Sunday, March 29, 2009

Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama

You can find more photos here on Flickr.

Just before I left Copenhagen, we had cupped some 1 year old Geisha samples from La Esmeralda farm in western Panama. This is legendary coffee, but we didn´t expect it to have such a vivacy after 1 year. 

So my expectations were high when I met up with Daniel Peterson to see the farm.

It is a place with extreme differences in microclimate from one hillside to the other, precipitaton is generally high and can actually be twice as high just from side of the walley to the other.

I have to mention one more aspect of the climate i found fascinating before we move on -the wind. 

Wind is almost constant in the valley and can reach really high speed. David showed me some of the windbreakers they had grown, but even with robust plants and very narrow rows, the wind is sometimes unstoppable.

You could also build an almost solid wall of plants or any other material for that sake. But solid windbreakers is no good- at worst they can acually accelerate the wind just behind the screen. The wind takes a steep dive after a solid object. What you want is a more dispersed screen that let´s some of the wind filter through and thereby slow it down.

Anyhow, time for cupping after an intense tour of this beautiful farm- it is not only just wellkept, it is extremely beautiful. 

I got the chance to do some plain quality control cupping. Daniel remarked that this is maybe not the ideal cupping to expose for a potential buyer. 

But I beg to differ. Getting the chance to see what is going on at the farm everyday is very rewarding and tells rosteries like ours such a lot- even about the cups that are not on the table. 

Thanks for everything Daniel.

Rachel Peterson is Daniels sister who coordinated my visit, but couldn´t join us cupping unfortunately. Next time Rachel.

In the afternoon I got to walk around with a remarkable gentleman: Don Pachi Serracin at the F.S. Cafetaleros farm. A part of the farm is called Don Pachi. Through research and organisational skills, this man has done more than most to elevate the quality of coffee on his own Estate, around Bouqete and thoughout Panama. Don Pachi shared so much about coffee in general that I find it hard to know where to start. 

One of the things that did strike me was his mix of passion and sober realism.

To give you an example: The reason why the Geisha variety was brought to Panama, was that Don Pachi had heard that it was resistant to a disease common on many coffeetrees in the area.

I could easily have thought that it was an adventourus pursuit of a new taste in the coffee. 

Another example: Don Pachi talkes about how impractical the Geisha is to mantain and pick from. At the same time he admires its architecture and caresses every leaf as he walk through the fields. 

Thank you Ivette and Franscico Serracin making this visit possible. They are the next generation running the farm together with Don Pachi. 

A very memorable stay in Boquete.

You can find more photos here on Flickr.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Finca Vista Hermosa, Huehuetenango, Guatemala part 2

Se more photos on Flickr here.

Trust your tastebuds: If a coffee tastes great, you are almost guaranteed that there is a very big group of passionate people that makes it that good. This next part won´t explain the relationships behind a good cup of coffee, but I will give you examples of people I´ve met during this trip. And then you combine it to something that makes sense.

First a word of appreciation to everybody from the Martinez family and their collegues who help running the farm.

I got an extremely detailed explanation and guiding about watersupply by Edwins father, (also named Edwin). They have a project of securing and upgrading the existing waternet which is already an evolved system of waterbassins. Sourcing is from surfacewater (mostly streams). The water is led in pipes both down the mountain but also across ridges. Over ridges you need constant pressure or water coming at great speed. 

As long as the starting point is at higher elavation than the end point, it works brilliant. Sometimes they have to take help of pumps if the airpockets are too extensive in the pipe, but fortunately this doesn´t happen too often. They don´t use water for irrigation of full grown coffeetrees, but the nursery (where the you grow the small plants) is watered every day. The water is mainly for the post-picking process and personal use for the households in the area.This might not sound very complicated since many of us are used to getting our water from watertowers- it is the same principle. But the point is that many coffeefarmers has to both source water and build their own waternet and make it work- everyday.

Diego, Lencho, Or and everybody else who works at the farm, I really appreciate you let met follow some of your daily routines.

