Black Coffee, Sweet Butter, Velvet.

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Matt and Sam Schultz test out the new ride after Missoula XC Championships.
Black Coffee just acquired a new delivery bike, which we are very excited about. Being centrally located in Missoula, we will now be able to deliver at least a portion of our coffees around town with nothing more than pedal power. This new bike has an incredible carry capacity, and drives like sweet butter on velvet. Does that analogy work? Not sure, but the point is, it is very fun to ride and we are excited to be able to do at least part of the years deliveries with this terrific new ride. Granted, in the heart of January… one day at a time.
After a great win at the Missoula XC Championship, Sam Schultz (1st Place!) took a ride with Matt trying out the new ride. We were really excited to be part of the bike races at Marshall Mountain this year, and are gunning for their return next year. Marshall Mountain was a perfect venue and Missoulians came out in full force offering an enormous support to a perfect mountain bike racing venue. Events like this make Missoula the unique town it is, and we are really grateful to the organizers of events like the Missoula XC with the KettleHouse Wednesday night series, the Missoula Marathon, and the upcoming Missoula Cyclocross Series for making an effort to giving Missoula extra awesomeness…This town just gets better and better with age! Cheers til then!

The World & Coffee

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There is a lot of discussion about what has happened to coffee prices in the last year. Is it crop production in relation to demand? Is it commodity speculators? As it turns out, like most complex issues, the answer is also complex. To the consumer, at first glance it seems a simple question… coffee prices are high? Why? But there is a far more dynamic relationship in the back story of every coffee bean, and there is no single reason. On one hand, global demand is going up. Some areas like Colombia and Sumatra have had several consecutively bad growing years, with relation to weather patterns. (Is this climate change? Many attribute it to a change, and speculate that these weather shifts are bound to become a permanent fixture. Others suggest that historic patters will return and great coffee growing regions will remain so in the long run.)
So there is less production in these areas while global consumption is increasing, especially as Asian and Indian markets are increasingly discovering the wonders of coffee. It has even been referenced in “peak” terms, suggesting that the point at which production could keep up with demand is perhaps past us, though this suggestion is dismissed by many who argue that as markets demand more coffee, farmers will switch back from other crops to meet said demands.
And still again a step in explaining it in another direction is to look at the bond market and speculation. As the US dollar has slumped, commodities across the board have gone up in value, as growers seek to gain back their losses in revenue value by charging more. A largely unregulated bond market in both the US and Britain have allowed banks to speculate, essentially bet on, the future prices of all major commodities, including wheat, coco, sugar, and coffee. Because so many countries have amassed such great debt in these bond markets, there are vast pools of money to be spent. And as there is the basic premise that as the world grows in population, and as people demand more of these commodities, there will be less available, the commodity markets have been a place of vast transfers of wealth in the past few years, but seldom at the ends of the spectrum, for either the grower or the retailer of these commodities. It is a complex issue that has few simple answers. Here is an article published in The Globe and Mail that addresses the subject with a good bit more detail.

Morning inventions

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So. I feel like it’s time that we admit something to you. Hopefully at this point, it’s become apparent that roasting coffee is what we do. We love roasting, preparing, drinking, smelling, talking about and generally obsessing over coffee. It’s our profession, and we try to do it as well as humanly possible. But it’s not all we do. We’re also inventors. We, being Jim and Matt, show up to work every day at about 5:30 am. I usually arrive a few minutes before Jim, turn on the lights, make a cup of coffee and fire up the roaster, because we like to let it warm up for a bit before we actually start roasting.  Jim having arrived, we drink our coffee, and while waiting for the roaster to get warmed up, we invent things. Generally speaking, we are fairly observant folks, Jim and I. We look at the world and see niches, and Ideas. We see the products that are being offered to the general public, and then we look past that to all of the niches that have not yet been filled, and we invent products to fill those said niches. Take this morning for example. These days, Jim and I notice more and more people taking advantage of blue tooth technology, and although Jim and I embrace modern technology to a certain degree, the blue tooth is not for us, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that these ear-embedded phones are rather popular.

