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.

image5Pura Vida!

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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Show me the money !!

This is the blog post no-one wants to write. It’s about prices going up. Not on all coffee; over the year we have slowly, slowly upped single origin prices and I expect them to level out a little now. But blend prices and starter pack prices have become cut-off from their single origin friends.

To balance this out, I still think we are very competitive for similar quality coffees that are available in the market. There are some roasters that are cheaper, but I don’t think their quality is comparable to Has Bean; we pay great prices for great coffee, and from some of the best growers in the world. But here’s a few reasons why you will spot a small rise in the cost of our blends.

Dwindling yields from crops

Crop yields are on the slide. Climate change is playing its part here: places that grew coffee easily 10 years ago are seeing it get harder due to more unpredictable weather, and heavy rains, followed by long dry spells, are meaning the crops are suffering. And with suffering crops comes dwindling yields.

Ohhh, and leaf rust is affecting yields

Leaf rust, or ‘roya’, has been the biggest single factor affecting yields. This is particularly the case in Central America, and more specifically in El Salvador. This fungus spore attacks the plant by making the leaves of the plant fall off. If a plant has fewer leaves then it has a dramatic effect on the coffee production, because photosynthesis cannot occur (and the plant goes into shutdown mode). Some of our producers saw a 90% drop last year. Things seem to be getting a little better in some parts, but the less coffee you grow the more it costs you to harvest, and the more you have to spend on fungicides to control the roya — so the more the roaster has to pay for the coffee.

Quality issues

Both of these things — dwindling yields and leaf rust — affect quality. I won’t buy coffee that I don’t think is fabulous. This means finding fabulous coffee is harder, there is less of it and you have to pay more for it.

Increased competition

This is great news: there are now more coffee roasters than ever before. The downside is that the marketplace for great coffee is getting more competitive. To keep the coffees we are buying, in the quantities you and I need, we’re having to step up. This year we have made real strides forwards in our pricing to make sure we maintain the relationships we have with growers.

Currency issues

The dollar is 10% stronger than it was a year ago, and all our coffee transactions happen in dollars. I’ve offset some of this by buying currency, hedging and buying ahead (also dangerous, so requires prices to be set sensibly in contracts). But I make beans go brown; I don’t understand these markets 100%, so it’s all part of the buying process.

Take a look at the graph below that shows you 1 year (courtesy of xe.com).

 

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Unique Has Bean issues

We work with some unique origins that need special help. Sure, some people sell Bolivian coffee, but few put as much energy and work into it as we do. This year we funded some work in agronomic advice for the producers with whom we work. Sorry, we’re both paying for this, you and I, but I think it’s a good investment.

We have a range of staff at Has Bean, from people that manage wholesale right through to those who pack coffee. The coffee packing jobs are just as vital a part of the team as those managing operations, and I felt it was important that they be rewarded for the amazing job they do. So we have made the move, as of this April, to pay everyone the living wage or more, depending on their role, and in doing so make sure the awesome team get the rewards they deserve.

Ohh, yes, and I haven’t moved blend prices for over 4 years. This is probably the biggest reason. This is my bad: small, little jumps would have been better; no-one would have noticed a 10p rise per year, but now we have to make a jump. So all blends will have 50p more on them, and all starter packs to £22.50.

Sorry 🙁

Vincent Paye from Bolivia Copacabana

Vincent is a coffee producer in Caranarvi who is pushing the envelope for production in the area. Which is unusual as in Boliva there are few doing a good job let alone pushing the boundaries.

Bolivia is a tough place t0 grow coffee, so we are very proud that Vincent sells his coffee to us. Watch the whole in my mug at http://go.hasbean.co.uk/imm336 (after the 19th of April)

Or you can but it here

http://www.hasbean.co.uk/products/bolivia-copacabana-washed-caturra-vincent-paye