Manlao Coffee @ La Marzocco

September 12, 2014, 10:30 AM

La Marzocco USA


Recently, La Marzocco USA hosted our friends from Atlas Coffee Importers. During our time together we heard from Katherine Nolte of the NGO Twin. What we learned is that coffee in Uganda is developing rather quickly. A country where specialty-grade coffee was once unheard of is now producing some very delicious lots. If you made it to our event on August 22, then you likely got to experience how tasty these coffees are.

Phil Beatie, Green Coffee Buyer for Dillanos Coffee in Sumner, WA, might have said it best: “Rwanda took 6-7 years to develop great specialty coffees. Then Burundi began to produce great coffee in only 4-5 years. Now, here we are with Uganda producing specialty coffee only 2-3 years in.” It is very exciting to see such quality coming to an unusual origin so quickly.

At La Marzocco, we are excited to continue our exploration of somewhat unusual coffee origins. On September 12, we will host ManLao River. ManLao is a coffee company growing coffee in China.


Here is a little more information from Janet Sun, a ManLao River partner:

ManLao River Project is a sustainable coffee farm in the south of China in Yunnan province, Pu’er city.  ManLao River was originally started as an environmental protection project in the early 1990s. Today, it is a coffee farm working on many of the same ideals through coffee.

Per Janet: “We’re lucky enough to have been granted a large 10,000 hectare protected forest land. On this land, we’ve found that farmers are able to survive on their earnings and there can be proper nutrition. We believe that when the above problems can be solved, it is possible to reverse the environmental damage done too our planet so far.

Coffee has become a flagship product for us because it is a special industry full of very passionate, caring people. Not only do we care about making a very high quality product, we care about the environment, and believe in caring for those people and natural resources that support us.”

Over 10,000 ethnic minority farmers have moved through ManLao River since it was founded in the 1990s. 3000 farmers stayed behind. Surviving with them are different minority languages, religions, and cultures that were once close to extinction.


Some of ManLao’s progress in the last years:

2006 – original non-profit founder declares bankruptcy. Remaining project incorporates to run itself, and becomes 3 companies.

2008 – organic certification started

2009 – 1st Chinese coffee plantation to become organic certified in China

2010 – work on USDA and EU organic certification started

2012 – 1st Chinese coffee to be in WBC finals used by Jie Hong

2013 – 1st Chinese coffee to become USDA and EU organic certified.


Farm facts:

10,000 hectares

3,000 farmers

75% pristine forest land


On September 12th ManLao River will be sharing some stories, photos, and videos, and cupping ManLao River coffee roasted by Conduit.

If you would like to join us for the event, please RSVP here.

For more information on ManLao River Coffee, visit


Exploring Uganda: A morning with Atlas Coffee Importers

La Marzocco USA

1553 NW Ballard Way, Seattle, WA, 98199

August 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM

To the east of Kenya and north of both Rwanda and Tanzania is Uganda, a coffee origin that you don’t commonly see on the shelves of your local cafe. When we think of East African coffees, our minds tend to focus on places like Ethiopia, and other more popular regions. However, La Marzocco USA is excited about the work our friends at Atlas Coffee Importers are doing to bring coffee from Uganda to our attention.

On August 22, we will host Atlas and some of their partners from Uganda. Speaking at the event will be Katherine Nolte of the NGO Twin. As their website mentions, Twin is a “pioneer and leader of the fair trade movement, working to build better lives for the poorest and more marginalized in the trading chain.”

Along with Katherine, we will also hear from Pascasie, one of the women who works for the Bukonzo Joint Cooperative in Uganda. Pascasie and Bukonzo are part of a program that focuses on the inclusion and participation of women within coffee communities. You can read more about this great project in Uganda here.

We will also be cupping and tasting eight different coffees from Uganda. The cupping will be led by Atlas’ cupping lab team, Drew Billups and Gavin Tull-Esterbrook. Cupping with Drew and Gavin is always a treat as it is guaranteed to be both delicious and very informative.

The presentation will start at 10 AM, sharp. Please RSVP for this event here. 


Bukonzo Joint Cooperative’s Story
In the spring of 2011, we received a sample from Bukonzo Joint and found a lot of unrealized potential in the coffee quality.  At the time they were just in the process of applying for Fair Trade and Organic certification and producing only natural (drugar) and farmer washed coffee.  We continued to correspond with the group for several months and eventually were able to partner with Twin to help manage our first purchases in early 2012.  The quality was lower than we had hoped but we saw a tremendous amount of dedication and responsiveness in this group that inspired us to continue our efforts.  We purchased coffee again in 2013 and saw a big improvement as the central washing stations started to come on line, but still had some problems with sorting and milling.  Again, the group was eager to hear how they could improve and acting on our feedback, our 2014 arrivals have been by far the best Ugandan coffees we have seen.

We are hoping to participate in their ongoing mission to bring more of the quality control and processing in-house by building out a larger warehouse/mill and on-site cupping lab.

Below: Atlas on a visit to Uganda

Bukonzo 1 Bukonzo 2

Can you taste the difference?

Recently, in an article written for Serious Eats, Nick Cho of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters suggested that the first thing to do to make better-tasting coffee at home is throw your blade grinder away.

Nick’s article prompted plenty of online discussion among coffee consumers. Many of the comments were from average folks claiming they are not trained coffee people, and as such, they could not taste the difference between coffee made with, or without a blade grinder.

On Friday August 15th, our own Ryan Willbur, along with Bronwen Serna and David Yake of Tony’s Coffee, will be facilitating a taste test at the La Marzocco lab in Seattle. Folks will blindly taste coffees ground with a professional-grade burr grinder; a blade grinder; a coffee grinder that cost less than $30; a commercial grinder; and coffees ground using the new “perfect coffee” non-oxidized grinder. The samples will be labeled A through E and each person will get to taste each coffee, then vote for the one they think tastes the best. Anyone is welcome to stop by, taste some coffee, and vote.

The goal is to help facilitate a discussion among people who enjoy coffee, but who may not have professionally-trained palates. Join us for a conversation about your experience tasting each of these coffees, and whether you experience different flavors when different grinders are used.

Please join us at La Marzocco USA anytime between 9:00am and 11:30am to taste coffee with us, cast your vote, and discuss.