Coffee

Light Roast vs. Dark Roast

So, what’s the difference between a light versus a dark roast coffee? A whole lot. Although the roasting procedures are typically quite similar, a light roast and dark roast coffee can vary greatly in their taste, flavour, and body. These differences are due largely to two variables: the roast duration and the roast temperature, which ultimately results in varying colours, moisture levels, and flavour profiles. 

Coffee Bean Roasting

LIGHT ROAST

A light roast coffee will have a more pronounced acidity than a dark roast, and will have nicely developed flavours which reflect their region of origin. As a result, lighter roasts of coffee are known to have a more complex flavour profile, often featuring a subtle sweetness, fruity tanginess, and floral aromas, depending on their origin. These coffees tend to be more polarizing to customers due to their bright and intense flavours.  

DARK ROAST

Dark roast coffees, on the other hand, are roasted at higher temperatures for longer periods of time. As a result, these coffees are much lighter in weight and more bold and rich in flavour; typically featuring a nutty or chocolatey flavour with hints of brown spices such as nutmeg. These coffees typically produce a cup of full of flavour, rich texture and body, which traditionally has made them a more popular choice.

It’s common coffee lore that light roasts also contain more caffeine than their darkly roasted counterparts, but this difference is marginal and attributable to their difference in density. For the true coffee enthusiast, we recommend choosing whatever roast you prefer and then weighing your beans instead of measuring them. By doing so you will ensure you get a properly balanced cup full  of flavour and caffeine, regardless of the roast you choose. 

Light vs. Dark Coffee Roasting
Coffee Beans Roasting

SUMMARY 

Despite the similarities in their roasting methods, light roasts and dark roasts actually vary quite greatly in body, flavour, and taste due to slight differences in the temperature and duration of the roast. In a light roast you can expect a well pronounced acidity which comes through in the form of a subtle sweetness, fruity tanginess, or floral aromas. In a dark roast you can expect a richer texture and body with notes of chocolate, nuts, or dark spices. And while light roasts have marginally more caffeine than dark roasts, you can eliminate this issue by weighing your beans instead of scooping them! Ultimately, it all comes down to your flavour preferences and the qualities you're looking for in a cup of coffee. 

Want to find the right coffee for you? Take the quiz to find out!

Light vs. Dark Roast Coffee
Coffee Roasting Light vs. Dark

How To Brew: Chemex

METHOD #1: LEVEL GROUND'S FAVOURITE METHOD

Recipe: 5 tbsp (35g) medium grind coffee, 600mL hot water

METHOD:

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  1. Place filter in Chemex with the 3 layered side towards the spout.

  2. Preheat the Chemex and filter by pouring hot water through them

  3. Pour out water, replace filter & put ground coffee in filter

  4. Place chemex on scale and tare to zero

  5. Start timing, and pour about 80g (mL) of water over the coffee. Gently stir the grounds to make sure they are all saturated

  6. Wait 30 seconds while the bloom de-gases and the grounds soften in the hot water (this is how the flavour comes out!)

  7. Add 200g (mL) of water, gently stir to agitate the grounds

  8. Wait ~45 seconds

  9. Add 200g (mL) of water, gently stir to agitate the grounds

  10. Wait ~45 seconds

  11. Add remaining water, 120g (mL)

  12. When all the water has been poured over, remove the filter and compost. The entire process should take 4-5 minutes

  13. Enjoy with friends!

METHOD #2: SCAA RECOMMENDATION. 

Recipe: 41g medium grind coffee, 672g (mL) of water

Method:

  1. Place filter in Chemex, make sure the 3 layered side of the filter is towards the spout

  2. Preheat the Chemex and filter by pouring hot water through them

  3. Pour out the water, replace filter & put ground coffee in filter

  4. Place everything on scale and tare to zero

  5. Start timing and pour 80g (mL) of water over the coffee, make sure to saturate all the grounds thoroughly

  6. Allows the bloom to de-gas for 30 seconds before adding more water

  7. Continue to periodically and slowly pour water over the coffee, keep the filter halfway filled with water during the brewing process

  8. General brew times are between 4-5 minutes

  9. When all the water has been poured over the grounds and the filter has begun to drip slowly, remove and discard the filter

  10. Give the Chemex a swirl and share with friends

How To Brew Chemex Coffee

How To Brew: Aeropress

METHOD #1: LEVEL GROUND'S FAVOURITE METHOD

Warning: we use the inverted method. There is no reason to be afraid of it. Let's conquer that fear together! 

