Finca San Jorge: Santa Ana, El Salvador

 Farm gate at Finca San Jorge, in Santa Ana. 

Farm gate at Finca San Jorge, in Santa Ana. 

We are excited to continue our relationship with the Ortiz Herrera family and offer coffee from another one of their farms: Finca San Jorge. 

Finca San Jorge sits just a few miles down the road from Beneficio El Manzano, in the department of Santa Ana, nestled in the Apaneca-Illamatepec mountains. The farm, established in 1880, has been in the family for five generations, and currently produces about 97% Bourbon coffee, with a small additional lot of Pacas. 

This past year, the Ortiz Herrera's expanded their farm with the purchase of an additional 10.5 hectares of land.  Of that area, they have renovated 4.1 hectares with 20,700 red bourbon trees on a beautiful northeast-facing slope between 1200-1350 MASL. They plan to replenish an additional 6,000 trees over the next year. 

The lookout point “El Kiosko,” boasts extraordinary views of Santa Ana City, and the volcanoes of eastern Guatemala. The family has preserved a small area of land at the top of the farm, which includes a creek and a heavily forested lot attracting many species of birds. Finca San Jorge is Rainforest Alliance Certified.      

Within the farm, there is a small school where 80 children receive education through sixth grade.  The family funded an electrification program for the school.  Additionally, Mayita Mendez, one of the 5th generation farm owners, worked closely with the SQ Foundation to secure a $17,000 donation which was used to construct a kitchen, administration office, and adequate restrooms for the staff and students. 

View our complete photo gallery of the farm here: FINCA SAN JORGE

 Dana and Emilio with the Ortiz Family, at Finca San Jorge. 

Dana and Emilio with the Ortiz Family, at Finca San Jorge. 

 View of Volcan Chingo from the lookout point, near the top of Finca San Jorge. 

View of Volcan Chingo from the lookout point, near the top of Finca San Jorge. 

Let's Talk Coffee 2014 - Panama

Two weeks ago, we attended the 12th Annual Let's Talk Coffee event, in Panama City, Panama. Let's Talk Coffee, is an event that brings more than 500 coffee producers and roasters together, for three days, to connect and collaborate on important topics and themes within the specialty coffee industry, as well as taste some extraordinary coffee. The common partner for all attendees of the event, is Sustainable Harvest, a coffee importing company located in Portland, Oregon. This was our fourth year attending the event, and first ever origin trip to Panama. 

One of the highlights for us in the passed year, has been participating in the US and World Barista Championship, alongside coffee roaster - Phil Beattie and barista, Laila Ghambari. Laila took first place at the US Championships, and 10th place at the World Championship. 

At Let's Talk Coffee, Emilio, Phil, and Laila were able to share our story of collaboration in order to achieve the top 10 finish on the world championship stage. Each of them were able to tell their part and give ideas about what made this particular team so successful. 

Beyond the conferences and meetings with many of our roasting partners, one of our interests in visiting Panama, was to see some of the farms in the growing regions outside of the capital. On Sunday, we boarded a small plane to take us to the city of David, 455 km west of Panama City. Once there we rented a truck and drove up to the mountains, surrounding the small town of Boquete, one of the most well known coffee growing regions in Panama. 

Over the course of the next two days, together with Laila of Cherry Street, Phil and Bjorn of Dillanos Coffee, and Dane of Sustainable Harvest,  we were able to visit some of the finest coffee farms in the country, including 90 Plus Geisha Estates, Don Pachi Estate, Elida Estate, and Hacienda La Esmeralda

Every aspect of the supply chain was represented in our trip, and it made for interesting ideas, stories, and conversations. We can't say enough about the hospitality and welcome we received from Sustainable Harvest and each of the producers we visited, nor about the unique and beautiful characteristics of Panamanian coffee.

Hope you enjoy some photos of the group, and visit the gallery of photos from our trip here: LET'S TALK COFFEE PHOTO GALLERY. 

 Our group with Joseph Brodsky of 90 Plus. 
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A Film about Coffee - Tulsa Style

 Ian, John and Dana in the Q & A following the film. 

Ian, John and Dana in the Q & A following the film. 

We are well aware that specialty roasters want direct connections, relationships, and face-to-face time with those producing their coffees.  As farmers and millers, we want the same.  At Cuatro M, we are quite proud of our relationships with our clients.  We don’t simply wish to sell coffee.  We want to create bonds with our importers and roasters.  One hundred percent of coffee that leaves our mill ends up in the hands of people we call friends.  We have visited their roasteries, met their staff and cupped coffees with them on their turf.  We feel fortunate to have this privilege, and have worked hard to achieve this goal. These mutual relationships guarantee the best coffees and best processing methods for each respective client. 

