It's been brutality hot in Kentuckiana this month. Thankfully, we have iced coffee. Cold brew is one of our biggest summer sellers, though few people realize how easy it is to make at home. Lucky for you, a couple of our baristas put together an illustrated guide to making cold brew at home. So pick up a bag of our fresh, seasonal coffee and get brewing!
Over the last five years, we've been honored to work with some incredible coffee shops across North America. Like most small businesses, our wholesale program started as one of many projects shared by a small group of people. As we've grown we've realized the need to diversify and specialize. That's why we're excited to welcome a new member to our team. Sarah Richmond comes to us with a rich diversity of experience in the coffee industry. From roasting to management, Sarah has done it all. Sarah will lead our wholesale coffee program, connecting our roastery with our incredible wholesale partners. We sat down with Sarah and asked her to tell us her vision for the future of Quills.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. What's your background in specialty coffee?
As a recent transplant from Asheville, NC I could not be happier to continue my career in specialty coffee with Quills in Louisville! Initially, my coffee journey began over a decade ago shortly after moving to the West Coast. I landed my first job as a barista in the Bay Area at a micro-roastery that afforded me both personal and professional growth opportunities in management, coffee education, roasting, and judging in regional competitions. From there, I was able to continue my coffee journey as a managing partner of a local cafe in Berkeley, CA and further connect with industry professionals in the Bay Area and beyond. More recently I worked for the legendary Marshall Hance at Mountain Air Roasting in Asheville, NC in production and as a wholesale account manager. I currently serve on the national editorial advisory board for Barista Magazine and am a regular contributor to their publication, which allows me to share the inspiring stories of my peers with a national audience.
2. If you could only drink one coffee for the rest of your life, what would it be?
This question is nearly an unanswerable one for me because there are so many coffees I have enjoyed over the years. However, if I had to pick just one it would be the Ethiopia Meaza from the Kochere Cooperative roasted by Coava in Portland, OR. This coffee is both delicate and direct at the same time. It's not confusing or needing to be fussed over--a perfectly balanced coffee lingering of honeycomb and sweet rose blossom. . . (Who would want to get in the way of that experience?!) Props to Matt Higgins on this one every time.
3. What's your vision for Quills wholesale program?
My vision for the wholesale program at Quills directly connects to one of the things that inspires me most about Nathan Quillo: to lead and be lead by core values, an internal moral compass, and with excellence and integrity. My greatest professional successes have been a direct result of building long-lasting relationships within the local coffee community as well as the specialty coffee industry at large. I look forward to promoting the continued development of existing wholesale relationships as well as expanding those relationships beyond our region and into new wholesale opportunities nationwide. Currently, It is a very exciting time for Quills as we anticipate the move of our roasting facility into the historic neighborhood of NuLu in downtown Louisville. The building itself is an iconic brick firehouse that will include an SCAA certified training lab for future wholesale education and development. I believe Quills is one of the best kept secrets of the Specialty Coffee Industry and I'm looking forward to continuing the excellent work of those before me with a fresh perspective.
4. You're new to Louisville. What excites you most about the coffee community here?
The coffee community in Louisville already holds a very special place in my heart! As a regular visitor to this city over the past several years, my family resides here and first turned me on to the coffee culture happening just a few blocks away from their home. It is a privilege to land in such a dynamic area with an already progressive coffee community paving the way for excellence. Louisville is a city inspired by vibrant entrepreneurial growth among passionate and hard working visionaries still anchored in their history and hospitality roots. The coffee community is a multi-generational one here and that excites me!
5. When you're not making coffee, what do you like to do? Any hobbies or interests?
My general hobbies and interests includes all things outdoors. I developed a deep passion for hiking and running in the Blue Ridge Mountains and look forward to exploring new territory here in Kentucky. I also enjoy reading and writing about coffee culture and community and consider it a privilege to learn about the life experiences of others. Alongside outdoor happenings, my favorite time is spent with my family--I would choose them as my friends and feel deeply fortunate to be surrounded by such fun, delightful, positive-minded people!
Quills is excited to announce we will be opening our new roastery and company headquarters on East Main Street in Louisville. This flagship store will be housed in a turn-of-the-century firehouse, first built in 1897, along with a barn that sits immediately behind the firehouse. The space will feature a new café and barista training lab in addition to housing our company offices and coffee roasting facility. The coffee roasting facility will quadruple our current production capacity along with streamlining our production with more efficient bagging equipment.
