The title of this post may imply that I will studiously post everyday of this 25-day origin trip. I’m not sure I can commit to that, but I’ll certainly try to relay the interesting goings on here.
Today was my first visit to the new Exclusive Coffees Office. In a word, wow! It’s quite an upgrade from the humble beginnings of this only 3-year-old company. Their new offices, cupping lab and conference room are beautiful, but most importantly, they now have a dry mill onsite. This puts them in the drivers seat for that all-important last step before a coffee goes out to a roaster. We’re very exited about this, as we’ll now have the opportunity to undertake a number of storage experiments we have lined-up, to improve quality.
Most of the day was dedicated to cupping. As a lover of cupping, it was my kind of day! Three cupping flights of 12 coffees each (i.e. 36 coffees in total) wouldn’t normally phase me, but I indulged in two cups of french-pressed La Lia Micromill lot before we started—it was just so good!
There were definitely some standout lots, but the selections weren’t focused around the growers we loved last year, but rather around the preferred lots of the 6 Japanese green buyers (hosted by Wataru) that were also visiting. It was good exposure to some new mills starting to do good work, and certainly interesting to see where my preferences lay next to a segment of the Japanese specialty market.
I just love meeting Japanese buyers at origin—such genuine and thoughtful people. I had some especially great conversations with Shinji and Ryo of Wataru.
After a morning and early afternoon of cupping, we set off to visit two micromills in the West Valley. First stop, the venerable Herbazú (used by James Hoffman when he won the WBC in 2007, and Sammy Piccolo in this 2nd place run at the 2009 WBC).
Sebastian and I visited Herbazú last year, so it wasn’t a new frontier, but it was nevertheless interesting to see the mill in full operation, especially after seeing the massive mills in Brazil last November. The oldest (of 13!) brother Antonio was there (we met him last year) as was one of his younger brothers: Nardo (who I met for the first time).
Herbazú’s primary variety is Villa Sarchi, but they’re experimenting with some cool new seed stock. SL-28 from Kenya (thanks to Aide Batlle of El Salvador) and Geisha. They have 60 trees of SL-28 planted and 800 trees of Geisha planted. I look forward to cupping these two varietals later this week!
In that part of the West Valley they are experiencing some very strange weather, and have been for the last 4 days. Occasional rain! It’s normally very dry this time of year. They seem to be coping well though (by covering the lots when it does rain), as the coffee on the patios smelt very clean.
Next stop was the Helsar de Zarcero mill!!
The double exclamation mark is there because I love this place (and Ricardo Perez and Marvin Rodriguez, two of the men behind it). Helsar really is at the forefront of quality as a mill (wet mill and dry mill) in West Valley, but nevertheless, both Ricardo and Marvin are humble and genuine, salt of the earth. Helsar was the wet mill that our Manual Arce coffee was processed at last year, and the dry mill for both Arce and our Gilio Francesa last year. This year we’re discussing some innovative storage ideas with Ricardo, stay tuned for more detail as it unfolds!
Helsar is in full swing right now, receiving about 1000 lbs of coffee cherry a day, no small feat for this smallish mill. Given this volume, Helsar is presently letting coffee dry on its covered patio for 2 days before boshing it in the dryer for 40 more hours of low-heat drying.
As if there wasn’t enough adventure for one day, I unexpectedly ran into Gilio, as he was dropping off his cherry to be processed by Helsar.