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!

FVH now on Twitter!!!

October 11, 2009

No. Not really. While many are going out of their way to broaden their sphere of influence for business and personal reasons via social networking tools such as facebook, Twitter, linkedin, myspace and more, I’m working my way off the grid. I counted 161 social networking sites listed on wikipedia.org today, which is clearly not a comprehensive list as they somehow missed baristaexchange. Despite the great values offered by these technologies, I have come to appreciate communicating and interacting IN PERSON a great deal. I’m careful to not be too critical of something I’m unfamiliar with, however I’m content being ignorant. That being said, this post was done from my phone

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.

The Burke Museum in Seattle is kicking off this weekend an exhibit titled “Coffee: The World In Your Cup”.  To my knowledge, this is the first of it’s kind in North America!  I had the privilege of making an introduction to the press (about 20-30 people) and speaking about the relevance and value of this exhibit to the coffee industry on Wednesday.  I will also be lecturing on Saturday the 24th along with David Griswold founder of Sustainable Harvest in Portland and Max Savishinsky the director of UW Exploration Seminar Study Abroad Programs.  In the afternoon I’ll do a brief tasting.  I’m thinking I’ll sample roast a few micro lots, maybe some vacuum packed maragogype and peaberry.  I’ll brew them each in both chemex and eva solo, so attendees can taste a clean cup as well as one with some artificial body for those who may be disappointed in such a light roast hoping for a less flavorful and bolder taste.

photography by Gabriel Rodriguez

photography by Gabriel Rodriguez

 

This has been a collaborative effort on behalf of many of the staff at the Burke as well as many from the coffee industry.  You’ll find burlap sacks hung up on the wall over 25 feet wide and close to 20 feet high.  There is a pretty good spread of marks that are mostly mill and export marks, but some import and even roaster marks from atlas, intelli, stumptown, tonys and many more.  While I was there a few hours I didn’t get more than a glance at it, but did notice someone submitted our bag!!!  And it was stuffed separately next to a big poster with Ted Lingles tasters wheel and some other text with a title – “The Perfect Cup”.

While Starbucks was not on board at first they eventually came around and were more than supportive and collaborative.  They just couldn’t not be a part of it as it is in their back yard and they have paved the way for the early development of specialty coffee.

 

Before leaving I got to talking and met a journalist who is also a Q grader.  Not knowing who he was I asked, so what do you do in coffee or where do you work aside from being a jounalist?  (As curiosity is getting the best of me.)  His response was “Nothing – outside of journalism, I’m not a professional in the coffee industry.”  It turns out the Miles Small is an information sponge and is editor/owner of COFFEE TALK,which has been around for 22 years!!!

 

While the Burke is not a place where coffee professionals will go to learn a lot of content, it is fun to soak up the details as they’ve done a fantastic job of creating a social space among coffee displays that give some idea what coffee looks like from seed to cup.  So for anyone who has not been to origin this beats watching any video and hopefully will compel you to finally make that first, or 41st trip to origin.  There is a small depulper, patio with coffee drying and even a display of what the corner of a fermentation tank or washing tank may look like with fresh wet pergamino.

And for anyone who has any interest at all in coffee, it’s history or culture it is a great place to just watch the screen as pictures cycle through.  Many of the photos used on the home page’s flash as well as in other places on the website, in the exhibit on the walls and in posters were taken by Gabe Rodriguez at FVH.  His photography continues to amaze me even as I go back and take another look at pictures I’ve already seen many times.  Here is a link to some of these pictures… if you look around you’ll find many more.

We are putting together a 2009 calendar as we did 3-4 years ago and it will be composed 100% of Gabe’s photos.  While it does not tell the complete seed to cup story and include a great picture of my wife driving one of our old Land Cruiser pick ups, the images speak for them self and are very engaging.  It’s kind of ridiculous actually how much raw detail is each of these pictures.

I also did an interview on KUOW Public Radio with Jeremy Richards that may be aired Jan 23 in the afternoon.  I will post a link if I find one later as well as posting about Saturday.  The interview was a Q&A as well as a walk around and talk in the museum as we soaked it all in ending with a tasting.  Major Cohen was serving pressed Bella Vista – Tres Rios and Nathan Warner the head roaster at Fidalgo Bay was pouring fresh pressed Selvanica into ceramic, which had great acidity and sweetness.

The exhibit will be around for about 6 months and if you are not in the pacific northwest, check back on the museum website later this year as this exhibit will hit the road for 3 years!!!

 

Don’t miss it!

 

Depulper in back of pick up going in for a tune up

Depulper in back of pick up going in for a tune up

 

We calculate that we may begin the “pepena” as early as December 15 or 22.  Pepena is what we call an initial picking where we prep the plant as much as possible for a uniform maturation.  Not only on each coffee plant but uniformity from one coffee plant to another so harvest can be done in multiple efficient waves.  The activity of pepena is simply picking what is ripe early.

This activity helps send maximum nutrient to developing ripe fruit as opposed to maintaining an already ripe fruit on the tree that may otherwise naturally begin it’s course of fermentation.  Think of a large family where the oldest kids are ready to be financially independent and move out on their own allowing some more breathing space for those still at home.  In coffee this space is important.

There is a fine line between over feeding and starving.  There is a time for feasting, and in order for a slow and complex development there is also a time and season for pacing yourself at a slow and steady rate to get through the dry season.

This dry season coupled with soil type and elevation directly correlate with acidity.  Having unexpected rain towards the end of a dry season can begin to mute the intensity of the acidity.  As a result a more sporadic harvest doesn’t have to be, but often leads to more under and over ripes being harvested.  Then depending on the following steps of processing this will have a significant and negative impact either on quality and or quantity of exportable coffee.  Some choose high QC standards and realize a smaller yield towards export and others attempt to retain their volume, but are capped on the premium they may get based on quality.

Newest patio is a 5 year project for us.

Newest patio is a 5 year project for us.

Often the biggest factor in this decision is market conditions.  Lets say the C is over 150, than for many it is all about quantity, if the C is below 100 then it quality becomes a stronger consideration for some.  The logic is why spend more money on labor on a product that may have a cost to produce that may be above what it is worth.  This is a VERY REAL and common predicament.   As you can see if you’re striving for the best quality possible as a producer you have tough decisions in any market.  Coffee is the one commodity that tends to confusing to economists.  It sometimes SEEMS so simple, but it isn’t.  When the price is high, everybody seems to be buying it and it’s quickly scarce, when the price is low, no one wants it.  Go figure.

A large farm will produce enough through their pepena that it is actually moved all the way through processing and it is exported.  So if you are a broker, this is what you’re getting when your supplier tells you this first shipment is from the “first picking”.  Of course it’s not the tastiest coffee!  This is something we don’t even bother wet milling other than we do like to have a test run on the depulpers before entering the formal harvest which will begin mid end January 2009.  That being said, every coffee has a home, and home should be a place where you are content and comfortable.  This does not look the same for everyone.  So be careful not to judge another’s “home”.

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

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