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With RAGBRAI underway on Sunday

A Coffee Tree Grows In T-T... with a tie to the annual bike ride

July 18, 2019
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

By John Speer


Article Photos

Brian Gumm (right) with his friends Lynn and B’hen Cabbage and the coffee tree they gave him which was grown from seed in Iowa over the past eight years. Brian says the tree more resembles a bush and is pruned back after harvest.
-Photo provided

Coffee aficionados had the chance to sample Iowa-grown coffee- yes, grown right here in Tama-Toledo during a recent event at Ross Street Roasting Co. in downtown Tama. Along with a taste test they supported a worthy charity- the Livestrong Foundation, an organization devoted to what it says is a "fight for the more than 36.2 million people around the world affected by cancer now."

Brian Gumm, Ross Street Roasting owner, put together a Saturday morning program on June 29 featuring the coffee growing process to brewing and serving. Together with proceeds from the event his wife, Erin, and he, are donating $2,000 to the Livestrong Foundation and will accompany the 80 or so team members on the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa later this month. Ross Street Roasting is also donating coffee for the team's week-long ride, as was also done last year.

"Iowa" Coffee Tree

Fact Box

How does "Iowa coffee" taste?

Here's what the "grower" (and self-professed "coffee snob") Brian Gumm has to say:

"Last year when I had it with my wife and daughter, I was surprised by how good it tasted. There were so many things that could have gone wrong, negatively impacting its ultimate flavor in the cup. But it was very tasty.

"And this year was also good. It was a light roast, which tend to have tarter, fruitier flavor character, and this was no exception.

"It was pretty tart, had a mild caramel sweetness in the mix, and had some interesting herbal aromatic notes. That type of coffee is usually shocking to the typical coffee drinker, so it might have taken folks aback at the tasting. But we all had about 5oz each, so it was easy to work through."

Brian obtained the coffee tree from his friends in his hometown of Prairie City, Iowa, Lynn and B'hen Cabbage, several years ago. Brian says Lynn Cabbage is a certified master gardner and credits him as being very capable of growing a coffee tree in the Iowa climate which is not suited for one.

The tree was started from seed about eight years ago by Cabbage. B'hen Cabbage is a Vietnam native where some of her family members are actually coffee farmers, Brian says.

The tree grows in a large pot and is outside during warmer months and kept indoors at the coffee company business at all other times.

The tree produces "cherries" which consist of a skin, pulp covering a shell and inside it the "seed" or what is commonly called the bean.

After going through the process of harvesting, removing the skin and pulp and drying and opening the shell, he is left with about one-half pound of seeds or, beans as they are commonly called.

The beans were then roasted and Gumm brewed up the coffee on that Saturday morning using a "Chemex" which is a small glass vessel and the Iowa coffee beans.



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