Square Mile Coffee is ten years old in just a few days time and what better way to celebrate than with excellent coffee?
That’s why we’ve come up with our Ten For Ten series; a celebration of both our ten-year milestone and some of the most memorable coffee releases that have helped us get here.
Ten for what?
It’s all pretty simple. On the first day of every month from now until the end of 2018, we’ll be releasing a coffee from our Ten For Ten series. Crucially, all of these coffees have been voted for by you or picked by our team here as stand out coffees from our last ten years of roasting.
Basically, we’re playing our greatest hits! Ten coffees, ten months, ten years.
It’s been a blast to revisit farms or co-ops we’d fallen out of touch with, rekindle old relationships and see how their current crops perform.
Not only that, but each coffee in the series will have a special, one-off label. These are designed to be collected and kept on a special edition, ‘sticker book’ wall poster. Panini, eat your heart out!
Getting your hands on one of these posters is easy – we’ll be shipping one for free alongside every bag Musasa (the first Ten For Ten coffee) that we sell. Note, though, that this offer only stands for the first coffee in the series. We’ll also be supplying our cafes with a poster for every bag of Musasa they buy, so don’t worry if you pick up your coffee from a cafe rather than our website, you’ll still be able to get hold of a poster.
Stick with us for the full series and you’ll be able to complete your poster – we’ll even have a little treat lined up for anyone who’s got a full map come December!
Without further ado, we’ll introduce you to our first coffee: Musasa. We’ll also be keeping this post updated throughout the year as each coffee gets released, so be sure to check back each month.
Month 1 (March) – Musasa
We love this coffee from the Musasa Dukunde Kawa co-op in the highlands of northwestern Rwanda, which we last bought way back in 2012.
This lot is from the oldest of the co-op’s three washing stations, which is located in the Ruli sector of the Rushashi district. At 2,000 meters above sea level, it’s one of the highest stations in Rwanda and was built in 2003 with a loan from the government and support from the USAID PEARL project.
The co-op has 2,148 members, employs around 30 full-time staff and during the season, the place is buzzing with almost 300 part-time hires. The manager is Valens Ntezimana, and he and his team manage an incredible amount of detailed administration for every member and every delivery.
After fermenting the hulled coffee beans in water for 12 hours the crop is graded by floating it through washing channels to weed inferior, low-density beans out of the crop. The coffee is then soaked for another 18-24 hours to stabilise, before drying on raised beds. During the drying phase of 12-16 days, the coffee is systematically turned, checked over and sorted by teams of women who remove any defective beans.
Once dried to exportable standards, the coffee is moved to the co-op’s new dry mill in Kigali, where each lot is cupped by the in-house quality control team. The co-op takes great pride and care in producing their coffees and over the years they’ve placed numerous times in the Rwanda Cup of Excellence, further testament to the team’s consistently high-quality work. Special thanks to Mercanta for supplying us with images from the Musasa Co-op.
Month 2 (April) – Rainha
The second instalment in our Ten For Ten series is the queen of Brazilian coffees herself, the Rainha Estate from just outside Poços de Caldas. We’ve been visiting Rainha since 2014 and it is one of the most organized and beautiful farms we go to each year thanks to its sprawling rolling hills and impressive buildings.
A near-annual finalist in the Brazil Cup of Excellence, Fazenda Rainha is the most award-winning farm in the Sertãozinho groups’ portfolio. Under the general management of agronomist Jose Renato Gonçalves Dias, an agricultural engineer with a specialization in coffee production, the 280 hectares of coffee trees benefit from a combination of geography and climate perfect for the production of high-quality coffee. About 200 hectares of the land is planted with Yellow Bourbon trees, while the rest is a mix of mostly Icatu, Yellow Catuaí, Mundo Novo and Acaiá.
Balancing production and conservation of environment at all times, the cherries are harvested at peak ripeness and processed at their large, well-equipped mill. Surrounding the mill and patios are the homes of Rainha’s employees, who reside on the farm itself (thus eliminating temporary hiring) and are aided by health plans, access to childcare and unlimited hospital care. The farm has even built a branch of the Pedro Roza IT School on its land, and commissioned architect Oscar Niemeyer to design and erect a staff chapel; a gorgeous, softly curved white building perched on a ridge overlooking the expanse of the farm.
The environmental policy of Fazenda Rainha is based on combining and balancing production and conservation of the surrounding natural resources. The coffee harvest only takes place during peak ripeness, meaning the pickers pass through the fields several times returning to the same trees many times over to collect only the ripest fruit.
The cherries are hand-picked over a drop cloth placed on the ground in order to avoid contact with the soil. After being harvested, the coffee cherries are either washed, pulped or processed as naturals. Washed and pulped coffees are spread thinly on courtyard patios for drying, done slowly and in full sun until the beans reach 11% humidity. After drying, the coffee is conditioned in wooden granaries to stabilize, homogenize and rest before export.
One of our best Brazilian coffees of all time, we’re very proud to share this coffee with you once again!
Month 3 (May) – Quebradon
For our May Ten for Ten coffee, we’re going back to one of the earliest Colombian coffees we ever purchased, the Quebradon. The coffee is a blend of beans from a group of twenty producers in the municipality of Palestina in Huila. The area where the producers are located used to be one very large farm, Hacienda El Quebradon, established in 1860 by wealthy landowner Lorenzo Cuellar.
When he passed away his 16 siblings inherited the land, and they, in turn, started selling off parcels to settlers who were arriving in the region looking to start their own farms. Back then the area was more known for rubber than coffee, but over time the mix of crops changed, and today Palestina is known to produce some of the best coffee in Huila. Helped by high altitudes and shade from plantain and cedar trees they benefit from two harvest cycles per year, and our lot is from their main harvest which runs October to December.
While the producers in the Quebradon group are so small it’s hard for them to market their individual coffees, it is still possible to trace some lots back to individual farms. This lot is from a lady called Graciela Rodriguez Ospina, who grows Tabi, a variety obtained by crossing Typica, Bourbon and Hibrido de Timor, on her two-hectare farm, San Francisco.
Her mother, brother and sister also have their own farms nearby, and together they help each other with management, harvesting and processing. From her farm, she has beautiful views over a nature reserve, which helps support the natural diversity on her own farm as well.
She uses plantain trees for shade to make sure her coffees are protected from the strong sun and follows the traditional methods for fully washing and fermenting the coffee in tanks. The drying takes place on patios that are covered with net curtains for shade and can take as long as 25 days pending weather conditions.
Be sure to check back on the 1st of June for the full details on our next Ten For Ten release!
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