Now that’s all fine and dandy, and although this guy looks quite fetching with his ear piece, it still isn’t for us. We’re just not really huge phone talkers. We’re more coffee drinkers. But this morning, shortly past 5:30, an amazing idea popped into our noggins, and we got to work on it. We call this, the “Blue Cup.”

I know I know. It’s genius. Now mind you, this is just the prototype, but honestly, it just doesn’t need many changes. It worked perfectly.  Jim was effectively able to work away, roasting coffee, computer work, cleaning, all while drinking his cup of coffee, hands free.  We think that in time, you’ll see a lot of people using Bluecups, and when you do, think of us, and how we thought of it first. Until then, keep drinking coffee, and enjoy the spring.

BCRC is now certified organic!

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Yes It’s true! We’ve received our organic certification from the Montana Department of Agriculture, and USDA. We are really excited about it, and it’s been many months of work. A huge thanks to Ella, without whom this project would have taken a lot longer than it did.

This seems like a great time to talk a little bit about a question that we are continuously asked, which is: “Where does black coffee stand when it comes to Organic and Fair Trade Coffees?” It’s a great question, and one that we’ve talked and thought a lot about. Here is the answer. We feel very strongly about both fair trade and organics, not only when it comes to coffee, but also in every element of life. That’s one of the reasons that we love living in Missoula so much. I moved here in 1997, and Jim had already been living here for several years at that point. I moved here from Boston (go red sox) and traveled around a bit before finally settling in Missoula, and never before had I ever lived in a community so committed to supporting local businesses, sustainable practices, and low impact living. When we started our business, we knew without question that we wanted to support sustainable coffee growers, and provide missoula with great tasting coffee, that they could feel good about purchasing.

We’ve been buying certain Organically grown coffees ever since we opened our doors, but because we as a business weren’t certified, we could not call any of our coffee “organic.” As soon as an organic coffee bean touched our roaster, it would no longer be organic. Now that we are certified we can actually label our coffee as Organic, which you will start to see soon. At this point, about 75% of our beans are Organic beans, and we’re starting to phase out almost all of our conventionally grown beans with time. Our plan is for 95% of our beans to be organic by summer.

Why don’t we say 100% of our beans? It’s for several reasons. First of all, we know as much as anyone that the process of becoming certified takes a lot of time, and costs a lot of money. There are a lot of coffee farms that are trying to get to the point of being certified, but don’t have the money. Without coffee roasters and importers support, those farms would never get there. We want to help those farms get where they want to be.  Secondly, there are a lot of farmers out there who are practicing organic growing, and who are getting paid fair trade prices, but who don’t want to get certified, because perhaps they don’t feel like that certification represents them as well as say, becoming a part of a co-op, or creating direct trade relationships with coffee importers and roasters. Things are a lot more confusing now than they used to be when it comes to organics. Even in Montana, organic farmers are foregoing organic certification, and joining other groups. check out: www.homegrownmontana.org  for an example of just such a group. Well organizations like homegrown are going to start popping up all over the world, which means that you can buy ethically, sustainably produced products, that are not necessarily certified organic.

Another thing we’re considering is that if we were to go 100% organic, some of our coffees that we’ve been able to keep relatively affordable, would go up in price. This is something that we’d love some feedback on. Would you rather see Black Coffee Roasting Co. go 100% organic, and have all of our prices increase, or have us continue to try to source certain beans that are not certified organic, but are (we feel) ethically grown and traded? Please give us a call, or stop in to tell us your opinion. For the time being,  we will continue  shifting towards organically grown coffees in lieu of non organic, and will continue to provide you with fantastic tasting coffee, that you can feel great about buying. Thanks for all of your support, and again, stop in monday-friday, 7:30 am – Noon.

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