Last week I was invited to visit one of our clients, Topeca Coffee Roasters in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The purpose of this visit was twofold.  John (Chip) Gaberino, the owner of Topeca Coffee along with Tor Nordstrom of Nordaggio’s Coffee and Espresso Bar wanted to bring “A Film about Coffee” to Oklahoma in the hopes of elevating the awareness of specialty coffee.  Additionally, all of the proceeds from the ticket sales of this film will be used to fund a teacher training and school library program in the community of Ayutepeque, which houses one of our family farms.

The coffee centered screening garnered 165 people, mostly from within the state of Oklahoma, but also attracted travelers from New Mexico, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas.  The audience was a crowd of all ages and varying degrees of coffee interest and professional involvement.  Of course there were the coffee fanatics; baristas, roasters, nerds and hobbyists, but also people who cease to think of the brew beyond their morning cups.  Following the film, moviegoers stayed for an hour long Q&A and were treated to Chemex pour overs and Espresso coffee service.   I joined the answer section of the panel, speaking on behalf of farming and milling for Cuatro M, along with John (Topeca’s owner) and Ian Picco (Director of Coffee for Topeca).  Together, we fielded questions covering all sides of the supply chain, including buying practices, soil management, roasting profiles and business competition and camaraderie within Tulsa. 

During my visit, I sat down with Ian to learn more about the latest events of Topeca Coffee and the Tulsa coffee scene in general.  Here is what he had to say:
 

What is Topeca’s approach to coffee and how does it differ from other roasters in Tulsa?

Our approach has always been one of A) How do we make coffee taste the best it can?  And then B) How can we repeat that? So over the years we've made it a priority to learn as much as possible about coffee and all the variables of quality at all steps of the supply chain. Being connected to the family farms and Cuatro M has given us a unique vantage in not only understanding, but also directly affecting the quality of the coffees we roast.  Secondly, we are big proponents of the SCAA and take advantage of the great skill building and professional development resources they have to offer. We are fortunate enough to have a really dedicated staff of highly skilled and qualified employees, as well as a quality control lab and QC program.  This is what really sets us apart from other roasters in Oklahoma.

Having 3 Q graders, 2 Level II Baristas, 3 IDP Certified Instructors, and the resources for quality analysis helps us out tremendously when it comes to understanding the effect of roast and extraction variables, as well as maintaining consistency.
 

You are expanding.  Can you tell us a bit about your new space?

This month we purchased a 2500 sq ft. building next door to us, and will commence shortly in building out a full coffee quality and training lab. It will be the first SCAA Certified Teaching Lab within 1000 miles. We are hoping this will attract a lot of coffee professionals from the middle of the country, who would otherwise have to travel to one of the coasts to attend SCAA skill building workshops. In addition to SCAA courses we will offer general coffee classes and events for the public.  The space will of course serve as our in house QC and Training lab for Topeca and Topeca wholesale partners.  What's also super cool about this space, is that we are teaming up with Noah Bush of Hodge's Bend to build the lab as a dual purpose space that will also serve as a training facility for craft bartenders, and an education center for spirits, wine, and boozy things. I don't know for sure, but I'm pretty sure this will be the first place of its kind.
 

What are you most looking forward to as a roasting company in the upcoming year?

Obviously the lab is what I'm most excited about.  It is what I'm going to be putting much of my effort towards for the next several months. Not only will it be a great asset for Topeca, but also will have a huge impact on coffee culture in general for our region. 
 

What is your favorite thing about roasting and operating in Tulsa, OK?

Roasting specialty coffee in Tulsa is not without its challenges. It's taken us a long time to get to where we are, and I feel like there is still a lot of room for growth.  The problem is that Tulsa doesn't have quite the population density of larger coastal cities, or metropolitan cities. Being that coffee is a volume game, that lack of density (lack of potential wholesale customers) makes it difficult for growth and stability. Though things have generally been in the upward trend since we began, and I hope will continue to be that way.  All that being said, I love Tulsa.  John and I grew up here, and we've both lived other places: Seattle, Brooklyn, Portland, New Orleans, San Salvador.  There's a real unique energy that exists in Tulsa.  It hasn't always been here, maybe it last existed here in the 20’s, but it reminds me of a young Portland or Austin.  Cost of living is cheap, rent is low, gas is crazy inexpensive, there's things to do no matter what you're into.  In two words: "Easy Livin'." From a business perspective I would love to see Tulsa grow into a city like Austin or Portland, but at the same time I moved away from places like Portland (and Brooklyn) for a reason.  It all seemed to be turning into homogenized culture. I know that's probably an inescapable trend of modern society, but for a little while I want to enjoy Tulsa as it is now; a cool unassuming place that's a little off the map. Keep tulsa weird...dude. 

