmers who are working in the mountains and not using machinery – they have to bring their coffee down to the washing stations fairly quickly, so that their coffee doesn’t ferment... It’s a tonne of work.”
Luckily enough, being in the farming town of Winkler, some residents are quite open to hearing and learning about the struggles that a coffee farmer goes through. With that, they’ve established a small but growing customer base of offices, retail grocery chains and cafes that are willing to pay a fair price for their beans and for the farmers.
Sam, an engineer by trade, built a roaster himself and began roasting out of his garage. Once his beans were up to a certain quality, he teamed up with his café owning brother, Jon and together they began assembling the pieces for a real roasting operation.
Roasting actually has deep roots within the Plett family as their father and grandfather both were heavily in the roasting craft. His father never roasted coffee, but were more in the almonds, flax seed, peanuts etc. However it was less on the roasting and more on the relationship side of things that he felt was learned from his fathers’ operation.
As a coffee roaster you are the second last step in the process to showcase the farmers life’s work.
“Watching him over and over deal with people & farmers. How to create and honor their life’s work. As a coffee roaster you are the second last step in the process to showcase the farmers life’s work. To honor that beans’ journey.”
Jon shares “If we can become half the men they are, I think we’ve succeeded."