Describing taste on a bag

December 31, 2009

“this selection from Edwin Martinez, owner of Finca Vista Hermosa in Huehuetenango region is a Multi layered sweet and round cup. Aromas of browned butter and cocoa, followed by flavors of spiced chocolate, toasted nuts with a clean caramel finish.”. I am a big fan of acurate, meaningful, compelling, yet simple descriptors. This description was slightly different than what I was expecting, but lined up perfectly with what I tasted. Delicious!

La Cosecha!!!

January 26, 2009

Officially the first day of harvest at FVH!!!

60 canastos given out.  A canasto is a basket for collecting coffee.

40 cartones issued:  A carton is literally a piece of custom printed carton that we use for tracking volume of red cherry picked.  Each person that holds a carton is on payroll and they may request additional baskets if they have help.  Help is usually immediate family that would rather tag along and be together than be apart both for the day as well as the harvest season.  What exactly does this look like?  Well this year it means half the people on payrol have a brother, cousin or possibly wife that is helping them.  If it is their wife, their kids often are tagging along sometimes being helpful, but mostly being together with family and goofing around among the coffee trees.

 

We are very fortunate that Lencho and his brother Juan are both with us this harvest to assist Diego.  They are very committed to supporting their extended family in the absence of Carlos and Edwin Garcia Martin.  They have also expressed continued commitment in ensuring FVH continues strong and they happen to have the financial need.  The icing on the cake for everyone is that they both enjoy what they do and they are VERY good at it.

Lencho and Diego went to La Messilla this weekend to buy a new corn mill that will assist Diego in supporting both his wife along with his mother and siblings for many years to come.

Thanks to all of you who have been supporting Juana and her family.  We have been diligent to ensure that a little bit goes a long way.  We are carefully considering how to best help them as needs arise.  We do have a small amount of money set aside remaining for this.  If you wish to support them financially you can make a donation through paypal on the top right of this blog, or email if you wish to donate some other form of gift.

This just came in the mail recently awarding us for our participation earlier this year as one of the selected coffees used in the World Cup Tasting Championship in Copenhagen, Denmark 2008.

Well there is so much to say, and if I wait until I have time to write more it will never happen, so I’ll give a quick raw summary from my point of view and then compile some links of whatever I can find.  First and foremost I must express thanks to those who poured a piece of their life into making this happen.  Andrew Barnett, Tony Konecny and Eileen Hassi.  Also to Brent Fortune who just as Aaron De Lazzar told me, has every barista in the world one button away on his iphone.  And finally on a more personal note Andy Newbom for bringing me to California and welcoming me in his home for the weekend.


First you should know this event over labor day weekend at Fort Mason – SF was marketed as the largest food celebration in American history. I didn’t really have time to visit all taste pavilions as an attendee, but I can say that the coffee pavilion was out of this world!

We had a few dozen of the finest coffees in the world from over a dozen of the finest roasters in the United States. CEO’s, roasters, baristas, trainers, green buyers, growers, freelance coffee people all working side by side packing 4 hall ways approximately 40 feet long.

The first is lined with GB5′s and really big grinders with some decent baristas behind them. It reminded me of the first year the DREAM TEAM composed of mostly NBA players went to the olympics.

It was ridiculous! In fact everyone washing dishes, bussing and making coffee runs was part of the Dream Team.The second and third rows had 4 stations each where 3-4 coffees were sampled out to groups of 2-10 people at a time. Each group had anywhere from 4-15 minutes with a taste captain who provided a phenomenal coffee experience that left attendees with raving feedback how eye opening the coffee pavilion was. Taste captains shared the name of the farmer, the farm, elevation, varietal, some taste descriptors and in some instances how terroir or processing impacts the cup.

Then in the back row was the back bone of the entire event. A wall lined with Clovers and Mythos grinders manned by a skilled crew of coffee people which of course included David Latourell of Clover/SBUX and Ben Kaminsky who once asked me to translate to a green exporter “I want to taste the coffee you liked so much it made you cry”.This was truly a gathering of some of coffees finest in retail in north america. Never before have I seen such intense passion for quality in coffee with such synergy crossing over geographic and company boundaries with out being on a farm.

