Blackbird Kalossi – Sulawesi Direct Trade

toomers_coffee_roasters_blackbirdRich, bold, well-balanced acidity with a hint of herb and licorice describe this special coffee selection offered exclusively by Toomer’s Coffee Roasters.

  • Kalossi Blackbird is grown in the coffee region of Masalle, Enrekang district in the province of South Sulawesi.
  • Named for the native Sulawesi Drong (in the blackbird family) that inhabits the mountains and rainforests of the region.
  • Blackbird is grown at high altitudes, 900 – 1300m above sea level.
  • Small farm producers harvest the coffee from plots of .5 to 1 hectare in size, covering approximately 1000 hectares total.

What does Limited Edition Roast mean? 
Many coffees are grown only in smallish batches or regions. Blackbird Kalossi is one such jewel. We have purchased green beans and roasted enough to provide approximately 150 bags (12 oz. each). So don’t delay getting yours today!
Once this is sold we will not have anymore.


Wholesale coffee pricing for coffee shops

One of the most popular search phrases we see in the Google Analytics stats for our site relates to wholesale pricing for coffee shops, restaurants and businesses who want to offer our higher end, custom roasted coffees.  So I thought I’d take a moment and address this.

First by way of a story let me paint a picture

This is a true story of a coffee shop that opened a year or so back.  They were not too far away, but far enough that neither of us were much competition to each other.  A month or so after they opened several of our regular clients (college professors, students, etc) said we should make a sales call and see if they could be persuaded to purchase our coffee wholesale.  So we did.

The gentleman was nice enough, and said, “Well if you can compete on wholesale pricing with XXX company we’d consider it.”

Obviously my next question was, “Could you give me some idea of where we need to be?”

I couldn’t believe it.  His shipped price (and he got out the invoice) was cheaper than what I pay for green beans.

Now my next statement may sound very subjective, but we bought a cup to try and it wasn’t all that great [and I’m being kind].

Bottom line, he never got any traction because of the coffee quality issue (despite free internet, being on a main student walkway to the local university campus, and having great hours).  People told us they just didn’t like the coffee and quit going.  They were out of business within 6 months.

The day when you can simply open a coffee shop and draw a crowd are gone.  People today have been exposed to some great coffees and generally know when they are drinking bad coffee and they won’t pay for it.

That’s tough.  But we see it a lot.  Read on…

There was another shop we called on in another city and the owner said he was just interested in price. Going further he went on to explain the he didn’t even drink coffee or like it!  I kid you not.  That’s what he said.

They’re out of business also I might add.

You see wholesale pricing is relative: You wanna Maserati or you wanna Yugo?

I have a lot of options as a roaster when it comes to the green beans I buy to roast.  I get calls and emails weekly from importers and specialty coffee businesses pitching their coffees.  We usually ask for samples and then test roast them.  Sometimes the coffee is good, occasionally great but all too often, average.

Next I check the pricing.  That’s where the rubber hits the road.

With recent climatic events the coffee world has been turned upside down with astronomical price increases of 40-70% for green beans.  But even taking that into consideration the numbers quite often are crazy.

Expensive and Better are not always the same

What we have found is that just because someone believes their coffee is worth $x, my palette may not agree.  However in fairness, sometimes their coffees are priced as they are for other reasons out of their control:

  • The quantities they purchase in
  • Shipping costs
  • Import/export costs
  • Origin processing costs

That said, we have a standard we look for in our coffees and it’s very high.  We buy only the top grade beans a particular country exports.  We then find the best source for that grade in each country.  We currently work with 2-3 importers who are meeting our needs well.

We know we are competitive

For the quality we sell we know we are VERY competitive.  That’s it. We sell a lot of our custom roasted coffee through fund-raisers for organizations and know that people like it due to the repeat sales we get from their clients quite often.

But when it comes to price, it is what it is.  We start with a high quality raw product and process it in state of the art roasting equipment using our own proven, peerless roasting profiles.  The result is a range of coffees that developed a brand recognition in our area.  That translates into thousands of pounds of coffee sold and thousands of satisfied customers that return to our shop day after day, week after week, year after year.

In conclusion…Quality Counts Today

So if your looking to develop a coffee shop business that sustains itself from providing a product that generates repeat business based on it’s quality we are very likely  the source you should consider.

