WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING AT SMALL BATCH?

Small Batch on the road

Small Batch on the road

A Film About Coffee

AFAC We are thrilled that in partnership with Falcon Coffees we are hosting the Brighton screening of A Film About Coffee, director Brandon Loper's 'love letter to speciality coffee'. The film tells the story of high end coffee from farms in Rwanda and Honduras through to speciality coffee shops in the US, Europe and Japan. The film is currently touring the UK and we are delighted to be hosting the Brighton premiere this Thursday, 27th November at the Old Courtroom on Church Road opposite the Dome. As well as screening the film we will be serving a very special coffee before hand FOR FREE! Thanks to Mat Smith of Falcon Coffees, who appears in the film, we have secured a small amount of the Huye Mountain coffee that is featured in the Rwandan section of the movie. We will be roasting and serving this coffee exclusively for the screening and a few bags will be available for sale with all proceeds going to charity. [embed]http://vimeo.com/92370761[/embed] After the film we will have a Q and A session where audiences members can ask anything they ever wanted to know about coffee. Featuring on the panel will be Konrad Brits of Falcon Coffees, Tim Williams of Workshop Coffee and Mike Kahn from La Marzocco. Tickets are just £12, they are selling fast but theres still some up for grabs. To get yours follow the link here and we'll see you on thursday night! We are presenting the film in association with Falcon Coffees, Fat Sand Films, Workshop Coffee, La Marzocco, Marco and Cafe Imports, without whose help this would never have been possible.