It's hard to believe it's been five years since we started roasting coffee. Over that time we've been happy to see our weekly production steadily increase as we've opened new cafés, seen existing cafés grow, and built wholesale relationships with coffee shops around the nation. As our volume has reached a certain scale we've been able to source better and better coffees, become more involved at a origin level, and participate in some national competitions. Meanwhile our New Albany roasting facility has been bursting at the seams. Furthermore, the distance between our production facility and our offices above our Baxter Ave. café have led to numerous inefficiencies. We recognized we needed a space where we could increase our roasting capacity and house all of our administative staff in one place.
More importantly, we wanted to have a space where our production facility was accessible to a larger number of people. We envision people grabbing a cup of coffee at the café and then grabbing a seat on the patio, which will connect the café to the roastery. Taking a cue from Kentucky's Bourbon Trail, we plan on offering roastery tours with a curated coffee tasting at the end.
We're also excited to join the vibrant culinary community in Nulu. So many of our future neighbors are leaders in their respective fields. With world-class breweries, distilleries, and bakeries just blocks away, we're excited to bring coffee roasting to NuLu.
We're excited to welcome two fresh crop coffees to our line up.
Colombia, La Lomita
It's no secret that we buy a lot of Colombian coffees here at Quills, and this beautiful offering from the Urquina brothers is a great example why. The Urquina brothers farm in the Acevedo region of Huila on adjacent parcels of land named La Lomita and La Calera. Like most producers in the region, they grow Caturra, Castillo, and Colombia varieties. Although their farm is at a relatively low 1300 MASL, we encounter rich tropical fruit flavors in their coffee, well complimented by a deep sweetness and a big body. It has the complexity that coffee nerds love while remaining approachable and immensely drinkable. The similarities and difference between La Lomita and our other Colombia, Los Naranjos, make for a fun side-by-side tasting. Both coffees are available on our webstore.
When it comes to sweet, complex coffees, if there's one country in the Americas that could give Colombia a run for its money it's Guatemala. We're pleased to share a coffee with you from our favorite region in Guatemala: Huehuetenango. This lot is composed of some of the best coffee from numerous small producers across the region. Although it's not traceable to a farm level like some of our other coffees, the Guatemala, Waykan is a sweet, complex coffee that can compete with the best microlots. We started our single origin espresso program with a coffee from Huehuetenango last year, and we're pleased to feature our Guatemala, Waykan as our single origin espresso for the second half of June into early July. Expect flavors of crisp apple, pastry, and nuts.
It's hard to find a more natural pairing than coffee and chocolate. The similarities between the two are striking. Both are the seed of a fruit that only grows in tropical climates. Both are harvested, fermented, and roasted before taking the shape we're most familiar with. They're also delicious.
At Quills, we work hard to source and roast the best coffee possible so that you enjoy your morning cup all the much more. We value transparency, traceability, and quality. As such, it only makes sense to buy chocolate from companies that share our convictions. After blind tasting samples from a dozen different chocolatiers, we landed on three bean-to-bar brands to serve in our cafés: Ritual from Park City, Utah, Parlimant from Redlands, California, and Omnom from Reykjavik, Iceland.
Admittedly, we're not chocolate experts, so we digitally sat down with Matt Caputo of A-Priori Distribution to ask him some questions about craft chocolate.
How would you define bean-to-bar chocolate?
This is an important and somewhat nebulous terminology that is often abused. My definition is fairly straight forward. To be bean-to-bar the chocolate bar must be produced from raw cacao beans all the way through each production step at a factory owned by the brand in question. This does not mean chocolate like Idilio Origins or Original Beans, which is not produced by them is not absolutely special and worth supporting. Having Felchlin produce it for them with really special beans is smart and makes for high quality. Just not bean to bar. How is it different from the mass produced chocolate we all grew up eating? Bean-to-bar should not necessarily be equated to good. There are more bean-to-bar chocolate makers producing terrible product than there are making great chocolate. Sure most of the elite brands are bean-to-bar, but not all. Bean-to-bar should simply indicate you are talking to the artist in the flesh. Doesn't mean you will like their art. Unfortunately, there are so many brands that lie or at the very least stretch the truth about their bean-to-bar status. So many.
How is it different from the mass produced chocolate we all grew up eating?
Bean-to-bar should not necessarily be equated to good. There are more bean-to-bar chocolate makers producing terrible product than there are making great chocolate. Sure most of the elite brands are bean-to-bar, but not all. Bean-to-bar should simply indicate you are talking to the artist in the flesh. Doesn't mean you will like their art. Unfortunately, there are so many brands that lie or at the very least stretch the truth about their bean to bar status. So many.