However if you only care about price and you are comparing apples to apples we’re very competitive there also.  Remember we use an infrared roaster, not a more typical flame based commercial roaster. (Read more on why our coffee is better because of this difference here)

Finally remember, wholesale pricing is also relative to purchased quantities, whole bean or ground, and your purchasing cycle or frequency.

Just remember, your customers know good coffee these days and will return if you provide what they want.

Happy Barristas Make Better Lattés

Trish Toomer with some of her Happy Barristas! (Click to enlarge)

We try to make our shop a relaxing place to visit whether for a business meeting, socializing or students studying.

But we work as hard at providing great training to our barristas which results in a consistent product experience for our customers.

However great training also makes them better at what they do and one of the results is a professional demeanor and satisfying work experience. for them

Yes we do believe “Happy Barristas make Better Lattés!

Direct Trade from Toomers Coffee

Sandy with a bag of the newest shipment of green coffee from the Alta Mogiana region of Brazil (click to enlarge)

In 2009 we began cultivating Direct Trade (also known as Relationship Coffee) connections with farming communities around the world through local importers.  Most of these we found worked with a single area or community.

Since that time we have purchased Direct Trade coffees from Papua New Guinea and Brazil.  We are also looking at additional sources for Direct Trade coffees from Africa and Sumatra.

Our Brazil Direct Trade coffee is from the Alta Mogiana (ahl-tah mo-hiana) region of Brazil.  It has a very pleasant aroma in the shop when ground, many people telling us is smells like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups when they come in.

We look forward to adding more and more so that more and more of our dollars go directly to the community to sustain the workers, farmers and pickers!

Want to try some?  Here is a link to our store page to do just that!  Enjoy.

Coffee Processing – The Dry Method

sandy_ toomer_ junglepilot

Here's a grainy photo from one of my flights into the Ecuadorian rainforest to pick up coffee, 1997 (Click to enlarge)

As many of our locals know, before we came to Auburn, we were missionaries living in Central and South America.  I worked  as a bush pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship where I supported the work of missionaries to some degree, but to a greater degree my flying was in support of the indigenous tribes that inhabited the eastern rain-forested jungles of Ecuador.  The tribes includes the Waorani, Shuar, Atshuar and Quichua Indians.

In the northern Ecuadorian  jungle lived several communities of Quichuas (the descendants of the Incas) who grew Arabica coffee. In one community, Arajuno (ah-dah-hun-no), each year they began picking the coffee in November and the picking lasted through the holidays and finished in January.

They processed their coffee the best they could easily in the jungle by laying out plastic sheets on the main street of their community and situating the picked beans onto the black plastic in the sun.  As it baked in the sun and they raked it back and forth throughout the day, the outer layer (pulp) would split, dry out the four layers surrounding the coffee bean and pull away from the inner fruit which is the coffee bean.  This is an example of dry processing.

Dry Processing

The dry-process is often used in countries where rainfall is scarce and long periods of sunshine are available to dry the coffee properly.  Most coffees from Indonesia, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Yemen are dry-processed.

Dry processed coffee. These are the actual cherries with beans still inside after dry processing. Next step is hulling.

The entire cherry ( the red fruit of the coffee plant ) after harvest is placed in the sun to dry on tables, in thin layers on patios or in the case I witnessed in Ecuador, a plastic covered street. It will take between ten days and two weeks for the cherries to completely dry. The cherries need to be raked regularly to prevent mildew while they dry.

Once the skin of the cherry is dry, the pulp and parchment are removed by a hulling process.  This is commonly done by sending the dried cherries off to a mill with machinery to do the hulling.  There also, the sorting and grading occur. While coffee was once all dry processed it is now limited to regions where water or infrastructure for machinery is scarce.

My experience in Ecuador was unique in that this was the rain forest, but somehow they managed to get the coffee dried out enough. When I picked it up, I can remember looking at the dried knurly beans and what I was seeing was the actual bean still encased in the dried out pulp.

Characteristics of Dry Processed Coffee

The dry-process  produces coffee that is heavy in body, sweet, smooth, and complex. They are also lower in acidity (not pH), a flavor characteristic some call “brightness” or other refer to as the dry characteristics of a good red wine.