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Recipe: 1 1/2 scoops ground coffee, enough water to fill the aeropress

METHOD:

  1. Put the top chamber inside the bottom chamber, and turn over. (It should look like the photo above.)

  2. Add 1 1/2 aeropress scoops of ground coffee (or 3 tbsp) *it's a really, really good idea to use the funnel to add the coffee. If grinds get into the top, step 6 might get tricky!

  3. Fill with water to just above the #1 and just below the rim.

  4. Wait 30 seconds, then stir.

  5. Fill with water again up to #1. Set timer.

  6. Screw lid (with pre-wet filter in it) to the top chamber. (*We hope you used the funnel in step 2, or this could get awkward.)

  7. When timer reaches 2 minutes, turn over* and press.

*Turning over is really just like pouring from a regular spout. Turn it confidently, and you will have no problem.  

METHOD #2: SCAA RECOMMENDATION. 

Recipe: 33g fine grind coffee, 113g (mL) of water

METHOD:

  1. Place filter in Aeropress & preheat by pouring hot water through it.

  2. Add coffee to bottom chamber of Aeropress & place on scale; tare scale to zero with cup underneath the Aeropress.

  3. Start timer and add 113g (mL) of water.

  4. When all the water has been added, stir the slurry (coffee & water mixture).

  5. When timer reaches 1 minute, stir slurry, add top chamber and press like mad.

This will produce a concentrated drink that can be enjoyed on its own or can be diluted with equal parts hot water to produce a more American-like beverage. 

How To Brew Aeropress Coffee

How To Brew: French Press

METHOD #1: LEVEL GROUND'S FAVOURITE METHOD

Recipe: 55g coarse grind coffee, 1L of water

METHOD:

  1. Add ground coffee into press

  2. Add water, just off the boil. Pour water in with lots of turbulence, saturating the grounds

  3. Stir with a non-metalic spoon

  4. Place the lid on, and press just below level

  5. Let stand for 4 minutes

  6. Press. Pour. Enjoy!

 

Check out our video instructional below!

 

 

 

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METHOD #2: SCAA RECOMMENDATION

Recipe: 40g medium-coarse grind coffee, 672g (mL) of water

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Method:

  1. Preheat your french press with hot water

  2. Place freshly ground coffee in press

  3. Start the timer & begin pouring hot water into the press

  4. Completely saturate the grounds with all the water. Stir.

  5. Place the lid with the plunger up on the press

  6. When the timer is at 2 minutes, remove the lid & stir the coffee again

  7. Using two spoons, skim the oils & remaining floating grounds off the top of the brew. This will produce a cleaner cup & will stop the coffee from extracting

  8. Place the plunger back on top & press down slowly

  9. Decant into your favourite mug.

 

How To Brew French Press Coffee

Bolivia Coffee: From Crop to Cup

Imagine this: you wake up, gently stirred by the smell of freshly ground beans. They’ve been scooped into a French press, bathed in hot water, and eventually pressed. The steaming brew has been poured into your favourite ceramic mug, combined with cream (or sugar, if you so please), and slowly brought up to your lips.

Coffee: it’s a morning ritual for many, but how did those beans get from the crop into your cup? The following is the journey from crop to cup for our organic coffee from Bolivia.

 

Meet Pedro.

 
 Hugo (Level Ground), Stacey (Level Ground) with Pedro, Pedro Pablo, and Daniella.

Hugo (Level Ground), Stacey (Level Ground) with Pedro, Pedro Pablo, and Daniella.

