Islands Cafe Surf® Varieties come from microlot coffee offerings and are sourced from innovative producers in innovative ways, from super high-end limited-edition Aces lots to cupping competitions and auction lots, to variety-specific separations and those coffees that are traceable down to an individual offeriings.
We choose our Surf ® locations based on two most important factors: Amazing coffee and unreal surf! We rotate our origin and roasts on a seasonal bases so always check back to see the newest offering.
Below are a few of our varieties we are offering. Current availability is dependent on seasons. Please check our online store to see what regions are currently available to purchase. Visit Surf ® online store
I first came to Nicaragua in 2008 on a surf trip with four friends. We stayed at a beach front house on an amzing surf beach called Colorados. We lucjed out and got a perfect swell for the two weeks we were there. It was an amazing adventure. I got an amazing barrel that all my friends saw (haha), and we also did some boat trips to a few other world famous waves. Notably Panga Drops, and Poyoyo. I highly recommend this region of the world for there surf, amazing locals, and of course coffee. I will never forget the coffee we had while in Nicaragua and I did a bit of research while there and were told of the best coffee regions by several local farmers who all had worked in the coffee fields.
Ethically Sourced Beans
Islands Cafe While Nicaragua has primarily been a source for full-container Fair Trade– and organic-certified coffees for Islands Cafe, in recent years we have been exploring different partnerships for more specialized coffees from individual producers or groups, and even investigating the possibility of microlots. We see great potential in the Nueva Segovia region, with its higher altitudes and the producers’ growing interest in quality varieties and experimental processing.
Nicaragua was planted with coffee in the late 1800s, but it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that the crop established itself as an important export: Increasing global demand—especially from North America—and diminished supply from the Pacific Islands contributed to a steady development of the coffee market here, and the first large plantations emerged in the Managua District around this time, spreading to Jinotepe, Matagalpa, Jinotega, and Nueva Segovia. The Nicaraguan government encouraged European immigrants from Italy and Germany to buy land for coffee, and until land redistribution created small parcels of land (typically smaller than 5 hectares), the majority of the coffee was controlled by white landowners who often exploited local labor with very low wages and poor conditions.While its nearby neighbors of Costa Rica, El Salvador, and even Guatemala began emerging as specialty-coffee origins in the 1980s,
Nicaragua’s political and economic instability through the long Nicaraguan Revolution period (roughly 1974–1990), as well as the destruction of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, are among the contributing factors that kept the country out of the specialty spotlight. The breaking up of larger estates into smallholder plots created some confusion and disjointedness among the agrarian sector through the ‘80s and into the early ‘90s; USAID and Fair Trade work in-country was instrumental in unifying small producers into cooperatives and grower societies.While Nicaragua has historically been planted with good-performing varieties—Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, Maragogype, and other classic cultivars—areas of relatively low altitude (800–900 masl), the remoteness of the small farms, and battles with coffee-leaf rust in the past decade have remained obstacles in the way of the country achieving clear, prized single-origin status.
The largest country in Central America, Nicaragua continues to develop its reputation as a coffee origin to watch, however: The crop is still its most important, accounting for over $1.2 billion in exports, and about 15 percent of the country’s labor force is somehow involved in the coffee sector.
On The same trip as Nicaruaga we took a boat to Costa Rica, spent about a day travelling and ended on another boat to Witches Rock. Witches Rock is one of those bucket list waves and was one of the featured surf spots in Bruce Browns Endless Summer 2. Unfortunity it wasn't near as good as the movie due to a mixed up swell direction, but i got a few and it was cool to just sit out at this iconic surf break.
Ethically Sourced Beans
Since Islands Cafe bought its first container of Costa Rican microlots at the end of the 2006/2007 harvest, the country has become a model for other buying relationships around the world. The ability for a producer to separate top lots from more standard coffees; sell the lots at corresponding, appropriate prices; and gain individual recognition for their work and quality, has had a rippling effect among the communities from which we source, and the response has been tremendous. Every year, more producers express an interest in improving the picking, sorting, and processing they do on the farm level in the hopes of earning better prices and achieving a level of market visibility.While we have a core set of partners—with micro-producers as well as co-ops—whose coffees are the standard-bearers for our Costa Rica offerings year by year, we are always meeting new producers and creating connections that result in some of the most exciting, innovative, and certainly delicious coffees that the country has to offer.
