Cupping the 2010 harvest

March 21, 2010

Last week I had the priviledge of cupping our microlots with Casper from the Coffee Collective in Denmark and Andy from Barefoot in the US at Anacafe. Thank you Marvin, Juan Antonio, and Eduardo. We came across something out of the ordinary, with a most intense fragrance. Wild natural berry aroma, yet a totally clean cup. Not sure how this happened but we’ll be cupping a lot more the comming days.

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!

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!

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.


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 will probably post something soon.

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

9.  Ryan Flinn’s 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.


Edwin Martinez

Slow Food Nation

August 22, 2008

Sorry… this post won’t get a picture.  Instead lots of words that could possibly be quite boring if you’re not familiar with slow food.

What is Slow Food?  Until recently I couldn’t answer that myself, but one way or another this has been ringing in my ears the last few years.

While some of you may be familiar with Slow Food, never before has there been such an event celebrating American food.  It will be in San Francisco over Labor day weekend.  This event has gotten VERY BIG, VERY QUICKLY.  Truly a powder keg.

Carlo Petrini is the president and founder of Slow Food International and has been touring the US this year.  He wrote a book called Slow Food Nation which has received much praise.

At the beginning of 2008 I had a long lay over in L.A. and I briefly met up with Tony Konecny in Silverlake, who runs his very own NON 501c3 non profit.  I met him about 5 years ago while he was chained to an IR-12 surrounded by a few thousand lbs of green coffee in a room not much bigger than a walk in closet up on capitol hill-SEA.  He shares that he and friends in Napa are working on a food event in the fall and I should check it out.  Also at some point Tony went down with Gabriel Boscana a.k.a. old man ritual to Huehue with an international group that was sponsored by slow foods in Italy.  Italians have really taken a liking to coffee from Huehue in particular.  It was the favorite coffee region in the world for the late Dr. Ernesto Illy, and many other companies in Italy that have promoted coffees from Huehue in a very prominent way for some reason.  Well, I’m sure the reason is that they’ve got a phenomenal pallet for the finest flavors.

Then I bump into Andrew Barnet from Ecco Caffe in Copenhagen in June who asks me to consider coming to San Francisco in a few months for an event that would be a perfect match for us.

Meanwhile I begin to connect the dots remembering that an old friend that used to manage the dry mill we’ve used in Huehue is opening a whole new mill with brand new equipment, funded by some Italians that don’t have much history or experience in coffee but supportive of our local flavor.  And I heard that last year one of the buyers was a roaster in a prison in Italy.  Hmm..  Read more in this link from a slow food news letter from 2006

Then Tony emails again and says “you really should come, Andrew and I will be there, Ritual is on board and it’s going to be great.”  Being a busy season in life and work, we’re tight on time and money these days so I had to pass, but I agreed to send some coffee to Barefoot to represent.  Not a month later… another email “you should really come…. everyone is going to be there.”  which doesn’t really mean everyone, it means we now have some bigger micro roasters on board to help us do our part of the event.

The next day Andy at Barefoot sent this email:



   great news on the coffee shipment.

So here is my pitch to you for Slow Food Nation:  It represents everything we are all trying to do in quality coffee.  It will be a huge opportunity to get your story heard by the press, thousands of appreciative fans and US

It will be a blasty-blast

We will work hard to get some press coverage for you to get your story out there

We will pay for you to fly down here and you can stay in our apartment for the weekend. So the only cost would be food and misc. You would fly down on the 30th and fly back on the 2nd. so basically three days of fun and amazing coffee people. We will have a meet the producer event on the 30th and cup your coffees. we will be serving your coffee at Slow Food nation as well.

sound good?

Andy Newbom


Barefoot Coffee Roasters

76 Sunol st San Jose, CA 95126




And the rest is……. going to be history.  I’m sure this will be an event to remember.  Hopefully an event to spark something new in the development of the coffee consumer market.

Whenever fine or quality foods are the center of attention, coffee is always an after thought at best.  Next week it will be a part of the conversation.  For those of you who are passionate about quality in coffee…  For those of you who are purists…  For those of you who can taste and appreciate terroir…. get you’re butt out there!   Click here to see a list of some of the roasters present…  If you’re interested in more details, I’m sure some of them will report on their website, or via press release.

Dry mill in my bedroom?

August 14, 2008



After it was all installed my father (not pictured above) shared with a goofy grin “I imagine there might be some people who work in coffee in the United States that would love to have their own sample roaster and dry mill in their apartment.”

Yes, after years of setting aside some funds with hopes to pick up a sample roaster, I came across a gorgeous antique 3 barrel probat.  Antonio who works at the lab at Exportcafe along with Mario have been restoring this for almost a year.

Now this baby is installed in my bedroom along with a sample dry mill!  I’m just not sure how long my wife will allow this set up IN our bedroom.  I’m sure it will move back out soon.  Pictured above is Aurelio Villatoro a long time friend and neighbor who is an award winning producer, Mario our in house probat expert and my grandfather eating fresh roasted FVH as an afternoon snack. Click here for some before pictures.  Or click on above picture to see more pictures taken during the first dozen roasts.


2008 Harvest at FVH

April 15, 2008

Usually when one is busy time passes quickly. The last 2 months have seemed an eternity. Carlos and Edwin Garcia Martin continue to be missed tremendously. In their absence many relationships have grown stronger.

I have learned much about how we all process differently. And different is not wrong. Grieving takes many forms. With out means to preserve a body, funerals take place with in 24 hrs. There were a few hundred at the funeral that mourned loudly for a few days. Sometimes it is most difficult to deal with the present reality, and anything outside of denial seems impossible.

At such a time everything else seems so unimportant, yet distractions seem to be so comforting. Two months ago we were right in the middle of harvest with full patios and Diego, Carlos’ oldest stepped forward and chose to take his fathers responsibilities. Juana and most of her kids have since been in San Juan their home town to be close to their extended families despite not having lived there for 20 years. Diego spends half his time at FVH and chooses to sleep in the bodega alone with the coffee rather than in his home, the managers home. Life is different for many of us.

Early March on a layover in LA I went to visit John Gozbekian at LAMILL where the food is unreal and their culinary approach is mind blowing. Then before leaving I had to pay a visit to TONX as well. Soon after arrival I met up with Ryan Brown from Ritual along with Ben and Jaime from Barismo to embark on a new venture. We cupped at 7 of the largest exporters in Guatemala along side many CoE judges. I will post more on this later… possibly on a different blog. Since then Jaime has written a piece that is thought provoking and hopefully inspiring any reader to get back to the basics. The post is dated March 31, 2008.

started with Ryan, Ben and Jaime

And we picked up a few more friends along the way…

OCEANS 13 - click on pic for more info

Lindsay, Mike, Mark and Perry - Victrola Kelli and Aaron - ONYX COFFEE

Klaus, Aaron, Mark and Ben have also posted pics on flickr.

To read more detail on the latter part of this trip please check out:

Klaus Thomsen (TCC) PART1, PART2 AND PART3

Victrola PART1, PART2 and PART