 

 

This is where the journey of coffee begins: at origin, with dedicated farmers like Pedro and his family. Together they run Agricafé, which coordinates the crop of small-scale organic farmers in Bolivia. In the middle of the night, farmers line up in taxis to deliver their green beans to Agricafé. It’s a late-night process, but it’s worth it on both ends: farmers get the best price, and Agricafé always gets the best beans. Agricafé works hard to improve capacity and quality for farmers by providing resources and workshops. Because Agricafé works directly with farmers (no middle man), more money goes directly into the farmers’ pockets. Pedro and the Agricafé team combine the green beans from the farmers, and put the beans through rigorous quality testing (such as UV lights and hand sorting). From this they start to prepare the shipment, and send us a sample of what we can expect.

 

 

In comes Josh del Sol, our Roastmaster and Quality Expert.

 
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At home in Victoria, BC, Josh receives a 350g sample of coffee that represents a 40,000lb container! Josh and his team will confirm quality through roasting, and then cupping the sample. Cupping is a coffee tasting where any flaws in the beans are exposed. After cupping, the team will (hopefully) approve the entire container based on the sample received. Once approved, the container is loaded and heads out on the ocean.  

 

 

We receive the coffee, and then our roasters do their magic.

 
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After testing the coffee again, and again, the roasters get to work. Roasting is equal parts art and science. Once roasted, the coffee is packaged by our team and then shipped out. All so you can wake up and enjoy a delicious cup of coffee.

 

Good from crop to cup.

 
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D.R. Congo - A look at 2017

What does Fair Trade look like in the D.R. Congo?

In 2017, Direct Fair Trade Premiums (the extra we pay on each shipment of coffee), went towards capacity building. More specifically, it paid for:

  • 55 new hand picking tables - this provides good working conditions for the women who sort each coffee bean by hand!
  • Training on pruning practices for farmers
  • Over 250,000 coffee trees to be planted
  • Practical tools, like saws for pruning

Interest is growing in this unique coffee. In 2018 we will double the amount of green coffee we buy!  

 Each coffee bean is hand sorted.

Each coffee bean is hand sorted.

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 Co-founder, Hugo visits with children of coffee farmers in D.R. Congo.

Co-founder, Hugo visits with children of coffee farmers in D.R. Congo.

Hugo in Tanzania: An Update from Tracey Ciro

A farmer update by Tracey Ciro (Co-founder).


Good morning, Level Ground!

Hugo left Victoria on Tuesday.  At some point early Sunday morning, while we were all still sleeping, he finally made it to the coffee growing region of Tanzania.  Long trip!  

I believe, this photo was taken at the Mlolow Coffee Processing Plant in Mbeya, Tanzania.  These are the women who sort our Tanzanian coffee bean by bean by hand.  (Please know, when I visited this plant, I asked about the women working on the floor.  I was shown sorting tables and comfortable-looking (to my eyes) chairs.  All unused.  The women, it was explained to me, prefer to work on the floor! )

There must be some story to the shirt Hugo is wearing.  I do not recognize it.

Hugo is off to visit farmers in Ileje today.  It will be a bumpy 4-wheel drive that is hours long… (and way longer than the driver tells you it will be!).  The road is red clay, if it has been dry, red mud if it has been raining.  There is lush green vegetation on either side of the road, and steep cliffs on, at least, one side of the road.  It is the kind of road you tell your mother about once you are safely back in Canada! ;)

Wishing you all a great day!

Tracey

Hugo in Tanzania

Speaking Coffee: Beginner Tips from Robyn

An editorial piece by Robyn Barchen (Marketing).


Picture this:

You're at a fancy brunch with friends: gluten-free mini waffles, locally foraged berries, homemade jams. The whole spread looks like it belongs on Pinterest. And then suddenly, the familiar aroma fills the air: coffee. A taste of home in a cup. 

But this moment quickly turns sour ... there's no cream or sugar in sight! You realize: these are coffee snobs. Words like "natural" or "full-bodied" are being thrown around like food at a middle-school cafeteria. But what do they even mean?

Fear not. I want to equip you. Just like you've learned to use the words "terroir" or "fruit-forward" around wine, this can be your go-to lexicon for coffee.

 
 I'm only smiling because I know I have a few coffee words in my back pocket. Ready to be whipped out at a moment's notice.

I'm only smiling because I know I have a few coffee words in my back pocket. Ready to be whipped out at a moment's notice.

