A coffee zeitgeist currently gaining ardents is driving coffee roast levels in more developed or darker directions, although still far short of classic European roast styles. Exemplars of this movement speak in terms of ‘thoughtful’ longer ‘development’ (think baby bear, just right -not too dark, not too bright). This standard bearers of this approach tell a story of a roast level (and emotional comfort) akin to returning to a childhood home, or wrapping yourself in a blanket from a galaxy far, far away. These coffees come under the heading of ‘comforting and rich’, with names like Happy Medium, 9 to 5, Eclipse, The Daily, or in our case, True Level. These roasts are packaged as an every persons’ coffee coffee.
Because coffee is not sold as a finished product (whole beans need to be ground and brewed at their final destination) most people just want to execute this foundational beverage without frustration, and under a price point that matches their home equipment, skill level and available time. Enter True Level, big tent coffee.
True Level is our effort at a seasonal, fresh crop, year round sessionable coffee, for batch, pourover, espresso; with or without adjuncts. The coffee comes from Colombia, of the Huila department. A number of regions in Colombia have two annual coffee harvests (a smaller one-sometimes called fly crop-and a main one). To create these coffees we book into both harvests each year and work with an importer, that groups coffees coming in to mills from growers on quality scores. The growers are provided a price premium based on the coffees’ score above a predetermined threshold. In addition to the price premium, the importer may provide resources to aid the grower in developing practices that are most likely to increase the grower’s ability to reach higher price premiums and quality of coffee.
Before we bore you with our roasting approach, two personal anecdotes. First, years ago, we asked an awarding winning chef if he would cook a steak welldone. We expected his answer to be ‘no’, but instead he answered enthusiastically ‘yes!’ We were in disbelief and to catch him in a trap, we asked, does Thomas Keller (of Per Se and French Laundry fame) cook a welldone steak. In fact he does, he developed his own technique. This response planted a seed. To be a master of your chosen art, and to survive (keep a team gainfully employed) you have to master many techniques and not just the one most personal to yourself. The world is a big and varied place, to be permitted to take part in a dialogue with other people, with disparate views, you have to build trust with them, meeting them in a place nearer their safe space; before you can ask of them to do or try something unfamiliar. Second, an award winning beer brewer once told me there are times and places he feels like a Stagg. (As a side note, I have never heard a specialty coffee roaster, award winning or not, say there are times and places they feel like a Frappuccino.) Everyone craves the familiar no matter how far from home we find ourselves.
Hence, True Level is our effort at the familiar, the easy, the comfortable; but done under the core Sump coffee philosophy. True is a Sump medium roast. There are many paths between point A and B. It is those path choices that change and determine the cup.
So without further ado, please officially welcome True Level into the pantheon of Sump coffees. For the detailed obsessed. This coffee was born when four coffee growers came together with the goal of improving the quality of their lives through the joint commercialization of their coffee. They wanted to export high volumes and achieve higher prices and recognition for their coffee quality. Today this coffee, La Virgen, is the result of 100 growers and produce about 1000 70kg bags a year.