Rolands Diary, Costa Rica Day 6

So the diary continues, he hasn’t been taken by bandits or tied up and held hostage, he’s still cupping

 

image1My time in Costa Rica has really flown, with today being my sixth day and also the end of the first round of the Cup of Excellence competition. Very much as Day 5, today we started at 8am and did three rounds of cuppings to score the remaining coffees. Our discussions after scoring are really interesting to see which coffees split opinion, and which we mostly agree on. Before tomorrow, all our scores will be averaged, allowing the round 1 coffees to be cut down to round 2 contenders, which we will cup again.
After lunch, the International Jury was taken on a trip to a farm and mill near Naranjo called Finca Santa Anita. Not far from Cafe ARBAR, I got to again see the beautiful views of the West Valley.image2
At Santa Anita we met the family who own the mill and farm – the 3rd and 4th generations since the farm was founded. The farm processes about 14,000 46kg sacks of coffee a year, both from themselves and other small farms in the area – quite a bit smaller than Beneficio La Eva that we saw yesterday. A really clean and well organised farm and mill, they’ve also invested in solar panels which provides 85% of the electricity they need to run the mill when it’s busy. In their cupping room, I had a surprise, as their cupping table and sample roaster are the same type we used at Has Bean until recently.

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Ronald’s diary day 5

Rolands blog take over continues with his day 5 diary

 

My 5th day in Costa Rica was the start of the real work – the International Jury’s first round of cupping coffees to find the Cup of Excellence winners. The week before, the National Jury found 78 coffees that were eligible for going forward – which the rules say had to be cut to the top 60 for us to cup this week. That’s the first time the cut has had to be applied in Costa Rica, so a really good sign! There is also a record number of jury members this year, so lots of work for the back room team here, but they’re doing a great job.

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Starting at 8am, we began 3 rounds of cuppings, each with 10 coffees in – that puts us now half way through the first round of the competition. Each cupping is followed by a discussion time, where the head judge makes sure we’re all happy with things and nothing is getting missed.

After lunch, we were taken on a trip to visit Beneficio La Eva, a wet mill and dry mill in the West Valley. They deal in both speciality coffee and commodity grade, and are an example of a traditional coffee mill in Costa Rica, which was very interesting. The mill is a mix of old and new, as they retain all their original buildings and much of their original kit, but have had to invest to meet the strict environmental criteria that the Costa Rican government demands.

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They also kindly put on dinner for us and some other farmers and mills – a great chance to meet people and learn more! Speciality coffee is quite a small world, so I wasn’t entirely surprised to discover I had had coffee from the family I was sat with at dinner – put it was a pleasant surprise to discover they ran Las Lajas, from whom we had their delicious Perla Negra Natural back in 2011.

 

Rolands Diary day 3

In this Roland Glew take over of has blog he tell us (very briefly) whats going on. I think he is having to much fun to share with us but heres his short paragraph from day 3

 

After spending day 2 at Cafe ARBAR, I got day 3 pretty much to myself – it was mostly spent getting myself sorted ready for the week long Cup of Excellence competition beginning the next day. I also got to meet some of my fellow judges and catch up on my e-mail!
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I’m writing this at the end of day 4, which is the end of the first day of the International Jury of the Costa Rica Cup of Excellence 2015. The competition started with an Inauguration meeting – which was a chance to hear from and meet some of the people running the Speciality Coffee Association of Costa Rica. After that we moved onto the real business of cupping, with three rounds of cupping to get the judges calibrated. Each round included 9 or 10 coffees, which we cupped and scored independently before sitting down to discuss our scores. This also included a chance to try various acids in solution and understand how these acids interacted with each other and with other things.
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It’s been a really interesting day, with the other judges giving me lots to think about and lots learnt! Tomorrow we start tasting the 60 coffees that have made it through to the International Jury week of Cup of Excellence Costa Rica 2015.
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Roland day 2 continued

The Roland Glew takeover continues with more fun and frolics in Costa Rica

 

After an enlightening and beautiful drive, Weiner and I arrived at Cafe ARBAR – the farm of Carlos Arrieta and his family. Carlos, his wife and their children Karen & Jose Ignacio came out to welcome us and he began to show us around the farm. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish so we had to rely on Weiner to translate between us – but that didn’t delay us long before we were all laughing and walking through the coffee plants.

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This was Manantial – the farm area around their home. Carlos started by showing me the raised drying beds he uses – each with a plastic cover that they have to run and and put up if a sudden downpour appears. We went on to see plants at every stage of their growth – seeds buried under a pile of leaves which were just germinating, then planted into little pots, 1 year old plants nearly ready for planting out, and then 2 year old and full grown plants in the soil.

