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 :)