Probably the best example of a dry processed coffee we have in our inventory would be our Sumatra.  Of course there are slight variations on the dry process and my experience has been that Sumatra while often a dry processes can have a slight mildewy taint.  That’s not a negative but an actual characteristic common to many Sumatrans.


In our next article, we will talk about the more common processing method known as wet processing.


Sandy Toomer is Roast Master and part owner of Toomer’s Coffee Roasters, a premium specialty coffee roaster located in Auburn, Alabama.

Which has more of a kick in the cup: espresso or brewed?

Caffeine content.  The winner may surprise you!

Caffeine content winner: You'll be surprised!

Well this may surprise you.  Truth is neither actually wins.  They are about the same.  Let me explain.

The traditional American espresso based drinks, cappuccino or latte, are made from one to several “shots” of espresso and steamed milk.  One shot of espresso is approximately 1 1/2 ounces, two shots 3 ounces and so on.

Espresso is prepared by grinding beans to a finer consistency than for traditional brewed coffee.  The water is passed through the coffee rather quickly and under high pressure (20 seconds +/-) and the result is a bold, concentrated dose of coffee.  We call this espresso.

By the way, espresso is not a specific bean or roast level it is a method of making coffee.

Any bean or roasting level can be used to produce authentic espresso.  In Italy, the birth country of espresso, roast levels can vary quite a bit. In Southern Italy, a darker roast is often preferred, but the further north one goes in the country, the trend moves towards lighter roasts.

An espresso shot has about the same caffeine content as a cup of brewed coffee

An espresso shot has about the same caffeine content as a cup of brewed coffee

Brewed coffee on the other hand is made with much less coffee generally (as a ratio of dry coffee to finished beverage), more coarsely ground and then allowed to float in a bath of hot water (as in a paper filter basket type) then draining through a calibrated orifice (hole) in the bottom or in a percolator where water is continually passed over the coffee for several minutes.  The result generally is coffee with a distinctly milder body. Drip or percolator brewed coffee strength is varied by the amount of coffee used.

There are other ways to  process roasted coffee like a french press for example, but the point here is not process but end result.

Caffeine comparison chart (click to enlarge)

Caffeine comparison chart (click to enlarge)


Here it is: by the drink, a 12 ounce latte made with one shot of espresso has no more and possibly less caffeine that 12 ounces of brewed coffee.  Each shot of espresso adds approximately the equivalent caffeine of one 12 ounce cup of brewed coffee. Ounce for prepared ounce they are all about the same.

Our preferences for espresso based drinks, brewed coffee and even french pressed coffee should really be defined more by their unique characteristics of flavor and not misconceptions about caffeine potency.

In other words, a triple shot  latte will produce about the same results as three cups of regular brewed coffee.

“So how do I add  a little more kick to my coffee?”

-If you want more caffeine in your cup of brewed coffee or french press add more coffee not more time.  Remember this: steeping coffee longer, in a french press or percolator for example, will just make it bitter.

FYI, real hard-core-caffers often add shots of espresso to regular brewed coffee.  This is called a “Shot in the Dark”.

-In the case of espresso based drinks, add more shots.

“What if I don’t like coffee all that well but need a boost some mornings?”

One popular alternative is to add a shot of espresso to hot chocolate or to a chai tea.  The intense richness of these drinks masks a lot of the coffee flavor, still providing the caffeine.

Another popular alternative for energy seekers not wanting a lot of caffeine is white and green tea, both of whom have a component called ECGC (not available in black teas), which some studies show to increase metabolism and fat burning as well having other potential anti-oxidative effects.  This is largely unsupported through extensive scientific testing, but results so far are at least promising.

At Toomer’s coffee we serve a wide variety of loose teas which we brew by the cup.  Good stuff!

Wi-Fi in Coffee Shops: The Digital Dichotomy

I was surprised the other day to walk into our local tire shop and find this sign on the door: “WIRELESS INTERNET AVAILABLE”.  It’s everywhere and is a service that is almost ubiquitous.

The coffee shop is a great place to study or meet people, but it's also a business that will remain viable only as long as people buy products when they visit.

