Listening to Coleman Hawkins and the sun has been out this week. Today I cleaned out the single dirtiest espresso grinder I've ever seen. It was a La San Marco SM91, a pretty good little machine, but good God it was filthy. It had apparently been run a few times and then left completely alone. The coffee powder lodged into all the little internal slots and burrs had turned into a gelatinous, night-colored coating over all that brass. I scraped it off in long, curling peels of filth with a screwdriver, one little lane of clean at a time. My compatriot in scouring remarked that it reminded him of some of the filthiest deep-fryers he's been around.
In any case, we got the sucker clean and she works like a charm. The burrs are like brand new. We still didn't manage to pull any good espresso on it (another task for another day), but I had a distinct feeling of satisfaction seeing that steel and copper gleaming. Now if I could just get the filth out from under my fingernails.
Saturday I returned from El Salvador. While there I had a chance to cup about 40 fresh crop samples across three days, mostly from Apaneca/Lamatepec (aka Santa Ana), and came away really impressed. The focus on specialty in El Salvador is more apparent every time I go there; I think it's going to be one of the origins of the year this year, despite the irregular rains earlier in the growing season.
Already, a couple of the farms I visited in the east were done picking and had begun the long and laborious work of pruning. I had fun helping to cut back a few trees and painting the stumps with bright blue copper sulfate solution to protect them from fungus. It's a part of the growing process I have had explained to me before, but this was my first chance to observe and participate first hand. In one year the shoots will grow back with fresh life, and in two years they will produce fruit again, with more vigor than the older branches had been doing. Typically a well-managed farm does this to about a fifth of their plantation a year, to keep everything continually renewed.
As always, I brought back some samples. In this case, they are particular valuable: all fresh-crop, and all from top farms. In all it's about 3 kilos of green gold. I'll be sharing it with the public along with the top of last year's crop at an event in New York City soon, so stay tuned for that.
That makes 7 trips to El Salvador in the last 15 months. I don't know when I am going to go back again; all the projects I have been working on are wrapping up, and the new projects I have in the fire are still in the incubation stage. I suppose it won't be very long, but I really can't speculate at this point. Next trips on the horizon will most likely be Nicaragua and Ethiopia.
And, oh yeah! Chicago! This weekend is Coffee Fest, along with the Great Lakes Regional Barista Championship. Great Lakes is one of the strongest regions in the nation. Should make for good watchin'. I have a bit of a life-change announcement to make on a related note. I'll post more about that tomorrow.
For now, ponder Steve McQueen.