May 25, 2007
I must say this year we have had the most abnormal weather in decades. We’ve had rain when we didn’t want it and didn’t get it when we wanted it. Go figure. It is risky business to be so dependant on the weather and we were certainly put to the test this year. Although our quantity is down a bit, it seems the quality is stronger than ever. Cup quality is consistent with the past years and it seems the rain that came at the wrong time gave us a small loss of fruit that actually primed the plants for continueing to develop more evenly and slowly as we like it. The biggest challenge was handling some processing logistics after picking. For example having full patios with coffee that isn’t dry yet, no sun, and more coffee getting depulped each day. We had to set aside some lots that we just couldn’t manage properly and we also trucked coffee to other patios offered up by generous neighbors. We go through great lengths to naturally sun dry as it is extremely difficult to dry coffee consistently with a mechanical dryer. If this seems like alot of work to you, you’re absolutely right. It means not being a stranger to 20 hour work days. As a result we had to decide whether to build another patio or some raised drying tables which to this day I’ve never seen in Guatemala. Thank you Jeff Taylor and George Howell for sharing pics on what this looks like. We have chosen to move foward with the building of a new patio. This will be the biggest patio and it is in the only place we can possibly build one this size with out creating an engineering marvel. For those of you who haven’t seen first hand, it’s not easy to find a flat area in the highlands of Huehuetenango. Our community is known to be particularly rugged.
As I write this we have officially unloaded most of our U.S. bound coffee and are starting to ship this back out as most of it is already sold out. We bought some more coffee again from our neighbor who we have been working with now for a few years. To see a clip done by a reporter from L.A. CLICK HERE!!
The task at hand is a pass through the entire plantation for extensive pruning as well as a wave of weeding, which means swinging a machete back and forth horizontally half an inch above the ground. We don’t kill other vegetation we just cut it down so the coffee plant ends up the stronger one that absorbs water and nutrient rather than a growing weed.
Nina and I will return in a few weeks joined by her parents Thomas and Shirley Grant. Nina and I are very fortunate to have the support of both of our families in this venture that was once a dream. A dream my grandparents never imagined would come true.
As I reflect on the coffee that has been produced in our family the last 3 generations I realize how blessed we are. Finca Vista Hermosa seems to be the perfect size to manage exceptional quality across the board. As we visit smaller farms, quality tends to be more of a challenge because of loss of economies of scale. While larger farms leverage economies of scale and can’t afford to give the same attention to detail. Many of the other coffees offered up in the Cup of Excellence this year are a micro lot that has been sectioned off from the rest of the farm. This has been “babied” every step of the way to be a coffee that is really exceptional above the rest of what the farm has to offer. In our case we are small enough and in the perfect location with the right people and climate to put out an entire crop that is excellent. Most that have cupped all our micro lots cannot differentiate between them and we almost had to flip a coin to decide what went where. I’ve decided not to think about the CoE and get my hopes up. Having tried some of the other coffees I can tell you they are all VERY good! Having a coffee in the CoE in Guatemala is like being in the Olympics. The difference between first and last place is just a decimal… a fraction. The smaller the difference between the first and last in a CoE auction is a sign of how developed the origin is in consistently putting out good coffee as a nation. Some countries with more challenges have a much greater variance between the samples that are submitted.
Sorry for such a lengthy post, I just thought I would compile some thoughts and responses to incoming emails and phone calls. Thank you to those of you who have called in with congradulations. We don’t see the Cup of Excellence as a sign of having arrived or as a peak. Rather a point in a continuous line. Our goal is not occasional excellence, rather excellence consistently through the years. Thank you for partnering with us and being a vital link in this chain that we value so much.
This year we made an extra effort to give much attention to the sorting pre and post wetmill in order to have a perfectly clean coffee so the terroir that is to be had can be more clearly articulated. I leave this to you to discover. To enjoy. And to share.
May 21, 2007
CoE just made public the results that came in a few weeks ago.
We have submitted a portion of our Vista Hermosa lot. The auction will go live June 14th. We are lot # 8. Bid with your taste buds!
Lot#: 8 Martinez Pineda, Edwin – Vista Hermosa
Property Characteristics: Coffee Characteristics:
Farm: Vista Hermosa
Farmer: Martinez Pineda, Edwin
City: San Pedro Necta
Farm Size: 36.36 Hectares
Coffee growing area: Not Available
Altitude: 1600 masl
Variety: Caturra, Bourbon
Processing System: Milling Process: Wet, Drying Process: Sun
Lot Size: 16 bags
International Jury Score: 87.53
Cupping Number #: 738
Jury Descriptions: elegant (16), mature (16), very sweet (20), balanced (13), clean (13), solid (9), caramel body (11), honey (13), syrupy body (10), toffee (6), cinnamon (4), complex (12), floral jasmine (17), long finish (15)
Please Note: If a number appears in brackets next to a description it indicates the number of jurors that agreed with that particular decription.
