Monthly Archives: April 2013

Vita’s Bob Prince at FareStart’s Guest Chef Spectacular

| April 11, 2013

FareStart Guest Chef Spectacular














Join Vita and FareStart May 23rd as we help kick off a new annual celebration of the talented chefs and restaurants that support FareStart’s training programs throughout the year. FareStart’s first annual Guest Chef Spectacular will take place at the Showbox SoDo and will feature tastes from more than 40 of the area’s top restaurants, wineries, breweries and distilleries, including the talents of Vita’s own Chef Bob Prince.

Since 1988, FareStart has provided a community that transforms lives by empowering homeless and disadvantaged men, women, and families to achieve self-sufficiency through life skills, job training and employment in the food service industry. FareStart’s Guest Chef Spectacular and events like it are just a few of the ways that Vita collaborates with and supports this vital organization. Vita has partnered with FareStart’s Youth Barista Training Education Program since its inception in 2003 with YouthCare. The program provides at-risk youth, ages 16-23, with the opportunity to build a better future for themselves by increasing their ability to change their situation and engage in a supportive community. The eight-week Barista Training and Education Program provides job training and placement, life skills, employment counseling, classroom, and on-the-job training for the industry. Caffe Vita provides a very necessary ingredient, donating coffee to the training program and offering roasting education to students at our Capitol Hill roasting room.

Early bird tickets for FareStart’s Guest Chef Spectacular are $70 per person (beginning May 1, general admission tickets will be $80). VIP tickets are $125 per person and will include access to a VIP Lounge at for special pre-reception featuring exclusive tastes from local restaurants, premium wines, early admittance to the main tasting event, and a special gift bag filled with goodies from local restaurants, including Caffe Vita.

Tickets are on sale now, click here to purchase tickets before they sell out!

Guatemala Harvest Report

| April 10, 2013

 roya leaf

Roya, also known as leaf rust, or Hemileia vastatrix is a highly contagious fungal disease, fed by moisture and heat, causing rust colored powdery sores to infect leaves of the plant.  Eventually, leaves drop, photosynthesis ceases, and death ensues.

It was last November that I received a phone call from Guatemala with news of the increasing prevalence of roya on the farm of our friend, Alex Keller.  Increasingly, similar reports have arrived from farms throughout Latin America with the affected range now stretching from Mexico to Peru.


A state of emergency has been declared in Guatemala with official estimates of reduction in export pegged at 15% though many expect the true number to be closer to 30%. The outlook for next year’s harvest is even worse with potential loss of up to nearly half of the harvest. The only ones grinning are the chemical companies, with their sales of potent fungicides soaring. Some conspiracy theorists have pegged these companies as the culprit, purposefully releasing a mutant strain to rake in the profits. This represents an extreme of the numerous explanations to be offered.  One thing is for certain however, that increasingly irregular weather patterns have created more ideal conditions for which the fungus to thrive.

pacamara nursery

Our Farm Direct mainstay over the years, Finca Nuevo Vinas, hails from a certified organic farm. While many farms with the required capital have been spraying fungicide to keep it under control, organic farms face a much steeper challenge.  Always a tireless experimenter, Alex conducted over 80 separate tests of organic application with hopes he could find a remedy to control the spread of the disease.  Still, the most effective combination he devised comes at a hefty cost, and must be applied every 20 days to mirror the life cycle of the roya.  If this treatment proves ineffective, there will be little choice other than to sacrifice organic certification and save the farm.   

sheep poo

With the tragedy that has hit his farm, among the many others, we feel fortunate to have secured some excellent coffees for the upcoming year.  Fresh crop Finca Nuevo Vinas will be returning to our lineup shortly, though Finca Pacamaral’s harvest was so poor that it will not be.  In an attempt to find another beautiful coffee to showcase the diversity of profiles in Guatemala, I travelled for the first time to Alta Verapaz, a lushly tropical region situated roughly in the middle of the country.

airplane in coban

We arrived in Coban by small airplane, greeted by Luis ‘Wicho’ Valdez, fourth generation farming enthusiast, and gracious host. With the harvest still underway, we set out to his family’s farms, Santa Isabel and San Lorenzo.  The climate of this region is drastic, with temperatures reaching freezing at times and humidity hovering above 90%. These conditions, coupled with a precise, highly unique system of processing have yielded a tremendous coffee, replete with flavors of black currant, orange, and melon. We have secured this coffee for upcoming release at which time I will share more about the Valdez family and their impressive coffee.

wicho valdez

PBS Troubleshoots Your Brew

| April 5, 2013


We sat down with Ross Beamish, lead trainer here at Vita who runs our Public Brewing School, a once-a-month workshop on home brewing methods that’s free to the public. Below, Ross offers his advice on picking your tools, sharpening your nose, and how we perceive bitterness in coffee.

Why does training your palate mater?

There is an array of grinders, brew methods, and water kettles that offer the coffee enthusiast a way to achieve greatness in the comfort of their kitchen. When you’re making the decision to purchase a great bag of coffee to complement your shiny new toys, it helps to know what’s affecting the overall flavor of your cup. Adjusting these variables to suit your personal taste will empower your purchasing decision, mature your palate, and have you brewing more confidently at home.

So what about bitterness?

We all perceive bitterness in coffee, and sometimes it’s balanced perfectly (like a piece of good dark chocolate) but sometimes it’s overwhelming (like a burnt marshmallow). It could be a combination of the level of roast on the coffee, the grind size or the water temperature. If you’re a black coffee drinker and bitterness is an issue, it might be time to try a lighter roast. Lighter roasted coffee boasts higher acidity and more pleasant aromas, which balance out bitterness. Taste experienced in the nasal passage as well as the tongue, so take a few quick sniffs of your coffee as you enjoy it. As you evaluate the coffee and begin to smell floral or fruit-like notes, you probably will not taste as much bitterness as before, or the bitterness will balance well with the increased acidity of a lighter or medium roasted coffee. By training your palate you’ll eventually you’ll know the difference between your varietals. Brazilians, Kenyans, Ethiopians, Indonesians.

What other factors determine bitterness?

Other factors influencing bitterness include mineral content of water, hardness or softness of water, and processing of the green coffee. Washed coffees and water processed decaffeinated coffees are known to be less bitter and complement full immersion methods. These methods include French Press, Clever, Eva Solo, or Aero Press.

Grind size also determines the amount of bitterness in a cup of coffee. In general, a coarser grind size will produce a less bitter flavor but will require a longer brew time (which correlates directly to increased bitterness) so tread carefully.

Ross explores each of these methods and more in our free monthly Public Brewing School sessions. For more information and to reserve your spot at our Capitol Hill location in Seattle, email