November 30, 2011
Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog. Almost a year and a half. Tempted to say it’s been too long, but it’s not been long enough. While technology has many great values it can also be a huge waste of time. With over 1400 contacts in my phone and an email inbox that is evidence of how poorly I manage time, it is hard to justify spending time adding a new post. However I find it does have it’s place. It can build brand, establish history and take up space on servers. It was Jen and Chris the founders of Victrola that convinced me blogging was quite easy to do, this was back when the then tonx.org (now at http://blog.tonx.org sort of…) was one of the first blogs in specialty coffee with pictures and interesting content. Interesting to me anyway. Tony happened to work at Victrola as their roaster. At the time the only roaster I knew that blogged. And now it’s hard to think of one that does not at least tweet.
So I decided to dive in since it seemed no one else was doing it. I’m fascinated with the advantages and risks of being an early adopter. This was when Myspace was much bigger than Facebook and Twitter was barely an idea in Jack Dorsey’s head. I soon realized there was no end to how many people had seemingly infinite time to post on their blogs.. that kept popping up left and right. It became hard to keep up on 65 different blogs and tools emerged to make this easier. And that’s about when I felt less compelled by what I was reading. Not because there wasn’t compelling content out there. It was the amounts of noise and babble that drowned out the nuggets of information that were worth digging for. As the audience grew so did the disconnect. SO WHAT DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH F.V.H.? Well we’ve been fortunate to get quite connected in record time for a farm that is MUCH smaller than most imagine. Shockingly so to anyone who visits. For a farm that is 7 hours away from Guatemala City. Half our customers can fly to Guatemala faster than we can get Guatemala city to the farm! So it is nothing short of a miracle that anyone knows about FVH today. One could speculate it is a collision of luck and strategy with really good timing.
For several years now we have been working hard to get less connected. Simply to sell more of our coffee to less people. To bring less people to the farm but be much more intentional regarding who and why. And this comes around to defining clarity and purpose in what we are working towards. We want to produce some of the finest coffee in the world and then we want people to enjoy it. And really this is what every producer wants. This is a lot of work though. Two months ago we went with out our manager for a full week as Eliseo cupped hundreds of defective coffees each day as part of an intensive cupping course for producers taught by an old colleague and Q grader. We are going to be doing a lot of cupping on the farm in 2012. Something we’ve not done before because I’m simply not motivated to try and do something if it can’t be done really well. We have not been equipped to do this well in the past. This is changing. We will get our patio crew cupping in between turning and drying coffee on the patios. We have dozens of neighboring farms bringing their coffee for feedback and now we’ll equip them to create their own feedback. We are surrounded by farms that have been in the Cup of Excellence and have been awarded high marks for quality by many private organizations such as exporters, importers, roasters, retailers as well as by Anacafe. Simply talking about the difference and showing pictures of what a ripe cherry looks like is not as big an impact as being able to taste the difference and BE the consumer.
Over the last 10 years the single most frustrating thing as a producer and as a consultant to roasters is seeing value added that goes unappreciated. (the only thing worse of course is to under deliver) I picture getting a perfect haircut and then having the barber tell me, “you know Edwin I did such a great job cutting your hair, I’m going to go through the motions once again if you don’t mind” Well, that’s pointless and yet we do this in coffee all the time. If the end consumer does not perceive the same added value you do, then it is not there. For example, bad coffee in fine dining is not a problem to be solved. The problem is the consumer does not know the difference so how can they be expected to care? So we are getting our hands dirty with the end goal of continuous education and ever improving quality. Starting on the farm.! We hope you are able to enjoy the fruit of our labor! Stay tuned as there are more changes to come in the next few months. Nothing big really, but a lot of little things that we think make a difference.