Saturday, June 26, 2010

Africa is a Country


The ignorant masses in the US that refer to Africa as a country might be more right than you think. I currently have had the privilege of watching world cup soccer every night with a Ugandan announcer from my hotel room. When ever an African country plays, they play for all of Africa. The Mobile Phone sponsor MTN's slogan is, "Our Flags are different, but our dream is the same".

Take Uganda for example, one country, 20 tribes, many more clans, probably 15 languages. They all look very different! Some facial structures and skin colors, shades of black, and mannerisms would lead one to think they are not governed by the same body. I have heard that most African nations follow the same trend. Many tribes, languages and cultures under each flag. Some tribes bridge boarders.

Uganda is full of beautiful things and some ugly things as well. They were freed from the British as a colony in 1962. Uganda is the birth place of Robusta coffee and I had a great espresso shot of strictly heirloom varieties and it was delicious! Yes, Robusta can be great. There is a ubiquitous bird that is a cross between a pelican, a teradactyl and the ugly stick. The bird eats trash for breakfast, which seems appropriate. I saw some beautiful antelope in a national park and a wild board that looked like it was wearing a mask to fend off people taking its picture, cause it was funny lookin'.

More to come when the internet is free. Pictures too.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Coffee Planting in Finca La Paz and

Clap-Clap-Clap. My favorite part of any DR flight is the landing because people clap. Loud.

I had two reasons to fly to the DR on this trip 1) check in on my farm: see the coffee planting, check this years harvest volume, introduce my girlfriend to my second home/family and 2) help my girlfriend (she is a lady so I'll call her my lady friend) launch her Non Profit called

Los Frios was awesome. We ate a bunch, Laura and I shared one divine mango from from my farm, Laura got to smell a few coffee flowers, and she also got to meet some of my closest friends on earth Lin, Antonio and Nerva.

There had been a ton of rain of over the last month. The shade trees seem much taller than before and the coffee planting had made some good progress. Three full days without rain and the planting will be complete. Along with some re-planting the farm will be fully planted with coffee by this July. Very exciting. This years harvest will be smaller, my main hope is for little rain during the harvest for controlled drying.

Per - After two years of development work in the Peace Corps I know first hand the challenges in organizing community events, it is challenge to get people to meetings, and to get them there on time. . . nearly impossible. Laura Scott Vaughn (my lady friend) along with some local partners has successfully organized an art program in two communities of Bonao, coordinated and selected four amazing artists, and when I left the country she had over 80 kids enrolled. She did that and the fund raising from Athens, Georgia and one visit to Bonao last year! Needless to say I'm super impressed. I helped a little with organizing and logistics. After getting the artists to their host families and oriented I had to leave on the first day of the program.

When I landed at New York/JFK airport I had both hands free for clapping, the turbulence and rough landing made the clapping and praying around me much louder. Flying doesn't scare me, but I do love to clap with everyone it does scare. Good thing because I had 2 eight hour flights before I arrived to Uganda.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

ugandan coffee

Hello friends. I will write a post about my DR experience soon. But I wanted to let you few readers out there know that I'm in Uganda.

I arrived last night with high hopes of tapping in to this "you have to be in Africa to experience it". It is something unique to the continent. Some of my friends have described it as a smell from the red soil, some the people.

Well it is very clear that I'm in Africa, I haven't seen any monkeys or lions yet, but people are dark skinned and have a very different facial structure to African Americans or Dominicans. It is sharp in some areas and soft in others. They drive on the wrong side of the road (yes I'm an United Statesiean), but they give a great head massage when the cut your hair. Or in my case buzz my scalp. Has Africa climbed under my skin and given me this totally unique vibe yet? Not really, but I've only been here 24 hours.

I hear the coffee here has amazing potential. Along with the Ugandan Coffee Development Authority and the Coffee Quality Institute I hope to help them realize some of that potential through cupping lab site selection I will be doing for the next 11 days.

Monday, June 7, 2010

If you are in Atlanta or have a computer

If you are in Atlanta:

There will be a coffee talk and tasting at Park Grounds on Wednesday 6/9/10 from 7pm to 9pm. I will have many pictures and stories about coffee farming there for everyone. Of course my coffee will be there as well.

If you have a computer:

My most recent article just came out in Barista Magazine. It talks about dry milling, export prep and the some bad smells: dead horses and burning breaks. Page 52.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Brazillian coffee from the prespective of a Domincan farmer

So I just spent a week in Brazil. I want to be honest and write about my experience without taking up 10 minutes of your time. Dallis Brothers Coffee owns a "small" coffee farm in Brazil. "Small" in Brazil is about 3000 hectares total and 1000 hectares of coffee. I sell their coffee here in the Southeast. Brazil is serious about coffee. The farms are not: happen stance with mixed variety plantings, irregular pruning methods, total dependence on weather, general lack of knowledge of soil and yields, like I've seen in the Dominican Republic. Brazil does use mechanical picking. Brazil does use full sun coffee. Brazil does strip pick. They even use mechanical pruning in some cases.

Is this bad? No. This is a good thing. Before you tell me about small farmers and their families and the virtues of shade, remember that I am a coffee farmer.

First, some of the coffee growing regions are so far from the equator and at 1000 meters altitude, the trees would barely produce WITH shade. Shade would also not allow mechanical picking, which some would say doesn't allow for quality. I disagree. If coffee is mechanically picked then mechanically cleaned, floated in water, then size sorted about 4 times, I'm pretty sure there is another float, then the fully demuscilaged and soaked (for the washed). The result is that from one picking up to 5 different PROCESSES are yielded. Because the farm I visited had variety selections and was divided into about 100 micro-regions each plot of land in production is then kept separate through drying. We were able to cup 8 coffees coming out of the driers all the same Yellow Bourbon variety and process. Lastly, after further sorting in the dry mill, those coffees would clean up beautifully. Hence mechanical processes can yield wonderful coffees. Even a good hand picking requires 10 to 25% of the defects to be sorted out during dry milling!

The farm I visited had patio drying, mechanical drying, resting and milling all on site. The system was very very impressive. All the pictures are from the wet mill at our (Dallis) farm.

I had an absolute blast with my new co-workers at Dallis. We laughed so much I'm pretty sure that I pulled a muscle in my shoulder from laughing. The food in Brazil was cow centric with plenty of beans and rice. So you can imagine I was a huge fan.
The cafe experiences in Sao Paulo were incredible. It was a complete full service I like I haven't experienced before. Each espresso was ground to order and I was waited on by a server. The espresso came with a shot glass of soda water and a small mildly sweet meringue. Again, it was a fully thought out process.

I left feeling like Brazil is the future of coffee. They have systems that make money. And those systems are closely monitored. The cafe experiences were delightful and the coffee solid. How long can farmers in Central America eek out a living on next to nothing while surviving on local credit? If the scale and financing was there Central America would change overnight to the systems I saw there.

So there. I thank you for your 6 minutes. If you have particular questions, please post them here. I will be happy to respond.