Monday, March 31, 2008

Dominican cupping

If you read my cupping results from December, then you would be reading a compilation of feedback from a few different roasters and importers that cupped my coffee. Bob Benck re-sample roasted my coffees two weeks ago and I got to cup my coffee fresh for the first time!

This is a rare privilege as most farmers sell their quality coffee to intermediaries who sell it to wet or dry mills who then sell it again and again. Finally, the good coffee is exported green and the producer almost never gets the chance to taste it!

I held a special cupping on Friday at the Dancing Goats Coffee Bar for the Dominican Coffees. There were four coffees on the table: GRAN, Juncalito, my pulp-natural and my natural.

GRAN: (washed) is an organic certified exporter that works in the boarder regions with the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Cupping notes: the coffee was strikingly nutty and could be an espresso base, but not the quality profile I hoped for.

Juncalito: (washed) is a Co-op that has won many awards in Dominican coffee competitions. They are quality oriented and high elevation. Cupping notes: chocolate-y honey-ed aroma with balanced acidity and body - then as it cooled a wonderful floral bouquet developed: orange flowers, pine apple, papaya. I was quiet impressed.

my Natural: (picked and sun-dried on raised beds) 100% typica cultivar from my farm. Cupping notes: Aaron Shivley, B&B roaster said, "banana nut bread." Others found berry, vanilla, red wine and fruit punch flavor notes. I found this coffee to be heavy, sweet and mango-y. In these cups there weren't hints of over fermentation, just potential [you can see the coffee drying in the top picture]

my Pulp-natural: (depulped and sun-dried on raised beds) 100% typica cultivar from my farm. Cupping notes: a dynamic chocolate - sweet - molasses aroma was followed with complex flavor notes and balanced body and acidity. Flavors of malt, caramel, rasian and sweet banana combined to leave you trying to decipher the notes. [to the left, the pulp-natural sample looks honey-ed and the closer sample is the washed, which was not cupped this time]

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

drying tunnels

Drying tunnels are the future! I get kinda excited about coffee processing। On my last trip to the DR, I visited the Karoma Estate coffee farm, which has its ecologically friendly wet mill on site. I hadn't even heard of drying tunnels before my trip, but got a full lesson on the simple technology. Here are the basics: they are made of clear thick plastic, built on a slope, have ventilation flaps, and the newest tunnels have raised beds.

Here is how they work: (1)the de-pulped and washed coffee (pergamino) is laid out on the patio or raised bed (2)the sun dries the coffee by heating the tunnel (3) then hot air rises and pulls a constant air flow over the beans (because they are built on slopes) (4) the coffee is turned as it dries. and your coffee is sun dried without any combustion!

The tunnels shown are huge, about the size of a football field! These tunnels don't have raised beds, but mine will when I build my tunnels this pre-harvest.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

what is a quintal?

in the coffee industry there are two units of weight that are thrown around: quintal (qq) and container. one might think they both reference one unit of weight and would not change, but remember the beauty of this industry is the complexity.

the dictionary defines a quintal as:
1.a unit of weight equal to 100 kilograms (220.5 avoirdupois pounds).
  1. A unit of weight in the U.S. Customary System equal to 100 pounds (45.36 kilograms). Also called cental, short hundredweight.
  2. A unit of weight in the British Imperial System equal to 112 pounds (50.80 kilograms). Also called quintal.
let the confusion begin. my coffee experience is in the Dominican Republic so my definitions relate to what i know there, i imagine there are more definitions in other countries.

1 (quintal) qq agua seca or humido or 30% humidity: 100kg this is coffee picked, de-pulped, washed and dried for 1 day in full sun. price offered by intermederary 2700pesos RD or 81.81USD.

1 qq retintado or 12% humidity: 100lb. pergamino - this is coffee picked, de-pulped, washed and dried completely. price offered by intermedieary 2900pesos RD or 87.87USD

1 qq en oro or green: 100lb. export or roast ready. small farmers do not have access to this because they do not have dry mills.

i had some low quality coffee to sell internally (to intermediaries) and posed the question about what is a quintal? the basic difference the change in weight unit (kg to lb.), and i even had one Dominican coffee buyer tell me the british definition was correct 112lb.! with all these different answers coming from the same small community, no wonder people who haven't visited origin might be confused by the quintal measurement.

so i did some basic math: 1qq of 30% humidity weighs 220lb. sold for 81.81USD = .37 cents per lb; 1 qq of 12% humidity weighs 100lb. sells for 87.87 = .88 cents per lb. the problem is that most small farmers don't have a patio to dry their own coffee, so they are left with no choice but to sell to intermediaries.

farmers are businessmen. even if they are proud of their coffee they treat it like a bean crop - it is all about the weight. i.e. the first picking of the trees is often low quality. antonio saved it for me so i could sell it. when i got there it was moldy, dirty and weighed very little (i felt sorry for anyone who drank those beans). we sold it for the same price as my medium quality coffee picked 3 days earlier! systems like these do not develop sustainable coffee.