Posted on Leave a comment

The perfect coffee storm

Per 1st March we increased the prices of our coffees from Ecuador, as you may have noticed. We received the new harvest in late January this year and as always we had to first run some test roasts before we could offer the coffees to you in March. And I can tell you: we are in love with the tastes of this new harvest. However, as we were testing and tasting, we were also doing the math to be able to keep the prices for our dear costumers as low as possible while still having paid the farmers the prices they asked for since for this new harvest we paid the farmers in Ecuador considerably more for their coffees compared to previous years. But why did the farmers increased their prices?

As you may know, Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer. In 2020 Brazil first suffered the worst drought in nearly a century, which significantly reduced the coffee yield. Following this, certain regions of Brazil were hit by a cold snap with sub-zero temperatures and this was really bad as frost completely kills coffee plants. As a result the yield was reduced again. With less coffee produced by Brazil there was more demand than offer in the coffee world which lead to the first increase in prices in 2021.

Then Colombia, the third largest coffee producer also had problems. Starting at the end of 2019 for a period of 4 months there were protests and a national strike that prevented part of the harvest to be collected, transported and sold. Even though Colombia has 2 coffee harvests per year, the strike from November to February coincided with the main harvest for most coffee regions which is from September to December.  And similar to Brazil, it leads to a shortage of coffee on offer which leads to an increase of prices. One year later, Colombia experienced the effect of the climate phenomena called La Niña, which is not favourable for coffee growing as it comes with rain and cold weather. The consequence was that the latest harvest from Colombia was 11% lower than the harvest of the year before.

Landslides in coffee farms in Colombia after La Niña

Additionally, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and other coffee producing countries suffered with the implications from the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of sick workers and limitations to hire workforce due to travel restrictions. Additionally, there were increased cargo costs and a shipping bottleneck due to reduced shipping container availability, port strikes and restrictions. This all translated into another increase of prices for green coffee.   

And finally, since we pay both our farmers and all transport costs in dollars we had to take into account the fact that by late 2021 the dollar was stronger against the euro than the year before.

So all together it is a combination of several unfavourable price increasing effects coming together at the same time that makes the price of coffee increase quite suddenly. One could say it’s the perfect coffee storm, and there is not much we can do about it apart from appreciating our daily cup of coffee even more.

Posted on Leave a comment

Just an easy Tiramisu

As a coffee lover of course I also love a good, creamy tiramisu. For years I only enjoyed them when going out but since for the last months we have not been able to dine out here in the Netherlands I had to find an easy recipe to prepare this delicious dessert at home. Here it is.

Prep time: 30 min
Rest time in the refrigerator: 3 hr
Yields: 4 servings

150 gr Savoiardi Ladyfingers
250 gr mascarpone cheese cream
2 eggs
50 gr sugar
150 ml coffee (or 3 double espressos)
1 tablespoon of Marsala or your choice of liquor
unsweetened cocoa powder

Step 1
Prepare the coffee. If you have an espresso machine, do prepare 3 double espressos. If not, my second option will be to use a moka pot for a stronger coffee with more body.
Add the 2 tbs of Marsala or your choice of liquor. I used an almond liquor that matches very well the coffee taste. Mix, set aside and let it cool down.
Separate egg whites from yolks making sure that no there are no traces of yolk.

Step 2
Whip the egg whites until stiff. You know it is ready when the egg whites will not move if you turn the bowl over.

Step 3
In another bowl (or the same but after placing the whipped egg whites in another bowl and cleaning this one) whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until the mix is smooth (4 to 5 minutes).
Then add the mascarpone cheese. Whisk this cream slowly.

For step 2 and 3 I used an electric hand mixer. It could be easier with an electric stand mixer or a bit harder for your muscles with a whisk.

Step 4
Add the stiffened egg whites to the cream. Mix slowly, from top to bottom, until it is smooth and creamy. I recommend to do this slowly with a wooden spoon and not with the electric mixer nor whisk.

Step 5
Dip the Savoiardi ladyfingers into the coffee. Do it fast, don’t let them absorpt too much coffee because they will turn soggy.

Place them as a bottom layer in a ceramic or glass tray.
Spread the cream mix on top of this first layer. Then add another layer of ladyfingers and cover them with another layer of cream mix.

Step 6
To finish preparing the tiramisu sprinkle cocoa powder on top of the mascarpone mix.
Let the dessert rest for 3 hours in the refrigerator before serving.


Posted on Leave a comment

The beginning….

Well, what can I say? “Welcome” ??  It sounds a bit odd, but anyway, you’ve found my first message in this blog and maybe even have the same question that I while typing this: “what is this all about” ??  Let me try to explain…

Since a couple of years I run my one-woman coffee roasting company called Engrano and it is really just a small one-person company. No big multinational or so, but merely a hobby run out of hand. The results of starting a coffee roasting business is that friends and family immediately see you as an authority on coffee related matters, which is flattering, but exaggerated as I just started to scratch the surface of the coffee world myself. But nevertheless, sometimes they dó ask me question that I wonder, “home comes t they know?”.  Sometimes such information can be easily found on the internet, but sometimes apparently everybody finds it so obvious that nobody bothered to write it down and one can in fact nót find it on the internet. Or at least not that easy. Well, ok, then I will write it down. Of course I can’t every time bother the world with facts, so I will put on paper whatever comes up related to coffee.

That gives room to address the first issue here. As you can read from my “About me” page I have a full time job at Delft University in The Netherlands and as with any organization or company personnel has coffee machine at their disposal for their daily caffeine need. Well, it may fulfill the caffeine need, but apart from that the coffee tastes pretty awful. This raises a couple of questions of completely different kinds:

  • How did they manage to roast coffee beans such that coffee tastes so bad?
  • Does bad coffee at work reduce work efficiency or on the other hand actually increase team spirit?

First question is really a puzzle to me. I’ve tasted quite some coffee over the last years varying from great Arabicas to some pretty pungent Robustas but all of them had some little thing that at least gave me the idea I was drinking coffee, however cheap and funny it tasted. However, machine coffee as served in many companies really doesn’t taste like coffee at all. How do they do that? How do they roast and process coffee to achieve this?  And then of course comes the most important part of the question: why? Do they really think we like it like that?

Second question that I have given considerable thought is the effect of bad coffee on personnel. I can imagine that having bad coffee and knowing there is nothing else to drink (except water) has a discouraging and demotivating influence on personnel and thus reduce efficiency.  On the other hand, it gives personnel a common aspect to complain about and trust me, complaining about coffee and the weather is a Dutch national sport. Hence, maybe it increases the teams spirit: “united coffee complainers against the bureaucrats that buy the coffee”, or something like that. And due to good team spirit, people are happier and work harder…  So what’s the most significant effect: demotivation  when sipping your coffee alone behind the computer, or the joyful team spirit against bad coffee?  If you know….let me know as well. It’s one of those unimportant questions in life that keeps hanging in the back of my head.