Good as Gold

January 25th, 2013

Flying Goat Coffee Wins Good Food Award and Special Gold Seal Distinction

Good Food Awards Gold Seal 2013

We like awards as much as anyone, but being picked as this year’s winner in the Good Food Awards coffee category was a big thrill for us. Not only was our coffee chosen for cup quality out of 200 entries from the best roasters around the country, it was also designated as a Gold Seal winner, a special distinction for winners that go beyond the Good Food Awards sustainability guidelines.

Our aim, from the first day we started roasting coffee in Healdsburg, has been to find the best coffees in the world, grown by people who care not only for the crop they grow, Ethiopia GFA Pic_edited-1 (683x1024)but also for the people, animals and land around them. This commitment needs to be more than just a certification on paper; it needs to be a way of life. That’s why we spend so much time meeting with coffee farmers, walking with them on their farms, and exploring new and better ways to improve coffee quality and environmental health on and around their farms. To us, coffee quality and sustainability are mutually reinforcing. The Good Food Award, along with the special Golden Seal designation, is proof positive that this is a winning approach to creating the world’s best coffee.

Much of the credit for the award goes to the farmers and managers at the Wottuna Boltuma cooperative in Ethiopia. This winning coffee was the result of a special member-organized project that dedicated extra time to sorting ripe cherries and staffing the drying beds in exchange for a healthy per-pound premium if the targeted quality was achieved. FGC green buyer, Phil Anacker, just returned from a trip to Southern and Western Ethiopia and visited with all the farms we work with, including the Wottuna Boltuma co-op. He came away impressed as ever with the work being done there.

Good Food Awards Winner Seal .O.2013A special thank you also goes out to the judges who flew into San Francisco from the far corners of the globe to contribute their renowned cupping skills to the grueling process of blind cupping and scoring nearly 200 coffees. This rigorous and well-managed cupping is why everyone in the Specialty Coffee Industry takes this competition so seriously. It makes the win that much more valuable.

Before this season’s crop is gone, we encourage you to try a bag of our certified organic Wottuna Boltuma and support the great coffee work being done in Ethiopia.

Tintype Prints by Caitlin McCaffery @ the Healdsburg Store

January 21st, 2012

GR no 5

The Healdsburg café is currently showing tintype prints created by talented Bay Area photographer Caitlin McCaffrey. The prints are of Greek and Roman statuary and were made using the painstaking collodion process, a printing method popularized in the 1850s. They’re big, beautiful and worth a look, especially in afternoon light. They’ll be showing through the end of April.

Feeling “Good”

November 17th, 2011

Good Food Awards Finalist Seal 2012

We’re very happy to announce that Flying Goat Coffee was chosen this week as a national finalist in the second annual Good Food Awards.

There were hundreds of entries from across the country, so we consider this a great honor and a testament to exceptional coffee farming, dedicated sourcing and skilled roasting.

The winning coffee was our Ethiopia Moredocofe, produced by Haile Gebre in the Guji province near the Kenyan border.

While we’re always pleased when our coffees receive recognition, the Good Food Awards are special for a number of reasons. The bar for participation is set very high. Quality, of course, is imperative: the food or beverage must be authentic and “delicious, bringing joy to those who consume it.” Equally important to the GFA organizers, however, is “responsible” production; all food products must meet a long list of environmental, ethical and social standards in the way they are grown, manufactured or produced. The coffee category, in fact, required third party organic certification.

We’ve been advocates for the twin goals of quality and sustainability since we first opened our doors over 15 years ago. We’re pleased that there is now a venue to reward all like-minded food and beverage producers and we’re thrilled to be on the same list with them.

Here is a list of all the finalists and categories.

Best of Panama

April 18th, 2011

FGC’s green coffee buyer, Phil Anacker, just returned from Boquete, Panama, where he participated with 15 other international jurors in the Best of Panama Competition.

As a producing country, Panama’s output is tiny; in terms of quality, however, it’s a giant. The discovery of the now famous Gesha cultivar on the Peterson Family’s Hacienda La Esmeralda in 2004 was the spark that generated international interest in Panama’s potential. As the Peterson Family’s understanding of the magnificent Gesha varietal grew, so did the quality, demand and the price, which topped over $100 per pound a few years back in the annual BoP auction.

