February 19, 2008
On February 15, Carlos, the manager of Finca Vista Hermosa, and his son Edwin, were on their way back up to the Finca with supplies and money for payroll. On the way up the mountain, some bandits not from the area took their money and their lives as well. This was shock not only to the FVH Family, but also to the local community. If you wish to read more follow this post to the bottom.
CARLOS’ WIFE JUANA REMAINS WITH 11 KIDS. 100% OF THE FUNDS WILL GO TO TAKE CARE OF THEM. IF YOU WISH TO CONTRIBUTE VIA CREDIT CARD/PAYPAL CLICK HERE, OR MAIL CHECK TO: P.O. BOX 31123 BELLINGHAM, WA 98228 WITH THE WORD MEMORIAL IN THE MEMO. (If you wish to use this link on you website please email me)
Carlos 1960 – 2008. Husband and father of 12 kids.
This year Carlos would have been 47 and Edwin 17.
Carlos wife Juana will be 42 yrs old in 2008
Remaining kids and ages in 2008:
It’s been 10 days and Nina and I are still in disbelief. I apologize I have not taken or returned some of your calls. Email has proven to be a good emotional filter.
For years now there isn’t a week that goes by with out someone asking “How’s Carlos doing?”. The first thought that comes to my mind now is “It’s none of your business!” But, it probably is. And while it’s the last thing anyone wants to talk about in a time like this, the question remains: How will this impact FVH?
Carlos was a good mentor and delegator. It was just 1 month ago I was hiking the boundaries of a couple micro lots and I told Carlos “I don’t know what we would ever do with out you!” To see things at FVH continuing to move forward brings tears to my eyes as I see the impact this man has had. Particularly in his absence. Many managers are limited in what they achieve because they are afraid to let go of their managerial duties. Carlos was good at teaching, letting go and allowing people to make mistakes knowing that he too had made his fair share. With early morning jobs beginning at 5:00 a.m. and depulping sometimes running until 2:00 a.m. delegating was not an option. Carlos knew if he made himself obsolete by training others to do his job that it would be good for everyone. While some hold the reigns tight in the interest of job security Carlos proved to move far beyond what his job called for. He was a forward thinking innovator that was aggressive in getting things done but also a tender and sensitive listener that was eager to hear others opinions.
He committed his time to developing new projects that always somehow improved the quality of the coffee, quality of life or quality of the environment. Some of the things Carlos supervised the last 12 months include the construction of new restrooms, new sleeping quarters and laundry mat for seasonal workers. He also discovered a new small spring and protected it while building a multiple tank reservoir system which provides good pressure with out a pump while also filtering and providing clean water. And of course he always took joy in remodeling the wetmill area. This was where all the fine tuning and experimenting took place. Carlos built a few new roads and diplomatically maintained good relations while settling multiple property line disputes with honesty and integrity. The list goes on, but most importantly he was a loving husband and father that will be greatly missed.
I want to express my gratitude to not only our customers but so many in the coffee community who have expressed their condolences and to you who are currently doing something about this. If you wish to put a DONATE BUTTON on your website or blog please email me and I will gladly forward the picture file as well as the link. It is very easy to do.
Sometimes there are difficult questions in this life that we cannot possibly understand the answers to. Carlos was quite possibly one of the happiest finca managers in the world. When he went back to his home town to visit he was treated like royalty because people knew that he had a good job where he did a great job and intern he was paid well for it. Few things brought him more joy to know the level of appreciation people had for the fruit of his labor. His grin was ear to ear when told about where FVH coffee ended up and that people asked for it by name and even asked and cared about him.
I will soon be visiting with the rest of his family to try to begin expressing some of the warmth that has been expressed to me. However much we are able to gather up in the coming months this will never make up for what was lost. And however little it may be we trust that it will be multiplied and meet their every need.
Despite so many things that are uncertain in this world, we are confident that we will see Carlos and Edwin again one day and that they are much happier today than ever before.
February 11, 2008
We were auditioning for the new Spiderman Movie.
