March 21, 2007
Growing coffee is not rocket science (it certainly is not easy either) but much of what I hear and read with the exception of producer trade journals, needs to get put through the myth busters show. Because I think there’s alot of myths floating around out there. Elevation is one of those that topics that often gets mutilated in coffee. Elevation does not produce higher yields in coffee (in fact quite the opposite), it does not guarantee quality, higher elevations are not the SOLE cause of a denser harder bean or sweetness or acidity etc.. So what does elevation mean? It means you have thinner air, you’re closer to the sun, you are not at sealevel and things tend to grow a bit slower. THE ONE VARIABLE THAT IS A MUST TO PRODUCE DENSITY IS TIME. You can’t produce a dense bean quickly. (And of course.. don’t get absolutist on me, time does NOT guarantee a harder bean). For example look at the chart below from Anacafe that labels out growing seasons. It is broken down by elevation and bean type. These associations are mostly acurate, but slightly misleading becase it is in fact a generalization.
TYPE - ALTITUDE – HARVEST SEASON
Strictly Hard Bean 4300 feet 1300 meters January/April
Hard 4000-4300 f, 1220-1300 m December/January
Semi Hard 3500-4000 f, 1070-1220 m October/November
Extra Prime 3000-3500 f, 915-1070 m September/October
Prime 2500-3000 f, 760-915 m September/October
This is not to say you can produce great hard beans with out any elevation, however here is an example of breaking the rules of the above chart, and sticking to the time rule.
If you are growing your coffee under shade this means it will be achievable to be organic if you choose as the lack of sun means it will both drink less water, and require less nutrient. So by not having sun and being fed natural fertilizers, the growth process is slowed down compared to the growth spurt the tree experiences each year with heavy fertilizer, heavy sun and good ground water. It is this slowing down of the process that allows further developement of the bean. Generally a more dense bean has the potential to be more complex because there is more to be tasted. Again this does not guarantee quality, rather hint towards a higher likelyhood of it being present.
So if you were strict to break down types only by altitude as the chart above dictates, you will be surprised when you find a shade grown organic Semi Hard bean, be HARDER/DENSER than a full sun conventional Hard. You may not know this until you can closely analyze the beans visually, put them through a densitometer and cup them. And again this is because of TIME.
March 19, 2007
Earlier this year I met Wilman Ortega from Guatemala who works in the medical industry in the U.S. and is getting ready to open up a new roastery that will focus exclusively on the finest that we’re able to hunt down for each region in Guatemala. I’ve yet to see a roaster do this… and I suppose the question is why would you. Well if Anacafe determines there’s enough distinction to market a new region/cup than why not carry this foward. I very much look foward to this new project as to my knowledge it is the first of this kind and expect he’ll find much success in taking on such a high level of focus that limits the product offerings this much. This will cater heavily to the purists out there. Keep your eyes peeled for Wilman’s new project.
In the fall we will host an advanced cupping course in Bellingham that among other things will include cupping for defect, blind ID of region and elevation for Guat because we have such great examples of each.
Picture courtesy of Jorg C.W. and Corinna Scott of Satori Coffee Roasters in Canada
March 14, 2007
I think giving coffee away is brilliant. Really. My wife and I had a retail shop and we did it all the time. You wouldn’t believe how it boosted sales. The model is it gets people in the door. The catch is you need to offer something worth RETURNING for.
I love starbucks. Yes it’s true. I don’t care for how dark the coffee is roasted, but to say they have contributed to the development of the specialty industry is a huge understatement. In my book they have pioneered in so many areas and have set the bar extremely high for a chain of their size. The beauty of something that is free is that you can’t complain if you don’t like it because you didn’t pay anything. I think this is a great way to test new products. Offer it to good existing loyal customers with out risk = FREE. And then be sure to request meaningfull feedback.
March 14, 2007
I recall something like this happened in Seattle many years ago because previously there was a big fire and then streets were filled with much material that is not acceptable fill… like upside down canoes and couches that left pockets of air under the road. Seattle actually has quite the history of having sinkholes due to many different reasons. Some due to ruptured sewer or water main lines like below. Guatemala City has great need for better storm water drainage systems. There are entire neighborhoods that regularly get flooded too often that could be avoided with proper drainage. At FVH we wrestle with erosion along roads as everything is so steep that to creat a road means digging into the mountain and leaving a wall on one side and cliff on the other. So we regularly have landslides during rainy season, which is just around the corner. Next Friday the 23 we have a group coming down to help rebuild one out of 5 homes in our community that was lost or is on the brink of getting washed out because of Hurricane Stan compiled with regular rain of rainy season. Here are a few more pics and the story of the sink hole in Guatemala City.
March 13, 2007
Just came across a string of photos taken by Joseph Rivera – director of science and technlogoy at SCAA. He also takes joy in administering the famous SCAA sensory skills exam, one of many required to be a Q grader. If you want to take or retake this, it seems the next oportunity to do so is this Saturday March 17, 2007 in Petaluma, CA. We used red lights at times to hide variation in color. For example with la nez du cafe some oils are darker or yellower, and also when doing say a set of 6 triangulations, some roasts may be slightly lighter or darker. This was intended to iron out variations visible to the eye. It mostly worked. You can also purchase La Nez from SCAA. Click here for more of Josephs pics taken that week. He did some amazing things to demonstrate different organic acids.
March 7, 2007
Identifying a problem is half the battle. Now what to do…
“SEATTLE – Starbucks has lost it’s soul and does not know where to find it.” is how this article in the Washington Post begins, printed Sunday March 4, 2007.
CLICK ON HOWARDS FACE FOR LINK TO ARTICLE (picture taken from Washington post article “Is Malaise Brewing at Starbucks”.
I’m curious if Howard has been inside of Victrola.
March 5, 2007
We have a customer who would like to bring Noe Castro up for a visit in the coming months. If you’re a coffee professional and have interest in co-sponsoring his visit and some learning, sharing and overall colaborative coffee fun, please contact me. Noe will be representing Guatemala in Tokyo at the end of July 2007. Congradulations Noe on your achievements.
March 2, 2007
They say pictures are worth a thousand words. Unless of course you’re Aaron Blanco and words bring pictures back to life. CLICK HERE to read and see Mr. Blanco’s pics and commentary on the barista and roaster trips. Aaron is an exbarista and owner/roaster of brown coffee co.
March 1, 2007
A few have asked me lately where they can go for more info, is there a website for more on SCAJ 2007. Anyone can become a member of SCAJ for about $250 bucks. If you don’t see value in SCAA, I doubt you’ll be prompted to become a SCAJ member. But it’s worth considering if you plan to do busn in Japan.