 

The Go-To's:

  • Bold: This is the #1 word to throw around for coffee. Like the taste? Say bold. Not your style? Say bold.
  • Full-Bodied: While referring to a coffee that is well rounded, this word can become quite versatile if you say it with confidence. (Only for coffee, of course. I would not suggest calling the host "full-bodied"). 
  • Balanced: As long as it tastes like coffee to you, this is a solid word to throw into the mix.

If it tastes ___, say ____:

  • Burnt, say dark roast.
  • Sour, say citrus.
  • Dirt, say earthy.

For the Brave:

  • Plush: Meaning the body of the coffee, the weight of it on your tongue feels good. You're not likely to get questioned on it, but you might get some strange looks. Stay strong, you've got this. 
  • Spicy: Referring to the taste of spices, not a hot taste. Be careful, you might get asked what spice you're tasting. (When in doubt, go with cloves). 
 
 Alternative to fancy coffee words? Find the nearest cat and occupy yourself. Works 60% of the time (signficantly less if there is no cat, or if you have allergies).

Alternative to fancy coffee words? Find the nearest cat and occupy yourself. Works 60% of the time (signficantly less if there is no cat, or if you have allergies).

 

And of course, if you're the one hosting the brunch, pick up a package of our coffee. We put the flavour notes right on the front. Think of it as your cheat sheet for talking coffee! 

 

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8 Ways to Make Better Coffee Right Now

1. Clean your equipment

Don’t be afraid to really pull apart your machine and give it a deep clean. Whether it is a coffee pot, French press, or any other method, soap and water will do the trick. We recommend cleaning it frequently, as coffee oils can build up on your equipment and will impart unwanted flavours on your cup.

 

2. Buy good beans

You’re going to get out of your cup of coffee what you put into it. Here’s what to look for when buying coffee beans:

  • Arabica beans (watch out for Robusta, those beans are used as a cheap filler).
  • Small-batch roasted – this allows for greater control and roasting perfection.
  • Transparency on origin – you want to know where your favourite beans are coming from. Roasters that identify the origin are not likely to be hiding lower quality beans.

(Buy our great coffee beans here!)

 

3. Make sure it’s fresh

Coffee peaks about 7 – 21 days after roasting. While that isn’t realistic to always find (unless you live beside a roaster), we recommend you look for coffee that was roasted between one and three months ago.

Some methods are more forgiving than others. Espresso requires fresh beans and careful attention, where more forgiving methods, like French Press and drip brewer, can produce a decent cup with more variance in beans.

 

4. Brew it right

Although we all think we’re experts at “eyeballing” it when it comes to scooping coffee, there is nothing like following the golden ratio (1 part coffee to 17.42 parts water). But all you need to remember is the recipe for each type of coffee:

If you like to use a traditional drip brewer, try out this method, which uses 60g of coffee for a 12-cup pot.

French press lovers, we recommend 55g of coffee for a 1L press, but you can see a full recipe here

 

5. Try a new method, like Chemex or Aeropress.

Coffee is all about getting a flavour you like. If the way you’re preparing coffee isn’t doing it for you (or you just want to branch out), why not try some of these methods:

Chemex – This attractive method produces an incredibly clean cup of coffee. It can be a little difficult to master, but with a scale and a bit of practice you’ll be golden. See our full step-by-step method here.

Aeropress – Although it may appear daunting thanks to its modular appearance, the Aeropress is surprisingly easy to use. Plus, it’s super handy to pack for travelling. See our full step-by-step method here. 

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6. Store it in a cool, dark place

Coffee is happiest when it is hidden from light and air. If you don’t like to keep your coffee in the packaging you bought it in, make sure you transfer it to an airtight container that won’t let light in. A tin-tie, zipper, or seal will help keep the air out, and lock the freshness in.

 

7. No, not your freezer

Somehow a rumour got started that the freezer is a good place for your coffee, but don’t fall for it! When beans are taken in and out of a freezer, condensation happens. Moisture and coffee are not friends! Any benefit you might have gained from freezing the beans is quickly nullified.

