Flamenco Organic: NE roastery seeks the ultimate in fair-trade coffee

Freshly roasted, Flamenco-style

Freshly roasted, Flamenco-style

When Dave Chall, of restaurant supplier Upper Midwest Gourmet, originally thought of coffee, he viewed it simply as an additional revenue stream. But now the bean arm of his NE Minneapolis operation, Flamenco Organic, is at the forefront of the local java industry. Why? Because it made an early commitment to sustainability and quality. From the get-go, the staff dealt only in fair-trade organic coffees of the highest quality. Today, the company has eight people on payroll--half are techs certified by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, two are full-time roasters, and the client list spans the Upper Midwest and beyond. Flamenco also took home two Calhoun Coffee Festival wins last year (and a second-place ribbon, too).

Here's a closer look inside the Northeast warehouse Flamenco calls home.


Starting Flamenco as a division of UMG meant that they could invest in great beans, education, and equipment. Jesse Grote, the company's first roaster, is fully devoted to the joe that leaves the place. "There has been a belief that FTO [fair-trade organic] coffees are not top quality, but we're working hard to change that," he says. "We use only the highest-quality fair trade and organics." Chall adds, "For example, right now people are asking us for Ethiopia Yergacheffe, but we can't find any good FTO stuff. So we're not stocking it." Recently, Flamenco started sourcing some coffees directly from the Dominican Republic and Guatemala, so that the profits all go to the grower. They also support local bsuiness Café Imports, as well as the Cafe Femenino Project, which imports coffee from rural female producers all over the world.

In addition to providing roasted coffee to resorts, restaurants, coffee shops, and businesses, Chall and his team carry high-class brewing equipment and accoutrement. They've got the latest in single-brew machines, a Bunn Trifecta, and a Rancilio espresso machine with the old-style lever. They also carry new organic flavor syrups--the only ones of their kind on the market.

While the front office has a fun display of products, Flamenco's big machinery is the most impressive. In back, roaster Alan Erbach works a yellow Primo with small 30-pound batches of beans. Basically, that means Flamenco roasts four to five five-pound bags at a time and no more. Plus, they mainly roast to order, so nothing sits on the shelf for long. Generally roasted product is out the door within 24 to 48 hours of ordering. Spee Dee, a St. Cloud shipping service, is their main mode of transport. However, they usually have a few extra bags hanging around that they will to walk-in customers.

What does Flamenco have to say about the rise of the Twin Cities as a coffee destination? They love the fact that customers are now hip to Fair Trade and organic designations as well as a perfectly brewed cup. It means that baristas are more likely to be trained properly and restaurants are seeing the light about serving decent brews. While not quite at the Portland-level yet as far as the java itself, the group believes that this town is ahead in its sustainability awareness.

So now you want to judge Flamenco's FTO wares for yourself? Visit them at the Calhoun Coffee Fest, coming up on Nov. 20 in Minneapolis, where they will be vying for brew supremacy, or stop in at the warehouse in Nordeast.

Flamenco Organic Coffee Co.
1901 Traffic St. N.E., Minneapolis