Tuesday, May 29, 2007

oh my

did you see this? at a cool $130/lb GREEN (probably in the neighborhood of $200/lb landed), what do you suppose the retailers will charge for this? and how much of it do you suppose they'll really play with to determine proper profiles? especially if you only got one bag of it.

i guess my thought is that now that the gesha has proved itself three years running, will we continue to see the gold rush to plant gesha all over the world as has already begun to happen? or, in the vein of latter day coffee explorers such as novo's brodsky, will people step up, show some creative moxy and get out there to look for the estimated hundreds (!) of as yet unknown african cultivars still undiscovered?

sadly, i think i know the answer. yes, i've had the esmeralda. yes, it is indeed almost physically and viscerally stunning. but i'm just afraid, as with most other things of this nature, that people will simply try to waltz down the winning path laid down by someone else, coffee's version of a bad pop song duked over a thousand times along the same tired old formulas.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007


for those of you who follow the cup of excellence program, you'll understand what a big deal it is for my friends down at finca vista hermosa to score a number 8 ranking in the upcoming auction. to get chosen alone is a huge distinction. to crack the top ten...well, that's just downright sick. i noticed also that the 2006 winner, el injerto, ranked 6th.

best of luck to the martinez family as they take their farm to the next level. scoring a beautiful 87.53 at an international level is a huge accomplishment for this great farm and group of people i have come to love.

in related news, this crop represents the 50th anniversary harvest and, if the coe auction is any indication, it will be a very special one indeed. to help fvh celebrate, brown has been finalizing some commemorative t-shirts that not only will look cool on your back but will go for a good cause. when our shipment arrives we intend to offer the coffee and t-shirt as a fundraising gift pack to help fvh in their local sustainability efforts. keep your eyes peeled for the finalized details on that.

there are a lot of storylines and strands weaving through this post. i guess the other to toss into the mix here is how edwin and fvh are to be commended not only on their commitment to quality and sustainability, but to innovation and hairbrained innovation. the frozen greens project comes to mind. the gps/gis project with tristan comes to mind. and the sheep, my goodness, the sheep! there are more to come. hats off to a class act in the industry i am proud to be associated with. i'm gushing like a schoolgirl. i should stop. but three cheers to greatness in the cup.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007


i've gone a little back and forth on whether this post is blog worthy. but since it's been a while since i've posted regularly i figure this might be the impetus to do so.

i'm building a roaster from scratch. well, i should say i'm having it built and we'll be using a lot of parts that are more or less off the shelf. my father in law, a now retired aeronautical engineer and i got to talking a few months back(as i was telling him how i'll be outgrowing my baby roaster by year's end) about the physics of roasters and it got us to thinking about how basically simple the design of roasters are. tolerances. that's the big issue. sure, anyone can put together a washing machine on stilts and call it a roaster. but creating something to such precise tolerances as to have utter control over a vast range of subtle control issues without wasting energy and doing possible detriment to the beans and their fragile needs is the trick. that's the trick.

i guess it's important (to me, anyway) to say that the reason for this approach to upgrading my roasting capacity is driven completely by economics. i am growing brown organically without any bank loans or big infusions of cash. it's literally a shoestring operation that's growing by fits and starts into something stable. basically, i don't have the multi-thousands of dollars in the pot to go out and buy a roaster. so we're collecting and compiling in order to make it happen on our own. the old saying: if it's going to be it's up to me.

so, off we go. i say "we" in the royal we sense. it's really him. he's collecting raw materials and he'll be the one going to the university's machine fabrication shop where he still has the connections to let him build and bend at will to fabricate this thing to my desires. heck, he's not even here in texas. he's up in indiana (purdue university is his playground for this). let me just say that the amount of "stuff" that gets tossed from major american universities such as purdue--perfectly good stuff, the kinds of things that are ideal as the raw materials necessary for this project--is jaw dropping. and good for me.

estimated time of arrival: very early autumn when my father and mother-in-law return south for the texas winter. if my volume projections are correct for my growing wholesale and web retail sales, it'll be none too soon. i'll go from a 5 1/2 lb capacity electric table "beginner's roaster" to a 20-ish lb gas roaster. it may still be a beginner's roaster in the sense that this will essentially even still be a prototype. we'll get this thing up and running, find out what works and what we don't like and make tweaks as we go. eventually "we" may be building yet another roaster from scratch with what we learned went wrong with this one.

so that's the long and short of it. i am taking suggestions from you dear readers (all six of you) on a sort of wish list of things you would absolutely have to have if you could have your pick of bells and whistles and, more importantly, totally essential components. so...fire away.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

no news is bad news

getting new coffees is overwhelmingly fun, interesting and a little nervewracking.

this being the time of year to buy stuff (new crops coming online and all) i am giddy like a child at christmas as i visit my storage warehouse, get some samples and go roast them up to compare to the pre-shipment samples. it's always cool to compare notes with my earlier samples sent.

today i cupped three sample roasts of three coffees i just received: one each from mexico, java and sumatra. and despite the java and sumatra being close geographically (though obviously not process-wise), it would take some doing to find three more different flavor profiles at the table than these.

but the big deal here with this post is the huge difference fresh greens make. by the time it's time to reorder new crops the stuff you have left is getting a little long in the tooth. it's still good stuff; it just doesn't pop crisply. it's like those times when you've got a radio with a mute button that actually doesn't completely mute the sounds. you can still hear some of the tune faintly playing. well, maybe it's not that muted; but that's how coffees get over time. the other main thing you notice is the distinct lack of the now-famed cheerios effect. better quality beans account for this, of course, but also the freshness of the beans themselves is evident in the cup and especially at the cooler temps. no cheerios means more acidity, which i notice fades over time, even in climate controlled situations.

the almost translucent jade green of these beans is also a very happy-making thing. you can stick your nose in the bag when you first cut it open and practically smell the trees. or at least the mill.

those of you who know my business story know that this is the first year really that i'm in a position to buy with the seasons and let me just tell you what a huge difference it makes.

maybe i'll keep some of these back and freeze them right away. they can't be more than a couple months off the trees.

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