How would you caption this?

December 27, 2006

Take a close look at these pics.  A friend of ours down the road has a few home businesses.

Gifts and Curiosities Liliana and Funeral Home “The Last Outfit”

“The Last Outfit Funeral Home - open 24 hours”

El chucho.

December 17, 2006

Chucho in spanish is slang for dog, not to be confused with chuchito whichyou would think is a little dog. It’s actually a small tasty tamale that is prepared in it’s own corn husk. We have many wild dogs in the neighborhood. Every once in a while we get one that is persistent enough to claim his stake and call Finca Vista Hermosa Home. This nameless dog actually has many names which I can’t keep track of. He follows Carlos around to help make sure things get done. He thinks he owns the place.El chucho

About to ferment

There was a time in Guatemala where when it came to processing coffee, purity was king. It was all about using natural spring water for every step in processing where water was needed… and using it to delicately transport the coffee from point A to point B.

Then a few decades ago things changed and folks had land disputes over water rights because people “downstream” only got dirty contaminated water. Soon after it became popular to run an environmentally conscious plantation and recycle everything… Well the problem with this is if you wash the coffee and transport it to patios with fermented recycled water… it ends up stained and although it may not be bad… you increase the chance of post wetmill fermentation and you also guarantee inconsistency. There are still MANY who adhere to one of the above extremes as they are both traditional old school.

We have used recycled water where it makes sense and pure natural spring for the final steps, again where it makes sense so the coffee is never stained and is perfectly clean. This really does contribute not only to a clean cup, but also gives maximum consistency assuming all other variables are managed properly. There are many other variables… the list is quite long. The reality is that over the years most growers in Guatemala have learned what it takes to produce exceptional coffee. To the extent that extremely small growers have their own little wet mills and they’ll throw a piece of plastic out, or dry on packed dirt, or on a big rock if they have to – to meet standards of what Guatemala calls clean coffee.

The above picture remains in my opinion the start of what is ultimately the critical point for most estates in Guatemala, be it 1/4 of an acre or a few thousand acres. It is in my opinion quite an achievement in the development of coffee (particularly for a country that is so much smaller than Colombia or Brazil) to have such a high level of consistency and quality control exercised by all even the smallest growers who have less than 1/4 of an acre. The conflict with fermentation is that if one crosses the line and goes to far, the coffee is ruined as “overfermentation” is in fact the worst and most identifiable defect.

However fermentation remains the weakest link because there is no significant loss in the quality of the coffee if it is cut short a bit. It can proceed as an exceptional product in the commodity market. And again this is only my opinion, but it is in this step where bacteria are eating sugars that the bean continues to develop and what is truly unique and special about the bean comes alive as it completes its maturity.

This next year with the help of just over a dozen folks around the world who will test out samples I will anxiously await the results and possibly turn some of these theories into something a little bit more concrete. Otherwise today we will continue to see complacency even in places like Guatemala where the coffee grower is fortunate to have an abundance of great recourses from Anacafe to benevolent neighbors to eager veterans and rookies that come and visit such as George Howell and .. well I won’t name names when it comes to rookies, but there’s nothing wrong with being a rookie if the passion is there to commit to excellence and quality with out compromise. These topics aren’t for those who want to look over and see what the next guy is doing rather for those who want to define the cutting edge and are willing to go out on a limb risking falling on your face in the genuine pursuit of excellence.

Answer: NEVER. But check this out….

Mel Stuckey CEO of The DeCaf Company LLC in the bay area seems to be on the brink of releasing a stir stick that will remove up to 70% of the caffeine from your cup of coffee with just a few stirs??

Here are a few reports:

Nina schools everyone at the Anacafe Cupping Lab

I wish I could say our whole family drinks excellent coffee and enjoys it in its purest form.

However…. although my wife is truly an Ace when it comes to blind cupping and identifying defects, she has probably never consumed a pound of coffee in her life. In her words “it all tastes like dirt”. No comment on my part.  She is a better cupper than I am.  Nonetheless she has been tremendously supportive and is a vital part of getting the bean from our farm to your door. If I could only get her to read this blog every once in a while my hits on this site would instantly double. The MASTER TASTER (i believe it was) for Jack Daniels last year stated that he never consumed any hard alcohol outside of his job in order to preserve his taste buds, to do his job well. I’m sure this is also Nina’s alibi.

Evie, my mom is eager to learn all she can about coffee but has to have milk and sugar and my father Edwin Martinez – doesn’t drink coffee. He prefers tea. My grandfather grew up drinking a roasted mix of corn, defective coffee and other un-knowns as consuming just coffee was a luxury they couldn’t afford. This was common in Guate for his generation. But I’m confident if the coffee culture can be changed in New York, than the same can happen in Guatemala.

A request for money.

December 4, 2006

Carlos and his family

Carlos, Edwin, Rolando and Newborn
Top: Carlos with his family.

Bottom: Carlos with new family member and his son Edwin in the background and his nephew Rolando adjacent. Rolando is one of the most entrepreneurial guys I know as well as a pretty extreme risk taker. You would never know it by his soft spoken and timid dimeanor.

In addition to managing for us Carlos has his own coffee land and of course we buy up everything he produces. This morning Carlos called requesting a short term loan…. it seems he and his son Diego will be making an offer this week to purchase another 15-20 cuerdas of land. A cuerda is aproximately 20 meters X 20 meters.

Some folks in the U.S. think we live all year at Finca Vista Hermosa. At FVH some think we live in the city of Huehuetenango or in Guatemala city. However Carlos knows we spend at least half the year in Washington state. And we count it a priviledge to have such a relationship that he can call with the report saying “harvest is coming in early, so get your butt down here… and by the way, can I borrow some money.”