I was in Guatemala twice recently, at the end of July and again at the end of August. Here is some nice footage I shot while visiting Finca Santa Isabel in southern Guatemala. This is a 100% organic farm, a fairly large one, family-owned and -operated.
I must have seen about 50 different species of butterflies here in one morning, and some truly beautiful tropical birds. You can't see any on this video, but you can hear all the insects happily chirping away in the morning sun. Guatemala had one of its rainiest years on record so far this year; my host at Santa Isabel told me he had never seen the farm so muddy (he grew up there). But I was very lucky and, aside from one nighttime downpour, things were sunny and beautiful while I was there, as you can see in this video.
After Guatemala, I am traveling to Panama to visit the farms on some friends in the Boquete/Volcán region, in the western mountain highlands of Panama. I'll be there for several days, then it's back to the United States.
I'm taking my camera of course, and when I return, I will have some pictures and video to share, plus hopefully a little insight into the coffee scene in those two famous coffee countries. You can expect fresh material by the end of the month.
I hope everyone's having a lovely summer in North America, or wherever you are.
Hello from Marin County, California. Yesterday we roasted over 40 samples of fresh crop El Salvador coffees and weighed out cups. This morning we got up extra early to do a preliminary selection cupping of the 40+ samples. We picked out 16 exemplary lots, bourbons and pacamaras, washed and honey process. Some friends at Bay Area super specialty roasters came over and cupped them more fully with us.
These are very young, very fresh coffees. All micro-lots, specially selected in El Salvador by Graciano Cruz. 30 bags maximum exist of each of these coffees. They are super high-grade coffees that in the past were getting mixed together and lost at the exporter level. We're doing some really exciting work to keep them separated out and offered to roasters like these folks who will give them the TLC they deserve. There are a ton more honey process coffees on the way too, but they are still being processed at this point.
Thanks to everyone who came by.
Tomorrow morning I'm off to Ethiopia for the Cupping Caravan in Harar. More on that to come!
I went on and on about pacamara coffee yesterday, and included some links to places you can buy some. One of those places was Plowshares Coffee in New York State.
A good buddy of Coffee Scholars, coffee expert-roaster and all-around good person Anthony Kurutz, founder of Plowshares, dropped me the following notice on Twitter:
Plowshares_@CoffeeScholar I sold out of Pacamara for the year just before you posted this! Thanks for the shoutout anyway. btw it was delish.
I can vouch for the delish-ness. I had some of this coffee back in — July, I think? — and it was a classic pacamara, and expertly-roasted. Anyway, if you are looking for pacamaras, don't go to Plowshares.
But, ironically, that's a good sign that if you are looking for good coffee, you should go to Plowshares. Anybody who has perfect coffee from every world origin in stock at all times of the year is either lying to you or clairvoyant. Either they are selling you old-crop coffee, or they somehow, magically, sold out of the last bean of one year's coffee on the same day they received their shipment of the next year's coffee.
I'm sure Anthony doesn't enjoy running out of a great coffee like his pacamara. But the very fact he did is a good sign that you should feel good about buying whatever else he has on the shelf. And try the pacamara next year! They usually hit the shores of North America right around June 1st.
Nothing says happiness in the holiday season like a great cup of coffee. I made this video right after rolling out of bed on Christmas morning... all y'all who make fun of me for wearing a suit and tie to the coffee conventions, here you can see me all bleary-eyed wearing my zipper-hoodie and Seahawks shirt. That's organic Daniel there.
In this video I took some medium-high grown Bourbon coffee from El Salvador and roasted it just past second crack. I'm serving it to a big crowd of people (sisters and parents and various suitors of said sisters, natch), so I chose a medium roast for this coffee. It's a versatile bean and could go darker or lighter, but in my experience this style of bean at this level of roast is a real crowd pleaser.
I just had a cup of it while I was waiting for the video to upload, and it's really sweet and chocolatey. Remember... theory is great, but in the end, coffee should taste good!
Happy holidays to everyone. I hope your day is merry and bright.
Even before Esmeralda became the most famous coffee in the world, it was a pretty famous coffee.
The geisha coffee from Hacienda la Esmeralda in Panama was well-known in the specialty coffee world well before it got a jaw-dropping $130/pound (that's green coffee) in the 2007 Best of Panama internet auction. In fact, it had been winning that annual competition every year, and even setting price records. To those who had been paying attention, it was no surprise that Esmeralda was tops in Panama in 2007. The only surprise was the price.
I remember the first time I had Esmeralda. I was working at Victrola Coffee Roasters in Seattle, and the staff held a cupping with samples from all of the winning coffees. This was 2005. I think there were about 22 lots that year. For some reason we decided to cup all 22 coffees at once, so I was working quickly to get through the line.
Anyone who has done professional cupping can tell you, commenting during the cupping is a big no-no. In fact, it's a bad idea to even make little noises or faces. Your reaction to a given coffee can heavily influence the way your fellow cuppers will approach it. If you shout out "Lemon!" everyone is going to taste lemon. If you even mutter "gross" to yourself and make a little face, you are liable to bring down the score of the cupper next in line.
Well, the Esmeralda caused me to violate rules. I was going down the line, tasting, evaluating, and enjoying. Keep in mind these were the 22 best coffees from Panama that year. It's not like we had 21 bad coffees and then the Esmeralda. We had 21 outstanding, unique coffees, and then the Esmeralda. As I zipped down the line, slurping away, suddenly I stopped in my tracks and literally did a trible take. I think I made a little, inarticulate, "Hahh?" noise. Then I stood there and took about five sips in a row.
I've had the Esmeralda Reserve a few times since, plus several other outstanding Panama geishas. It's hard for me to know now how much of my memory is tainted by knowledge I got later. And since I don't still have my notes from that session lo these 4 and a half years ago, I have to rely on my memory. One thing I know for sure, because I remember telling friends about it later that day over beers, is that the Esmeralda tasted just like really sweet, fresh orange juice. I don't mean the stuff from a frozen artillery shell. I mean if you've every had an orange in its native tropical environment, still warm from the sun when you cut it open. So sweet! That was the Esmeralda geisha.
After the cupping, incidentally, there was no liquid left in those particular cups. Everyone had drunk it all down. We enjoyed it so much that it was after that cupping session that I started hosting public cuppings at Victrola with my friend Tonx. And people thought we were crazy... [And look what kind of nonsense came out of that, speaking of the Esmeralda.]
Most of the geisha I have had belongs in my Top 20 Coffees of All Time, but I'm just gonna put it in there once. The first time I had it will always be the strongest memory I have of it. Isn't that always the way life goes?