"Fair" Versus "Direct" Trade -- What Does It All Mean?

Categories: Grind

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Zaida Dedolph
Cartel Coffee is one of several local companies that prefer to work directly with coffee farmers.

When it comes to buying coffee most people are completely clueless. Shade Grown? Rainforest Alliance certified? Bird Friendly? Organic? There's no reason to be afraid of these labels, but there are some pretty understandable reasons to be skeptical of them.

For many people, there is a certain amount of mysticism regarding where that Coffee stuff actually comes from and how it gets here. Coffee is not a local crop. It won't ever be a local crop. Coffee plants require a very specific set of needs in order to grow and produce coffee cherries, and a whole other set of criteria in order to produce good coffee beans. But beyond quality, there's another issue that needs to be discussed, which is that coffee producing regions tend to be some of the most impoverished places in the world. This week we'll be debunking the issue of Sourcing, or in simple terms, where coffees come from and how the people who grow, harvest, and produce them are compensated.

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Phoenix Barista Harlin Glovacki Qualifies for US Barista Championship

Categories: Grind

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Jules Tompkins
Harlin Glovacki placed fifth in this year's Southwest Regional Barista Competition.

Harlin Glovacki of Nom de Plume Coffee Roasters made Phoenix coffee afficionados proud last week by taking fifth place in the Southwest Division of the Big Western Regional Barista Competition. Achieving a top-six placement qualifies him to compete at the national level in February's United States Barista Championship in Long Beach. This is particularly impressive considering that it was Harlin's first time competing in the regional competition.


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Altitude Coffee Lab Brings Humility and Comfort to the Scottsdale Scene

Categories: Grind

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Zaida Dedolph
Altitude Coffee Lab's cozy bar.

Altitude Coffee Lab recently celebrated its one-year anniversary in the best possible way: by winning a New Times Best of Phoenix award.


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Meet Phoenix's 2014 Barista Competitors

Categories: Chow Bella, Grind

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Perry Czopp
Chow Bella's own Heather Hoch watches barista Michelle Johnson pour a cappuccino at a recent practice runthrough.

Each year, thousands of coffee professionals around the world congregate to crown a new Barista Champion. This year three fantastic individuals from Phoenix will be traveling to Rancho Mirage, California for a chance to be crowned the Southwest's Best Barista. This event feeds into the United States Barista Competition, which in turn feeds into the World Barista Championship.

Take a moment to laugh at the notion of competitive coffee making; I know you're thinking about it. Now regroup, and focus on what I'm about to tell you: the Specialty Coffee industry takes this very seriously. Winning the World Barista Championship (or even just the United States competition) means fortune and glory; in addition to a hefty cash prize, winners are provided with expensive equipment, travel opportunities, and are essentially guaranteed lucrative employment in some aspect of the coffee industry for the rest of their lives.

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5 Reasons to Get Excited About the Phoenix Coffee Scene That Have Nothing to Do with Pumpkin Spice

Categories: Chow Bella, Grind

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Zaida Dedolph
Crepe Bar's new fall signature coffee drink features local heritage grains and local dates.

In the mushy-yet-magical coulee that is my imagination, Pumpkin Spice exists as a rejected sixth Spice Girl. Yoga-pantsed, Ugg-booted, and sexy-baby-voiced, poor P.S. just literally can't even function as a flavor.

Pumpkins are a thing. Pumpkin Pie Spice is a thing. But "Pumpkin Spice" is a myth that we seem to have collectively accepted as fact. What defines this imaginary Spice of Pumpkin that has infiltrated my Facebook feed? Aside from being a sensationalized marketing scheme for something that is realistically an amalgamation of artificial flavors, colors, and additives, what actually is it? And more importantly, why do we continue to care about it when there are so many other very real things going on in the world (and in Phoenix!)

I am willing to accept the PSL as a bizarre cultural totem and harbinger of fall festivities, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Here is a list of five things that I do like, that are happening soon, and that support our great local food and coffee folk.

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Lo-Fi Coffee Brings Electricity-Free "Eco-Bar" to Downtown Mesa Event Scene

Categories: Chow Bella, Grind


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Zaida Dedolph
Sam Clark smiles behind the bar at Lo-Fi Coffee.

I never thought I'd say this, but -- there's something kinda cool happening in Mesa.

Seemingly ceaseless light rail construction has provided Mesa shop owners with a creative challenge: How do small businesses stay competitive in an area dominated by road closures, jackhammering, and snorting digging machines?


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How to Brew a Chemex the Cartel Coffee Way

Categories: Chow Bella, Grind

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Zaida Dedolph
Jenny Vaughn adds coffee to the Chemex.

A Chemex is a way of brewing coffee that is one part art, one part science, two parts swank. The hand-blown glass brewer was invented in the early 1940s by a chemist who wanted to create a method for making coffee that was both sleek and effective. At first glance, you might think this was a flower vase.

But the Chemex's thick paper filter and Jessica Rabbit-esque figure are designed to brew a clean, articulate cup of coffee. In recent years, specialty coffee folk have rediscovered this beautiful brewer. Its functional beauty has allowed it to stand the test of time; it serves as a visual representation of transparency and cleanliness of both cafe and coffee.

Bonus story: legend has it that Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, the likely mad scientist slash total baller who invented the device, drove a Cadillac with a little gold Chemex hood ornament.


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Nom de Plume Ain't Afraid-a No Ghost (Roast)

Categories: Chow Bella, Grind

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Zaida Dedolph
Nom de Plume's current single origin offerings.

Don't worry: No actual ghosts are harmed in the process of "ghost roasting." The term refers to Nom de Plume Roasters' low-overhead business model. Rather than making the (cough, cough, crazy expensive) choice to open their own roasting operation, NdP rents roasting time from other local facilities. Most recently, they've been firing up their own selections at Press Coffee's Roastery.

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Cuppings at Press Coffee Roasters: a Fantastic Introduction to Coffee Fundamentals

Categories: Grind

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Zaida Dedolph
Press owner Steve Kraus and Roaster Nanda Ibanez clean up after a successful cupping.

I remember, distinctly, the first coffee I ever tasted. At that point, I'd probably drunk a thousand cups of coffee and made about a million more than that for other people. But the first one I ever really tasted was from Ethiopia. It was reminiscent of warm blueberry syrup, delectably sweet, clean, and malty. Prior to that extra special cup, coffee was the bitter black stuff that made all that fur poke out from my dad's collar. It was something you drank because you had to, not because it was particularly enjoyable.

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How to Order Coffee Without Sounding Like a Tool

Categories: Chow Bella, Grind

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Zaida Dedolph
Cortado? Macchiato? Learning the language can be a huge barrier to new coffee drinkers.

I worked in the specialty coffee world for almost a decade before retiring to the blogosphere. If there's one thing I learned during that time, it's that there is a massive language barrier between cafes and coffee drinkers. As with any other industry, coffee comes with its own vocabulary of terms -- many of which have been modified or mangled as the industry itself has changed. Here's a brief introduction for the bewildered.

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