 

8. Don’t be afraid to drink your coffee the way you like it

The best cup of coffee is the cup that you prefer. While so-called “coffee connoisseurs” will try to convince you it’s a sin to put sugar in your cup, we firmly believe that you should do what you like! If you like a splash of cream, go for it! If you prefer it black, enjoy that. And if you like 2 tablespoons of sugar, we’re certainly not going to fault you for it.

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Meet Bibiana.

When we set up our first trade relationship in 1997, small-scale coffee farmers in Colombia told us that the education of their children was a top priority. In response, Famicafé was founded to fund education for small-scale farmers’ children.

So how does it work? Level Ground Trading pays a Community Premium to Famicafé each time we purchase coffee from Colombia, which funds student scholarships and classroom resources.

 

Meet Bibiana.

We met Bibiana as one of the first group of students Level Ground sponsored in Colombia. Her life was difficult. In 2001, armed men forced Bibiana’s family out of their small home on the tiny sliver of land they owned. With only a few possessions, they took refuge at the Famicafé boarding house until Bibiana’s father was able to find a place for them to settle.

Graduating high school in 2002, Bibiana went on to nursing school after she was unable to get into medical school. She completed nursing school four years later, but her dream to become a medical doctor remained. She continued school in Armenia, Colombia, studying diligently and living with her Famicafé schoolmates.

Bibiana graduated from medical school in 2015. She moved to the big city, Medellin, to work at a walk-in clinic. The 12-hour shifts were draining, and the pay was menial. She was burning out quickly because she didn’t have enough time to care for each patient that waited to see her.

Earlier this year, she managed to find work at a clinic that specializes in hemophilia. She now focuses on diagnosis, treatment and follow-up with hemophiliac patients. She lives in the big city of Medellin, but continues to travel back to San Bartolo to visit her parents. She is able to send money home to help her parents who are day labourers in coffee farms near their small house in the mountains.

Bibiana is a great example of the benefits of investing coffee premiums into the lives and education of young people. Women like Bibiana bring joy to our hearts because in her we see hope for a better rural Colombia.

 Bibiana poses with Level Ground staff and Julian, the director of Famicafé.

Bibiana poses with Level Ground staff and Julian, the director of Famicafé.

 Famicafé students Sandra and Bibiana in the mountains of Colombia.

Famicafé students Sandra and Bibiana in the mountains of Colombia.

 Hugo, Level Ground Co-founder, and Bibiana visiting this week!

Hugo, Level Ground Co-founder, and Bibiana visiting this week!

D.R. Congo Farmer Visit

Here's what's happening right now (June 2017): Hugo is in Africa visiting farmers. His latest stop, D.R. Congo with coffee friend Jono from Bean There Coffee.  

DR Congo
 The Mutendero washing station in Vissale (near Butembo), D.R. Congo. 

The Mutendero washing station in Vissale (near Butembo), D.R. Congo. 

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 Hugo and the "Mamas" - women who sort the green coffee beans. 

Hugo and the "Mamas" - women who sort the green coffee beans. 

 Selfie at the coffee milling plant with the Mamas. 

Selfie at the coffee milling plant with the Mamas. 

Why isn't our Colombia Coffee organic?

In 1997, our first trade relationship was with a co-operative of coffee farmers in Colombia. That relationship, which is close to our hearts, remains today. These coffee beans, which you may know as our Colombia, Decaf, and French Roast, are not organic; we wanted to take the time to explain why.

Our Colombian coffee is not organic certified. We buy from small-scale farmers who grow coffee and other crops without pesticides, but they do use fertilizer to maximize plant health and yield. 

 

What is the difference between Pesticides and Fertilizers?

Pesticides are used to eliminate and prevent pests and insects from farms. Pesticides include: insecticides, weed control and rodent poisons. Fertilizers, on the other hand, are organic or inorganic compounds that feed plants with required nutrients. The basic mentality difference between the two is that pesticides aim to kill, while fertilizers aim to grow. 

When a farmer uses either pesticides or fertilizers, their crop cannot be certified organic.  

 

Why don't the farmers switch their practice to organic? 

Farmers choose fertilizer to maximize plant health and yield. In Colombia, coffee is a cash crop that many families rely on for income. Organic isn't about higher income for farming families. Often, organic is about sacrificing yield, which means lower income for families.