Coffee was planted in Costa Rica in the late 1700s, and it was the first Central American country to have a fully established coffee industry; by the 1820s, coffee was a major agricultural export with great economic significance to the population. National output was greatly increased by the completion of a main road to Puntarenas in 1846, allowing farmers to more readily bring their coffee from their farms to market in oxcarts—which remained the way most small farmers transported their coffee until the 1920s.In 1933, the national coffee association, Icafe (Instituto del Café de Costa Rica), was established as an NGO designed to assist with the agricultural and commercial development of the Costa Rican coffee market. It is funded by a 1.5% export tax on all Costa Rican coffee, which contributes to the organization’s $7 million budget, used for scientific research into Arabica genetics and biology, plant pathology, soil and water analysis, and oversight of the national coffee industry.
Among other things, Icafe exists to guarantee that contract terms for Costa Rican coffee ensure the farmer receives 80% of the FOB price (“free on board,” the point at which the ownership and price risks are transferred from the farmer/seller to the buyer).Costa Rica contributes less than 1% of the world’s coffee production, yet it has a strong reputation for producing relatively good, if often mild quality. One way that Costa Rica has hoped to differentiate itself among coffee-growing nations is through the diversity of profiles in its growing regions, despite the country’s relatively small geographical size. Tarrazú might be the most famous of the regions: Its high altitudes contribute to its coffees’ crisp acidity. West Valley has a high percentage of Cup of Excellence winners, and grows an abundance of both the Costa Rica–specific varieties Villa Sarchi and Villa Lobos, as well as some of the more “experimental” varieties that have come here, such as SL-28 and Gesha. Tres Ríos coffee has a smooth, milder profile—perhaps more “easy drinking” with toffee sweetness and soft citrus than the more complex or dynamic Costas available. Central Valley has some of the most distinct weather patterns in the country, with well-defined wet and dry seasons: We have found some of the best natural processed coffees in this region.In recent years, coffee producers are increasingly interested in using variety selection as another way to stand out in the competitive market: SL-28 and Gesha are becoming more common, and local varieties like Villa Sarchi (a dwarf Bourbon mutation found near the town of Sarchi) and Venesia (a Caturra mutation).
I travelled solo to Rio in 2011 and found my self in some really remote places with amazing surf. Brazil is a country you can easily get lost in and never find your way back home. The Brazilian culture is much like their surf, wild and beautiful! With its endless sand bottom punchy beach breaks it is no wonder the Brazilian professional surfs are dominating competitive surfing. Small to medium sized waves that are great for doing or in my case trying airs, and super hollow insides that open up to frothy barrel sections. I highly recommend bringing a surfboard if you find your self in this amazing region of South America. Hawaiian coffee was first brought from Brazil and the plant and bean is still much the same. It makes the Brazillian Caturra bean one of our highest recommend coffee varieties we offer.
Ethically Sourced Beans
Our relationship with Brazil can fairly be called more of a love affair: There’s a lot of romance for us in this big, beautiful coffee country, but we are also attracted to the challenges and are always actively seeking new ways to discover, develop, and source quality coffees from our main export partners. We travel to several primary coffee regions a few times every year in the interest of inspecting quality, maintaining relationships, introducing our roaster partners to the magic (and sometimes mayhem) or Brazilian production, and seeking new and “undiscovered” corners where specialty coffee might flourish.In fact, Brazilian coffee was what started Cafe Imports to begin with: Founder and partner Andrew Miller imported his first container with a Brazilian friend in 1994, bringing in a coffee that would be the genesis of our "signature" Brazil offering, Serra Negra. Since then, countless full-container loads from Carmo de Minas and Mogiana have come through our warehouse, and the quality and diversity that we've seen from various regions and microregions (and micro-microregions!) have inspired the development of microlot programs with some of the country's most innovative producers. In short, we're still madly in love.In 2017, we are building upon our existing relationships and introducing a new buying opportunity in Brazil with the debut of our Best Cup cupping competition and live auction, hosted for the first time in Carmo de Minas. With its efficient production and massive yields, Brazil is often overlooked as a potential source for microlot coffees: Carmo Best Cup should bring to the fore some of the producers who are focused on putting out smaller quantities of hyperfocused, high-scoring, practically mind-bendingly good coffees from around the region, and we look forward to that level of quality becoming more of a norm than an exception when “Brazilian coffees” comes to a roaster’s mind.
