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El Salvador Finca San Jose

Today we launch Finca San Jose red bourbon from El Salvador and Gloria Rodriguez!

Gloria has worked with us since way back in 2007, and is one of our longest and consistent relationships in El Salvador

I am sure she thinks I am crazy, as when I turn up there’s normally some kind of chaos going on, or I have some new thing that I’m trying, but with the help of her son in law Luis (also Rodriguez) we battle through. I’ve been friends with him even longer (and her Daughter his wife Maria Jose) through their joint work for the Consejo back in the day (before they went on to own their own farm La Gloria). You keeping up here?

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Anyway the relationship we have is amazing, they continue to do good work (the family), and I continue to buy their amazing coffee, and they continue to improve, this year is no different.

When ever I get together with Luis we end up “geeking” out about all the varietals that we have found over the previous year, and talking about ones we are seeing come to the fore.

One of these is Elefante, a unusual mutation that’s been found on San Jose and Lagunita (one of their neighbouring farms). Lots of varietals have very small differences in the cherry or plant. This one has huge amounts of mucilage compared to the three or four drops you get from most coffees, often producing 14 or 15. Excess mucilage means excess transfer of sweetness in the processing and I think this shows in the cup.

Mucilage Count

We are also launching this today, along with a heap of pictures from my visit on Flickr which you can see here!

El Salvador San Jose 2017

 

 

I don’t expect the Elefante to be around long and most certainly won’t be an in my mug (way too small for that) but anyone who is signed up the red bourbon is making its way to you today.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Some things have changed since we first opened our doors, but my thoughts on sourcing travel and relationships haven’t really.

The most common question I ever get when meeting someone for the first time is “Why do you travel so much?” I hate flying, it’s been a phobia I’ve had for many years, and I am a terrible road passenger moaning and groaning. I rarely cup when I’m at origin, as the differing protocols, different water, and your body clock and diet all messed up means you can not do a good job at the cupping table. Coffee often tastes better when you’re in the sun, with friends, having a blast. If it tastes good in Stafford on a rainy Tuesday night, then it will taste good anywhere.

And lots of coffee roasters buy their coffee without ever setting foot on an airplane. So why do I put myself through the torture of traveling to origin? 2016 brought 129 flights all over the world and many many air miles, with 2017 not looking a lot better with 13 already in the middle of February.

Well it’s not for the airline food or my love of airports. We buy directly from over 50 farms and over 20 different producers in 9 different countries. Add to this the relationships we have with importers who still need love and attention to make sure the great coffee keeps flowing, and we continue to work together.

The advent of the internet has made this much easier to manage these long distance relationships and much of my day is spent firing emails and whats apps backwards and forwards. But for those of us that have had long distance relationships, this doesn’t work for all the details. Seeing the whites of the eyes of the person you’re dealing with fixes many of the problems and challenges, and also gets across your points of view, and a chance for you to hear theirs.

Let me give you an example. On my trip a few weeks ago to Central America, I spent the day on a farm we have been buying from for a few years. By now, I’ve been on a lot of farms and have gained knowledge from experienced growers on parameters and processes.

I ask similar questions everywhere I go: “What varietals do you grow?”, “walk me through the way you process the coffee”, “What kind of drying times are you getting?”. The farm in question answered the last question differently to other places I work with, farms all with a similar set of conditions. But the farm in question dried their coffee much quicker than normal.

Now it could be that this is best for this farm and mill, and I’m always very careful to not prescribe to producers what they should do. I use the mantra that if they turned up to my roastery and told me how to roast, I’d be quite annoyed at them, and I think they would feel the same for my advice if delivered wrong. Email and short messages can often be misconstrued this way, even more so when English is often the second language.

But they were super interested in this idea, so within 5 minutes, we were splitting a lot, and using half of it as a control sample doing what they normally do, and the other half slowing down the drying process to see what difference it will make. It could be that few learn nothing apart from what they are doing is amazing, but we could both learn what slowing down that drying process does to the coffee. We are both excited to see the result and how it turns out, both learning, and something that just doesn’t happen on a Skype call, and could be delivered in a way that was “wouldn’t this be interesting” instead of “do this do that”.

Another trip a couple of years ago, I took one of my favourite producers (and one of my closest friends) Alejandro Martinez (or Finca Argentina fame) to Honduras and Nicaragua to learn more about how they do things there. From the visit, he has built new relationships too, with experienced farmers, a resource for some new varietals to try on his farm and someone to bounce ideas off who knows what they are talking about (aka posed to me and my crazy thoughts.). The trip was so successful that when I left for home, Ale stayed with the producers, and learnt a little bit more with them.

Relationships are difficult, not just coffee ones, relationships in general. We all screw up, we all make mistakes. But you know, when you visit someone, all those screw ups and mistakes kind of get forgiven, as you get to understand the person, their challenges, and their strengths and weakness, and you learn to work as a team. But they also learn your weaknesses and you buy yourself so much goodwill.