Small Batch on the road

Joe Goes to Ethiopia

Back in November last year, production roaster Joe was lucky enough to travel out to Ethiopia with our African import specialists Schluter. Now, this may seem like quite a long wait before publishing his account of his experience but we thought that since Ethiopia season is now in full swing, the time is ripe. Like a coffee cherry. Over to you Joe: It’s hard to over emphasise Ethiopia’s importance to the history of coffee and humankind, it seems both were destined to be thrown together and inextricably linked. IMG_5250 The Coffea Arabica tree (the beans of which we at small batch buy, as opposed to Robusta) is indigenous to the country and is the origin of all other varietals that have since been created through cross pollination or splicing by farmers and scientists around the world. So for me, as a first trip out to any origin country, I was pretty excited that it was to be Ethiopia. On the overnight flight to Addis Ababa I was sat, by a happy coincidence, in between two NGO workers specialising in agriculture in Ethiopia. I didn’t get much sleep as I was too busy learning as much as I could and picking their brains! On arrival I met the guys from Schluter, a small coffee exporter that have a long history in the country. We then headed straight to their office in central Addis, pushing through heaving traffic, and having that brilliant feeling of being somewhere completely new. We did a quick tasting of some early crop coffee before our driver arrived to take us the 8 hours or so south to the coffee growing regions of Sidamo. Driving even long journeys on Ethiopian roads is never boring, up there with some of the most dangerous roads in the world; basically anything can happen. We had seven flat tyres in the course of our trip, witnessed many horrendous looking scenes of accidents and generally wore out the horn by trying to get goats, donkeys, children and adults out of the way. Forget about Stop, Look and Listen, people in the countryside actively walk out in front of cars as it is incomprehensibly deemed “good luck”. IMG_4947 As we travelled down the Rift Valley, the open plains slowly gave way as we climbed in altitude to the lush greens of the area called Yirga chefe, which literally means fertile grass. It certainly lives up to its name, producing some delicious coffees that we have been buying at Small Batch for many years now. What I found really interesting was learning how the local people feel about coffee in these regions. It really is part of their day-to-day culture and international coffee prices are quite literally front-page news, with an estimated 15 million people involved in the coffee industry, contributing to roughly 60 percent of the country’s total export market. Most families in the region would have at least a few coffee trees they can pick from and before organized coffee wet mills were introduced in the 70s they would be simply sun dried and used themselves or to sell in the local market. We were offered this green coffee many times in little plastic bags by the side of the road and while it was tempting to buy these little pick n mix bags out of curiosity, it is illegal to leave Ethiopia with coffee so it wasn’t really worth the risk. This brings me onto another point which makes this country unique in coffee terms but not necessarily in a good way. In 2008, under the direction of Eleni Gabre-Madhin a former economist at the World Bank, the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) was established. Gabre-Madhin was deeply concerned that the farmers in the country growing crops like maize, wheat, sesame and coffee were far too vulnerable to the global market price, which can result in the farms running at a loss and crops rotting in the fields. The ECX was to help empower to farmers and secure better financial gains. In doing this it centralised the coffee export market and graded it by region rather than at washing station level. This is a real problem for what most forward thinking coffee companies want; namely, transparency. Essentially this angled their export more towards large bulk roasting companies, which have more financial weight, rather than the specialty market. You can still negotiate the opacity of the ECX, if farmers have formed a cooperative then some provenance still remains but it’s more red tape for them and for us the buyers. This is why it’s so important to have an exporter on the ground in Ethiopia and why we are lucky to work with Schluter, who help us to know what we are buying and from whom. So this is why taking coffee back with me personally was not an option, although I did want to smuggle a few fresh cherries and parchment into my pocket at the last mill we visited. But the instant fear of a life in an Addis Ababa prison put paid to that! So after a night spent in Haile Gebrselassies’ (ex Olympic Gold winning runner and all round Ethiopian legend) hotel on the shore of the beautiful Lake Awasa, we piled back into the car to finally get to my first wet mill, Haicof mill, Sidamo at an altitude of 2000m So now I should probably give you some information on how coffee is processed in Ethiopia, and similarly across most of Africa. The lorries come in with a representative of a co-operative of farmers, where they are paid by the kilo for their cherries, IMG_4990 The bulk of Ethiopian coffee is then Wet Processed, this means loading all the cherries into a silo (at the highest point so everything is gravity and water propelled) and then passing these through a de-pulper. This is a machine with 3 disc burrs that are set to the right grade to take the flesh of the cherry without smashing the bean inside. From this step on the coffee is referred to as parchment, which is a layer of thick skin that needs to be dried to be properly removed. From the de-pulper onwards it is graded continually through channels all the time, with any really light beans or “floaters” separated out. This process is done at night because all the picking is done in daylight, so the mills mostly run under the light of the moon and some very low wattage energy saving bulbs! IMG_4981 These beans of varying sizes are now stored in the fermentation tanks, where it is left for 24 hours, softening the parchment. It is then pushed through channels of water against the current so that again it is graded, by heaviest being best. It is pushed along by a team of men using a kind of wooden paddle. IMG_5139 Once the beans have negotiated this process they are taken on sieve-like trays to the drying beds, these are raised above the ground so that the air can circulate easily and are left to dry being turned regularly and covered at night to keep away the damp. They are dried for around a week to 10 days depending on the weather conditions. IMG_4926 This wet processed coffee is historically what was considered most desirable for export, and as a result is what most mills concentrated on (normally only a very small percentage of natural was produced and it is still graded below washed). However, in the last few years, Ethiopian naturals have become very sought after in the specialty market because of their incredible fruity flavour profiles. Some of the mills we visited (like the Dumerso mill in Yirgacheffe [alt 2200m]) are now paying a higher price to farmers for perfectly ripe red