This is the second time I'm typing up this blog post, which is a little disappointing. I suppose the first time I forgot to press the save button. Whoops... Let's try again.
Over the past week, Dave and I were down in Guatemala sourcing out coffees for our menu this year. We're big believers in buying from the same producers and trying to support what they have going on, to help them improve. In theory, their improvement should lead to our improvement, right?
So from Saturday until Thursday, we were in Antigua cupping tables and tables of coffees. These tables were mostly assembled of day pickings from the same farm. For example, we tasted 35 different lots of Hunapu, a community project we've had on our menu for the past two years. Of those 35 lots, we select the ones that we score the highest on the cupping table to assemble the volumes we'd like to fulfill. Sometimes, a lot of the coffees will taste the same, which is a good sign; however, we're looking for the standouts, so focus and fatigue play a big factor in our selections.
After four consecutive days of 5+ hour cupping sessions, we were able to formulate our picks for this year's menu. We're happy to be bringing back Hunapu, Buena Vista, Santa Ana and introducing a new coffee from a farm called Pulcal.
Hunapu is a community project around Antigua that's made up of small holder producers. Essentially what that means is a whole bunch of producers will sell their coffee cherries to the same station. Then they'll turn around and sell those to Bella Vista, the mill we work directly with. Bella Vista will then process, dry, mill and export the coffee. It's very traditional in Guatemalan culture to divide your assets up evenly amongst your children in your will. This has lead to farms splitting and shrinking, and thus a lot of producers have very small plots of land and cannot go to market on their own.
Buena Vista is a farm in Antigua we've purchased from for the third year in a row now. It's consistent, it's sweet, and honestly it sells out faster than most of our coffees. The profile is really sweet, balanced and approachable. The farm is owned by Luis Pedro Zelaya Zamora, who is our point of contact and the owner of Bella Vista. His family has been in the coffee industry for generations and has been a positive force in Guatemalan coffee quality and production.
Santa Ana La Huerta will make its second appearance on our menu. The farm is up in a department called El Progreso, North and East of Antigua. We didn't make the trip up to the farm, as we didn't leave ourselves enough time...next year. The farm grows a handful of varietals and Rony, the owner, has come to visit us every time we've been to Bella Vista, to personally drop off samples. The coffee cups with very consistent, high scores, and has been a welcome addition on our menu.
Pulcal is a new offering we're bringing in this year. We're excited about it for a few reasons. One of the evenings we were cupping, we were all of a sudden rushed out the door in between tables to go and tour a farm before the sun set. I didn't really know the urgency, but it turned into a very memorable trip. We pulled into Pulcal (Cremona de Pulcal, in full) and were immediately greeted by an amazing canopy of old growth trees which seemed to stretch to the sky. We passed dozens of cows and finally stopped when we reached a beautiful, old home. We welcomed ourselves in, being led by Luis Pedro, and soon found ourselves in a dining room with his Aunt Maria and her guests, eating cookies and coffee. At the end of a long dining table sat a coffee legend, George Howell, with Laurie and Chris, a gentleman from their roastery.
Dave and I were both in a bit of a fan-girl sort of moment. We had used George's coffee about six or seven years ago, and he had always been a big inspiration for us getting into roasting coffee ourselves. To meet him was an absolute pleasure. We picked his brain in the short amount of time we spent together on sourcing different origins, on different styles of roasters and what could be next in the world of coffee.
We left Pulcal, went back to the lab and cupped two more tables of coffee. I swear they were all sweeter after that experience.
If you ever find yourself in Antigua, you must eat as much avocado and/or guacamole as you can. We learned that Guatemala is one of the birth places of the avocado, and has heirloom varietals growing wild, similar to Ethiopia for coffee. They are so fresh, so flavourful and so delicious, they will blow your mind. Hopefully our Guatemalan coffees will have a similar affect when they arrive this year.
We're now back in Calgary, and back to work after a successful and very positive sourcing trip.
Thanks for checking in.