Ogling roasters from afar

A tweet about Fratello showed up in my feed this afternoon. This is a high-quality roaster based out of Calgary whose green buyer, Russ Prefontaine, goes out of his way to source great coffee by establishing “direct trade” relationships with producers around the world. Incidentally, Russ’s brother, Jason, created the Slayer espresso machine. High-octane family, right? Back to Fratello, you can sample some of their coffees in pod form thanks to a long-standing relationship they have with Chad Elliott at the Coffee Artisan, but it’s pretty much impossible to find Fratello whole bean in the U.S. This frustrates my inner geek, who sometimes wants to compare the same coffee with and without pod packaging. But also, pods aside, the beans just sound tasty. In fact, I know from very limited past experience that they are (one gift from Russ long ago + a personally delivered bag or two from friends of mine who went to Calgary on vacation last year). And yet I can’t bring myself to pull the trigger when I visit Fratello’s online store because I find the cost of reliably fast shipping to Baltimore from Calgary prohibitive: a minimum of $15.67 for Canada Post’s Small Packet Air service with a delivery standard of 4-10 business days (not guaranteed). Ouch.

Of course, the problem’s not Fratello-specific. When considering ordering from any roaster located “abroad,” you have to worry about cost and freshness. The same raft of potential issues has stopped me from buying from Square Mile in the past (London), and I assume I’d run into similar obstacles trying to obtain the good stuff from Has Bean, Kaffa, and Tim Wendelboe to name just a few foreign roasters I’ve been curious about.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m very grateful for the amazing diversity of good coffee I can put my hands on affordably right here in the U.S. The inaccessibility of certain coffees may even be a *good* thing in the sense that it helps preserve the uniqueness of place on a global scale and rewards those willing to shake off the blanket of the familiar in order to travel and seek new experiences. Come to think of it, I do have a forum friend who lives an hour from Oslo…

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