cherries to be sundried naturals. These have increased to make up around 50% of their output as a result of demand from the specialty market. This is a great example of specialty coffee being a force for good and securing the farmers a better price per kilo. This kind of reliability and support is important because it is possible that coffee could become financially unworkable; the farmers have to be very practical and will be quick to switch to other areas of crop production if they can make more money from it. Bad news for coffee lovers but when it might make the difference between secondary school for your children or not, it’s an obvious decision. At the first wet mill we visited they were not yet running due to a slightly late harvest in that region, so we took a little walk and discovered a few interesting and disturbing things. There was vast number of fields that looked recently tilled and planted with small scrubby bushes. What’s been happening is that many of the farmers in the area have pulled up their coffee trees and planted Khat (a leaf which is chewed to attain a mild high). It’s easy to understand why when you take into account that to farm it requires basically no skill, you get two, sometimes four, harvests a year (as opposed to one with coffee) and you will get just over double the price per kilo. Also because it is not registered on the commodities market you can sell it directly at market legally (or export to the Yemen or Somalia). I saw Khat everywhere and it has been growing in use in Ethiopia in recent years. Another problem is that when you grow Khat it alters the PH of the soil making it useless for growing good coffee in the future. IMG_4841 The other interesting thing I saw here was a bridge that had been built over a ravine in between two fields, before the Ethiopian government set up the ECX Starbucks used to buy regularly from this region and built this bridge because the ravine was claiming about one farmer’s life a year. It just reminded me that the company’s buying and social policies are better than many people think and the problem is more at the final stage of the coffee process (i.e. bulk roasting and Soya Mocha Frappacinos) than at origin buying level. It was amazing to wander around the forest of these regions and look at the coffee tree growing in its natural, wild state, under the shade of high forest canopy teeming with large black and white Colobus monkeys and smaller Grivet monkeys. IMG_5215 The farmers here carry out very little agronomy (the science and technology of using plants for food) and as a result the fruits they pick will often vary, which is another reason why the processing mills are so important for quality control. Also the mills are often running for only a short amount of time so the farmers are under pressure to get their cherries to the mill (and collect payment) while it’s still running. As a result they will often strip pick their trees (literally strip each branch of its cherries regardless of whether they are all ripe or not) which is something that would not happen in say Brazil where they could afford to send workers back out multiple times to pick at only the perfect time. All the coffee is still drunk; it’s just that the lower grade beans will stay in the country for local consumption. Seeing these things does make you realise that although this is the birthplace of coffee they have been somewhat left behind in terms of the science and technology of producing excellent coffee and this is something that can still be improved on in Ethiopia, it’s just lucky for them that they still have an amazing unique product naturally. There are companies like Technoserv that are assisting rural communities in learning basic skills to improve quality and help in the forming of co-operatives, but they will always need the security of a guaranteed market. IMG_5262 As we pushed further south we picked up a local translator the brilliantly named Awgicheww which when pronounced properly sounds exactly like ‘I will get you’ which given that he can understand all the local dialects is pretty appropriate. The main spoken language is Amharic but in the south you could be fluent in that language and the kids would just stare at you blankly. Out in the country I had one of my favourite evenings of the whole trip. In an amazing eco lodge type hotel set on a beautiful hillside with incredible plants and animals, where they grew all their own food and we stayed in traditional woven huts. In the evening they do a traditional coffee ceremony in a clearing which is really interesting from a coffee roaster’s point of view. The ceremony starts with the lighting of two clay stoves of coals; one is used to burn frankincense, the smoke of which fills the air. The second stove is used to cook the coffee beans from green, in a pan. So there is this amazing multisensory experience going on with coffee smoke and frankincense and the beans are roasted pretty dark so things get very smoky! The roasted coffee is then crushed in a big pestle and mortar and poured into a clay pot [jebena] and mixed with water to create a kind of Turkish brew. It is then served very hot in tiny handle less cup which is interesting, because there is no table! Coffee is also regularly served with popcorn which I never knew and absolutely love, it also explains why sometimes you will get a bit of popcorn in with Ethiopian coffee when you roast it, a little roasters treat! At this ceremony we were surrounded by vultures and the hyenas feeding on the meat that had been thrown out for them, which was amazing. The next day we walked to see the caves that they sleep in during the day, and had a little crawl inside which was mildly terrifying. I later found out that in the past when someone dies their body would be thrown outside the village or town walls to the hyenas. So they are well used to tasty human bodies… IMG_5297 So after this wonderful night we were back on the road to see the last mill of the trip, Kebado Sabtmo, a pretty large mill for Ethiopian standards and it was going at full pelt. Teams of women working at the raised beds and then moving en masse to the next bed, sorting the red cherries for sun drying, all the time singing local spiritual songs; a really amazing place to be. The women being orthodox Christian dress very modestly but colourfully and mostly with a head scarf. They use these to cover their mouths in what looks like embarrassment when you talk to them. I asked our translator why they are so shy but he pointed out that it was more that they found us hilarious and didn’t want to laugh directly in our faces! IMG_5074 At each farm we would have a chat with the mill owner over coffee and popcorn, which gave us a chance to ask any questions we had and listen to the trials and tribulations of running a wet mill. All too soon we had to head back towards Addis Ababa, and the airport, leaving me happily exhausted and feeling that I had learned more in one week than I had for a long time, and with a new found respect for the coffee that I handle on a daily basis, back in my day job at the roastery. When you see the amount of hard work that goes into producing this amazing coffee it just tastes all the better. Many thanks to Ed at Schluter for looking after me on the trip and of course Al and Brad for sending me out there!

