This past week Balzac Brothers hosted the Rainforest Alliance Cupping Competition. Usually this is held in New York, but this year, we offered to host it here in Charleston! To get ready, we had our lab CQI certified. This involved getting bright halogen lights to hang over standing cupping tables, along with a few other tweaks around the lab.


Over two days, we had 12 friends in the coffee business come to town, and they judged 80 different Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffees. Each anonymous coffee had a flight for testing, they were each graded, and then discussed by all the cuppers. Two of our own, Gloria Long and Ray Keane, got to cup for the event along with the others.

LindaCupping RFACuppingMen1 136

In between cuppings, we had apples and saltines to cleanse the palates, and some bagels to keep from getting the coffee shakes. This is vital, after long days of drinking coffee, everyone gets a little caffeine crazy.


The first night everyone was in town, we took a bus out to Shem Creek, and went on a boat cruise around the harbor. We had a beautiful happy hour at sunset with oysters. It was a little chilly, but there was a full moon, 27 blankets, drinks (not involving coffee), and great company that made the night perfect!

IMG_3864 IMG_3879 IMG_3884

It was a really busy week, but it was a great one. We were so excited that Balzac Brothers could invite RFA to come here to put this cupping on. We hope we will get to do it again!


The Crew (from top left): Ray Keane, Tim Fallar, Alan Nietlisbach, Robert Stephen, James Jenkins, Maya Albanese, Marty Curtis, Linda Smithers, Joel Shuler, Dennis Jackson, Lowell Grosse, Adam Jures , McKayla Watkins, Ricky Keane, John, Duda Anderson, Gary Hull, Gloria Long, Samantha Keane, Molly McKinney

We took a field trip today to our Continental Warehouse to pick up some green coffee from Colombia and Guatemala (a.k.a. Guats). It was a beautiful day to go for a ride in the new “coffee gettin” truck.IMG_1165

The warehouse is very large and slightly chilly, with piles as high as the eye can see of coffee bags. Each burlap sack is marked with an exporter logo, its origin, and what farm lot the coffee was from. Some of these bags, like from Peru or Ethiopia, have very bright beautiful colors.


We picked up 1,366.50 pounds (to be exact) of coffee today, it was quite a task of loading, unloading, and then finding a place for it in the office. You can definitely consider it as a work out for the day. IMG_1188

Some of us gave a valient effort trying to help move the coffee load, but it only led to disaster. There was a little hole in the bag which then caused a small coffee explosion in the parking lot.


You know what they say, no use crying over spilled coffee beans!


Recently, the Ethiopian Embassy has been in touch with Balzac Brothers in regards to increasing exports and promoting their coffees. So we have happily started to bring in more Ethiopian coffee, and in return, are spreading the word about them. We are very excited to be getting some new diverse coffee.


Today we did a cupping for two Ethiopian washed coffees. The Sidamo coffee is described as having bright acidity, and a medium body with spicy and citrus flavors. The second is the Yirgacheffee coffee, very similiar to the Sidamo; has bright acidity, medium body,  and marked by Jasmine and lemon flavors.


The image on the left is the raw coffee bean, and to the right is after it has been roasted. Ethiopian roasts are usually a little bit darker.

We all really liked the Yirgacheffee coffee, as we let it cool, the tangy flavors of this bean really stood out. It was so delicious that we brewed a whole pot to enjoy!

Visit to learn more about the Arabica coffees that Ethiopia offers.