Federal Way Farmers Market: Know your coffee from the grounds up | How to prepare iced coffee

Elson Guillermo Alegría, also known as Bill, manages a stand at the Federal Way Farmers Market, which runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays at The Commons mall parking lot.  - Courtesy image
Elson Guillermo Alegría, also known as Bill, manages a stand at the Federal Way Farmers Market, which runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays at The Commons mall parking lot.
— image credit: Courtesy image

Elson Guillermo Alegría — “Bill” to his regulars at the Federal Way Farmers Market — is the third generation of organic coffee growers from El Salvador. A native of San Pedro Nonualco, Bill moved to Seattle nine years ago and founded the Golden Bean Coffee Company.

The youngest of seven siblings, he has fond memories of working on the family’s coffee plantation, El Volcancito (“Little Volcano”), during school breaks and summer vacations. He vividly remembers his hard-working and kindly father, especially the pride he took in his work.

Bill’s father, Miguel Angel, was well known for his kindness to coffee workers. He paid the workers well and, in turn, Bill recalls, “the workers were kind to the coffee plants.” Whole generations of families worked in his father’s plantation, including one loyal family of 11 siblings.

Bill shares anecdotes of harvest time in San Pedro, when the coffee workers would gather the pepenar, the coffee beans that had fallen on the ground during harvesting, for their personal use, and would set it out on the ground to dry. The dried coffee beans would be shelled in a piladera, a wooden coffee mill. The coffee beans would then be roasted at home in a comal, a clay oven, and stored away for each worker family’s use. Bill savors the memory of coffee prepared in this manner—with “a delicious flavor and lots of aroma.”

Bill’s brother, José Ramiro, carries on the family tradition and manages their coffee business from the family estate in San Pedro, nestled 4,000 feet above sea level on prime coffee growing land. Bill travels to the family business several times a year. He imports his family’s organically grown coffee beans as well as beans from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia, Kenya, Ethiopia and other countries. Coffee roasting is done locally in West Seattle in small batches (no more than 40 pounds at a time) using a specialized Hot Air Micro Roasting method.

Bill’s coffee business blended right into Washington’s coffee culture. He has managed his stand exclusively at the Federal Way Farmers Market for the past three years, mostly for promotional purposes, since the bulk of his business is wholesale primarily to West Seattle coffee shops. His customers routinely challenge his knowledge and pepper him with coffee questions. “People in Washington really know their coffee,” he affirms.

Every Saturday, Bill’s free samples of hot coffee attract coffee connoisseurs, the curious, the regulars and those just needing a quick pick-me-up. Heavy-duty thermos containers hold a wide variety of coffees for customers to sample: French Extra Dark, Italian Extra Dark, Firehouse medium roast, House Blend medium roast. Many more varieties, ground and whole-bean in 12 different flavors, are packaged in shiny bronze-colored or white bags labeled West Seattle Gold. At $9 a pound, customers can choose from such delectable flavors as English caramel, Irish Cream, Chocolate Macadamia, Hazelnut and Tiramisu.

Bill’s wife, Lisette, and their two daughters, would prefer him to stay home on Saturdays and relax. But Bill enjoys the lively exchange of coffee and sage advice with his customers. “I guess coffee is just in my blood,” he muses.

Iced coffee

Bill suggests cooling off with iced coffee as a refreshing warm-weather drink. He recommends transferring freshly-brewed dark-roast coffee into a tightly sealed container and storing it in the refrigerator overnight. Properly-sealed chilled coffee will be at its peak of flavor the following day. Pour chilled coffee into a tall glass. Add half and half, then sweeten to taste. Pour over ice cubes and stir. Enjoy.

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