Guatemala cont……

Day 1. WOW you knew that was coming but loving this place. Sunday was spent on a very long bus journey to Esquipulas, to visit a farm called Las Nubes, a small to medium sized finca outside of the town. This is a farm we have cupped many times but has been bought up by long time buyers. Its kind of a queue and we have moved forward to be able to get some of this on the new crop.

The journey was  kind of fun, chatting with the others on the trip and looking at the scenery. We arrived 4 hours later (yes 4 hours). The town is very famous for its church and we arrived on the busiest day of the year. People from all around Guatemala travel on a pilgrimage to the church to see the Black Christ. It’s a statue of Jesus made out of a dark black wood. The queue to touch it was over six hours. People were sleeping under tarpaulin sheets all day and night.


We were then invited by Fabio the owner of Las Nubes to dinner at his daughter’s house. This was a reasonable sized house with a huge garden where we all sat out and ate a wonderful home prepared meal. The house is in the middle of the town so was very close to the hotel where everyone else was stopping. Notice everyone else me the two owners of Mercanta and Richie the roaster from Monmouth were lucky enough to be invited to stop on the farm in a guest house that’s been built.

Now for someone who loves everything coffee the opportunity to stop on a Farm who’s coffee you enjoy and get a chance to sit and drink rum with the farmer his wife daughter and grandchildren is something that’s special. A few times I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t a dream. It sounds a little corney but I felt quite emotional. I didn’t sleep too much more exitiment than anything else, but got up around 6:30 ish. An apology to Richie who had to share a room with me (separate beds I must stress) but noone deserves to have to do that.

The morning carried on where the evening left off with enjoying breakfast with some wonderful company. One thing I’ve got to share with you is Sonia’s recipe for Las Nubes Huevos. These are poached egss with a twist. For this you need

1 Egg

You take a small amount of onion and chop it finely. A small pinch of chilli basil and coriander and add to the onion. Take a plastic bag and place the mixture in one of the corners. Then crack the egg and place it in the same corner. Then you knot the bag and place it in boiling water for 10 mins, remove and serve. Wonderful wonderful wonderful.

So the farm great tour loads of photos as soon as I can upload them you’ll see them but a few below. I also got to do an interview with Fabio on my video recorder about what he thinks about our importers us and fairtrade, interesting stuff and I hope to get that on the website some time once I’m back.

We sat ate a wonderful meal, chatted with some great music. I must apologise for the over use of wonderful and awesome but they both fit so well.  This trip is starting to feel a little different to every other trip I’ve been on. The emphasis is much more on meeting and socialising with the farmer and less about cupping. Sure we have some cuppings later in the week, but I’m feeling quite emotional about it all.

So now I sit on the bus for another 4 hours to move to Coban, where we are heading ready for tomorrow. One night (tonight) at the hotel then onwards again. The Internet connection has been non existent my emails must be in the hundreds and I’ve no way of contacting home. But when you read this I must have them all back as I’ve uploaded this :). The time flies and I know soon I’ll be setting home but for now I‘ll enjoy.

Guatemala Day 1 (kind of)

So I’m here in Beautiful Guatemala, I arive at the hotel around 24 hours after leaveing home the previous day, but with time zones and alike my body doesn’t know if its coming or going.

My advice if you are ever visiting central / south America is don’t go through Newark or Houston in particular, Chaos is the only work I can use to describe both of them. Every time I go through US border control it gets a little hard, slower and more hassle. I believe there will come a time where no one can enter the country, kind of understand why, but I was in transit and having to collect my mugage and re check in bizarre!

Any way the coffee the coffee. Not much to tell you as all I’ve done is slept, but this morning we are off to Esquipulas of which I know little about but hope to telll you more later

But as a first off the view I woke up to this morning, its not a bad life.

