This Spring we're celebrating the positive impact of flowers on our local and global ecosystems, and enjoying the beauty and brightness of all things in bloom. And without a doubt, the hero of the campaign is VIVID BLOOM, our newest limited-release coffee. But the beautiful, botanic ride of enjoying sip after sip doesn't come without some nurturing. That's why we're inviting you on a deep dive into what makes this blend so special.
To start, we dig in with Katy Keisling, Stumptown's Sr Manager of Green Coffee Sourcing & Quality, to get her thoughts on developing the blend and choosing its components, learn about the producers and regions behind these exquisite coffees, and ruminate a bit on art and flowers.
What was the thought process behind VIVID BLOOM, and what was it like formulating a blend specifically designed to showcase a floral profile?
KATY: Formulating this blend was a unique project. The concept for VIVID BLOOM was presented to the Coffee team as a desire to showcase not only those elusive floral characteristics in coffee but also as a celebration of our springtime. As such, we focused on seasonality and freshness when putting together this blend.
We started work thinking about the availability of particular coffees during April, May and June. From there, we honed in on specific lots that exhibited the fresh floral notes the Marketing team was going for.
What coffees are in VIVID BLOOM, and what qualities help them work so well together to hit those notes?
KATY: The majority of VIVID BLOOM is our beloved perennial single origin offering, Rwanda Huye Mountain. This coffee is such a stunner—equally juicy, big, and approachable, yet delicate, complex, and showstopping. Sometimes when I sip Huye, it’s almost effortlessly good; a total oxymoron in specialty coffee since the seed-to-cup process is so labor intensive, long-term, full of challenges, and carefully honed by all involved in the supply chain.
This year Huye has been such an incredible, elegant coffee, showcasing brown sugar sweetness accompanied by fragrant stone fruit and delicate jasmine florals. We knew right away this would be the main component of the blend, and then the task became finding the perfect pairing—and the ratio of ingredients—that would complement it and let those characteristics shine.
In our Quality Control lab, we tried several different combinations of coffees and ratios and found the sweet spot with the Colombia Tolima lot—sourced with our importer exporter partners at Caravela. This coffee’s softer notes—melted chocolate and creamy baked pear—complement Huye’s high tones perfectly.
Creating this blend was a fun challenge, and we’re delighted with how the coffee came out at as production roast.
VIVID BLOOM is more than just a blend of coffee—it represents artistic thought, expression, or any idea that blooms and grows into something new. How do these coffees and producers fit into the concept of VIVID BLOOM?
KATY: I like the idea of starting with a bloom—a hint or notion that develops into something more. It's a good metaphor for how this project came to life.
The initial concept of celebrating spring florals was just a hint of what was to come.
At first glance, much of coffee production, from farm management to harvest and post-harvest processing, can seem largely technical—and it is indeed very science-driven work. But spend just a few minutes with a coffee producer and you’ll quickly see their work is truly an art.
I’m inspired by the thought and intention that goes into the decisions producers make—many intended to maximize or enhance the experience of the end product. Much of what you get in your cup is not only the mix of variety, geography and microclimate, but the result of hard work and decisions made with the consumer in mind.
David Rubanzangabo of Huye Mountain has been a leader and a champion of Rwanda’s specialty coffee for years. He created a quality-driven organization, investing in a cupping lab at the mill—when it wasn’t commonplace for washing stations in Rwanda—and built a coffee tourism program for visitors. He’s taken steps to build out his dry mill for better control and traceability over the process and also made great strides for the social and economic welfare of the community—leading projects in clean water wells, health insurance, and microlending programs. His farm is currently home to a World Coffee Research test plot to investigate the adaptation of particular varieties to specific conditions.
Several years ago, David came to us with the "seed" of an idea: to begin a coffee nursery that could supply producers with new, healthy coffee plants and boost productivity on their farms. We’ve been proud supporters of this project for the last three years, and we're excited to see the results in years to come.
The other coffee partner featured in this blend are the Tolima producers from Caravela’s operation in Colombia. Once again, we could not be more proud to partner with this company—a fellow B Corp and a group of coffee experts who care about pushing the envelope when it comes to coffee quality and improving producer livelihoods.
Our purchasing in Tolima, Colombia, started with Caravela over 15 years ago, and they helped us build a supply chain there with the Jordan group.