Since then, much more Gesha has come into production from other Panama farms. Many have since questioned whether anyone else could produce anything close to the exceptional coffee grown on Hacienda Esmeralda.

This year, the Gesha question was answered: 4 Gesha samples ended up on the final judging table with the top score going to Benjamin Osorio’s farm with an average judge’s score of 92.30. The Hacienda Esmerala Gesha was a close second with a score of 91.70. A second place finish is a new experience for the Peterson family, but the overall consensus is that the “upset”  is a good thing for Panama coffee. We know first hand that Price, Daniel and Rachel are already at work with a plan to regain the top spot in 2012. If this year is any indication, BoP 2012 may produce some of the highest scores ever given to a group of coffees — some have suggested that the only fair way to proceed is to hold a separate competition exclusively for Gesha varietals! Either way, the final table at the BoP competition is a coffee cupper’s dream.

A final note, one of Phil’s top scores actually went to a non-Gesha coffee: Ricardo Koyner’s Caturra/Typica blend from Finca Don K, which took the 5th spot. With luck, we hope to see some of this great coffee at FGC sometime soon.

Enjoy the video!

FGC Again Wins Best Coffee House Vote

March 21st, 2011


Recognition in any form for the work we do is always great to receive. It’s particularly rewarding when it comes directly from our customers. Thank you to all the FGC fans that again voted us Best Coffeehouse of the North Bay! Expect even more from us in the coming year.


March 19th, 2011

Happy Accident

Tonight: March 19 from 8 to 10 PM

Come to Healdsburg tonight to meet all three artists whose work is currently on display in the original FGC cafe.

B.L.T. is the ongoing Collaborative Painting Project of Bob Stang, Lisa Beerntsen, & Tony Speirs. Their work will be up through May, but tonight will be the only in person appearance by all three artists. High pop art!

The Bean, The Whole Beautiful Bean!

September 3rd, 2010


Grinding whole bean coffee just before brewing is an indispensable step to experiencing its peak flavor and aroma.  Once coffee is ground, and its delicate flavor oils are exposed to air, it is almost immediately affected by staling and oxidation.  Even the best coffee is vulnerable to losing crispness of flavor and aroma just minutes after grinding.  We believe so strongly in the virtue of grinding just before brewing that we sell our coffees in whole bean only.  After everything we put into finding the world’s best coffees, roasting them perfectly and shipping them to you just hours out of the roaster, we wouldn’t feel right about selling our coffees any other way.  If you don’t own a grinder, we recommend buying a good one (personally, we consider the grinder the most important piece of coffee equipment you can own). Email us for our list of FGC-recommended grinders.

What’s a Honey?

July 20th, 2010


We’ve received a number of customer questions regarding the term “honey process” used to describe some of the Central American coffees on our offering page. Since we will be bringing in a number of these coffees this year, we thought a detailed explanation was in order.

“Coffee processing” refers to the method of removing the cherry pulp and parchment from the coffee seed (bean), with the finished result being the hard green beans ready for roasting. Generally speaking, there are two methods for processing coffee: Wet-processed (or “washed”) coffees are brought to the mill soon after picking, where the coffee cherry is de-pulped, allowed to ferment for about 20 hours, washed of all pulp and then dried (usually on cement patios). Dry-processed (or “natural”) coffees are whole, intact cherries dried directly on patios, raised beds, tarps or rooftops; once dried, the hard cherry pod is hulled to remove the skin, pulp and parchment in one step. There are over 70 countries in the tropic zone that grow coffee and, as you can imagine, many variations of these two processing methods have evolved over the years based on tradition, climate, economy, quality and so on.

About seven or eight years ago, we began to see coffees from Costa Rica and Panama called “honey-processed.” This is a variation of the “pulped natural” processing method in which the skin and pulp are removed, but the sticky, sugary “mucilage” is allowed to remain and dry on the bean. The name is derived from the honey-colored appearance of the beans after they have dried for a day or so. If performed carefully, with ripe cherry, this process can add perceptible sweetness and body to the final cup character of the coffee. Drying techniques are critical in the honey process, as mold and fungus defects can easily develop if the coffee is not properly and uniformly aerated.  African-style raised beds have become the standard for drying honey coffees, as these allow for good air circulation and easy access for turning the coffee at regular intervals. Proper drying requires that the bed depth of the coffee never exceeds two inches. Even for a small farm and mill, honey processing necessitates quite a bit of square footage dedicated to raised beds.  Along with the added labor involved for proper drying, this means that honey processing can be more expensive for the producer. The added costs, however, can be well worth the effort when the result is a sweet, clean and full bodied cup.