Hotel View

All that glitters is not Cachoeria

All that Glitters is not Cachoeira. For those who have followed the course of Has Bean over the years, Cachoeira has been a staple of our diet, and one of my favourite coffees. Gabriel the farm owner and grower has long grasped that even one of the best coffee farms in the world (of which Cachoeira is certainly one in my book) produces three kinds of coffee. Commercial grade coffee, poor quality little interest to the specialty market, standard commercial grade coffees. Then you have your mid market coffees similar to say a Brazil Santos or a Medillin Excellso. Of little interest to most specialty buyers, but you will occasionally find an OK lot or something that can bring an interesting angle on a blend. Then you have your premium coffees that demand a higher price due to the quality and extrinsic qualities of the coffee.

For a long time The Yellow Bourbon from Cachoeira has been phenomenal, nothing more than an awesome example of what’s possible in Brazil. But what happens if someone sells some of the commercial grade or mid market coffees as Cachoeira, but doesn’t give you any more information? Something similar has happened for years with Daterra. The price difference between the Reserve that we sell, and some of the other lots from the farm is 100%, but both can be sold as Daterra, and to the unassuming eye both could be seen as the same coffee. Trust me on the cupping table and in the final cup they are not the same at all.

So why do I tell you all this? There are some people out there selling Cachoeira that may be past crop or not the premium lots from this farm. Not all of it the same quality as the coffee we sell. Due to the special relationship we have with our importers and the relationship they have fostered between us and Gabriel we get the very best of this farms coffee, and pay a premium for it. Last year when the Canario first ever harvest was released we ended up with 7 out of the 8 bags a special coffee. This year our Importer (and a certain Barista) asked if it could be dried on screen this year, never a problem for Gabriel. Its all about trust.

As a side not someone pointed out to me that when new crops arrive I don’t update the cupping notes and the descriptions. Of course they change, and me very bad and will try to do this more. Our most recent changes are Cachoeira and Canario.

Guatemala this weekend

Well it’s seems like an age since my last trip. It’s been nearly 1 year since my last visit to origin, so I’m chomping at the bit to get out and see it all. I’m hoping that during the trip to keep you regularly updated with photos and postings.

While I’m away Sarah and John (and the help of our family with Sarah’s mom dad and her sister all chipping in) will keep things going. But there may be occasions they cant get things out as quick as we normally do (hey it will probably quicker without me in the way). But I ask you to be a little more patient. Emails will still be going (Internet connection willing) and Sarah will also be checking.

Hats of to Brazil

Firstly let me apologise for the lack of updates here. A mixture of the busiest December EVER, and a collapse of the body and mind as soon as the Christmas break came. But in January I expect to write more updates than ever, and more opinions than ever.

So Brazil for a long time has shown everyone in the specialty market how things should be done. The giant of the coffee world has some very intelligent people in charge who understand added value things. Yes there are other (notably El Salvador) that are catching them up but some news I heard today just reminds me how forward thinking they are.

For years green coffee has been transported in Hessian jute sacks. When I first got in to coffee it puzzled me why food grade products like coffee would be transported this way. Jute is susceptible to the cold damp and and taint more than any other way (those who remember or Honduras cup of excellence post will understand what I’m talking about).

As my experience in coffee grew I still couldn’t work out why transport premium coffees this way, yes the romance of a jute sack is something I love, and seeing the Has Bean logo on a sack still makes me smile big inside. But the green coffee needs to be treated better. So Brazil’s plans to Vac pack in protective foil all of the cup of excellence lots is a great idea. Being used as an experiment the costs are being shared by the farmer and the buyer I can see this the way all top end coffees will be packed.

I don’t know the science behind what this will do to the coffee (and would love to hear your ideas) but have my theories. But what I do know it will protect it from outside elements which cant be a bad thing, and has helped Daterra and The Australian Mountain top, keep far better. There are the obvious storage benefits too, its easier to stack some square cubes of vac packed coffee to sacks

Is it the end for Hessian jute sacks, I guess not, tradition dies hard but a step closer to putting it all in the past for top end coffee? I hope so. Hats off Brazil.