It’s hard to imagine the “beginnings” of coffee in Brazil, as the two things have become so synonymous. The first coffee plants were reportedly brought in the relatively early 18th century, spreading from the northern state of Pará in 1727 all the way down to Rio de Janerio within 50 years. Initially, coffee was grown almost exclusively for domestic consumption by European colonists, but as demand for coffee began to increase in United States and on the European continent in the early-mid 19th century, coffee supplies elsewhere in the world started to decline: Major outbreaks of coffee-leaf rust practically decimated the coffee-growing powerhouses of Java and Ceylon, creating an opening for the burgeoning coffee industry in Central and South America. Brazil’s size and the variety of its landscapes and microclimates showed incredible production potential, and its proximity to the United States made it an obvious and convenient export-import partner for the Western market.In 1820, Brazil was already producing 30 percent of the world’s coffee supply, but by 1920, it accounted for 80 percent of the global total.Since the 19th century, the weather in Brazil has been one of the liveliest topics of discussion among traders and brokers, and a major deciding factor in the global market trends and pricing that affect the coffee-commodity market. Incidents of frost and heavy rains have caused coffee yields to wax and wane over the past few decades, but the country is holding strong as one of the two largest coffee producers annually, along with Colombia.One of the other interesting things Brazil has contributed to coffee worldwide is the number of varieties, mutant-hybrids, and cultivars that have sprung from here, either spontaneously or by laboratory creation. Caturra (a dwarf mutation of Bourbon variety), Maragogype (an oversize Typica derivative), and Mundo Novo (a Bourbon-Typica that is also a parent plant of Catuai, developed by Brazilian agro-scientists) are only a few of the seemingly countless coffee types that originated in Brazil and, now, spread among coffee-growing countries everywhere.
Columbia isn't really a region you want to pack your surfboard for, but when it comes to coffee it is top 3 of our list of best cup scores, and overall robust taste. If you like a good strong coffee Columbia drip extraction is a good way to go.
Ethically Sourced Beans
Actually, there’s not “something” about Colombia, but many, many somethings that make this place particularly special among coffee-growing countries, and as famous. Everyone knows Colombian coffee—or thinks they do. However, to simply say a coffee is from Colombia is to tell just a fragment of the story, like recommending a book to a friend by only telling her the name of the publisher. To really get to know Colombian coffee is to travel thousands of miles, taste through thousands of cups, and wear out dozens of pairs of hiking boots touring hundreds of coffee farms from north to south. Even that’s just the beginning—but every beautiful story needs a beginning.We have had boots on the ground (and spoons in the cup) here since our earliest days, and we fall in love over and over again with the regional variations, the varieties, the landscape, the producers themselves. From our work sourcing strong, versatile workhorse coffees for our Excelso Gran Galope signature offerings; to our celebration of the taste of place with Regional Selects from Cauca, Huila, Nariño, and Tolima; to the discovery and development of microlots from all over the country with our export partners and the producers with whom they work closely—we simply can’t get enough.Neither can our customers: Our offerings sheet comprises a wide selection of flavors, farms, and terroirs, and we will continue to explore new-to-us regions and to support the mostly smallholder farmers of Colombia into the future, as long as they’ll keep letting us come back again and again and again.
Coffee came to Colombia in the late 1700s by way of Jesuit priests who were among the Spanish colonists, and the first plantings were in the north of the country, in the Santander and Boyaca departments. Throughout the 19th century, coffee plants spread through the country, with a smaller average farm size than more commonly found throughout other Latin American producing countries.Commercial production and export of coffee started in the first decade of the 1800s, but remained somewhat limited until the 20th century: The 1927 establishment of the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (aka FNC, see below) was a tremendous boost to the national coffee industry, and Colombia quickly established itself as a major coffee-growing region, vying with Brazil and Vietnam for the title of top global producer.Colombia still produces exclusively Arabica coffee, and though the country suffered setbacks and lower yields from an outbreak of coffee-leaf rust in the early 2010s, production has fairly bounced back thanks to the development and spread of disease-resistant plants, as well as aggressive treatment and preventative techniques.