Barista Magazine

APR-MAR 2014

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farmers and helping them improve their farming and processing methods. He is passionate about the uniqueness of Guatemalan coffee, and believes its distinctions stem from the country's myr- iad microclimates. With more than 300 microclimates, Guatemala produces coffees that can present wildly differing flavor charac- teristics. For example, although the Atitlan region is just west of the Antigua region, the respective coffees differ markedly: Atitlan coffees are highly acidic and intense, while Antiguan coffees are full-bodied and powerful. Not only does Josue's intimate knowledge of Guatemala's terroir and geography assist him in deciphering influences on flavor, but his dedication to specific farms and his ability to monitor their progress helps him understand how flavor is developed. "When you've been working with a farm for many years, you can immediately tell if there is something different," he says. "It's not that their coffee will taste the same every year, but it does present some patterns that repeat and that contribute over time to the interpretation of terroir." Due to the predictability of weather conditions, Josue is able to analyze the information he gathers from farmers with the variable of weather minimized. This allows Josue to look closer at growing conditions and processing practices, and use these as a lens to determine how to help farmers grow and care for their coffee to best express terroir. Josue is quick to note that terroir isn't always apparent, and requires the right conditions to be expressed fully. Great coffee, he says, is "a chain of perfection that was followed flawlessly. It means that somewhere down the line, a particular coffee received the right conditions of climate, nurture, and process, paired with exactly the right handling." Sometimes, these conditions are discovered by acci- dent or by happenstance, and farmers are able to produce extraordi- nary coffee. However, these farms are far and few between. Although Guatemala has hundreds of microclimates, Josue points out that there are only a handful of farms that the special- ity-coffee industry is really familiar with. This is not to say that these well-known producers haven't worked hard to achieve quality and flavor clarity, but there is a great deal of potential in Guatemala yet to be seen. What's exciting about the work being done at the TG-Lab is that the coffee industry is beginning to systematically study the building blocks of flavor, and how these characteristics can be tied to specific practices and conditions which can be repli- cated to produce the same or similar results. Where does experimentation start? How can it be integrated at a farm in both an easily observable and financially reasonable way? For farmers, the idea of changing a perfectly acceptable growing practice can be incredibly risky—if it doesn't work, it can cost them profits. Although coffee buyers and roasters are always looking for farms that have yet to establish their presence in speciality coffee, these farms aren't just hiding in the highlands of Guatemala, pro- ducing beautiful coffee waiting to be discovered. Well-established coffee buyers and roasters need to be the ones pushing for inno- vation, and investing in education and technology for farmers who haven't had access to the tools that help create speciality-grade coffee. By investing in new practices, coffee buyers can actively participate in the process of improving coffee quality on the farm and educating about the link between what happens on the farm and the final cup profile. C a s e S t u d y : C o l o m b i a E l Jo r d a n "This is probably the coffee I'm proudest of this year," says Stumptown Coffee green buyer Adam McClellan, holding a bag of El Jordan Colombian coffee. Stumptown has been working with El Jordan since 2008. It comprises coffees from 15 different produc- ers in the Maczio Association, located near the Nevado de Hulia volcano in the Tomila Department of Colombia. Much of the Maczio Association's crop is mixed and sold together, but Stumptown has worked with the association to pick out the best coffee and devel- op an open and transparent relationship with its top producers. Stumptown cups each lot produced by the Maczio Association, and then uses the top lots to comprise El Jordan. This allows Stumptown to ensure quality that is traceable, and to monitor the progression of El Jordan throughout the years. Adam explains that El Jordan has comprised strong lots, but this year's lots are particularly exceptional. He believes this is due to a slower drying process implemented by the cooperative, particular- ly right after the coffee is depupled and washed. "The coffee sits in shade for 24 hours to wick the water off the top before it's sun-dried," he says, explaining that he believes this "pre-drying" step gives the coffee a chance to rest before being exposed to heat, while ensuring that the coffee dries evenly. Adam admits that he can't prove this change in El Jordan's drying pro- cess is the actual cause for the difference in the crop's quality this Coffee buyers are beginning to understand the potential in creating long-term relationships with farmers not only for future buying security, but for the opportunity to work on involved terroir research projects. 89 B o o k 5 5 - 1 0 8 . i n d d 8 9 Book 55-108.indd 89 3 / 2 5 / 1 4 7 : 4 0 A M 3/25/14 7:40 AM

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