Influence of fermentation time on pH levels, processing ratios, and overall cup quality

In December, we ran a trial to analyze the influence of different fermentation times on multiple aspects of quality, (pH, weight, and cup score). Using a single batch of coffee from Finca Ayutepeque (1,100 meters above sea level), we created five samples, which we introduced to different fermentation times.

  • Five samples were drawn from a single batch of coffee. 
  • Each sample taken had a weight of four pounds. 
  • Samples were drawn as wet, unwashed parchment individually from the machinery at Beneficio El Manzano, within processing, at the stage where the coffee would traditionally be collected in the fermentation tank. 
  • The samples were fermented within the same conditions, in 10 gallon plastic tubs, under cover; and each dried on individual raised beds, custom build to hold five pound samples.
  • Samples were cupped on the same day, in a single lab, and on a 100 point scale, with conditions for the cupping corresponding to the rubric given by the SCAA. 
  • Results were recorded in three stages; over the course of the fermentation, at the end of drying, and after roasting and cupping. 

Results are shown in the table below:

Transient

Observations: 

  • The longer the ferment time, the higher the development of acidity (pH) in the water of the ferment tanks, where the beans were soaking. 
  • The longer the ferment time the larger the average reduction in weight from wet parchment to raw green coffee. 
  • Highest cup scores were recorded by the two samples with the lowest ferment time.

Continuing Research: 

We plan to continue cupping the samples at month intervals, in order to determine if the varying times of the fermentation, influence the cup quality of the coffee over a longer period of time.

Cuatro M in Trieste: Which country has an exceptional - overall coffee culture?

Earlier this week, during a class titled ‘Markets and Consumption,’ our class had the opportunity to participate in a Focus Group. The purpose was to use a group discussion as a tool of research, accessing a diverse group of people to gain insight into various opinions and attitudes about Coffee. 

Our group consisted of 17 people, and I volunteered, along with another gal from Guatemala, to lead the discussion. Our assignment was to create and select the questions to stir the conversation toward the broad target of understanding the attitudes of our classmates, regarding various aspects of coffee. 

We wrote out our initial ideas, and decided on roughly five questions to use, before returning to our classmates. The discussion began, and while we explored several topics, there was one question in particular which became the focus of our conversation, and therefore is the one I’d like to highlight here. 

“Which country has an exceptional - overall coffee culture?” 

Immediately a few answers were called out, Italy, Japan, USA, Brazil, Colombia. Then, a few people started to ask questions, asking for more clarity, because, what exactly was meant by the word coffee culture. The more we discussed the need to clarify, the more we realized that it was difficult to answer, without dividing the question into categories. 

Instead of asking about coffee culture as a whole, we chose to ask about the coffee culture of countries, as it related to the aspects of Agriculture, Consumption, and overall Knowledge. This made more sense to me, considering the fact that culture in itself is a broad term, encompassing many aspects, and to reduce it only to consumption, or agriculture would not be a balanced question. 

The discussion continued, first about various countries where there was a culture of Coffee Agriculture, next discussing Consumption, and overall Knowledge of Coffee; most members of the group sharing his or her opinion; and challenging each others remarks, agreeing and disagreeing. People shared about the various rituals surrounding coffee in parts of Africa, about the school calendar being based around the coffee harvest, (as it is in El Salvador), the Italian scene and the incredible consistency from one bar to the next, the third-wave culture in various parts of the United States across the world, and the efficiency of machinery and crop development in Brazil. 

In the end, we had learned a lot, but we had yet to consider a single country that perhaps did it best. Based on all three categories: Agriculture, Consumption, & Overall Knowledge, which country sets the bar for coffee culture? As I looked over my notes, I found one country that showed up in every category, Brazil. 

Today, Brazil produces more than a third of the worlds coffee, this passed year estimated at nearly 55 million bags; and by 2015, some people estimate that Brazil will pass the United States for the highest coffee consumption in the world. These two aspects alone were quite substantial in my mind, and while I’ve considered the significance of Brazil’s role in the coffee industry, don’t know if I’ve ever done so in relation to the rest of the world. 

I don’t call myself an expert on coffee culture, nor do I think a question about the best at anything is always a good idea, but every time I see Brazilian Universities and Institutions sited for the research we’re studying in class, hear discussions about the world market, or see photos of Pinhalense Depulpers installed at a washing station in Kenya, I wonder if there is any area of the industry that Brazil is not leading, or at least playing a substantial role. I have never been to Brazil, but I believe the country itself has grown in my mind, and from I’ve heard: has one of the best overall coffee cultures in the world. 

Someday I’ll see for myself. Until then, hopefully we’ll hear some answers from our readers regarding the place they consider to have a great coffee culture? 

I leave the question with you, as I will hopefully return to my studies. This coming Monday, we take our next exam on Agricultural Chemistry.

From Trieste, Cheers.