The honey coffee trend began when small, quality-oriented roasters in Japan and the U.S. developed relationships with small producers in Costa Rica and Panama who were willing to process quality “honeys” for a premium. From Costa Rica, look for honey coffees from the following small (“micro-mill”) farms: Brumas el Zurqui in the Central Valley, Herbazu in the West Valley, Don Mayo in Tarrazu and Puente Ecologico Tarrazu, also in Tarrazu.

In Panama, look for honey processed coffees from Elida Estate, Mama Cata and Los Lajones, all located in the Boquete growing region. The Los Lajones farm, operated by Graciano Cruz, deserves a special mention. Graciano was among the first Central American farmers to experiment with honey (as well as natural) processed coffees – traditionally, Central American coffees have always been processed by the wet method. While quality has always been his goal, Graciano was also motivated by ecological issues concerning the use of water. Today, he has become a dedicated advocate of honey and natural coffee processing using very little or no water. Sustainably speaking, this is far superior to wet-processing coffee, as it does away with the polluted water by-product that wet mills can create. While controversial to some, natural and honey-processed coffees may offer an economical and sustainable alternative to many small farmers throughout Central America, as long as the quality is kept high. Graciano has recently been working with farmers in El Salvador, so look for the first-ever honey coffees from that country to arrive sometime this year.

Paper or Plastic? Does Coffee Packaging Matter?

July 11th, 2010

paper-plasticIf you buy coffee regularly, you‘re probably familiar with the wide array of packaging used for selling “fresh-roasted” coffee.  Foil bags, pouches, paper bags, cans, jars and boxes are all common containers used by roasters to pack, promote and transport their beans.  Beyond the marketing, however, does coffee packaging really matter? Is one type of packaging better than another at preserving just-roasted freshness? After much research and testing, we have found that when it comes to the practical issue of true freshness, packaging material is largely irrelevant.

Fresh-roasted coffee is a highly perishable food product with a shelf life similar to that of fresh bread or fruit. Once roasted, there is no magical way to keep coffee flavors and aromatics intact beyond about seven days. Really.  That’s it. About one week (give or take a few days depending on the type of coffee and the roast). Despite clever marketing and persistent myths to the contrary, packaging cannot preserve just-roasted flavors and aromatics beyond this. The only way to ensure coffee is fresh is to buy it as soon after it was roasted as possible. The best a coffee package can do is protect the beans from excessive oxygen exposure, contain coffee oils and prevent bean breakage during transport.

“But wait a minute,” you ask, “what about all the vacuum sealed tins, nitrogen-flushed foil bags and one way valve bags”? The truth is that they all may prevent coffee from severe oxidation and staling after many weeks on a shelf, but they do nothing to actually retain just-roasted freshness. Sadly, all the “high tech” packaging we see these days may in fact have become an excuse for some roasters to justify selling stale coffee by letting it sit on a shelf until someone buys it.

The way we see it, the most effective bag for coffee freshness is one with an honest roast date printed clearly and prominently on it (a true roast date means the day on which the coffee was actually roasted). This allows the consumer to make an informed decision about the freshness of the coffee they are about to buy.

In addition to the factor of freshness retention, there is also the issue of environmental impact. In our opinion, this is one factor that should always be considered when choosing coffee packaging. We’ve opted away from wasteful plastic and foil bags, which are not compostable or recyclable and inevitably end up in landfill (a serious waste issue when we consider how much coffee Americans consume). Instead we’ve chosen a kraft paper bag lined with glassine for all our retail and wholesale packaging. Glassine is a very thin type of paper that is air, grease and water resistant. It’s a perfect packaging material for our coffee’s trip from our roaster to your cupboard. And, because it’s made of paper, it’s fully recyclable (which we encourage you to do).

So there you have it. The answer is paper.

Buy weekly, drink daily!