So today is the day I get to go to El Bosque. This is the one Guatemalan that for me has improved so much. Our importers Mercanta have had a relationship with these guys for a while but last years (which is current crop) was fantastic.
This is the Journey from hell, over 5 hours on a bus to get to mill. Add to this we get stuck in a huge traffic jam. I’m not a patient traveller but manage to get through without throwing the dolly out of the pram or biting anyone’s head off. The traffic jam just grinds to a halt, so Christian says it’s within walking distance. You couldn’t get more urban if you tried so I thought this was another its only a “Guatemalan hour” “its only just down the Guatemalan road”. But sure enough by the main road, behind a petrol station there was this wet mill.
Here I meet Julio, Mario and Giancarlo (I think so any way, I’m so rubbish at names), all brothers that own the farm mill and the petrol station . We were shown around the mill, then we then all piled into the back of a pick up, to brave the traffic jam. I’m not sure if the locals have seen to many ginger headed pale white skinned English man with a bright green t shirt on before, but they certainly kept double taking and having another look. I smile wave and nod.
The farm is in the mountain overlooking the built up urban city, but it couldn’t be further away in terms of quietness, beauty. You could have been transported to another world.
Because we had been travelling for so long, time was not on our side, so the brothers arranged for us to have some food up on the plantation a picnic you could say, but with some beautiful chicken and awesome steak it was a feast more than a picnic.
They then arranged for us to have a picking competition, to see who could get the most cherry’s in a basket in ten minutes. We broke into three teams but I think the others teams must have not been buying this coffee. Richard in particular now known as “mr green unripe bean” seemed to have the philosophy “never mind the quality look at the width”. On a more serious note it made me realise how much work and how difficult selective picking is. It also made me realise how therapeutic it can be in our mad world of rush, rush, busy, busy just being out there with nothing but the sun and your own thoughts.
The three brothers were awesome and so friendly, there keen for me to send them our customer comments about the coffee and they were so pleased to hear how much the coffee is appreciated. So if you have treid this coffee and want me to pass on any comments let me know.
The great news is this year they have broken down the picking into area’s so this year we expect some special boutique lots from them, which will make it even better.
From here, back onto the bus to Anacafe’s offices in Guatemala city, and when I saw this on the program, I wasn’t how sure what kind of place it would be, small, large, modern, old, plush, run down. Well the offices were huge, and very plush, the training facilities were some of the most advanced I’ve seen. And a cupping room that I’d be very proud to have at the roastery.
We were greeted by the Chairman of Anacafe Billy ahhh surname (sorry told you I was rubbish with names). We were taken to the boardroom for a very informative presentation about the work they are doing. Long time readers will know I’ve been very impressed with the work that El Salvador has been doing to raise their game. Well I left the boardroom with the same warm feelings for Guatemala. For years they have sold coffee on their Hue Hue’s and their Antiguas and have sat there saying our coffees good. On the whole they were but its not enough in the modern market you need more. You can see this very clearly in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican model for me has meant they have dropped down the specialty pecking order to the poitn I rarely get exited and it has become very one dimensional. Guatemalan coffee has a lot more to offer in terms of Varity of tastes and I think they are building on that.
In fact after this presentation we were given a chance to taste the different regions at the cupping table. And I’d say the variety we saw there was ahead of anywhere outside of Ethiopia. Some stunningly different tastes and a very interesting exercise. I applaud Anacafes efforts and wish other countries would approach their coffee in the same way.
The evening we rushed back 20 minutes to get ready then out the door for another meal with some producers. Here we got to meet our guests for tomorrows visit to San Francisco Teckonbourogh (sorry if that’s spelt wrong it’s a guess) and also Mario came along from El Bosque.
Tomorrows meal we have the owners of El Salvador La Fany (a big favourite of ours) and El Borboullon a coffee we adore and hope to do a lot more with this coming crop. Also we have the farmer from Guatemala Entre Rios organic. I guess I’m going to have to visit the gym when I get back Guatemalans love their food (and if I’m honest I love their food too much)
Anyone who tells me these trips are a holiday are wrong, I don’t mean they’re not fun, because trust me I’m in heaven, but the schedule is punishing, and the pace is 100 miles an hour. Any one who knows me knows I like a party, but this night after the meal its an early night for me I’m a spent fource.
Unfortunately I have a bad mix of over excitement (as I say I’m in heaven) and a brain full of ideas and developments for has bean, I sleep for around two hours after a lot of reading and thinking and a bit of CNN.
Part of my reading was Barista Magazine, something I’ve really got into of late. For me Baristas are the cool guys of the industry, and the ones with the greatest power to empower consumers with knowledge and expertise. Luckily they also seem to be some of the most passionate people about specialty coffee. Anyway I’m off track I was reading the magazine and what do I see but this very blog getting a mention from the dwell time boys. Big shout out love and respect to you I’m pleased I have at least one reader who’s kind enough to own up in a publication : )
One last thing before I go, I’m very sorry about the spelling in these postings. I’m not the greatest speller at the best of times but a lot of these “reports” have been written in the back of a bus over some of the worst maintained roads I’ve experienced so its quite difficult to write and to proof read. So sorry and I hope it hasn’t spoilt your enjoyment too much.
The final day is upon us tomorrow I fly home Saturday (arrive Sunday), sad and happy at the same time.