Everything on the farm is used efficiently – the pulp and skin from the processed cherries is made into compost, rainwater fills a tank where they keep fish for their dinner and shade comes from mangos, oranges and other fruit trees. It was great to hear all the family speak very passionately about how important it was that the farm worked with nature. Later, walking between matured trees that were just beginning to blossom, Carlos showed me how they let the space around the coffee plants grow wild – and that this was good for the soil, good for nature and good for the taste of the coffee.

image1After walking around Manatial, I was invited in to the house were they had brewed some of their coffee and cooked a selection of homemade tortillas and cakes for my visit. The care and generosity they showed was truly moving and I can say that sitting at their table with them, talking about everything from farming to roasting, from food to the English weather, is something I will never forget.

We then went down to their second farm, Oasis, and a new plot, Israel. As we looked at the matured trees, Carlos pointed out some Geisha varietal plants amid the Caturra – one of several new varietals they are trying out.

image4It was getting dark by now, so we headed back to the house – but not before Carlos climbed a tree and got some green mangos for me to try with salt – a classic Costa Rican combination. With the sun set, we ventured out one last time into Manantial, where they had saved me a couple of coffee cherries on the tree to taste. As we said our goodbyes, they taught me Costa Rica’s favourite phrase – pura vida, roughly “This is the life!”

I could keep talking about ARBAR forever – I’m sure it will feel like that to all my friends and family when I get back – but I will stop for now. I’ll finish with the most important thing to the Arrieta family. What they all said to me, was how much they loved growing the coffee and how pleased they were that they could see I felt the same way about it as they did – that I shared their passion. My reply was that not only did I love their coffee, but I told them how many of our customers we sent their coffee to and how many lovely things I had heard back. So if you have drunk coffee from Cafe ARBAR and enjoyed it, thank you – you helped put huge smiles on the faces of a wonderful family.

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Roland day 2 of Costa Rica

As you know, this is my blog, but for this week Roland takes over with his tales of Costa Rica and his first origin trip, please enjoy…………………

I’ve been given a day off, but yesterday provided plenty for 2 posts!

My second day in Costa Rica was all about my first visit to a coffee farm. Not just any coffee farm at that, but Cafe ARBAR, which has consistently been among my favourite coffees since I first tasted it. It was an incredible, totally different experience to anything I’ve done before. It’s also one that’s still sinking in – so let’s start talking about the country first.

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I set out in the afternoon with Weiner, who is in charge of Quality Control for Exclusive Coffee. As we drove through the Central Valley towards the West Valley, where the farm is, he showed me not just the sights of Costa Rica but also gave me a crash course in what it’s like to live there.

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Costa Rica is a small country, but one which encompasses large sections of protected national parks, cities, lots of beaches and three active volcanos. As someone who comes from the UK, I never expected to hear an erupting volcano described as “not dangerous really – just an annoyance”! Coffee is one of the top three crops to be grown in Costa Rica (along with Pineapples & bananas), with whole families often involved in it – Weiner is just one of 6 professional coffee cuppers in his family, and first started tasting coffee and roasting it when he was a child.

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As we crossed the bridge that marks the border of West Valley, the sugar cane around us was replaced by coffee plants and we started a steady climb upwards. The sights of that drive – lush greenery and rolling hills stretching far away into the distance – aren’t ones i can adequately describe. The photos definitely don’t do justice to it’s beauty.

Rolands Glew’s Costa Rica Adventure

I don’t remember a time I’ve ever let someone else loose on my blog, its my blog after all. But Roland (one of my roasting team) is on his first ever trip to origin in Costa Rica as part of the Cup of excellence jury, and I think this is something we should share with you all. so I’ve asked him to write a daily diary heres day 1

Day 1

About 30 hours after leaving Stafford, I reached Costa Rica. My first trip to origin felt like diving in the deep end, but I was so lucky to have Francisco from our exporter, Exclusive Coffees, waiting there to meet me!

Their offices are only a short distance from the airport, on a small industrial estate. As well as their offices and cupping facilities, it’s also a dry mill where they remove the parchment from the green coffee and bag it up ready for shipping to us.

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They’re currently running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to get all the coffee ready and shipped around the world. Green coffee arrives in parchment from the micro-mills that they work with, and is then put through a sorting machine – a vibrating plate that separates the less dense beans and fragments from the larger beans. The denser beans are the best – 1st quality. They are then put through a de-husking machine to remove the parchment and an air jet to separate the beans from the parchment fragments. Then the beans get a second pass through the sorter, again separating less dense bean fragments from the 1st quality lot. Finally, they get a visual sorting as well and get bagged up.

Upstairs from the dry mill, they run a very busy cupping lab, overflowing with samples to be roasted on two sample roasters very like the one in our roastery. I was lucky enough to get to cup with them – which was doubly interesting as it included a 2nd quality lot from the Aguilera Brothers who bring us Licho! We never normally see 2nds, and whilst it didn’t hit the heights of our main Licho lot, it was still pretty tasty!

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