Over the years, Caravela has continued to build quality infrastructure and technical assistance in these remote regions and developed more access to the specialty market for area farmers. I’ve had the honor of visiting many producers in these regions, and the elements of art you mention are almost a constant for coffee producers.
There are so many ways to approach running a business, and when you see an individual or a group build something in such a thoughtful and creative manner that inspires others, it feels like an art.
Each year the growing cycle for farmers and coffee producers starts when little white flowers bloom on the coffee plants. What's it like to visit a coffee farm during bloom?
KATY: Flowering, if you're lucky enough to experience it on a coffee farm, is otherworldly.
We typically visit our partners towards the end of the main harvest season, and almost always see some branches, or even entire trees, in bloom here and there. But a full-blown, uniform flowering will typically occur a few months after the peak harvest ends, and from that point, the coffee takes nine months to develop into a fruit ripe for picking.
A few years ago, I visited our partners in Nicaragua later in the crop cycle than usual. The late-harvest months typically coincide with the dry season in Nicaragua, so the plants are extremely stressed—they have gone through this taxing work of producing fruit, they’ve been bent and brushed against during the harvest, and on top of that, they're deprived of moisture. They concentrate all their energy in the reproductive cycle.
At the time of that trip, the producers had seen the first few rains of the season stimulate the growth of flower buds, and the trees were covered in tightly closed, light green and white pointy buds called diente de perro (dog's teeth) for their shape. The buds—and the producers—were awaiting the first big rain of the season to open up the flowers so they could pollinate and, ultimately, produce fruit. But it had been weeks of dry, hot weather, and the producers were starting to worry.
We were sitting on the porch one evening with the characteristic warm, dense humidity of a summer storm collecting around us. A sense of quiet but decidedly positive anxiety accompanied it. When the first sharp crack of thunder erupted, my hosts’ faces broke into uncontrollable grins. As the deafening rain pounded around us, I could barely hear the plans being formed: “Tomorrow, we’ll go to the farm.”
The next morning, a bumpy ride to the farm culminated in a stunning sight: overnight, dozens of acres of coffee trees had exploded into bright white clusters of star-shaped flowers—almost like a fresh layer of snow. It completely changed the landscape as far as our eyes could see. The jasmine-like fragrance surrounded us as we made our way through the farms, assessing the blooms.
This moment may only last two or three days before the flowers begin to drop off the branches, so it was a pleasure and an eye-opening experience. The producers were ecstatic because such a heavy, uniform flowering indicates a productive harvest.
In coffee, so many uncertainties and variables outside of a producer’s control can affect their work and livelihoods, but a uniform flowering is a good sign of what's to come.
I was fortunate to experience the beauty and wonder of that flowering and the positive and hopeful energy that came with it.
Next, let's get to the root of how we maximize the harmonious flavors of these coffees from Stumptown's Quality Assurance & Information Liaison, Jeremy Robillard.
Is VIVID BLOOM more of a taste experience or an aromatic experience? Or a bit of both?
JEREMY: Both! With our coffees and this blend, we’re looking to maximize flavors and aromatics, while maintaining a pleasant drinking experience. We want to roast and brew coffees in a way that makes them come across as balanced and pleasantly textured. Overly bitter, strongly acidic, roughly textured, or combinations of those three can distract from all the lovely taste notes and nuanced aromatics.
Is there something in the roasting process that intentionally supports a floral flavor profile?
JEREMY: When roasting blends, we’re looking to roast the components in a way that allows them to develop at a similar rate.
Coffees from different regions and grown from plants with different genetics (varieties) vary in size, density, etc., so they can roast at different rates—and we’re looking to harmonize those components to produce a balanced texture and cohesive flavor profile. The two components (Huye and Tolima) are prime examples of dense, beautifully high-quality coffees, and they roasted wonderfully together.
Since Huye is the bulk of this blend, a coffee we have years of experience roasting, we started by mirroring our Huye roast approach, then adjusted after tasting the first test batch. Our initial test roast showed some subtle over-developed notes in the way of tea-like tannins and slightly softened flavors. In other words, the taste notes were lacking clarity. We were tasting baked stone fruit rather than fresh apricots, cocoa instead of ganache, and some malic notes needed to be adjusted to full fruition to taste of fresh pears. So, with the next test, we aimed for an ever-so-slightly faster roast, and it did the trick. The texture was balanced from start to finish, the flavors had clarity, and with this new level of cohesiveness, we gained a stage for nuanced and complex aromatics to shine.