Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The search for Cafe Grano continues...

Last Thursday, I was walking home from morning class at Centro Linguistico Maya when I noticed light whispers of smoke lingering in one of the busier intersections in town (7th Ave. and 6th Calle). I edged a bit closer, stopping to ascertain the presence of the smoke (was there a motorcycle collision?). Then it hit me, an odor that I not only had smelled prior, but one which has on many occasions saturated my hair, clothes, and room: the aroma of roasting coffee.

Turning around to look for the source, I realized where I was, almost directly in front of La Tostaduria Antigua, a local coffee and cacao roastery. I had previously purchased cacao from there, but had not stumbled upon a batch of coffee roasting. Feeling more confident in my Spanish skills, I inquired of the employee, which is the freshest coffee (Cual es el cafe mas fresco?). He pointed to a bin containing roasted coffee that was somewhat dark for my tastes, but at least very even in roast color. I took his word for it, and purchase ½ lb., for 18 Quetzales, about $2.25. Now, the price should have raised some flags, but unfortunately, problems were not realized until I returned home.

Opening the paper bag to reveal the contents, I was greeted by another unmistakable aroma, though not one I'd like to be associated with...the smell of really old coffee, spoiled by age. I had smelled it several times before when I forgot about bags of coffee scattered around my dorm room, only to locate them 2 months past their roast date. That was the smell of La Tostaduria's “freshest coffee”. Not letting that stop me, I decided to take a closer look at the coffee. Aside from the darker than I thought color, I notice a couple of abnormalities: a roasted twig, some pieces of parchment and husk, and actually half of a coffee cherry, roasted with the bean intact! Clearly, low price coffee means low grade, too.

The search for quality whole bean coffee in Antigua continues...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Coffee domination is in Guatemala! For 10 weeks!

Well, it has finally happened, coffee domination is finally visiting origin, in this case, Guatemala, particularly, the Antigua growing region. I am studying Spanish and taking a class on immigration and transnationalism for 5 weeks, then will be continuing Spanish class and working at a coffee museum/roastery/processing facility/plant nursery for another 5 weeks. With a lot of practice and a little luck, coffee domination will be conversant in Spanish and well-versed in coffee production by the end of the summer!

Typing this post, I realize that somehow it doesn't seem right to call what I'm doing in Guatemala "coffee domination"...In a country whose populace has been abused and oppressed by various governments (some put in place by United States agencies and corporations) and by its own citizens (military leaders and property owners, sometimes, one-in-the-same), I feel the term domination is ill-advised...Maybe the mission, while I'm here, should be called Sharing in Coffee, which will encompass both my objectives: learning more about coffee production, marketing, and history; and contributing my technical knowledge on roasting, grinding, and packaging. I regret that I left my espresso science book at home, but will likely retrieve it if necessary.

As far as the traditional objectives of coffee domination go, I will continue to visit cafes in Antigua, writing about both the good, the bad, and the interesting, in order to provide a resource for other people to visit Antigua and make their own opinions about the coffee here (as available in roasted bean, and brewed form). I realize the long standing paradox, that the hardest place to find good coffee is in a producing country, but I will strive to find exceptions in exceptional coffee, available to Antiguans and the many tourists, businessmen, and others who live or pass through here.

I realize that this will likely entail lots of less than stellar coffee, however, I realize, my green coffee collection and roaster is in the United States and I am here...Wish me luck :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Summary of the Last Meeting

Hey all,

We had a successful meeting last Friday, with 17 people signing in, and several others dropping by over the course of the meeting. In all, we had 5 professors attend.

As far as homeroasted coffees went, we featured Panama Geisha (Gesha) and Brazil Poco Fundo Peaberry. The Geisha came out great, with light body, a jasmine aroma, and lemon acidity, roast was a full city +, a little dark, but balanced. The Peaberry was defective, tinged with smoke from a chaff fire during the early stages of the cooling cycle. Most unfortunate but interesting because the accident presented itself immediately in the cup.

