Monthly Archives: February 2014

From El Salvador to Costa Rica

Jack and Dismas are on a 10-day coffee buying trip to Central America. These are notes from their journey.

Quatro M

Quatro M friends

We woke the morning of the 26th feeling pretty darn good, considering. After breakfast and a lot of coffee, we toured Quatro M. What an amazing mill! So clean (a hallmark of quality)!SAMSUNG CSC
At the cupping table, we tasted a couple rounds from the Malacara B and Los Mercedes fincas. Producers Roberto and Rodrigo Dumont joined us. Malacara B is a very well known farm and has won the Cup of Excellence numerous times. The two tables were incredible and scored between 85 – 87. Jeff and I made a few decisions, then went off to view the farms.
We saw some new varietals and fell in love with the orange Bourbon on sight. So beautiful. I tasted the first sweet cherry and proclaimed, “I want this!” We continued on to view the housing area and clinic, which are free to all workers and families. They also have a school and a huge soccer field. This is consistent with other great farms: keep your workers happy and they return to pick the best cherry for you!
Cherries at Malacara B

Cherries at Malacara B

SAMSUNG CSCAfter a simple lunch and a ridiculously incredible view, we trekked back to the hotel. A beer with Rodrigo and Roberto helped us discuss the details. We went out to dinner at Seoul Garden, which was a nice break from rice and beans.
A 5:00 am shuttle brought us to the airport the next morning. We arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, at 9:30 am and went straight to the hotel, already exhausted.
We hoped for a light day and jumped into a microbus to the very remote farms and mills of the Central Valley. Herbazu and Aprocetu have two incredible operations. After lunch at 4:30 pm, we drove back to San Jose. Quick clean up and calls home, then dinner. Bed at 11:00 pm. TIRED! But we’re in the home stretch.
Jack
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El Salvador, at Quatro M

Jack and Dismas are on a 10-day coffee buying trip to Central America. These are notes from their journey.

Good morning! It’s Wednesday the 26th and Dismas and I are in El Salvador at the home of Emilio Lopez at Quatro M. It’s beautiful and we are staring at a mountain full of coffee directly across the valley. Coffee trips are cool.
Drying patio at Quatro M

Drying patio at Quatro M

Last time I wrote, we were in Nicaragua and waking up to another day of cupping and farms. On Sunday, we cupped at the Mierisch Beneficio. We went through two more tables and re-cupped everything we were interested in. Then we started making our final decisions and negotiating “the deal.” We decided on two larger lots of blender quality coffee: 30 bags of one and 40 bags of another. This is called estate coffee and it’s a step above SHG (strictly hard bean), but these coffees were all scoring 84.5-85. We also picked 5 micro lots for release as single origin: one fully washed, three pulp naturals, and one natural! We don’t usually buy a lot of naturals and pulp naturals but this year, Eleane Mierisch, who manages the dry mill, has done an incredible job.
After all this, we jumped back into the four wheel drives and spend 4 hours bouncing our kidneys to visit Finca La Escondida and San Jose. Both farms are absolutely stunning. We arrived in Matagalpa around 4:00 pm.
Parade

Parade

It happened to be the 150th anniversary of the town and there was a huge parade with hundreds and hundreds of horses dancing down the streets. Sidewalks were jammed with people partying. It went on for hours. Late dinner and all to bed.

Our plane from Nicaragua to El Salvador

Our plane from Nicaragua to El Salvador

Next morning, we were off to El Salvador. After arriving safe around 2:00 pm and meeting one more coffee friend, we jumped in the back of a Toyota Patrol . I got jammed in the way way back while Dismas got the front seat! Figures. He makes up for it by taking pictures of the trip.
We arrived at Finca Talnamica at 7:30 pm. Tita, our loving angel and caretaker,  had an amazing dinner ready for us of chicken, beans, salsa fresca, corn on the cob, and hand made tortillas. Our best meal yet! Lemongrass tea ended the evening.

We woke to a traditional breakfast. Beans, huevos, and tortillas, accompanied by 11 AeroPresses of coffees! Then we were off to Quatro M, the mill where they process wet and dry. Our good friend, Dana Foster, greeted us and we headed to the cupping lab. The first table challenged us and we spent nearly 45 minutes discerning the flavors. The most difficult cupping is when things are all very similar and these coffees all cupped between 84-85.5. Truly amazing. El Salvador has had a very rough year and production is down to 50% of normal. We’re thankful we’ll be buying coffee again here.

Mayita finds a friend

Mayita finds a friend

The next table proved just as delicious and took another 45 minutes to score. It was 2:00 pm by the time we headed up the mountain to Natamaya. Last year, Zoka raised $1200 and Ladro raised $1800 to support a small isolated community above the farm. With no running water and no electricity, life can be challenging. Mayita and her family have worked generously with the SQ foundation to build a school and medical clinic. Thanks to our generous customers, we have enough money to build a multipurpose soccer field adjacent to the school!

When we arrived, the kids were all came out of school cheering for Mayita! We presented the check to the community leader and another loud cheer made us all a bit teary. A half hour later, we were having a generous lunch of chicken and soup and discussing what we could do next year. Solar lanterns and safety fencing are possibilities, but all decisions will be made by the community.

Our hearts full, we start down the long, bumpy ride back to Quatro M. Emilio Lopez met us and we discussed the state of El Salvador Coffee. We got a lot more details about why the production is so bad this year–late rains and Roya–and we were all reminded of our luck. After dinner, we enjoyed the stars and a couple of Cervezas around a bonfire.
Jack
Mayita and Jose Louis
Mayita and Jose Louis
Tita making us breakfast

Tita making us breakfast

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Sign for the Javanica coffee

Sign for Javanica coffee

Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Jack and Dismas are on a 10-day coffee buying trip to Central America. These are notes from their journey.

Airport AeroPress

Airport AeroPress

Friday morning started at 4:30 am at the airport. We converted a charging area at the gate into an AeroPress bar and made some delicious Gikirima and La Cacica. Other than that, it was an uneventful trip down. We arrived in Managua at 7:30 pm and went directly to the bar. After more AeroPresses the next morning, we were on our way to the Mierisch Beneficio in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, by 8:30 am.

Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Matagalpa, Nicaragua

They gave us a tour of their facility, including about 3 – 4 acres of land, multiple buildings for sorting and quality control, and a huge coffee warehouse of approximately 20,000 square feet. Coffee was stacked inside 35 feet high. It’s an impressive dry mill. Each of their farms has its own wet mill.

From there we moved on to the cupping lab. We split our focus between micro lots and estate coffee. Across the board, the quality is much better this year. The highlights of course were the micro lots. The Mierisch family has improved their pulp natural and natural processing and those cups showed amazing fruit and clarity. The estate coffee was delicious as well. Placeres estate and Limoncillo are our favorites so far, but we will make our final decisions today. After cupping, we went to visit Finca Mama Mina and Los Altos. Long day.  We arrived at our hotel around 7:00 pm.

Dinner at 7:30 pm. Drinks and music after at the “monkey” bar and the smart folks were home by 11:30 pm. We went home at 2:30 am. It’s 7:00 am now and we are AeroPressing our butts off, looking forward to more cuppings and farms today!

Jack