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JANUARY 2023: We Turn Thirty, A Look Back at 2022

Happy new year! As 2022 comes to a close and we jump into 2023, this month’s update will take on more of a yearly tone as we highlight some of our incredible partnerships, discuss some challenges and successes of this past year, and preview a bit of what we have in store for the year to come. 

A Look Back at 2022

First, I want to thank all of you, our loyal subscribers, for your dedication and support this past year. It was one of our best years yet, and your continued support is what drives us to continue getting better. Since 1993, Little City has operated under the firm belief that “everyone deserves a great cup of coffee,” and by choosing Little City you help us turn that vision into reality on a daily basis. 

Next, I want to thank everyone who plays a role in our coffee supply chain, from seed to cup. Our mission is to source the finest coffees on earth and bring them to Austin, Texas—something that takes a lot of work and a lot of people. This year we worked incredibly hard to continue building and strengthening our relationships across that chain, from farmer to barista and tons of folks in between. This chain not only ensures a living for a lot of great people, but it’s also one that we count on to consistently provide us with great coffees year after year. So, in honor of our coffee family around the globe, this year’s wrap-up highlights a few of our many important partners through a handful of the many experiences we shared in 2022.

Mexico and Record-High Prices

Ernesto Perez (left) and Aldo Arcangelis (right) at Aldo’s farm, La Chiripa, in Xico, Veracruz.

We headed down to Mexico in February, a little earlier than normal, because of what became a major theme in coffee sourcing in 2022: record-high prices! With the C Market (the global commodity exchange where green coffee and coffee futures contracts are traded) at a ten-year high and the global supply chain in flux, we were hearing from partners around the world that prices were going to increase dramatically this year, and we wanted to be on the ground early to better understand the economic realities of this harvest. 

We pride ourselves on paying fair and consistent prices regardless of market price, but since many of our partners in Mexico rely on purchasing fresh cherry from other growers, the daily price can still heavily influence our final costs. This was the most challenging year for coffee sourcing since I started at Little City, and Ernesto was a huge help in navigating it. He and I spoke regularly throughout the year, helping each other understand the needs and realities of both of our businesses, his as a supplier at origin and ours as a roaster in a consuming country. With the shared goal of creating long-term success for all involved, we were able to work through these challenges and are hopefully one step closer to creating a sustainable pricing model that will benefit everyone involved in our chain for years to come. 
You can read more about my trip to Veracruz and the challenges of a market in flux in my blog from February 2022.

The Loss of a Legend

On that same trip to Veracruz, we visited our good friend Mario Fernandez Sanchez at his farm, Finca Garabandal, and later at his home for an unforgettable dinner with him and his family. About a month later, we received the news that he’d passed away suddenly. Mario was one of our first contacts in Mexico, and he was tremendously generous in introducing us to the coffee community around Coatepec, including several partners that we continue to work with to this day. He also grew a hell of a Geisha, possibly some of the first and surely some of the finest in Mexico, eventually populating his entire farm from one mother tree that he’d discovered years earlier at the University of Xalapa. You can read more about that story and about the life of a Mexican coffee legend here in our tribute to Mario.

Mario Fernandez Sanchez at Finca Garabandal

Guatemala and The State of the Art

Next up on the travel schedule was Guatemala, an origin with a deep connection to specialty coffee and a reputation for producing some of the finest coffees in Central America. After being invited to participate on the international jury for Guatemala’s Cup of Excellence, I decided I would arrive a little early and visit our friend Anabella Meneses at Santa Felisa. 

Over the past decade, Anabella has garnered a reputation as one of the world’s top coffee growers, with extreme detail studied and applied at every level of the production process, particularly in the areas of plant genetics and post-harvest processing. With over thirty carefully selected cultivars and a mastery of fermentation and drying techniques, Anabella’s coffees are a true representation of the state of the art of modern coffee production. A yearly auction for her top lots often fetches record prices, and she has won numerous awards, including the prestigious top prize at 2017’s Cup of Excellence.

