Thursday, April 24, 2008

Short TV segment on coffee

Apparently we're "trendy"! At least so did TV2 Lorry think when they visited us last week to do a small segment on coffee in Copenhagen.
You can see the clip here

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Does a good Espresso need Crema!?

A nice reddish brown crema on the espresso of course signals correct preperation but... have you ever tasted the crema itself?!? To us it seems to be kind of dry and bitter!

Try to take some crema with a spoon from the top of a good espressoshot and taste it!

After having tried this we sometimes skim the crema of the espresso right before drinking the espresso using two small spoons. This seemes to give a more clean and less bitter cup which is finishing of extremly soft. On the down side the cup also looses some body. But it is definitely a good way to drink coffee if you wan't it to be soft and intense!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Stupid Americanos!

At our new place we have been experimenting a bit with the well-known drink Americano. None of us in the collective have actually been very fond of this drink previously. But now things are looking different.

What we’ve been doing is taking one of our coffees roasted for French Press or filter - in other words a light roasted coffee (end of first pop). Prepare this as a you would normally prepare an Americano and there you have it. Nice oily body, remarkable aromas and loads of sweetness.

The most interesting about this way of Americano is definitely the aromas which we find extremely intense. More intense than any other brew method we have tried for ¨black¨ coffee. (Filter, French Press, Clover ect. )

We have had the best results with our coffee from Kariaini, Kenya. A very light roasted coffee with lots of fruit in the aromas. We dose it 19 grams for a double ristretto 45 ml. in 20 sec. at a temperature of 94,5 degrees Celsius. Fill it up with 95 degrees hot water until the drink is approximately 145 ml.


Please let us know what you think.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Guatemala and Finca Vista Hermosa Trip 2008 pt 3

On the last day at FVH we got to go picking coffee! We strapped on our baskets early in the morning, when it was still a bit cool. First though, we needed coffee. One of the farm workers, Diego, invited us to his house, where he first roasted, hen ground and finally brewed coffee the way he usually drinks it; “Apagado”. How terrific to taste coffee this way!

Picking cherries is hard work, as I think each of us learned. We were lucky to do the last pick, where all cherries needs to come off the tree, so there’s nothing left after the harvest. We were still instructed to do selective picking. Edwin did not want to see any ‘stripping’ – where you simple pull your fingers down the branch to take everything off, including leaves and small buds – as it damages the tree significantly. Selective picking requires fast finger-work and getting on your knees to get the lower branches. Picking only the ripest cherries and doing so carefully is one of the main factors in producing a sweet and aromatic cup quality, and we all left the picking with a huge appreciation of the work of the pickers.

My very own harvest with a view of the valley

After breakfast we loaded the cars and got ready to drive back to Huehuetenango. It was a last goodbye to the farm and the last opportunity to snap some photos as the coffee was drying on the patio.

Drying coffee on the patio

In Huehuetenango we visited the dry mill, COFECO, that FVH uses for some of their coffees. The lot that we at the Collective received were actually drymilled at a different mill, but the mill is very similar.
The coffee arrives by truck and gets weighed. Then large foreign objects, bullets, nails, stones, twigs and so forth are removed. Next the coffee is hulled (the parchment is removed) before it’s sorted first by screen size and then by density on Oliver tables.

The coffee next goes through an ‘electronic eye’ sorting machine for defects. It’s incredible to see how fast the coffee moves through this machine, which sort out defects by color variation. Lastly the coffee is packed on jute bags and is then ready for export. Each bags has a series of numbers printed on indicating origin country, exporter license number and lot number. A lot can be anything from several full containers to a micro-lot of 5 bags for someone like The Coffee Collective.

In the late afternoon we went to see the Mayen ruins of “Zaculeu”. A very beautiful place where it’s told soccer originated.

The last day in Guatemala we drove to Antigua and visited a very nice farm named Filadelfia. This place is unlike most coffee farms. It’s a very big farm (actually consisting of several farms) with a lot of money obviously. The have a hotel, restaurant and gift shop in conjunction with the farm. We got a guided tour of the estate, which has its own wet and dry mill, roastery and cupping room. I even saw a Audio & Visual Room sign, which I doubt you’ll find on many farms. It was really cool to see, though, and it was nice of them to take such good care of us.

Finca Filadelfia, Antigua

From there it was quick goodbyes to the whole group and on to the airport. I could easily have spend several days more in Antigua. The view to the volcanoes and the old, historic buildings in the town were extremely beautiful. But I had definitely had a lot of beautiful sights already (“Vista Hermosa” means “Beautiful View”) and lots of impressions to think about for the coming days.

