In 2010, frustrations with apartment living led Vancouverite Camil Dumont to get creative. Camil grew up in Ontario farmland, surrounded by lots of open space and many family members involved in agriculture. When he moved to BC, he missed that aspect of life, and found that many of his friends did too. Cam and his friends saw a future as the idea that began as a way to work around the restrictions of urban life began to produce more food than the friends could consume themselves. Inner City Farms grew out of the simple desire to grow good food close to home, and that's what they have managed to do since turning the idea into a business in 2012. ICF is made possible by volunteers – some casual, and some participating in a season-long internship that gives them experience with crop planning, planting, pest management and the coordination required to farm multiple sites within city limits.
ICF currently operates 123213.123 acres, spread across 11 separate sites within Vancouver city limits. At one point they wondered if they would be able to find enough people willing to share their land – they don't worry about that anymore. Each season they have more land offered up than they are able to manager, so it becomes a process of choosing the best sites to grow into based on location and growing potential. Landowners – homeowners in this case – hand over management of their yards in exchange for a portion of the harvest. In this agreement, they don't get to choose what goes onto their land – they may end up with a third of an acre of winter squash, or a field full of tomatoes, but the ICF team does keep an eye on the aesthetics. [quote about how happy people are with the look of their yards.]
The more land they acquire, the more things become possible. In our climate garlic is planted in the fall and harvested in mid-summer – taking up space for around 8 months. It's not the most efficient use of space if you're trying to grow as much food as possible in your own yard, but once you have a whole yard to devote to garlic, the low-maintenance crop can pay off big time. Then there are the things that require lots of attention – salad greens and quick-growing root veg like radishes that can overgrow or bolt in hot weather. ICF plants these in plots close to the heart of their operations so that they can visit frequently.
For Matchstick, partnering with ICF means a steady stream of exceptionally fresh produce from early summer through late fall, and the excitement of managing the harvest in our kitchens. A glut of kale may lead to simmered greens and poached egg breakfast feature. A surprise delivery of red currants ends up topping puff pastry tarts and being cooked into tart jam. And zucchini season must be obeyed – that's zucchini muffins, savoury zucchini tarts, zucchini and potato hash, and plenty of zucchini packed away in the freezer for winter iterations of those muffins. Good thing we sell a lot of muffins.
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So, assuming the coffee was roasted well, it should taste good, right? Nope.
Most coffee is bad. Really bad. Seriously. There is good reason why most people assume they don't like coffee, or could never drink it black, because they're probably correct. Until very recently, most of the coffee that 'specialty' coffee roasters were purchasing were selections from very large lots, sold en masse, usually with very little specificity regarding the details of production (farm history, size, elevation, processing methodology). This was often (and still is largely the case), a very large green coffee blend composed from hundreds of producers, at a generally consistent level of quality, in order to achieve a reasonable degree of uniformity in the cup, while allow for a more scaleable and effecient way to pack, ship, market and sell the coffee to brokers. While this model can be excellent, if the blends of coffee are all of very high calibre, the more common instance is that the green coffee blends are mediocre, or worse. So how would a roaster sell this coffee? Simple, cover up the flavor from the "coffee" with flavor from the "roasting". After the more delcious-flavour producing chemical reactions of the Maillard reaction, and caramelization, the eventual by-product of coffee roasting is carbonization, or in other words, burning. The flavours associated with this reaction are strong, dominant, carbonic, smoky, and earthy. A little of this can sometimes be pleasant, and is arguably somewhat inevitable when roasting coffee for the espresso profile. However, the presence of this flavor always comes at the expense of diminishing the innate flavor from the coffee. Start with two very different tasting coffees, and the darker the roast becomes, the more similar they begin to taste. Not surprisingly, this presents a significant opportunity for consistency and profitability for roasters who purchase large amounts of commodity grade coffee. The darker a coffee is roasted, the less the flaws in that coffee become apparent. Coffee is made more 'consistent' by roasting darker. Many roasters have taken advantage of this.
Again, our approach is very different, and a lot more risky. We roast all of our coffees quite light, the degree of roast of our espresso coffees is similar (or lighter) to what many roasters would describe as a medium roast. However, as outlined above, to roast coffee correctly, it must be developed adequately. Even roasting to the same "degree", but having an incorrect roast curve, will cause the coffee to taste underdeveloped (woody, doughy) or overdeloped (carbonic, ashy).
The last half decade has shown a dramatic push of coffees being marketed more largely based on where it was produced, and who produced it, versus some generic branding by country, or perhaps a special blend from the roaster.