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

A small post on some big work at El Limon

So this is a small post about the huge work Beto is undertaking at the farm El Limon in Palencia located to the east of Guatemala city.

Beto is one of the most amazing producers we buy from as he really reacts to feedback from us. A conversation a couple of years ago about his Pacamara, and if we had more, I believed we could sell more. This year he took me to the newly cultivated part of the farm with 20,000 pacamara plants.

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After our trip around the farm we were talking about this years washed harvest (Beto only does washed in the past) and he said he would like to experiment in Naturals.

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But needed someone brave enough to buy it without having a history in that processing method. Liking a challenge, I got sent these photos today

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He has also done some pacamaras natural too

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The only guide we have is that Beto produces delicious coffee, and has gotten advice from people that do amazing naturals, so lets hope that its a gamble that pays off, but the photos make me want to try this lot more

SSSSS Last chance

ver the past few months I’ve had many many emails about my Super Secret Stash subscription, most about how amazing the coffee was but also a fair chunk from people who were sad that they’d missed the boat and wanted to join.  Now I never like to make people sad or upset so I put on my thinking hat, got out a calculator and did some sums to see if I could put some smiles on faces and guess what?!  Booooooooom!

It is with great pleasure that I can announce I’m reopening the subscription to let some more lucky folks in!  After a lot of number crunching I worked out that I’ve got space for another 50 more people to join until I really do have to lock the door, drop the portcullis and raise the drawbridge to Castle #SSSSS.

Interested in seeing the kind of coffees you can look forward to?  If you would have already been a subscriber then right now there’d be a bag of Colombia Finca Buena Vista Washed Caturra Reserve (14th of August, 2014) on the way to you with Royal Mail, to find out a little more about this coffee that’s only been sent to #SSSSS subscribers take a peek at the newsletter they were all sent this afternoon..

http://go.hasbean.co.uk/sssssmarch

The subscription originally cost £71.00 for 12 bags but as I’ve already sent 3 coffees the price has now dropped to £53.25 for 9 bags from April to December.

Places are available on a first come, first served basis so once they’re gone, they’re gone!  The subscription will be open for the month of March but will be closed once we hit 50 so if you want in you better pounce ; )

To get your name on the #SSSSS list just click below and get your order in!

http://www.hasbean.co.uk/products/sssss