Traveling to origin is a wonderful way to see first hand what our colleagues on the export side of the business are working on. We are constantly striving to improve, so there are always new projects in the pipeline, and in the different stages of execution, in all the countries that we work in. These trips are also an opportunity to get a feel for how the harvest is progressing and to taste and perceive what is unique about the current harvest because no two coffee harvests are exactly alike. And of course, an origin trip is also a chance to fortify relationships established between producers and roasters by traveling with the buyers to the farms to share their experiences with the producers who supply their raw materials.
I recently had the fortune to travel to Nicaragua with our customers from Merit Coffee Roasting in San Antonio, Texas as we went to visit Bayardo and Lenny Jimenez at their farm Brisas del Mogoton in La Union, Nueva Segovia. The folks at Merit had visited last year, had purchased coffee from Brisas del Mogoton and were coming back to see how things are going and to reinforce the relationship. But there was one moment during the visit that stood out to me and it is a moment that I would like to share with you.
As we were walking through the farm, we started to talk about the Maracaturra variety. The roaster mentioned that the Maracaturra variety behaves very differently than all other varieties, that it is so different that it must be roasted separately, either at the beginning of the day, at the end of the day or even on a separate day. This coffee doesn’t like to mixed in with other coffees on a normal production roasting day.
Bayardo Jimenez, who manages Brisas del Mogoton, then mentioned that the same thing happens on the trees. If the Maracaturra variety is planted in a mixed-variety field, say with Catuai and Bourbon, then the flowering for the Maracaturra plants happens later than the rest. It doesn’t play nice with the others. But, if the Maracaturra is planted in a plot only with other Maracaturra, then it flowers at the same time as the other varieties, which makes it easier for him to coordinate the management and harvest of the farm.
Not to be outdone, Roger Rodriguez from Beneficio La Estrella and Caravela Nicaragua stepped in to say that the Maracaturra variety must be dried separately from other varieties as well. That the drying curve of Maracaturra doesn’t match that of the others and it cannot be blended in on the drying beds because it would lead to uneven drying and the consequences thereof. Maracaturra needs white-glove treatment because it is temperamental and needs even more attention to detail than the others. But that if it is kept separate then the Maracaturra, as well as the other varieties, could be dried to the desired levels without complications.
At this point, I felt like we had all just learned something. The Maracaturra variety needs to be separated at every step of the process, and by doing so it can be given the attention that it demands, while at the same time allowing for the other friendly varieties to be blended together in harmony. The reward for the extra effort is in the cup for the Maracaturra, but also can be measured in logistics, efficiency and the overall quality of all the coffee on the farm, simply by keeping it separate.
I was also excited because this nugget of knowledge was revealed to us through collaboration. By having the custodians of the coffee at different stages in one place, we could share our experience, and through that shared knowledge we were able draw a conclusion that will help us in our constant quest to improve. It was a fulfilling moment, like many in the specialty coffee trade, and I am grateful that I was able to witness it. And I hope that by reading this, it contributes to your knowledge base on your quest to improve, as well. -Badi Bradley, Caravela Coffee, Managing Partner