Anabella Meneses in the nursery at Santa Felisa

After my visit to Santa Felisa, it was back to Guatemala City for the Cup of Excellence. The competition seemed to be a continuation of my time spent at Santa Felisa the previous weekend. Exotic genetics, mostly Geshas and Pacamaras, dominated the field. New and unique processing methods were well-defined and well-described, often contributing significantly to the flavor profiles represented. These trends are not exclusive to Guatemala, but I believe that many of them can be accredited to the hard work and forward thinking of Guatemalan trailblazers like Anabella Meneses of Santa Felisa, The Aguirre family of El Injerto, and Juan Diego de la Cerda of El Socorro. It was an honor meeting all of them in 2022, and I look forward to returning to Guatemala in 2023 to keep up with the state of the art. 
Read the full recap of the Guatemala COE here on our blog.\

The New Brazil

The final experience that I want to share from 2022 was my last trip of the year—again for a Cup of Excellence jury, this time in Brazil. We are no strangers to the origin that produces a third of the world’s coffee. Little City owner Joel Shuler lives in Brazil, and through our sister roaster and import company, Casa Brasil Coffees, we have been working with the best growers in the country and importing their coffees to the U.S. for over 15 years. And even though we know how good Brazilian coffee can be, many still view Brazil as a volume producer, only capable of producing a single profile: chocolatey and nutty. The reality is that Brazil has the most advanced coffee industry on the planet, and for decades has led the way in coffee research and technology, establishing best practices and guidance used for producing high-quality specialty coffee all over the world. 

The COE serves as a snapshot of the “New Brazil,” where the quality ceiling is limitless, and processes can be scaled to meet ever-changing consumer demands. 

I had the good fortune to connect with countless incredible coffee growers during the COE, but I would like to highlight two young producers and long-time partners who are constantly pushing the limits of quality and delivering us better and better coffees each year. Little City will feature microlots from both in 2023.

Dério Brioschi of Sitio dos Cedros was a fellow juror on the COE panel. A decorated grower himself, Dério’s best coffees often miss out on national competitions like the COE. High altitudes and low temperatures in Derio’s region, the mountains of Espirito Santo, mean the coffees mature more slowly and are often harvested far later than the majority of the country’s crop—and the COE submission deadline. This slow and steady maturation leads to incredibly sweet and unique profiles that we’ve only seen from Dério over the years, and his 2022/23 microlot, in my opinion, could go toe to toe with any of this year’s COE finalists. This new lot from Dos Cedros is en route to Austin and will be available at littlecity.com in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Dério Brioschi (left) with Little City’s Joel Shuler at Derio’s farm, Sitio Dos Cedros

Gabriel Nunes is another shining example of the new Brazilian coffee farmer. His COE win in 2017 changed the game for the Cerrado region, one of Brazil’s largest and the host of this year’s event. An agronomist and third-generation coffee grower, Gabriel employs diverse genetics and post-harvest processes, specifically tailored to the Cerrado’s hot and dry harvest season, in order to achieve a diverse portfolio of flavor profiles. Gabriel’s coffees are currently on a ship somewhere between Santos and Houston. We will keep you posted on when they will be available to order. In the meantime, you can read more about Gabriel in this interview on Casa Brasil’s blog.

Me (far left) with Gabriel Nunes (second from left) and the Nunes family following their 8th-place COE finish in 2022.

JANUARY’S FEATURED COFFEES

Roaster’s Choice: Congress Ave

As 2023 will mark 30 years of Little City, we bring you a classic to kick off the year. Named for the iconic street where it all started back in 1993, Congress Ave is a comforting and well-balanced medium roast with sweet flavors of caramel and milk chocolate. Our most popular blend and perfect for sipping year-round. 

Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. Home to the original Little City Café;

Featured Microlot: Colombia Los Jazmines

Fourth-place winner of the Huila Magico Competition, this special lot from Jose Lizardo Alba was one of our absolute favorites of 2022, and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to showcase it once more before it’s all gone. Intensely sweet and syrupy with loads of tropical and stone fruit notes, plus a subtle floral finish, this is a top-tier representation of the Pink Bourbon variety primarily found in Southern Huila.

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of our experiences from 2022, and hopefully, it drove home the appreciation and gratitude that we have for you and for all of our partners all around the globe. I also hope you’ll stay tuned to see what’s in store for 2023. It’s gonna be a good one!

Cheers,

Eric

Products mentioned in this post

Congress Avenue

$14.99 or subscribe and save 10%
Blends

Congress Avenue

$14.99 or subscribe and save 10%

Los Jazmines, Colombia

$18.99
Microlots

Los Jazmines, Colombia

$18.99
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