State of the harvest address
May 25, 2007
I must say this year we have had the most abnormal weather in decades. We’ve had rain when we didn’t want it and didn’t get it when we wanted it. Go figure. It is risky business to be so dependant on the weather and we were certainly put to the test this year. Although our quantity is down a bit, it seems the quality is stronger than ever. Cup quality is consistent with the past years and it seems the rain that came at the wrong time gave us a small loss of fruit that actually primed the plants for continueing to develop more evenly and slowly as we like it. The biggest challenge was handling some processing logistics after picking. For example having full patios with coffee that isn’t dry yet, no sun, and more coffee getting depulped each day. We had to set aside some lots that we just couldn’t manage properly and we also trucked coffee to other patios offered up by generous neighbors. We go through great lengths to naturally sun dry as it is extremely difficult to dry coffee consistently with a mechanical dryer. If this seems like alot of work to you, you’re absolutely right. It means not being a stranger to 20 hour work days. As a result we had to decide whether to build another patio or some raised drying tables which to this day I’ve never seen in Guatemala. Thank you Jeff Taylor and George Howell for sharing pics on what this looks like. We have chosen to move foward with the building of a new patio. This will be the biggest patio and it is in the only place we can possibly build one this size with out creating an engineering marvel. For those of you who haven’t seen first hand, it’s not easy to find a flat area in the highlands of Huehuetenango. Our community is known to be particularly rugged.
As I write this we have officially unloaded most of our U.S. bound coffee and are starting to ship this back out as most of it is already sold out. We bought some more coffee again from our neighbor who we have been working with now for a few years. To see a clip done by a reporter from L.A. CLICK HERE!!
The task at hand is a pass through the entire plantation for extensive pruning as well as a wave of weeding, which means swinging a machete back and forth horizontally half an inch above the ground. We don’t kill other vegetation we just cut it down so the coffee plant ends up the stronger one that absorbs water and nutrient rather than a growing weed.
Nina and I will return in a few weeks joined by her parents Thomas and Shirley Grant. Nina and I are very fortunate to have the support of both of our families in this venture that was once a dream. A dream my grandparents never imagined would come true.
As I reflect on the coffee that has been produced in our family the last 3 generations I realize how blessed we are. Finca Vista Hermosa seems to be the perfect size to manage exceptional quality across the board. As we visit smaller farms, quality tends to be more of a challenge because of loss of economies of scale. While larger farms leverage economies of scale and can’t afford to give the same attention to detail. Many of the other coffees offered up in the Cup of Excellence this year are a micro lot that has been sectioned off from the rest of the farm. This has been “babied” every step of the way to be a coffee that is really exceptional above the rest of what the farm has to offer. In our case we are small enough and in the perfect location with the right people and climate to put out an entire crop that is excellent. Most that have cupped all our micro lots cannot differentiate between them and we almost had to flip a coin to decide what went where. I’ve decided not to think about the CoE and get my hopes up. Having tried some of the other coffees I can tell you they are all VERY good! Having a coffee in the CoE in Guatemala is like being in the Olympics. The difference between first and last place is just a decimal… a fraction. The smaller the difference between the first and last in a CoE auction is a sign of how developed the origin is in consistently putting out good coffee as a nation. Some countries with more challenges have a much greater variance between the samples that are submitted.
Sorry for such a lengthy post, I just thought I would compile some thoughts and responses to incoming emails and phone calls. Thank you to those of you who have called in with congradulations. We don’t see the Cup of Excellence as a sign of having arrived or as a peak. Rather a point in a continuous line. Our goal is not occasional excellence, rather excellence consistently through the years. Thank you for partnering with us and being a vital link in this chain that we value so much.
This year we made an extra effort to give much attention to the sorting pre and post wetmill in order to have a perfectly clean coffee so the terroir that is to be had can be more clearly articulated. I leave this to you to discover. To enjoy. And to share.