The journey towards organic is costly for farmers: third party inspectors need to visit, collect data and samples, and write a report card. Farmers have to follow standardized protocols and keep logs of everything they do. This is more than just a financial barrier for illiterate farmers. 

 

The process of Fair Trade is never easy. In an effort to maintain relationships and support Colombian farming families, we're committed to continuing to purchase this coffee that we have been buying for 20 years! 

 Stacey (Co-founder) & the face of our French Roast coffee, Luis. 

Stacey (Co-founder) & the face of our French Roast coffee, Luis. 

Meet Jaime.

MEET JAIME, THE FACE OF COLOMBIA COFFEE.

 
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Jaime Marín lives near Jardín, Colombia, where he grows coffee and fruits like lulo, a popular fruit among urban Colombians. His coffee plot is 2,000 meters above sea level, which makes his coffee a favourite among specialty coffee drinkers.  At this high elevation the coffee ‘cherries’ ripen very slowly and the flavour concentrates in the beans.  Jaime Marín’s coffee also earns Direct Fair Trade premiums through the “Programa San Miguel” and his coffee is shipped to Level Ground directly. 

 Co-owner Stacey shows Jaime his face on the Colombia coffee package for the first time!

Co-owner Stacey shows Jaime his face on the Colombia coffee package for the first time!

 Dave (Level Ground), Jaime, Robyn (Level Ground), and Elizabeth (Famicafé) visit at Jaime's farm.

Dave (Level Ground), Jaime, Robyn (Level Ground), and Elizabeth (Famicafé) visit at Jaime's farm.

The story of our compostable packaging

In 2004, we went landfill free. 

Then, we introduced a reclamation and upcycling program for our coffee packages.

Now, we've taken another step in reducing our carbon footprint by launching a compostable coffee package. (The main ingredient? Made in Canada FSC certified wood pulp!)


WHAT IS THE PACKAGE MADE OF?

FSC certified paper, NatureFlex film, adhesive and bioplastic.

WHAT CAN I DO WITH THE PACKAGE WHEN I'M DONE WITH IT?

1. Compost it in your backyard

2. Bring it to one of our Reclamation Stations (available at many grocery stores) and we will compost it

CAN I PUT IT IN MY MUNICIPAL COMPOST BIN?

Most composting facilities only accept food scraps. Level Ground is trying to work with commercial composters, who are prepared to manage the longer composting time required for packaging. The reality is that our technology is ahead of where the waste management industry is currently. You are always welcome to send packaging back to us, and we will compost it.

CAN I COMPOST IT IN MY BACKYARD?

You can! Especially if you live in a mild climate and have composting skills. Cutting the package open and laying it flat will help speed things up. Remember to mix in lots of organic material like food scraps.

WILL IT KEEP MY COFFEE FRESH?

Yes! This packaging material is a high oxygen barrier film and will keep your coffee fresh. Coffee is happiest when it is hidden from light and air; this package does both wonderfully!

Meet Agnes.

MEET AGNES, THE FACE OF TANZANIA COFFEE.

When we first met Agnes, she was sorting sun-dried coffee in Mbeya, Tanzania. The year was 2008 and her photo (below) would eventually become the face of our red Tanzania coffee package.

 The photo of Agnes, used for our Tanzania coffee Package.

The photo of Agnes, used for our Tanzania coffee Package.

We're committed to paying for the use of a person's photo on our packaging. When we met with Agnes to pay her for the use of her photo, she was excited to tell us her plans for the money. She had always dreamed of being a seamstress, and the money from her photo allowed her to purchase a sewing machine. 

Here's the video of her receiving payment for her photo! 

How much caffeine is in decaf coffee?

How much caffeine is in decaf coffee?

Level Ground Decaf Coffee goes through a natural water process that results in a cup that is 97+% decaffeinated.

This means that there is anywhere from .8-3 mg of caffeine per serving rather than the traditional 40-100 mg depending on extraction method and volume.

 

How is the coffee decaffeinated? 