The coffee shop is a great place to study or meet people, but it's also a business that will remain viable only as long as people buy products when they visit.

However more and more there is a trend arising that may surprise people: More and more coffee shops are pulling the plug on internet access or at least curtailing it’s usage.


It’s obvious.  The tire store doesn’t have a problem because you are already buying a service from them and will leave when your car is ready.

Coffee shops and restaurants on the other hand, are running into an issue in these down times as people come in, linger over a $1.80 cup of coffee for hours, taking up precious table space and in many cases also taking up valuable parking slots on the street from other potential customers. The only item they are consuming in any quantity is bandwidth.

However you might be surprised (or maybe not) to find out that a lot of people come in, log on and never buy anything. Nothing. We have even experienced cases where people stealthily sneak in their own food and drinks.  They are as the French say “le mou chers”.

Who raised these people?  It wasn’t my folks.

How do we deal with this?

First we have several in-your-face signs posted that say this:

Our Wireless Internet Access is Not Free.
It is a complimentary service we provide to purchasing customers only.
If you want to use our wireless internet and not buy our wonderful products
it costs $5 per hour and there is a two hour max.

Tough Love

Once in a while we run into the errant visitor that still doesn’t get it and we will go to them quietly and explain the policy.  Most of the time they buy something but in one or two cases they have actually gotten up and left.  No doubt in search of another free wi-fi gig in town.

Other solutions

On a recent trip to Birmingham we visited a popular coffee shop that has a great solution.

They have their internet routed through a service (like in hotels) and have a keypad by the register.  If you have purchased a product and ask for a key to get on the internet, they simply press the keypad which spits out a unique 64 bit key.  If on the other hand you come in and just ask for a key, they inform you you need to either buy something or pay a usage fee.  The key is good for two hours.  Slick.

Still other shops just flat out tape up all the outlets.  Now your only going to have internet as long as your battery lasts.  I know of one shop that has no outlets at all in the customer area.

Bottom Line

If you are one of those [rare] folks who uses the local coffee shop as an office/library extension but rarely buys anything (or worse yet asks the question that makes all baristas cringe, “Can I just have a cup of water?”) I recommend you do the following…..stop.

Support you local coffee shop and their desire to continue to provide you with the atmosphere that you can only get in a coffee shop: Buy their products each time you come in.

Please, don’t be  “le Mou Cher“.


Further reading:

Link to a Wall Street Journal article on this subject:  No More Perks: Coffee Shops Pull the Plug on Laptop Users

Magnation article: The Problem with Free Wi-Fi

Hub Pages: Problems and Solutions Free Wi-Fi Access at Cafes 74

Where do coffee beans come from?

This is the first is a multi-part series on coffee to help educate our customers.

First, there are two types of coffee beans

Coffee beans come from two basic versins of coffee plants: either the Robusta ( aka Coffea robusta, or Coffea canephora) or Arabica (aka Coffea arabica) version.

At Toomer’s Coffee Roasters we do not roast or sell Robusta beans. I once asked our coffee broker how much Robusta they sell and she said less that 5% of their total volume is Robusta. While it is higher in caffeine content (the main reason I guess a dubious roaster might add jack up the “vibrancy” of their blends), the overall taste issues and roasting peculiarities she said make it a less than desirable option.

Arabica beans on the other hand, while lower in caffeine content have a number of factors that make them the number #1 preference amongst 99% of roasters today, taste being the main factor.  But we will cover that in a later articel specifically on Arabica beans.

They start life as a fruit


Coffee beans start out "Cherries" (Click to enlarge)

Arabica beans are grown on low (3-6 feet) shrubby plants that bear white blossoms that produce the coffee fruit called “cherries” (about the size and color of cranberries).

These coffee cherries are clustered along the limbs of the plant ( See image).  The cherries are harvested from approximately October through January each year.  Since the coffee cherries do not ripen together, several pickings of the the same plant may be required until all of the cherries have been harvested at the peak of ripenness.

This is the first step in the chain of factors that seperates fair coffee from truly exceptional coffee: only picking the red cherries.  Mixing in under-ripe/ greenish cherries with red cherries will result in bitter coffee no matter how well it is roasted.

In our next article we will talk about the regions beans are grown in and how that affects flavor.

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