Chad (MadCup and EVO), folks at Beaverfalls and everybody at Geneva College- very rewarding getting to know you and sharing experiences.Around Huehuetenango there are some very significant people and instititutions. We went to see some of them: The drymill of COFECO, which is located not far from the street where many of the major exporters have their warehouses. We also went to see another farmer: Aurelio Villatoro. Very interesting to hear him talking talking to Edwin, one farmer to another .
Edwin has everything he needs in Huehuetenango, including his own sample roasters and a drymill ! Very much fun to be around and even get to drymill some samples. In Guatemala City we made a quick stop at Casa Blanca roastery, which is run by Elaisa Guadalupe de Kestler. You get jealous just being there 15 minutes. A forest roastery with glass walls and endless amounts of light, at the outskirts of a capital!
I also got the honour of handing in FVHs sample for the annual regional competition at Anacafé. Klaus already wrote a lot about Anacafé, so I will just summarize: Guatemala Growers Associoation which occupies a whole building with laboratories, roasteries and much more.
Anyway, FVH has won the price to represent Huehuetenago as the regions most prominent coffee 3 years in a row, so I was more than hounured to deliver this years sample to Anacafé myself. We wish you the very best luck Finca Vista Hermosa !
Doris at Anacafé gave me a very extensive tour around the different institutions in the building.They are doing so much to support the farmers in every aspect. I then ran into a very interesting person: Raúl Rodas. He is the reigning Barista Champion of Guatemala and he is training hard for the World Championships in Atlanta, USA. Unfortunately I didn´t see his program, but just by talking to the guy, you can tell he will give a match to anyone at the WBC.

Later I went around town to see different Coffeeshops: &Cafe (where Raul works) Barista, Saúl E. Mendez- which is actually a suitstore that serves coffee. A nice ending to my stay in Guatemala.


See more photos on Flickr here:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Finca Vista Hermosa, Huehuetenango, Guatemala part 1

Getting to Finca Vista Hermosa is not easy, unless you go with someone who works at the farm. The roads are not bad, it´s just that signs are pretty non-existent. Fortunately I had a fairly experienced guide:

Edwin Martinez, roaster and grower in the 3rd generation.

My collegue Klaus was here 1 year ago, I recommend you to read about his experiences, and I will try not to repeat too much of what he wrote.

Arriving in the afternoon we saw that activity was lower than you might expect at this time of year. We are in the middle of the harvest season, so normally the patios would be full of coffee and pickers would line up and unload their cherries to be processed.

But the last days had brought some tough weather, which even included hail. Hail is not very usual, but does occur now and then. Generally this season has been a bit dry and cold. For the farm this means that you get periods of days when there are no ripe cherries to pick, which in turn means that there´s no work for the pickers.
The pickers then go to work in other farms or on their own fields, but not necesserly with coffee. How far away they go depends a lot on if they live permanently in the neighbourhood. You would think it’s hard to gather everybody when time is right again, but no worries, many people have cellphones and the word spreads fast.

So the following morning everybody knew that there was a lot of work to do.

First you see a group of maybe maybe 5 people approach silently from one hillside, then 3 from the other side, then 3 more, by 6 o’clock the meeting point on the road is full of people. Diego or somene else permanently working at farm goes through which fields are going to be worked on and 5 min later everybody is off again. It´s time to go picking.

It might sound random who is actually working in the farm as a picker, but nothing could be more wrong. People are recommnded by other pickers to be able to work at the farm. This goes the other way around as well- farms has to provide good conditions, access, school nearby etc, there is always work to be found other places. So all in all, it´s a mutual selection process of who works with whom, that is not entirely easy to map up.

One thing is certain, coffeefarming is far from just processing methods or varieties- it´s about people.

That said, here is what you will taste in your cup this year:


Coffees from the Huehuetenango region and especially FVH are known to have a refined acidity. Due to the somewhat dry and cold weather this year, the cherries will mature slower. This in turn gives a more distinct acidity.

See more photos on Flickr here.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Huehue etc

Not many words from this side of the atlantic and caribbean, but there is plenty to tell. 

This month is full of fieldtrips for us, I left Copenhagen 1 day before Peter was coming home from Kenya. I  am now in Guatemala City after some intense days in the mountains of Huehuetenango. 

I am visiting Finca Vista Hermosa and the Martinez family with collegues.

Harvest this year has been a bit slower and lower than average and I will go into detail about that when I get a better chance to write more. 