I make lots of mistakes, I make lots of wrong calls and fly off the handle all the time. Catching up with my mates at origin is not only lots of fun (and it really is) but a chance for them to forgive my mess ups, an important piece of apparatus in my sourcing toolbox.

Vincent Paye, Bolivia

Bolivia is a challenge, but working with Vincent makes the effort worth it: Just 12 months on from my last visit you can visibly see an already healthy family farm, run by a true producer, getting better and better.

Bolivia is a challenge. If you don’t believe me go listen to this monologue I recorded when I was in Bolivia last August.

Dwindling crops, ageing plants, lack of varietal diversity, or ageing producers with their children having no interest in carrying on the family business.

But then sometimes there”s someone like Vincent Paye who you just want to put the extra work in for.

Vincent and his family have been the exception to the rule in Bolivia, increasing yields, new plant stocks, with a replanting program in full swing, family run business, who are investing in the farm and seeing the results in an improved cup quality.

Year on year, his coffee is getting better and better with every step he takes. Just 12 months on from my last visit you can visibly see an already healthy farm, getting better and better. A true family farm, that is acting like the professional producer he is.

We’re proud to launch the coffee today – you can buy it at the link here. Like the photos? Then why not take a look at the rest of them from the visit here on Has Bean Coffee on Flickr.

 

Honey Monster Process

For those who are curious about the honeys: Francisco Mena explains Costa Rican Honey Process in this cleverly illustrated video by Tentacle Media.

I am incredibly proud of the videos we have done with our media partners Tentacle on coffee processing. We made them because we get so many people asking us what all the process mean – is natural best (because its natural after all – nothing added, right?)?  Are the ones that are not washed dirty? These are common emails (and questions I asked when I started to learn more about coffee) that we get all the time here at HB towers. The videos answered most of these questions.

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But we had a big hole in the offering. Washed, Pulped natural and natural leaves one of the most misunderstood processes unanswered.

Honeying is something we are seeing happen more and more in many countries. Something that really started out of necessity in the county I’m visiting right now in Costa Rica. A style that has been copied by these other countries as it can add different styles in the cup through this method of processing.

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The necessity in Costa Rica comes from the lack of water to fully wash the coffees, and an altitude (which Costa Rica has lots of) that means an inability with cool temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns up in the mountains, or the lack of desire to natural process because of the effects this can have on the final cup.

And so honeying was born. Born also because of the micro mill revolution that happened, small mills at home that economically used water, but mechanically scrubbing the bean to remove mucilage. Clever people on farms realised if you changed the settings on these new pulpers, you could control how much of the mucilage (or honey) gets left on the bean. The more that gets left on the bean, the more it tends to lead to a sweeter / different cup.

 

Anyway before I tell you all about this, my good friend Francisco Mena came to a cold winter land roastery in Stafford to tell us all about it (I’m actually with Francisco now in Costa Rica, its a lot warmer).

To launch this, we are also launching some coffees from El Potrero that show these different settings. We have a yellow, red, and black honey bourbon and a very very special golden honey Geisha from the same micro mill. We also have a natural bourbon and a pack with them all in at a special price, too. All great examples and all very rare and special lots for you to try!

So go watch “the expert” tell you all about it in the video (Francisco not me) before you buy the coffees here so you can taste what we are going on about. Very special coffees from some very special people in a very special country!

Brew Guides

Not sure how to brew? Luckily for you, there are GUIDES!

Following on from the coffee 101 blog post, I’m still looking at the newbies with the new equipment for Christmas, who might be struggling to get the best out of their new kit.

Fear not, I’m here to help! Of course coffee101 is a good place to start, but doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of brewing the stuff called coffee…

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So, I’m here to remind you about our lovely brew guides. Take a look at them all here at this link, from Vac pot to aeropress, all your needs covered!

Coffee 101

Happy new year to old friends, I hope that you got all the coffee gifts you wished over the festive period. Welcome also to new people finding us here, I know that at this time of year we see an influx of new coffee converts, people who were lucky enough to get equipment, subscriptions and coffee as gifts and are researching their new hobby.

It also means this time of year we get hit with lots of emails from new people with lots of new people questions. We are of course always happy to field these (well Chris and Katie are) but we also know theres lots of question people don’t ask, as they “should know”.

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We disagree, theres no silly questions, but to get around this years ago I created a thing called coffee 101. Coffee 101 is a basic introduction to the fundamentals of coffee. A daily email over 10 days covering everything from the history of coffee, to how to get the best out of your brewing. Its a foundation introduction to getting the best out of your new found interest.

Its free to sign up and there really is no catch, its my gift back to the world (and to temp you we even put some special offers in there too) and to inspire you to find out more about your favourite beverage.

Would love to hear your feedback on the updated site and emails and anything you think we may have missed.

http://www.coffee101.co.uk