What I think you are trying to get at with what makes bean to bar chocolate better than big chocolate we all grew up with is this. It should be about highlighting cacao beans of excellent provenance. Big producers do not. They use very poor beans and then use techniques (dark roast aka burned) and ingredients (too much extra cocoa butter and loads of vanilla) to create a flavor, rather than coaxing the flavor intrinsic to the beans out.
Just like wine is about honoring very special grapes grown in very special areas, so is chocolate with cacao beans. Most large chocolate producers make what I like to refer to as "vanilla flavored candy." Despite meeting certain technicalities of being called dark chocolate, I think it should be illegal to call it the same as what most bean-to-bar chocolate makers are doing.
What sort of flavors can we expect from craft chocolate?
Certainly a huge array of flavors. Just as many as you can from coffee, wine or cheese. In fact, chocolate shares a lot in common with terroir and production elements of all three of these fermented foods. All of the base flavors (sweet, savory, bitter, salty, acid) and a huge array of aromas (everything from chestnut tree blossom to horse blanket). In order to know what to expect, you need to know who made the chocolate as all chocolate makers have a "style" which is often the easiest thing to blind taste test and identify. You would also need to know the origin of the beans. Beans from the Sambirano Valley of Madagascar are always expected to exhibit tangy (acid) flavors and notes of citrus, red berries, etc. Beans like those from Camino Verde farm in Ecuador lack all acidity, are more earthy and savory with notes of fresh bread, brewers yeast, and cinnamon graham cracker. So what to expect is very broad, but certainly a journey through craftsmanship and terroir.
Do you recommend any coffee and chocolate pairings?
Absolutely. My primary recommendation is do not pair a coffee made with specialty beans and roasted responsibly with "vanilla flavored candy." Likewise, do not pair chocolate made with excellent cacao with coffee exhibiting symptoms of having been roasted on the surface of the sun. Beyond this, I do have some experience, but need to conduct more research! I will say since the two are such a natural fit the results of using my rule of thumb regarding matching the quality of the two have always been really enjoyable.
We're excited to welcome a new coffee to our lineup. Our latest coffee comes to us from Co-op RAOS in the San Miguel region of Honduras. This collective of 250 small producers is producing coffee that far surpasses most of what we've tried from the region. A crucial stage for preserving coffee quality comes during processing when the fruit of the cherry is removed from the seed. Any number of processing errors can lead to unpleasant cup characteristics but thanks to a central wet and dry mill, Co-op Raos is producing coffee that is sweet and clean without any hint of defects.
In the cup we encounter milk chocolate, toasted pecan, light hints of citrus and a full body. This balanced coffee pairs well with breakfast or dessert and is a great option for fans of lower acid coffees.
The flowers are blooming, temperatures are rising, beach bods are being worked on. Spring is in full force in Kentuckiana and we have a brand new seasonal menu to prove it. These fun, coffee-based signature drinks are guaranteed to take the edge off the heat while giving you that caffeine-induced boast to get you through the day.
The first drink on our Spring & Summer menu is the Blacksmith Cream Soda. Made with our signature espresso blend, this fizzy treat is an homage to the soda parlors of yesteryear. We expect this decadent drink will be a real crowd pleaser.
The second drink is slightly edgier, made for the more adventurous coffee drinker. The Espresso Tonic is a riff on everyone's favorite summer cocktail. Made with Fever Tree Tonic, this drink isn't afraid to accentuate the natural bitterness of coffee or enhance the citric acidity with a orange garnish. The Espresso Tonic is a barista favorite, and we think you'll see why if you give it a try.
Spring is in full bloom in Kentuckiana, and we're excited to introduce a fresh coffee to our line up, one which will be familiar to long time Quills drinkers. The Los Naranjos cooperative in the Huila region of Colombia is known for growing some of the best coffees in the world. The cooperative is made up of 97 small producers, with an average farm size of 1.5 hectares. The cooperative is known for their meticulous commitment to quality, as demonstrate by their sweet, juicy coffees.
This lot is made up of Caturra and Colombia varieties, grown between 1600 and 1900 MASL. In the cup we encounter juicy pear, caramel, and sweet plantain. It's a sweet, immensely drinkable cup of coffee we're sure you'll love. We'll be offering Los Naranjos on batch brew, single origin espresso, and of course our pour-over menu for the rest of April and May. Whole bean is available in our cafés and webstore.