We’re off! Finally, properly, again. We have a full year of catch-ups scheduled and we’re excited. We started the year catching up with farmers in Costa Rica and a brief visit to Guatemala. Last month we attended the coffee festival in Milan. It was a terrific opportunity to meet with many of the exporters we work with, all in one city, as well as a meeting with Loring Smart Roast – the manufacturer of the roasters we use.
This month we have plans to see farmers in Nariño and Huila, Colombia. As mentioned previously, the crop in Nariño is not without problems. Because of the amount of rain during what should have been the dry season, the fruit hasn’t had the necessary warmth and light to ripen, so the coffee is coming in more slowly than usual and it is a much smaller crop.
We are also heading to Brazil this Summer, followed by Bolivia and Peru. In Brazil we will be tasting coffees from the new crop and visiting farms we buy from including Santa Lúcia and Furnas. We will set up at Carmo Coffees and are super interested to see their new offices and warehouse facilities. Over the last few years Carmo have invested in a dry milling site. This is where the parchment-covered coffee is taken to be prepared for export. The parchment is removed in this final stage of processing. The coffee is then screened, which removes over and undersized beans and passed through an electronic eye. The electronic eye measures the light refracted from each bean and a puff of air pushes any odd beans into a different hopper to be graded separately. It is a speedy way of removing beans that have problems which can’t be seen with the human eye or separated by density sorter.
Dry mills are incredibly efficient at processing large amounts of coffee; dry milling the coffee, grading, sorting, weighing and bagging. But because of their size and efficiency, they can struggle a bit with the smaller micro lots specialty roasters require. This is where Carmo have been able to specialise and find their niche. They have built a dry mill large enough to deal with the larger amounts of coffee for their bigger customers and installed a separate line with smaller equipment that is scaled to the right size to deal with the smaller lots. Dry milling is big business and works on economies of scale; the plant required is huge, and as it is only used for a short period of the year, and only at the end of the processing, it usually isn’t a good investment for smaller exporters and farmers.
While planning and designing their dry mill, Carmo took the opportunity to build in energy efficiencies such as installing solar panels and the energy produced at this site will help power their mill and offices. The building looks amazing and the architect responsible, Gustavo Penna, has won the Architizer A+ award in the factories and warehouses category for the project. It’s a big deal that Carmo have taken this step and we’re excited for them. It is the realisation of years of work and planning.
In Bolivia we will visit Agricafe and then on to Peru where we hope to visit El Morito and the farmers who contributed to Huabal. This will be our first visit to Peru with Cultivar Coffees. We’re interested to see how the coffee market in Peru is changing. Peru is typically known for large scale coffee and Cultivar Coffee have been able to find some real gems that would have previously been lost amongst the cooperative systems.
It’s exciting times in coffee, notwithstanding the difficulties with costs of living and the weather changes, there is a lot energy and innovation happening and it is great to have coffees on the counter that tell these stories. Check out Las Cortinas, a new favourite honey process from Guatemala. And keep a look out for Mutero, a new coffee for us from Kenya.
Take it easy, have an iced something and see you in September.