This past year we’ve been taking the Pastini staff on road trips to visit some of our local suppliers, which has been really fun and informative. You may have seen the photos of our tours on Facebook and my blogs about Calcagno Farms in Aurora and Yamhill County Mushrooms, where we saw some of the ingredients for our Pastini salads and pastas growing in our (figurative) backyard.
Last month we took a shorter trip, just over to SE Portland, where our coffee supplier Portland Roasting Coffee makes its home. We had a terrific turnout of staffers (even our office staff joined us), eager to see the coffee roasting process and hear about this wonderful company…and to taste some incredible coffee. Check out the photos from our tour on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/PastiniPastaria#!/media/set/?set=a.10151399314170201.826449.222912040200&type=3
First of all, we were truly amazed at hearing about all the work that goes into raising, harvesting and turning these seeds into coffee…and yes, coffee beans are actually seeds. A coffee plant is a large shrub or small tree, about ten to twelve feet high, that produces a red fruit which is referred to as a cherry.
Each tree takes about 3-4 years to start producing and yields only about one pound of coffee beans per year. Not surprisingly, coffees are much like grapes…the soil, farm elevation and microclimates all contribute to the flavors of the beans, which may have a whole range of fruity, citrusy, caramel or chocolate flavors, among others.
After harvesting, the cherries are either dried or soaked in water, to slough off the fruit and release the seeds, which are the coffee beans…so named because of their resemblance to actual beans. Then the green beans are loaded into huge dryers or spread onto clean drying patios and raked continuously for 2-3 weeks to allow them to dry completely. Then the beans take their long journey from Central America, Africa and Indonesia to Portland
Mark Stell, managing partner of PRC, initiated their Farm Friendly Direct program in 1998. This program follows the direct-trade model: he seeks farms with responsible growing practices, determines if the coffee meets the company’s quality standards, and establishes long-term buying relationships, pays a premium for the coffee, and works with farmers to improve quality. All this work reaps dividends for both the farmers and their land, and for us as consumers. Plus PRC works with their coffee-growing communities on such projects as planting shade trees (shaded plantations are good for native birds) women’s literacy programs and building water wells.
The green coffee beans arrive at Portland Roasting, and then Mark and his team use their expertise to work a bit more magic. They blend coffees in a huge hopper for different tastes and preferences, including our own Pastini House Blend and Pastini Decaf, which are smooth and a bit nutty with a lovely vanilla note. Then they carefully roast the green beans for about 15 minutes, pulling out the beans with an extractor to test for doneness. We watched as the roasted beans are then emptied into an open tank where they are stirred with a paddle to quickly cool them down. Beans are not roasted until we place an order, so the coffee is always super fresh when it’s delivered to your local Pastini.
The finale of our tour was a tasting of different coffees in the PRC tasting room. We were amazed by all the different flavors, roasts and blends, and all the subtle nuances that come from different growing regions. We even tasted a special Kenyan coffee called French Mission that costs $50 a pound! No, we don’t serve that at Pastini, but we guarantee that you’ll love our wonderful Pastini House Blend of Central American coffees…it’s absolutely delicious. Mille grazie to Justin and the whole team at Portland Roasting!
Ciao, Susie B.