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.

Coffee Fest 2008

September 18, 2008

Coffee Fest is really a show for “retail” and I went down Saturday to give a 1 hour talk that was not so much for retail titled:  “Developing Sustainable Direct Trade Relationships”.  In short I shared from my perspective what makes it work and what doesn’t.  Defined roles of each link and praised their value as one of the greatest myths is that cutting out the middle man is always a good thing.  It is not just roasters, but growers – who think they can replace and improve the in between links rather than work with them.


barista mag should do a piece on the interior of alex' room!

barista mag should do a piece on the interior of alex' room! See what happens when you hang around until it's all over.


Attendance was down quite a bit, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how many came to my talk.  I was prepared to have an awkward 8-9 people in a room that seats over 250, and it turns out we had about 75 people, all roasters or people that work closely with a roaster in one way or another. 

It was great to see many familiar faces as well as finally connecting with some of you I had never bet before.  It was hard to prepare as I didn’t know what type of audience to expect.  I could have probably gone more in depth in some areas that would have fascinated a select few and put everyone else to sleep.  While not my personal preference, I stuck to the safe shot gun approach.  Sorry to those who were hoping for more and thank you kindly for your sincere feedback.  It is much appreciated.  I think the best compliment I got was from someone who seemed to have been rung through the trade show course gauntlet.  “It was SO refreshing to participate in a seminar where I wasn’t being sold something”.  I couldn’t help but laugh and wonder what was discussed in other courses that were I’m sure taught by much more talented speakers.

Thank you señor Watts for being so candid with experiences where for the sake of maintaining a relationship you took a hit to maintain quality.  I did not have time to share this or many other stories of the challenges involved, what can go wrong,  how great the commitment of resources really is as well as the level of possible risk in volved.  Maybe some other time.

Missed out on a handful of parties but I couldn’t be happier as we are 6 weeks away from having a boy!  Yes, Nina and I are blessed to be pregnant I can’t wait for my boy to come to this world.  To write a dedicated post will not suffice so expect more family news to be snuck into posts and the like, indefinitely =)

I wanted to make a quick walk through the show floor in case I didn’t return the next day and I finally was held accountable by Tony Serrano who escorted me out of the building knowing I was not going to get out any time soon unless I ran for the door.  Thank you Tony.  I made the baby shower in good time.

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

89 years old today!

August 24, 2008

Feliz Cumpleaños Papi Lipe!


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.

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.