Our decaf coffee starts out as the same amazing Colombian coffee that you know from the brown Level Ground package (the one with Jaime's smiling face).  The difference is that once the Colombian green coffee is ready for export, the beans that are destined for decaf are sent to DESCAFECOL (a Colombian company).  Why decaffeinate in Colombia? Our intention is to provide as much value to the country of origin as possible.   We think one of the reasons our decaf tastes so amazing is that the green coffee is going through the decaffeination process so soon after harvest - super fresh beans.

DESCAFECOL uses a special combination of pure water and ethyl acetate (EA) which allows for a gentle caffeine extraction from the coffee bean.

EA may sound like a scary chemical, but in fact it is obtained from natural sources like sugar cane (which grows in Colombia). EA can also be found in many natural products including fruits, vegetables, and coffee. 

Once the decaffeinated coffee arrives here at Level Ground, we roast and package and then we sleep well knowing we've given you less caffeine in your cup.

The following is a diagram of the process, courtesy of DESCAFECOL.

 

 

 

Meet Julian.

MEET JULIAN.

Julian (pronounced 'hoo-lee-ann') is the Director of Famicafé, a small organization established to support coffee farming communities in Colombia.   

Julian is a trained Agronomist and well-loved in the coffee farming community. As the Director of Famicafé, Julian's job is to match children in the community with educational scholarships. He is vigilant in seeking out the poorest students in the region who stand to gain the most from financial support in their education. He provides thoughtful, human interaction between students and their educational funding so that best outcomes are most likely.

He frequently travels between schools and communities to check in on students. To these students, he is a counsellor, friend, mentor, and great resource. Julian's ongoing involvement with Famicafé has him caring for the efforts of the foundation in 36 schools with 200+ students!

Julian is a dear friend of Level Ground. This past summer, Julian and his wife came to Canada to visit Level Ground and encourage our staff with stories of how Fair Trade directly impacts farmers and the farming community in Colombia.

Since 1998, Famicafé has invested $1.4M in education, supporting over 1400 families! 

To read more about Famicafé, see our blog here.

Julian champions peasant farmers and their families’ future by thoughtfully directing our Fair Trade premiums to deserving students. He creatively inspires the students to work, plan and dream for a better future.
— Stacey Toews, Level Ground co-owner
 Julian and Level Ground Quality Control Lead, Josh meet up in Colombia.

Julian and Level Ground Quality Control Lead, Josh meet up in Colombia.

 Julian (far left) visiting Brazo Seco School in St. Inez, Colombia

Julian (far left) visiting Brazo Seco School in St. Inez, Colombia

 Julian working from his mobile "office" - the top of a Jeep! (check out the 'cushy' seating)

Julian working from his mobile "office" - the top of a Jeep! (check out the 'cushy' seating)

Famicafé: Changing Colombian Families through Education

When we set up our first trade relationship in 1997, small-scale coffee farmers in Colombia told us that the education of their children was a top priority. In response, Famicafé was founded to fund education for small-scale farmers’ children.

How does it all work?

Level Ground Trading pays a Community Premium to Famicafé each time we purchase coffee from Colombia which funds student scholarships and classroom resources.  

Beyond student scholarships, there are other key factors which may not immediately come to mind such as: repairing washed out roads which must be in place for students to attend school, breakfast programs that ensure the students have adequate nutrition before they start their day, replacing leaky roofs or installing gutters on schools so that the learning environment is comfortable etc

One of the more significant challenges for rural farm kids is that their home is too far from school to be able to commute to and from daily. Famicafé has run a boarding house where each year from 3-14 students have lived during the week, with a ‘dorm mom’ to care for them.

Famicafé has been personal, caring and ultimately successful in accomplishing the goal of providing education for small-scale farmers’ children! Some students have gone on to earn post secondary degrees and are active in serving their community as medical professionals and agronomists.

 A student displays his welcome poster for Level Ground staff on a school visit.

A student displays his welcome poster for Level Ground staff on a school visit.

 Elizabeth and Bibiana stand against the incredible steep slopes of coffee.

Elizabeth and Bibiana stand against the incredible steep slopes of coffee.

 The students at Brazo Seco were thrilled to receive their new Famicafé backpack!

The students at Brazo Seco were thrilled to receive their new Famicafé backpack!