From Starbucks, we featured Guatemala Casi Cielo and Costa Rica Bella Vista Tres Rios. The Bella Vista was probably the best Starbucks coffee I've had in a while, as it was actually roasted light enough to reveal a pleasant acidity and floral aroma. Unfortunately, the Casi Cielo was not treated so kind by Starbucks' roastmasters. The Casi Cielo was completely biased toward roast notes, with very little of the savory and cocoa flavors that I remembered from trying it two years ago.

All in all, a good event. I will try to figure out some sort of educational seminar for a meeting in the near future. Look for the Cupping Club at the Fiesta Maya Festival this Sunday, we'll be serving a Guatemalan coffee roasted by our friends at Dilworth Coffee.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

First Meeting of the Semester

Hello all,

This is an announcement: Cupping Club will be having its first meeting of the Spring '09 Semester on Friday, Jan. 23rd at 2 pm in the Burrow. We will be sampling the Geisha cultivar from Panama, courtesy of Rogers Family Coffee Co. We will also sample Starbucks Guatemala Casi Cielo. Depending on the response, we may also sample another homeroasted coffee from Latin America.

Just a little club business: we have chosen Friday at 2 pm as the best meeting time for the following reasons:
1. I am unavailable Monday and Friday
2. Many of our members are unavailable Tuesday and Thursday
3. 2 pm allows participants to have coffee earlier in the day, lest they are sensitive to caffeine
4. It's after Forum, I figure most people could use a pick-me-up after that
5. It allows faculty and staff to attend
6. It fits in with the campus goal of encouraging resident students to stay the weekend

Finally, we will have our budget proposal presentation at 2 pm on Sunday, Jan. 25th. If you feel that this club benefits the campus and the community, please take the time to send me a message or comment. I will take any feedback to our budget presentation to show the support our club has.

Thank you,

Brendon Parsons
Club President

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thoughts about cruise ship coffee

Well, just got back to my espresso machine and grinder. It had been a long four days of less-than-stellar coffee on a Western Caribbean cruise with Celebrity. I brought an Aeropress to help ease the pain, and managed to make it through.

How is it that a ship's executive chefs can offer five-star dining, but lousy shots of espresso that average 90-second extractions from dosers full of stale coffee? I lost count of how many time the same pitcher of milk was resteamed. How is it that such poor quality control merits $4.00 plus 15% mandatory gratuity? Ridiculous!

My word of advice on the matter: do yourself a favor and bring a grinder, press/cone/aeropress, and fresh coffee with you if you have to cruise. I had to sacrifice bringing a sweater and a pair of tennis shoes to do so, but it was ultimately worth it to have a proper cup of coffee with breakfast.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Budget Proposal

So...along with becoming an official club comes monetary needs. So far, I've covered these, using part of my earnings from tutoring on campus (keep it in the family). Well, I added it all up, and yea, it's cost me a bit, money I would probably have rather allocated toward beer. So I'm writing today to announce that we are asking Student Government for money for school year 09-10.

Added all up, we're requesting a budget of $380.50 to cover the cost of coffee, cups, cream & sugar (I know....), and equipment purchases. Long gone, hopefully, will be the days of bankrolling the club and carrying all of my coffee equipment across campus.

Everybody wish us luck, and if you want to help us get funded, please write a brief letter of your support to the Student Government. Lets get the money that other clubs let go to waste!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Cupping Club is OFFICIAL!

Hey y'all, just figured I'd let the world know that Florida Atlantic University now has an official student organization dedicated to appreciating coffee: The Cupping Club. So far, we have had two meetings, with a third scheduled for Monday, October 13th, at 4pm in the Burrow.

So far, we have tasted the following, in order, Sumatra Grade One Mandeheling, Panama Carmen Estate 1800+ meters, Ethiopia DP Harar M.A.O. Horse, and Ethiopia Korate wet-process.

At our next meeting, I have an exciting tasting planned: high-quality robusta from Panama v. the Panama Carmen Estate. Time to see whether high-quality caffea cantephora deserves the same reputation as the ultra-cheap, and super-prevalent Vietnamese Robusta.

See you there.

Last meeting: