Our Story

Coffee is about pleasure.

It’s that moment when your hand is warmed by the mug, you raise it to your nose, inhale deeply, and then take a sip.

That sip is the culmination of years of work, three-thousand-mile journeys, and passion. These are the steps we take to ensure that each sip is perfect.

Tasting
Roasting
Sourcing
Producers
Varieties
History

Tasting

While you are holding that cup of coffee, close your eyes. Open your mouth slightly. Breathe in deeply through your nose.

While you’re holding that cup of coffee, close your eyes. Open your mouth slightly. Breathe in deeply through your nose.

You’re smelling the most complex thing humans consume. When people talk about the flavors of coffee—notes of orange or hints of clove—it’s because those organic molecules are contained in the coffee bean. If a coffee reminds you of apple pie, it's because coffee shares some of the same components as food, like lactic and malic acid.

Inside that small bean are the same natural components that make flowers smell so lovely, the same ethers that let you know when a piece of fruit is ripe. Coffee has twice as much going on, molecularly speaking, as red wine.

When tasting coffee, try waiting for it to cool down a little—you’ll be able to taste (and smell) the most when it’s the same temperature as your body.

Flavor only matters in the context of you. What do you like? What does this scent remind you of? Are you looking for a full-bodied cowboy coffee, or a delicate, tea-like finish? Chocolate aromas, or hints of jasmine?

Don’t worry if you can’t describe it precisely, or have a different perception than someone else. Even when you can’t put it into words, you’ll know what you like.

You’ll experience the full flavors of the coffee bean, if and only, nothing has gone wrong during roasting.

Roasting

We believe that the roasting process should be transparent and that it’s our responsibility to honor the hard work already invested in the coffee by roasting it to showcase its distinctive qualities.

Every roast cycle is like the arc of development in the belly of the roaster—each minute or experience is inextricably tied to the minute or experience before and after it. Our roasting team brings 121 collective years of roasting experience to work with them each day. It’s that depth of knowledge that allows them to welcome our longtime offerings back to the menu like greeting an old friend—warmly, with familiarity and a practiced eye for the nuanced ways the coffee may have changed from its last visit.

Roasting is one of the most delicate and critical parts of the chain of events leading to a good cup of coffee. We attempt to highlight what makes that particular variety or farm exciting, rather than imparting our own fingerprint. We're here to bring out the best in the coffee, and if we do our job correctly, no one should even be thinking about the roast when they drink it.

"Drinking coffee is a pleasure. Coffee drinking is fun, and it feels good, and underlying all our hard work is pride in cultivating pleasure."

—Jim Kelso,
Director of Quality Assurance

Sourcing

"Traveling the world to visit producers reminds us of the differences in every region, every farm, and our approach to sourcing and roasting aims to highlight and honor these distinctions. It’s humbling to be welcomed by producers with generosity and hospitality; this is also something we try to honor and reflect, in turn, to our customers."

—Shauna Alexander,
Vice President of Coffee and Sustainability
Page: Our Story - Sourcing - Slider 1
Page: Our Story - Sourcing - Slider 1
Page: Our Story - Sourcing - Slider 1
Page: Our Story - Sourcing - Slider 2
Page: Our Story - Sourcing - Slider 2
Page: Our Story - Sourcing - Slider 2
Page: Our Story - Sourcing - Slider 3
Page: Our Story - Sourcing - Slider 3
Page: Our Story - Sourcing - Slider 3
Page: Our Story - Sourcing - Slider 4
Page: Our Story - Sourcing - Slider 4
Page: Our Story - Sourcing - Slider 4

1 / 4

Since our beginnings, Stumptown has searched the world for the best coffee out there. That coffee grows in mountainous regions of the tropics—farms perched at high elevations with warm days, cool nights, and distinct rainy and dry seasons. Microclimates, soil composition, coffee cultivars, and post-harvest processing methods can each contribute distinct dimensions to the cup.

Our coffee team spends about half the year in producing countries, meeting directly with our producer partners on their farms, at their mills, and in their cupping labs.

The effort is worth it. We’re not doing it the easy way by buying bulk, mid-quality beans anonymously from a trading house. Instead, we go right to the source of the best coffee—that farm atop a hill in Ethiopia, for example. We hike through fields, stand among coffee drying decks, and sit down to share a meal and talk about the crop with producers we’ve met many times.

We routinely pay producers well in excess of what they could receive on the commodity market, but we understand that our coffee demands more work—hand-picking each cherry at ideal ripeness and processing it with great attention to detail.

Direct Trade

We're proud to have pioneered the Direct Trade model of sourcing green coffee. Since we started buying coffee directly from producers in 2002, the industry has changed dramatically and lots of other folks have adopted similar-sounding approaches. For clarity's sake, here's what we mean when we say Direct Trade.

Direct Trade is built on three principles: pay higher prices tied to quality, not the commodity market; work with producers we know, so we have transparency into their side of the supply chain and they have transparency into ours; and maintain those relationships over many years, striving to build truly collaborative partnerships. These pillars support Stumptown's vision of what a coffee experience should be, and that vision permeates every level of our business.

Price Incentives

Stumptown pays price incentives directly linked to a coffee's quality, which we determine based on the internationally accepted Specialty Coffee Association’s Cupping Form and Q-Grader protocol, which provides a framework and transparency to both parties.

Producing great coffee is expensive. We don’t take that for granted and we never expect to get great coffee on the cheap. We don’t set prices based on the “C” (commodity market) price because we don’t buy commodity coffees. We pay outright prices guaranteed across multi-year partnerships. Divorcing our decisions from the unpredictability of the commodity market allows everyone along the supply chain to focus on what’s important: producing, roasting, and serving the best coffees on the planet.

Know the Producers

From the beginning, it's been critical to us that we know where our coffee is coming from—the farms, the people, and the regions. Stumptown founder Duane Sorenson pioneered this approach in 2003 when he began our foundational direct relationship with the Aguirre family of Finca El Injerto, whose coffees are, to this day, vital and beloved menu offerings. Other early Direct Trade partners include Los Delirios (Nicaragua), El Puente (Honduras), and Bella Vista (Guatemala), and we've steadily grown our relationship network over the last fifteen years.

Every region and producer is different. And when many producers come together to form a community lot, as in the case of farmer associations, we negotiate with a representative of the producer group; such is the case with perennials like Colombia El Jordan and Ethiopia Mordecofe. This level of transparency allows us to negotiate prices, whenever possible, directly with producers. And in all cases, our coffee team aims to visit the producers every year to walk the farms, choose the lots, and focus on our common goal: high quality, delicious coffee.

Long Term Relationships

Direct Trade is also our way of saying “we’re in it for the long run.” We don’t call a coffee Direct Trade until we have sourced it for at least three consecutive years with the intention to continue purchasing from that producer.

We invest in relationships with suppliers who produce exquisite coffees. We both get better results as we invest and grow together over many years. In 2019, 91 percent of all the coffees Stumptown purchased were from relationships where we’d sourced coffee for three or more consecutive years.

Producers & Processing

PRODUCER REGION PARTNERS SINCE
Abades Cooperative
Nariño, Colombia South America 2013
Alfonso and Karim Tejada Iberico
Rodriguez de Mendoza, Amazonas, Peru South America 2013
Arturo Aguirre Sr. and Arturo Aguirre Jr.
Huehuetenango, Guatemala Central America 2003
Bebes Sero
Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea Asia 2015
Canales Family
Pueblo Nuevo, Nicaragua Central America 2004
Cantillo Family
Suaza, Huila Department, Colombia South America 2007
David Rubanzangabo
Huye District, Rwanda Africa 2012
Francisco Mena
West Valley, Costa Rica Central America 2018
Gamboa Family
Tarrazú, Costa Rica Central America 2006
Haile Gebre
Guji Zone, Ethiopia Africa 2006
Jean Clement Birabereye
Kayanza, Burundi Africa 2016
Jordan Group
Department of Tolima, Colombia South America 2006
Ketiara Cooperative
Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia Asia 2013
Klasik Beans
West Java, Indonesia Asia 2018
Luis Pedro Zelaya
Antigua, Guatemala Central America 2005
Marvin Robles
Tarrazú, Costa Rica Central America 2010
Marysabel Caballero & Moises Herrera
Chinacla, La Paz, Honduras Central America 2004
Muhtar
Aceh Tengah Province, Indonesia Asia 2014
Nano Challa Cooperative
Jimma Zone, Ethiopia Africa 2011
Naranjo Family
Tarrazú, Costa Rica Central America 2009
Ricardo 'El Tigre' Zelaya
Antigua, Guatemala Central America 2008
Tesfaye Bekele
Kumure, Guji Zone, Ethiopia Africa 2010
The Tocto Family
Chirinos, Department of Cajamarca, Peru South America 2014
Torres Family
West Valley, Costa Rica Central America West Valley, Costa Rica

We don’t call them farmers, we call them producers, giving credit to the fact that they are the production experts. They are the ones who make this coffee great. They are the ones who go the extra mile for quality.

Producers are the heart of what makes great coffee.

Their skills, expertise, and craftsmanship are the difference between mediocre coffee and coffee that is like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. The coffee will never get any better in quality once it lands in our hands, after all. We rely on the producers for that pristine bean. A good roaster works tirelessly to preserve that coffee’s inherent greatness.

The producers grow the coffee trees. They pick the cherry when it is perfectly ripe. They remove the outer fruit, leaving just the bean covered in a thin parchment. They rest the beans, let the beans develop into their full selves. Every producer does something slightly different—they may tend a small patch of coffee trees on the farm inherited by a grandmother, and she may oversee the cherry soaking in a big tank of water, fermenting at just the right rate.

Our producers live on four continents. They speak at least 30 different languages. Some use traditional methods that are centuries old; some have taken out four-year loans to get that new top-of-the-line piece of equipment that will lead to a greater, cleaner cup.

It’s not the easy way. It’s not the fastest way. But it’s the right way, and it creates the best coffee possible.

Varieties

Coffee is a tree, and you probably prefer one branch to another, even if you don't know it yet.

There isn’t one kind of coffee, there’s a coffee family tree.

 For hundreds of years, humans have been cultivating, hybridizing, and perfecting it, and today there are hundreds of types or varieties.

The variety of coffee tree matters—or at least, it usually does. Just as different types of grapes yield different wines, the variety of the bean can have a profound impact on the finished cup. 

There are hundreds of varieties, and we’ve chosen roughly a dozen that we find truly special. But here are the first ones you should know.

Bourbon

Sweet, complex, and delicate, Bourbon is the pinot noir of coffee. The plants are fragile and don’t produce as much cherry as some other varieties, but they’re worth the effort. A cup of Bourbon-type variety is lush and classic. It’s the coffee of coffee. It charms the snob and the rookie alike. And no, it has nothing to do with the delicious brown adult beverage, though we at Stumptown are big fans of that kind of bourbon, too

Villalobos

This is an offshoot of the Typica family, which is delicate, floral, at times even citrusy. This variety was brought to Indonesia in the late 1600s by Dutch traders. We love it for its nuances and high, fine acidity. Villalobos in particular brings strong flavors of stone fruit like apricot, peach, and plum.

Ethiopian Heirloom

The beauty of these varietals is in their mystery. They are the wildflower varieties, descended from the natural coffee forests of southwestern Ethiopia. Each village has its own variety, handed down over centuries and shaped by the soil, elevation, and weather.

Gesha

Think of Gesha as coffee from an alternate dimension. It's like a Szechuan peppercorn, or the Sun Ra Arkestra—both complex and otherworldly. And with a delicate, black-tea body and zest of bergamot, it’s as far as it could be from diner coffee. Gesha is picky—it will only grow when, where, and how it wants, and in tiny microclimates. But whether you grow it in Indonesia or the Americas, it’s always thoroughly itself.

Which, finally, brings us to the very beginnings of coffee…

History

Ten thousand years ago, the Coffea trees grew wild and tangly on the mountain slopes of southwestern Ethiopia.

Page: Our Story - History - Slider 1
Page: Our Story - History - Slider 1
Page: Our Story - History - Slider 1
Page: Our Story - History - Slider 2
Page: Our Story - History - Slider 2
Page: Our Story - History - Slider 2
Page: Our Story - History - Slider 3
Page: Our Story - History - Slider 3
Page: Our Story - History - Slider 3
Page: Our Story - History - Slider 4
Page: Our Story - History - Slider 4
Page: Our Story - History - Slider 4

1 / 4

There, you can still find people performing traditional coffee ceremonies many times a day—one woman will prepare it for the circle of her friends and family who stand around her. She roasts it in a pan, grinds it, pours hot water over it, serves it in the predetermined social order.

The Dutch traders brought cuttings of the plants to Indonesia. French missionaries spread it throughout Africa and across the sea to the Americas. This complicated colonialist past brought coffee trees into cultivation in every hemisphere on four continents.

In 70 countries, you will find those shrubs and their cherries. You’ll find the producers who tend them, the pickers who select them, the processors who obsessively convert fruit to bean. You’ll find the roasters who delicately transform them, and the people who drink the coffee.

You’ll find the earliest riser in the backpacking crew that stokes the fire and sets the water on to boil. You’ll find the barista who pulls the first shot of the morning for the go-getter. You’ll find the group of 70-year-old men in the diner at 6 a.m., spending hours discussing the issues of the day over their bottomless cups.

"We work with some of the most dedicated, innovative, and conscientious coffee producers in the world. What you taste is the result of a complex and deliberate process that began thousands of miles away, perhaps generations ago – tweaked and refined into something that was created precisely for your enjoyment. If we get everything just right, there is the possibility for that cup to transport you. "

—Katy Keisling,

Green Coffee Sourcing Manager

Everything that came before—the shrubs, the farmer, the journey across the sea, the hybrids and the mutations—is for this moment. Because the only thing required for the smallest, quietest and most personal of coffee ceremonies are some good beans and a way to brew.

You’ll hold that mug possessively. You’ll inhale deeply. And then you drink.