The trip to Finca Vista Hermosa have definitely left me assured that the Direct Trade model is the right way for us to continue working. They have no certifications, but there are many things you simply cannot measure. When Edwin talks about the people they employ and about the families that live in the area, it tells me far more about their social responsibility than any certification could ever do. We’re extremely happy to be buying from FVH and look forward to continue the relationship for years to come.

This was the last part of three.
To see more pictures go to Flickr

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Guatemala and Finca Vista Hermosa Trip 2008 pt 2

Finca Vista Hermosa is situated in a picturesque landscape surrounded by mountains reaching up to 3.400 masl. The farm itself consists of 7 lots: Finca Vista Hermosa (from which we got our coffee), Michicoy (which was actually the first lot grandfather Don Felipe bought), El Eden, Edlina, El Mirador, El Cypresal and La Vega. Located between 1.700 and 2.000 masl.

Arriving at the farm I felt like a kid in a candy store. As soon as we had been shown our accommodation it was down to the drying patio, then the wet mill and collecting station.

Edwin gathered us to explain what happens. At Finca Vista Hermosa the pickers come in with the cherries in the afternoon. I got a look at some of the bags and the picking quality was obvious. Only the ripest red cherries in there. Selective picking means leaving the unripe cherries on the tree and picking several times during the harvest season, which is key to the quality. Even so, afterwards the pickers go through the cherries and sort out any greens (unripe) and overripe cherries, which will be processed as naturals for local consumption (it’s actually illegal to export anything other than washed coffees in Guatemala!).

Here at the collecting station at the wet mill, the amount of cherries is measured and the picker is paid.

Green coffees sorted. In the last pick of the trees, all cherries must come off. Then the greens are sorted out afterwards.

In the reception tank, which is full of water, any unripe, over-ripe or single-bean cherries will float on top, and only the ripe sink to the bottom and goes to the de-pulper. All cherries are being pulped same day as picking. FVH only has one de-pulper running, with a spare if it should break down.

From there they go to the fermentation tanks, which at FVH are quite small. In fact their whole 5 tanks could fit into one of the ones I’ve seen in Costa Rica for example.

According to Edwin the smaller tanks give a more even fermentation of the coffee. He also explained to us the procedure they’ve developed for knowing when the coffee is done and should be washed. Instead of the typical use of a stick to see if the beans leave a hole and stick to the rod, they squeeze a handful of beans between their fingers. When the beans shoot out, the coffee is done! This has proven so effective, that Anafé has adopted the method.

It was great to hear Edwin tell about the wet fermentation, washing and drying of the coffee, and with the afternoon sun shining on the drying patio it felt magical. In the evening we had a great Sopa Verde (green soup with chicken) and then proceeded to dry mill (hull) a bunch of FVH samples from the different lots. It was quite an experience to crush the parchment between your palms. It was a good thing we were twelve people doing this as I think our hands would otherwise have suffered badly.

Next morning we got up early to hand grind a bag of the TCC roast of Finca Vista Hermosa that I'd brought with me. Then we brewed a batch on a filter machine and gave it to the farm workers, who were already busy preparing for the day's work. They looked quite happy to try it, but to be honest I'm not so sure if they like it. See, they are used to a much weaker brew and lots of suger. This was the usual 60 g/liter and no sugar (why would you need any in such a sweet coffee?!?), but they were very polite and even called over another guy to try it. For me it was just great fun to present our roast to them.

After breakfast we watched the coffee being washed in the washing channels after the fermentation was done. The mucilage covering the parchment beans are at this stage quite dissolved and needs to be washed off with clean water. Small inserts in the channels hold the beans back, so any remaining pulp or light-weight beans will float ahead and be sorted from the rest of the coffee. The coffee is continually being stirred with large paddles against the stream, which removes the mucilage, and makes sure the fermentation process comes to a stop. This is the actual washing of the coffee.

Then the coffee is laid out on the drying patio to dry in the sun. At Finca Vista Hermosa they are very careful about keeping a very thin layer of coffee while drying and turning over the coffees very frequently (more than every half an hour) to ensure a very uniform drying of the beans and avoid the risk of mold in the bottom part.

In the afternoon we went on a long (!) hike around FVH to the Michicoy lot. We saw the steep slopes on which they grow coffee and the many “Chalum” shade trees that protect the coffee trees against heavy sun and rain and provide nutrition to the ground through their debris.