Actually a barista training seminar we put on at Anacafe in Guatemala in 2007 for 40 baristas.While our coffee does REALLY well roasted dark and it can stand up to just about anything a roaster wants to dish out, I have always missed the taste of this same coffee the way we traditionally roast it back home. We have a handful of friends that do roasting both in Huehue and in Guatemala city and most of them roast in makeshift equipment that is quite worn. Nonetheless they put out a gorgeous cinnamon colored roast that is always spot on and explosive with ripe fruits.Then when we are in the U.S. it seems everything on the west coast is dark and bitter sweet. Most of the sweets I taste are strictly from caramelization with a muted resemblance of what many of these same roasters once tasted on their own cupping tables. Its not about a roast that is good or bad, right or wrong. It’s a matter of taste really. And bottom line the west coast likes their roasts dark. I’ve actually grown to appreciate a fresh roast that has the balance of spiciness and acidity with bitter roast notes. It seems people like high elevation Guats because no matter how you roast you don’t have to worry about loosing acidity. This is part of why Starbucks acquires more coffee from Guatemala than from any other single source. And the darker you roast the more you rely on good acidity to counter the growing bitters that develop. And of course these are roast note bitters, not natural bean bitters.So. Why is barefoot nonconforming? Well you really have to buy a bag of their coffee to see what I mean. Bottom line – IT’S LIGHT, REALLY LIGHT! Many quality roasters on the west coast won’t dare go this light because they can’t imagine many people liking it or paying for it. And the truth is that they’re probably right. A common reaction from another roaster looking at Barefoots roasts might be to say “that looks great for a cupping roast – lets cup it” and Andy Newbom of Barefoot is bagging it and selling it both retail AND WHOLESALE!A common thread I’ve tasted in all their FVH microlots is GOOD bitters and savory notes balanced in a light roast that typically accentuate only the citrus and the sweets in a dominant way. Attempting to wholesale this requires a great amount of training if used at all in an espresso as an SO because it is so intense. It is more difficult to extract the oils at lighter roasts. This means you need finer grind and probably a higher temp for starters. If you’re not used to lighter roasts you’ll know somethings wrong when you’re pulling a couple oz in 5 sec. However if your too fine or too hot your sweet citrus nectar becomes lemon juice. With lighter roasts the margin of error in the roast profile as well as the brewing method are very small.So if you’re trying this at home, be patient and persistent until you find that sweet spot. Andy has a total of 5 of our Microlots. 4 of them are literal geographic microlots and one is a sort out of the drymill of 100% peaberry.
February 5, 2008
Harvest is a season and everyone seems to have a different point of view about exactly when this begins as the cycle of growing coffee is exactly that… a cycle.
Although we did start some picking in early January, this year the first day of harvest for us is January 21.
PEPENA is the word in spanish we use for the pre picking which we do to capture early ripes. This also prepares the tree for a more uniform harvesting and allows maximum nutrient to be available to the fruit that is prepared for export.
It is costly to have a separate PRE harvest picking wave, but the cup quality proves this to be well worth it. Traditionally it is common practice to catch the over ripes during the first wave of picking and for quality’s sake sort them out somehow at some point. However the fruit that is reaching “IT’S POINT” ends up competing for nutrient with the fermenting dying coffee that is ahead of the game and now dying on the tree.
We’ve tried to send out a “STATE OF THE HARVEST” newsletter each year to our customers in the past. Instead I’ve thought more about creating a TOP 10 list of reasons why NOT to write it. Of course it would include the fact that we have few customers, no one reads it and if I’m not procrastinating and I get around to writing – my writing gets wordy. The truth is it is hard to write a years happenings concisely and you should just come down and see for yourself. To answer the most common question “How’s the harvest looking?”. It’s looking great. Quantity will be less this year and much less for many of our neighbors. Not so much because of one time weather related events.. rather a cycle of having relatively strong production the last couple years. This is a year that the mountains are taking a breather.(small tip for those working of the C) I will try to post more “happenings at FVH” in the coming weeks.
On that note- a few weeks ago we (Guatemala) lost aproximately 150,000 bags or 20 Million dollars worth of coffee due to high wind. Click here for more info (in Spanish). It was previously expected that the 08 crop would exceed the 07 crop in quantity. No longer the case.
February 3, 2008
Yes we love it when friends connect. Noe Castro (on the left) will be working up with the folks at Barefoot all of February and I understand possibly at Ritual or LaMill in March. Some day I’d like to open a coffee bar run exclusively by foreign visiting baristas. I hope in a few years that this idea won’t sound so foreign.
Also a big congratulations to the 07-08 Guatemalan Barista Champion – Raúl Rodas, the sponsoring companies
If you’re a barista wondering… “How can I get hooked up like that?” A resource that I think could be useful in such a venture is BARISTAEXCHANGE. You may very well be one of the first to have joined this myspacey type forum. But have you considered that with enough passion, creativity and effort you can probably travel the world or host a barista from any one of dozens of countries.
If you’re excited about the idea but are at a loss for where to start.. if you have any interest in Guatemala you might give Mike in Panajachel a call.
Or if you’re fluent in spanish contact me and I may be able to help you find a good match.