All the News from the Salem Inn and In Salem

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cafe Valverde, Not Your Average Joe

 Owner Eleni Valverdi flanked by assistant caffeine suppliers

Cafe Valverde is not where you find your average joe.  Cup of joe, that is.  Eleni and Nelson Valverde, the owners of Salem's newest coffee shop, are coffee experts.  The shop has been open a few weeks now and hopefully will give Starbucks (which I occasionally refer to as Charbucks) a run for their money.

Nelson is from Bolivia, where the coffee grows sweet and mellow.  This is a flavor profile regarding Bolivian coffee that I borrowed from the Roaster's Club website:

Aroma: melon
Brightness: bright and clean
Flavor: sweet, with hazelnut and chocolate
Body: silky and well-balanced
Notes: Higher Ground’s Bolivian Caranavi is a complex and flavorful coffee, grown high up in the De Montaña Co-op. Light and refreshing on the palate, the cup features caramel and milk chocolate undertones, a fruity aroma, and a smooth, nutty finish. 

Hazelnut?  Chocolate?  Smelling like a melon?  This sounds like my idea of heaven.  I enviously think that people who hail from coffee-growing countries have coffee flowing in their veins.

Eleni and Nelson began their coffee adventures in 2004 as self-taught artisan roasters, with a wholesale coffee importing company called Invalsa Coffee.  They have worked hard to develop relationships with small coffee farmers in Bolivia, where the coffee is grown on small farms high in the tropical Yungas region.  They regularly travel to Bolivia where they taste coffees, buy them, and ship them back to West Newbury, MA, where Invalsa Coffee is located.  The coffee is sold online to restaurants, catering companies, and to places as far away as Australia and Antarctica.  (It makes sense that penguins like a hot cup of coffee; I would too if I lived there).  To be delivered as fresh as possible, the beans are roasted in small batches right before being shipped.  They are lightly roasted, as Bolivian coffees' delicate nuances can be lost by over-roasting.

Nelson Valverde "cupping" in Colombia at the Olympics of coffee, the Cup of Excellence contest

Nelson travels regularly to Bolivia, where his brother Jorge lives and handles the exporting end.  Nelson is also an international judge in the "Cup of Excellence" contests that occur throughout the coffee-growing world.  The Cup of Excellence is a strict competition that selects the best coffee produced in that country for that particular year . These winning coffees are chosen by a select group of national and international "cuppers". The final winners are awarded the prestigious Cup of Excellence and sold to the highest bidder during an internet auction.  Nelson will soon be going to Guatemala to participate, and travels to Cup of Excellence contests about 6 times a year.

 Bolivia's Cup of Excellence

Eleni is now running Cafe Valverde here in Salem.  When I asked, why Salem?  She told me that she and Nelson had conducted an exhaustive search over two years to find just the right location, and that Salem had the right combination of elements.  A busy, bustling city with enough people who have a  palate sophisticated enough to appreciate what Cafe Valverde has to offer.

The cafe is warm and inviting and they sell all manner of coffee drinks, teas, smoothies, and baked goods.  The staff is very friendly.  They have free Wi-Fi.  They will be roasting their coffee beans right on the premises soon, and the aroma will be wafting down the Essex Street mall where you can sit outside at the bistro tables in front and in the cool alley next door.  Any ingredients they can buy locally, such as milk and chocolate, they do.  Having tried their coffee several times, I can definitely attest to how delicious it is, and how it would be tough to go back to...what's that place called?  I can't remember.


  1. Sounds like my kind of place! And I love the pig; finally a drawing of me.

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