Chicago Trip!

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Chicago Trip!

PTs Coffee is one of the pioneers of Direct Trade relationships, and one of our original partners here at La Palma & El Tucan. As a disclaimer, I also used to work for them as a barista, production assistant, and roasting apprentice. My personal biases are strong, but that is kind of the point: our partners are, in each case, our close friends.

Together again and ready to roll! Clockwise from left: Jonathan, Phil, Austin, Ozzie and Bita.
Together again and ready to roll! Clockwise from left: Jonathan, Phil, Austin, Ozzie and Bita. Photo cred: @kcphilthy

So, when we agreed to share a sneak peak of our highly anticipated Sidra varietal with PTs to use in last weekend’s America’s Best Coffeehouse competition in Chicago, I knew I had to ask for the week off to go up and see some friends and family, and then to ride along with the team. So I kissed mom goodbye and jammed into a car one size too small with team members Austin, Ozzie and Phil, with team manager/den mother Bita at the wheel.

Coffee stops along the way are an essential part of any coffee trip. Especially noteworthy were Sump (St. Louis), La Colombe (Chicago, pictured), and Blueprint (St. Louis), who would place 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively in the America's Best Espresso competition which also took place at Coffeefest.
Coffee stops along the way are an essential part of any coffee trip. Especially noteworthy were Sump (St. Louis), La Colombe (Chicago, pictured), and Blueprint (St. Louis), who would place 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively in the America's Best Espresso competition which also took place at Coffeefest.

An unforeseen consequence of moving to Bogota, Colombia, where the specialty coffee scene is somewhat still in its infancy, would be the lack of options: To be clear, there are a number of excellent shops with excellent coffee scattered throughout the city, but go figure- all of the coffee is Colombian. I was unable to anticipate how much I would miss a sparkling, washed Ethiopian or a dirty, stinky Sumatran (3rd Wave problems, no?).

So appropriately enough, PTs went with an all-Colombian line up. But my alleged lack for origin diversity would be undone: For espresso, they featured a Caturra from Finca Villa Loyola in Nariño; bottled as cold brew, a natural Pacamara from Granja La Esperanza in Valle del Cauca; and on the pour over bar, a Geisha from La Esperanza beside our very own Sidra. All mentioned maintain Direct Trade relationships with PTs. The menu was quite the statement about both relationship coffee and Colombian coffee simultaneously: each one loudly expressed themselves as wholly different, unique representations of what coffee can be all from within a single country of origin- an offering only possible with the extra legwork and love required with Direct Trade relationships. Dancing around the menu will fetch you whiffs and tastes of Cherries, Tangerine, Honey, Apricot, and Sugar Cane. It was a proud moment for Colombian coffee.

The team from PTs at the Crossroads representing themselves, La Palma & El Tucan, and Colombian coffee at large.
The team from PTs at the Crossroads representing themselves, La Palma & El Tucan, and Colombian coffee at large.

The competition itself covered an array of criteria, only some of which was the coffee itself. As a coffee shop competition, teams were judged on things like efficiency, communication, sanitation, and friendliness to name but a few. After two days of competition, PTs took 2nd Place, with Quills Coffee from Louisville, Kentucky winning the contest. Vint Coffee, also from Louisville, would take 3rd. Congratulations to all!

L to R: Vint Coffee (Louisville, KY), PTs at the Crossroads (Kansas City, MO), and Quills Coffee (Louisville, KY). All impressed!
L to R: Vint Coffee (Louisville, KY), PTs at the Crossroads (Kansas City, MO), and Quills Coffee (Louisville, KY). All impressed!

I was proud of them. They did a hell of a job, learned a lot, and grew closer. But if I’m honest, though the competition was the centerpiece of the weekend, it was but a backdrop from my vantage point. At the end of the day it’s all about relationships. Personally, my heart was filled from time with dear friends new and old, of the best variety that only the coffee community can offer. On a grander scale, we are also making very real relationships over borders and oceans with dear friends new and old, of the best variety that only the coffee community can offer.

Coffee community in a picture: the latte art throwdown held after hours at Ipsento in Chicago drew baristas and industry professionals from all around.
Coffee community in a picture: the latte art throwdown held after hours at Ipsento in Chicago drew baristas and industry professionals from all around.

At PTs they say that “Without the love, it’s just coffee.” Down here at La Palma & El Tucan we say that “Some things are meant to be.” Any way you romance it, that’s why we do it: for the love, and for the providence that coffee affords us connect, and to enjoy something truly beautiful together. Why else would we endlessly pursue the perfect cup if we couldn’t share it with you?

-Jonathan

Back at the farm, the team at the mill discussing how to further improve our practices and processes towards the end of another busy day. We won't stop.
Back at the farm, the team at the mill discussing how to further improve our practices and processes towards the end of another busy day. We won't stop.
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