May 19, 2007
We’ve been selling to Press Alternative for a few years and this year we decided to work with another exporter who would facilitate some of the logistics as it is a small amount that we ship out.
Below you see what the front marks look like. Second picture shows the same 11 mark for Guatemala and the center number has been edited or re-stenciled with the new license number (also a mill mark in this case) and finally the lot number on the right which means they have exported 114 lots this year preceding this particular lot. Lots are most often Containers (37,500lbs), however they can be as small as you wish, even a 1 bag lot if you wanted. The third pic shows them all bagged, restencilled and ready to go out this weekend across the pacific pond.
CLICK ON CUP TO ENLARGE. This was an award given to FVH soon after Anacafe’s inception. It may have even been before the first International Coffee Convention was held in the UN headquarters in NYC in 1962!
We’ve all heard the saying that when one door closes another door opens. It seems that sometimes when one door opens, many others open and one is faced with some tough decisions. When someone like our friend Klaus wins the title of World Barista Champion it opens the door to an overwhelming amount of options. The tough part is making not the right choices, but the best ones. The best choice is relative to what one’s long term goals may be. For us at Finca Vista Hermosa although many in our family our visionaries, we have wrestled much with what our goals are. As more doors open it seems sometimes the best choice is to only look through them and stay settled down and focus on continuously improving what we do already recognizing there is ALWAYS room for improvement and hoping that we can connect with the right people who value this.
We have received many awards over the last 50 years and have lost track of what some of the awards have been for. So it is on my to do list to document them on this site someday.
In 2004 we participated in the Exceptional Cup which was designed to have smaller lots that were.. well – EXCEPTIONAL. This was before CoE was a recognized mechanism for finding good coffees. The winning bidder from Japan wanted to purchase more coffee from us outside of the auction after it ended. He offered a higher than auction price, but we had already exported most of our coffee to the U.S and to Press Alternative who had sent someone from Japan to get to know us before commiting to buying the remainder of our crop. Since then we decided in 2006 to attempt to participate in the CoE and right before the deadline, we were asked to submit the same sample to a small internal panel at Anacafe that bought our lot before the first round of CoE even began. They had already sampled as many as 12 micro lot samples from each of the best farms in the region and none had met the criteria of being both exceptional and characteristic of the region.
So what does it mean for ANACAFE to be buying Finca Vista Hermosa coffee? For starters any tradeshow you may attend where they are present, they will give away much coffee from each region, and the Huehue that you get is FVH. So if you love it,… you know where to get more. Or if it did not impress you, you know where to stay away from =) If you go to Anacafe in Guatemala City you can also buy coffees at their front desk and all the Huehue’s are FVH. It is also used for comparative cupping and for demonstrating what is characteristic for a region anytime there is a cupping course or a delegation of growers, buyers, brokers, roasters, traders etc that come through the cupping lab. This is often done to show the variation in profile for each of the regions. This is why it is important for the coffee to not only be exceptional, but for it to be CHARACTERISTIC of the region. Also if you visit Guatemala, after you pass security on the way out of the country, you will see a very nice kiosk on your left where you can request samples and purchase coffees from all regions in whole bean or in a beverage.
So this year as our final micro lots of pergamino got picked up off the patios and bagged we began to cup and sort out lots for different destinations and decided if we wanted to enter the CoE we would have to have separate lots set aside that we would not export directly. We have a 40 bag (in parchment, hundred lb weight) go to Su Beneficio for the CoE, and an 80 bag lot directly to Anacafe for their use. Yes, we were selected again this year to represent Huehuetenango to the World. This is probably the greatest award we can imagine ever receiving based on cup quality because it is evaluated and cupped by a panel of humble cuppers that have been exclusively cupping the best of each region in Guatemala for decades. In fact it has been in this process that a few new regions were developed over the last decade. We at Finca Vista Hermosa are extremely excited to received this award a second year in a row. It is not something that will ever get much press or recognition as it is purchased to promote the region of Huehuetenango and Guatemalan coffees, not a specific grower. It is our hope that our coffee can hold up to the reputation that Huehue has developed and that maybe it will continue creating interest for buyers to continue searching, purchasing and appreciating the exceptional coffees that Guatemala has to offer.
About CoE I haven’t seen any update yet, but both Anacafe and CoE should be posting more soon. Our coffee did qualify and we made it through the national competition as well as the international. I think we have been rated #8. I’ve received this news over the phone, but have not seen this in writing yet. Here is a report on the schedule for the Guatemalan CoE 2007 from Anacafe (it’s in spanish)
If you have interest in bidding on this CoE lot, you need to register with CoE and request samples and bid!
May 16, 2007
This is the next to the last article I’m writting for now. The May/June titled “Identity Crisis” just came out as well in time for SCAA. Click on the title below for March/April article.