This was part 2 of 3 on the FVH 2008 Origin Trip

You can see more of our pictures from Finca Vista Hermosa here

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Guatemala and Finca Vista Hermosa Trip 2008 pt 1

Our first visit to our first Direct Trade farm, Finca Vista Hermosa, proved to be even more exciting than anticipated. I returned home last week, but it’s taken a while to let the many thoughts from this trip settle and sort through the more than 800 pictures I took on the trip along with an over-written notebook.

Before I begin my account of the trip I wish say thank you to Edwin Martinez for inviting us and organizing a fantastic trip, to his dad (also Edwin) for being such a gracious host and entertaining us with many stories and ’giggles’ and to everyone at Finca Vista Hermosa for the great food, stories, pictures and of course coffee.

Joining me on the trip was Mads Høgsted, who works for Copenhagen Roaster. The trip to Guatemala included layovers in both Paris and Atlanta. The latter lasted for 15 hours, but fortunately we could spend the time with the ever-so-nice M’lissa Muckerman and Chris Owens. They showed us Octane Coffee Shop, which was way cool and Counter Culture Coffee’s training lab. Impressive spaces both of them, and way bigger than our own roastery and coffee shop. In the morning we had a great cup of both Biloya and Idido, Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia that still left a lingering aftertaste as the plane took off for Guatemala.

We were greeted in the airport by Edwin Martinez – towering above most of the other people crowding outside the new beautiful terminal. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Edwin twice before, in Portland, Oregon and Tokyo, Japan, and it was great to see him again. We went straight to Anacafé where we met with the reigning Guatemalan barista champion Raúl Rodas, as well as past champ Jonni Gonzales and their Anacafé coaches. We had a little jam with them, tasting shots, giving feedback on roasting and blending and watching latte art pours.

At Anacafé most of the FVH trip group assembled. Ryan Brown from Ritual, who visited us in Copenhagen about half a year ago, was there. Ben and Jamie from Barismo too. Then Victrola and Coffee Ambassadors along with Aaron Brown from Onyx Coffees. Aaron also visited us, well, Peter, while the rest of us were away for the Nordic Barista Cup last year.

Anacafé director William Hempstead gave a presentation about Guatemalan coffees and the work of Anacafé. An innovative new project involving detalied Google earth pictures impressed us all.
Next we got a tour of Anacafé including Analab – the laboratory that helps Guatemalan farmers with everything related to growing coffee. Soil analysis, pest control, fertilizing, experimentations with bio-diversity and coffee varieties are part of the work they do there. Unfortunately for us the cupping lab was booked for a training sessions for the best cuppers from Latin America, so we didn’t get to cup there.

In the afternoon we left Guatemala City for the 7 hour drive to Huehuetenango, where we spend the night. Next morning, after a quick tour of the local market, we once again loaded the cars and drove the last 2½ hours to Finca Vista Hermosa.

This was part 1 of 3

More pictures are found on Flickr!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Training with the Champions

I still haven't gotten around to posting about my Guatemala trip. But I have an excuse. Last week we had three full days of training with the Mexican Barista Champion, Salvador "Chava" Benitez Espinosa.

Chava won the Mexican barista championship again this year. He impressed a lot of people in Tokyo with his presentation but this year he's been focusing on learning a lot more about coffee in general. He's been visiting producers, dry mills, exporters and cupped with the best cuppers all over Mexico. He's also been travelling to other countries to see different barista techniques and learn more about different approaches to roasting. Oh, and on top of it all he's learning English, so he can give his presentation in Copenhagen in the oddly 'official' language of the WBC.

With all this newfound knowledge Chava came to Denmark together with Arturo Hernandez, whom many readers will be familiar with from the WBC, to train with us for the championship. It's been three very interesting days, where we've been cupping, training techniques, tasting his signature drink and working on the presentation as a whole.

Chava is one of the most genuinely humble and hard working persons I've ever met. He's always willing to learn and try out new things. I really think he'll do well this summer in Copenhagen and wish him the best of luck with the training until then.

On friday we got a visit from two more champions. Chris Kolbu, the new-crowned Norwegian Barista Champion and WBC and cup tasting champion Tim Wendelboe. We feel kinda bad that none of us have had time to visit Tim's amazing roastery in Oslo yet, since he's now been here twice. But Tim brought three of his coffees along with his espressoblend and we had a really outstanding cupping. His coffees were all so clean and sweet and aromatic. All of them roasted really well. Then Chris pulled us shots and made some delicious cappuccinos. His main goal was to test some of the Danish milk types and the water quality. They noticed the water made their espresso taste very different - something we too notice whenever travelling.

It was (as always) great to hang out with Tim and Chris. We look forward to see Chris' presentation at the WBC too and hope he wont break any cups there (inside joke, sorry).

You can see Chris' pictures here