Barista Magazine

DEC 2017-JAN 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 94 of 107

process," Elkin says via email (translated). "I like to read about coffee processes that have been carried out in other countries, as well as investigations by people experienced in the subject of coffee—that is how I found a video on the internet by Dr. Flávio Borém, from an exhibition held at the SCAA some years ago, about the fermentation of coffee." Dr. Borém, a professor of agricultural engineering at the Federal University of Lavras in Brazil and one of the foremost contemporary thinkers about possible improvements to processing and storage in coffee (among myriad other smart sciencey things), offered a talk at Re:co Symposium in 2015, calling on the specialty-coffee industry to shift our collective thinking about processing and the quality that is possible through innovating the approach at the mill level. "The language was not an impediment to feel connected with the ideas to carry out later tests on the farm," Elkin says, and, inspired by the presentation, he invented a totally new (and slightly wackadoo) process: coffee picked ripe and dried as a natural, then rehydrated, depulped, and dried on raised beds as a sort of honey process. He called the fi nished product "natural-hydro-honey," and the coffee was spectacular: tropical fruit, cherry, and sugar-cane juice fl avors balanced by a hint of slightly weird-in-a-good-way savory notes and a juicy mouthfeel. Most of all, however, the coffee tasted like the future, and the future is friendly. "Yes, people need really good information. We all want good data or information to guide decision making," says Shauna Alexander Mohr, sustainability director for Volcafe, the green-coffee trading arm of the global commodities merchant company ED&F Man. The main reason Elkin was able to dream up his experimental process was because the information from Dr. Borém's research was available to him online; the Colombian farmer likely would not have otherwise had access to the microbial musings of the professor from Brazil. "And really when it comes down to it," Shauna continues, "you listen to your colleagues or your neighbors." At Volcafe, this principle has led to the development of something called the Volcafe Way: A long-term investment the company is making in coffee communities, in which Volcafe's teams of agronomists work directly with producers on sustainable production techniques and agronomy practices to generate greater profi tability, farm by farm. It's a voluntary program in which some producers enlist as "model farmers," allocating a portion of their land to demonstrate best practices. These are producer-led and producer-focused projects; any producer in the region can attend the trainings. "When we set up a model farm, it's not us setting up the model farm," Shauna says, reit- erating the idea that most of us learn more from talking to our peers than listening to someone lecture. "What you need are nice people who are committed, and who people want to talk to. That's how ideas get spread. Yes, there's a role for technology and big bright ideas, but it's word of mouth that really infl uences people, and peer-to-peer discussion." For Volcafe Way producers, those discussions focus on "time-tested, tried-and-true" recommendations ("We do not take risks with the recommendations we make," Shauna says)—for things like coffee-leaf-rust control and shade management, "very tangible things that can make a big difference," Shauna says. "I think there is a transformational potential in conversation," she adds. Elkin knows about learning from and with his neighbors, too: A fellow Huila producer (and Cup of Excellence winner) named Arnulfo Leguizamo became one of Elkin's mentors and great friends. "Don Arnulfo is a great producer," Elkin says. "I felt great admiration for him and all his work to achieve good coffee, and meeting him in person I expressed admiration and respect for him, to have the best coffee in Colombia and the coffee with the highest score to date. This was the reason I wanted to know more, to ask how you can produce an excel- lent cup." Rather than being standoffi sh or competitive, Elkin says, Arnulfo cheerfully accepted the young grower as a peer and a friend: "During our conversations, I have seen the strength and value that you have to have to face the diffi culties we have experienced as coffee growers, the humility in the face of success, and the unity to pursue dreams. Arnulfo says, 'To get a customer is very diffi cult, but to lose Colombian producer Elkin Guzman sees the value in relationships with other producers as being about trust, transparency, and support for achieving a goal based on sharing knowledge. PHOTO COURTESY OF CAFÉ IMPORTS 95

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

view archives of Barista Magazine - DEC 2017-JAN 2018