Last week I was in El Salvador visiting with our partners at JASAL. In case you don’t know JASAL produces the Cerro Las Ranas, and Everest Coffees we have had the past 2 years. This family run business is in its third generation, and this year marks the first year that Jose Antonio Jr, and Andres are taking the reigns of operations. Jose Antonio Sr, is still around and guiding everything but the brothers in their late 20’s-and early 30’s have brought a new energy to the operations. It is especially rewarding for me to see the new generation taking hold, with the same commitment to quality, but with an eye for innovation. We spent most of the week discussing various experiments, and cupping new/different coffees from the farm. Andres explained to us they were looking at every step in the process to see where they could make improvements. Last year when I was there, I cupped a coffee from their farm called Guadalupe. The coffee was delicious, and afterward we visited and it is one of the most beautiful farms I have been on. This year I am excited because we cupped the coffee again, and it is even better. Not to mention that we will be bringing this coffee into the US for the first time.
I am also looking at bringing in 1-2 micro-lots from JASAL from the new experiments that they have done this year, so stay tuned!
Central American coffee harvest season is upon us, and with that comes the beginning of my origin travels for this year. I traveled to Guatemala and Costa Rica at the beginning of the month, and what an exciting trip it was! We visited some amazing farms, and met really incredible people. I’m still working out the details of which coffees we will be purchasing, and when they arrive but stay tuned for more details. In the meantime here are a few photos from my trip.
This is the city of Antigua in Guatemala, the colonial capitol of Guatemala. In the background is one of the three volcanoes in the region. Below are ripe coffee cherries in Costa Rica.
This past weekend our roaster, Clyde Miller, and I attended the SCAA’s Roaster Guild Retreat. It is an annual gathering of roasters from all of the country to come together and collaborate, and share tips and techniques about the roasting craft. They also had a team roasting challenge, and various educational seminars.
Dan judging the latte art throwdown
The highlights of the weekend for me (Dan Streetman) were, a group forum about “direct trade” and a presentation by a farmer from El Salvador, Emilio Lopez from Finca El Manzano. In the direct trade discussion we had some very comprehensive hashing of what direct trade means, and how it affects different groups throughout the supply chain. It was especially interesting to hear from Chino, an exporter from Costa Rica who put some much needed perspective into the conversation. The conclusion of the group seemed to be that quality coffee is a bargain/undervalued and we need to find ways to increase the value equation for consumers. When you couple this discussion with Emilio’s presentation about the economics of producing high quality coffee, it was fascinating to see the relationships. He did a great job of illustrating the increased costs and risks of producing high quality coffee, especially when talking about experimental processing techniques. It was also especially nice to see Peter Rodriguez from Benificio Santa Rosa in Honduras, who I met on my trip to Capucas in March.
Emilio Lopez, Producer from Finca El Manzano
Clyde had this to share:
Well I did not know what to expect. My first thoughts going into this was that I was gonna be surrounded by a bunch of coffee geeks. But instead of your typical revenge of the nerds stereo type, there was such a diverse group of people that had attended the retreat to share there knowledge and to acquire more about specialty coffee.
I myself went into this wanting to find out more about the wheels that make the coffee industry move,and I did. By attending the Manzano project it revealed to us the extent of a coffee life cycle, from crops to cup. The project instructed us on the differences between full natural, pulp natural,full washed and machine(semi) washed beans. Half of the project experience was getting to cup the different processing methods and sharing thoughts on it with others. To me this seminar was laid out well and worth the time to attend.
Natural, Pulped Natural, Mechanically Washed, and Fully Washed Coffee
Intro to cupping and cupping for defects where also well set up classes and very informative. Instructed on the proper time between roasting and cupping, the uniformity and proper setup needed for cupping. Also provided the steps needed to acquire and log information from cupping’s. Defect cupping was, well….Baggy,unripe,fermented and notes of mold. In fact the notes of mold lingered on my lips for the remainder of the day, but was a fine tool to help me determine future aroma and flavor in future cupping’s.
The last class I attended was identifying roast defects and was the class I was waiting to take through the whole retreat. The lecture part of the course was well informative and fast paced. The next section of the course was hands on roasting to create the effect of scorching,tipping,facing,chipping,as well as underdeveloped and baking of a roast. The effects of this course have made me realize that I need to look at my roasts more frequently to make sure that I do not produce those defects and change the roast profile if I do encounter them.
Dan in the Brown shirt, and Clyde in the hat… simulating a defective roast
My overall impression on the retreat is that it was well organized and well worth the time and effort it took to get there.Thank you very much to those who worked so hard to make the 11th Roasters Guild Retreat a success.
We at Irving Farm are excited to announce the arrival of one of our most anticipated coffees this year, Kenya Gathambi. In fact myself and Clyde our roaster were so excited that we had to roast some on Friday when the coffee arrived, and then took coffee out of the cooling tray to brew.
This coffee is especially exciting for me, because it is the beginning of a new project for us. Traditionally in Kenya all the coffees are sold through an auction, however our partners are working directly with the mill there, and have secured us first bid on the coffee in coming years. This coffee is processed in the traditional method of Kenya, where they depulp the coffee, removing the fruit, soak the coffee in water to remove the mucilage, soak the coffee in another clean bath, and then move it to raised drying beds for drying.
I don’t want to spoil the surprise with what the coffee tastes like but expect it to roll into our stores this week. We have a limited amount of this special coffee and expect it go quickly.
You may have had a chance to try our newest coffee, Capucas from Honduras. If you have, I hope that you’ve already discovered how delicious this coffee can be. When I first tasted this coffee I was blown away by the sweetness and the tropical fruit flavors. As we got to know it better with our initial production roasts we noticed honey-like body with flavors of cashew, dried pineapple and mango.
However, this is only half of the reason why I love this coffee. In March I was lucky enough to visit the community in Capucas that grows this beautiful coffee. The town of Capucas has about 100 families that grow coffee, and formed the Cooperativa Cafetelara Capucas Limitada or COCAFCAL for short.
Omar Rodriguez (left) is the President of the cooperative, and he and his family played host to us for the extent of our trip. They showed us, Chris Davidson (right) and myself (center), tremendous hospitality throughout our stay. Chris works with Atlas Coffee Importers, who have been working with the community in Capucas since 2007. The purpose of our trip was to judge their annual micro-lot competition. The judging took place by cupping (tasting) 30 coffees a day each day of our 5 day trip. We scored the coffees based on their sweetness, uniformity, balance, aftertaste, acidity, and unique character.
We then assigned the coffee’s points based on those attributes, and they received scores out of 100. We decided to purchase all 5 of the top lots, but more on that when they arrive in August. In the mean-time let’s focus on the Capucas coffee you can enjoy right now. It represents a blended lot from many of the producers in the community, where they harvest their coffee fruit and have it processed at their centralized mill. There the coffee is depulped, soaked in tanks for 12-24 hours, washed, and then sun dried on concrete patios. The farms here are immaculate, almost garden like. The perfect amount of shade cover, neatly spaced and planted rows, and regimented pruning that had just been completed post-harvest.
Walking through the community farms, and meeting each of the producers you get a sense that they all take great pride in producing quality coffee, and working together. Friendly and passionate people are always rewarding to work with, especially when they produce such a great product. This is the other half of why I love Capucas!