My first shift as a taste captain I recall serving Santa Inez past #1 coe while being able to introduce Andrew Barnett who roasted it and happened to be walking right behind me, Aida Battles rum-y-PASA and have Chris Owens say “I know her”, delicious El Guayabo from Jaimes 3 hectar farm in Huila-probably sourced by Ryan down the hall, blue berry Beloya grown and milled by Mr. Bagersh on my left etc…

On a shift as a Pit Boss I was just following Peter, Doug and Eileen’s lead in welcoming attendees and escorting them to a station. On one occasion while our El Eden microlot was on rotation I had the privilege to tag team with Stephen who’s intimately familiar with many of our microlots and later was asked by Christian who roasted the very coffee that we grow to share to his guests about our terroir and how it and our processing impact cup. All the while Monica who teaches people how to make great coffee is washing thousands… yes thousands of nuova point espresso cups that had each given someone an espresso experience to remember.

I can’t explain the sense of overwhelming pride and humility that comes across when things come around full circle. When I heard that our Edlyna microlot was being pulled for a shift at the espresso barline, I went up to taste it and met Billy Wilson who executed as if he’d been dialing it in for years.

This happened for 10 hours a day, for 2 and a half days! If this was a coffee house and this happened every day, I’m sure we would go through almost a container a month.

I left the event early Sunday night as I didn’t want to be away from my wife for too long. Before heading out of Fort Mason I was notified of the following mention in the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE (the last few paragraphs under GOURMET EMPORIUM) and this was a REPORT ON SLOW FOOD DAY 2 also with mention of FVH.

1.  www.theshot.coffeeratings.com

2.  tonx

3.  List of some but not all people and companies involved via ritual website.

4.  San Francisco Chronicle mobile.

5.  Brief mention of interaction at entrance of coffee pavilion.

6.  Word gets around the globe quickly.

7.  Liz who writes www.twitchy.org will probably post something soon.

8.  PART 1 on slow food at ManSeekingCoffee.wordpress.com and PART 2, Look for PART3.

9.  Ryan Flinn’s www.coffeelikewine.blogspot.com portrays coffee for what it is, FRUIT!

10.  Ryans post titled FVH

11.  Good summary of slow food with great pictures.  Scroll to bottom for coffee mention/pic.

12.  Here’s an article from slow food the presidio in Huehue.

13.  Foodie blogger I was fortunate enough to welcome who tasted one of our brewed microlots served by Andy Newbom another microlot espresso by Billy Wilson a.k.a. Bobby in this post.

Thanks to all who made this possible.  If you know of any other relevant links, let me know and I’ll add them above.

Gracias,

Edwin Martinez

If you are going to be at SCAE this year be sure to pay a visit to The Coffee Collective.  We have the privilege of a time of sharing in an intimate setting… their cafe and roastery this next week.

This year at SCAE 2008 Copenhagen there will be 6 competitions!  Yes, count them.  6!  I believe these efforts are doing a fantastic job of bridging the gap between coffee professionals and one of the most important links in the coffee chain.  The consumer.

I will be competing in the World Cup Tasting Championship representing the U.S. mostly to scout it out to develop such a competition in the U.S. in 2009 most likely at SCAA.  I became U.S. Cup Tasting Champion the same way I got my Guatemalan drivers license.  Lets just say it has nothing to do with merit.

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.

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

and all of the 30 others who competed

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.

mike being himselfI gave some coffee to Mike… and he reciprocated by giving me a bomb.  I grew up with fireworks in Guatemala, but this – I was afraid of.  It was heavy.  I kindly accepted the gift, but was not going to light it.  All I could think of was how badly it could go.  Me tripping as I’m running away, getting arrested… etc.  I couldn’t give it away or delay my decision of what to do by taking it with my wife AND in-laws in the van or much less on the plane back to Bellingham, so I called Mike back and got some help lighting it.  Take a close look at the wick.  It gives you just enough time to get about 100 yards away if walking briskly which is barely enough time.   Mike actually does fireworks professionally for resorts around Guatemala… among many other things.  If you’re in Panajachel he’s worth paying a visit to.Crossroads cafe in Pana   Roaster at Crossroads in PanaPictured above is the outside of Crossroads and his roaster, which of course is hidden in a secret (now not so secret) room behind a false bookshelf.

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