I 've tried to wrestle an answer from Edwin about what this harvest will bring when it comes to taste, and I know that lovers of Guatemalan coffee will be very pleased to hear it.

...but I'll keep it to myself for the time beeing.

I'll write more about that and many things later.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kenya 2009 - 3

After some exciting days with lots of cupping and visiting a good handfull of cooperatives, I am now on my way home (well I was at the time of writing) and can look back on a fantastic kafferejse.

We have cupped some great Kenyan coffees and met some of the amazing people who have created the potential for these coffee flavours which we appreciate so much. It was my first time in Kenya, but I have wanted to go for many years since I love the coffee of this country very much. My expactations were high but looking back they were more than fulfilled.

I learned a lot during the days in Kenya, but I will try to sum up some of the ways they work a bit different in Kenya (at least at the places I visited) than in other countries. One thing is that they have two ’rows’ of fermentation tanks (you can get a feeling of how the two rows are situated with one row lower than the other in the picture above - its the end of each row you can see). They move the coffee from one to another fermentation tank during the fermentation proces. The total fermentation time were between 36 and 50 hours. After the fermentation tanks they have soaking tanks, which they put the coffee in after washing if the drying tables are full. They flush it with clean water and can leave it there for 12-24 hours. They claim this does not affect the taste - but I wonder – it would for sure be interesting to cup the difference some time!

After finished washing (and eventual soaking) they take the coffee first to a ’skin-drying-table’ for a day or so and then they move it to the drying table where it will dry untill the humidty is below 11%. On the Picture above you can see the end of the concrete washing channel coming from the upper left corner. The drying tables next to this channel are sloping a bit down hill and are the ones for 'skin-drying'. In the background you can see a lot more drying tables which are where the coffee goes after skin-drying.

When the coffee is dry enough they put the coffee (in parchment) in jutebags. They then have two different warehouses at the mill. One open and one closed. First they put the coffee in the open warehouse (only with roof but no walls) to airate and then they put it in the closed warehouse after a while. They keep the coffee in the warehouse untill they think it is the best time to bring it to the dry mill and eventually the auction or when they have no more room.

In some of the ’open’ warehouses they have also build and arrangement to put the bags in so that they are liftet from the floor in order to get optimal ventilation.

I’m not an expert in ’drying’ but I know it is very important for quality with a good drying. All the steps they have here in the drying process should give good possibilities if used optimal I guess.

There are so many things you learn on a trip like this and it is impossible to get it all down now, but I know for sure I have have learned a lot and have to come back to Kenya soon again!

Before I end I have to thank Bridget, Kamau, Charles, Tim and Tom for making this trip this great - it was fantastic to be in Kenya with you guys!

I have brought samples of the best coffees I found in Kenya and we will cup them during the coming week and finish up things in order to buy the coffee directly. When things are ready I will get back with more info about the coffee we choose.

Asante sana Kenya!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Kenya 2009 - 2

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kenya 2009 - 1

Just a brief note from Kenya.

This is a wonderfull place! We just arrived in Nyeri today, which has the most fantastic view of Mount Kenya.

On the way to Nyeri we visited Ndaroini Coop and I brought back their coffee in one of our bags. This is one of the greatest experiences for me as a roaster to bring the coffee back to where it came from - To meet the people that has created the coffee that we appreciate this much and to show them how we try to take care of their product!

Getting this personal contact is one of the two legs of our Direct Trade model. The other leg is the direct payment. Which in the case of Kenya (and the coffees we look for here) will go to the Coop. When you sit down and talk to the Producers they are (of course) very eager to get higher prices and we try to tell them that this is exactly why we do Direct Trade - to be able to pay a premium price directly to the producer. But we also make it clear that we pay for the cup quality and we need to taste some very good lots before we can pay good prices - we are not willing to pay significantly higher prices than Fair Trades minimum price out of charity but because we get the quality that our costumers are willing to pay a premium price for.

We have already cupped a lot of coffees in Nairobi and had some very good and constructive talks there about the more technical sides of Direct Trade and the possibilties here. Tomorrow we will be cupping more of the coffees up here and visit a few more coops - can't wait!

To kill the waiting time I think I will go and have a beer with my wonderfull colleagues and fellow travellers Tim W. and Thompson Owen (Sweet Maria's).

Will be back!