Small Batch on the road

Mexico January 2014

1 With our release of this year’s harvest from Finca Muxbal it seems an apt time to look back at my trip to this amazing farm in Mexico last January. Small Batch regulars will know we have a very close relationship with this farm and Muxbal has become one of the cornerstones of our coffee offering, becoming a key component of Goldstone Espresso as well as one of our favourite single origin coffees. We have been working with Muxbal for three years now having been introduced by our importers Falcon Speciality in 2012. I was lucky enough to visit the plantation in January 2013 and when we decided late last year that we wanted to make a film that would document everything we do here at Small Batch, starting at the farm level, I knew that Muxbal was the only choice. The farm is a beacon of coffee growing excellence not simply for the quality of its product but for the dedication of the owners Jorge and Maeggi to their local environment, the conditions and facilities for their workers and local people, the future of their plantation and the quality of their milling and processing. The fact that Muxbal is stunningly beautiful, situated high on a heavily forested plateau, surrounded by rivers and accessible only by the winding access road known as ‘El Caricol’ (the snail) was a bonus for filming as well. DCIM100GOPRO
Al at Finca Muxbal, It’s a hard life.
I set off from Heathrow with our film crew Sim and Mia of Fat Sand Productions in tow and, via Amsterdam then Mexico City, we eventually arrived in the sweltering tropical heat of Tapachula, the nearest city to the farm. We were greeted by Jorge and as we left the city and wound our way up the mountainside past low growing Robusta coffee and cacao plantations the temperatures began to drop and the clouds rolled in. Muxbal means ‘place surrounded by clouds’ in the local Mame dialect and the farm is indeed surrounded by them most mornings and evenings. The middle of the day is generally clear though and as we rolled into the plantation the view was as impressive as I remembered. Even when you have been somewhere before, it is impossible to be prepared for this kind of outstanding natural beauty and the entrance to the farm, through a valley straight out of The Lost World, took my breath away just as much the first time I saw it (Jorge playing the theme from Jurassic park on the car stereo helped as well). 3
El Caricol, the access road known as ‘the snail’ and the only way in or out of the plantation was built by Jorge's grandfather. Before the road the farm was only accessible by mule trails.
As we toured the farm, Jorge explained that they were already through two passes of picking across most of the farm, meaning the harvest was about 60% complete and thankfully they hadn’t seen as much Roya as the previous year. Coffee leaf rust disease or ‘Roya’ as it is known in Central America is a problem for everyone at the moment but thankfully Jorge said that although they had lost around 10% of their coffee trees to the fungus, they had been better prepared than last year and were able to take more precautions against the problem, cutting out problem trees and spraying chemicals where necessary. Roya has been divesting across the Central American coffee lands in the last few years. The fungus is easily spread by humans and animals who carry its spores unawares and it kills coffee trees quickly and completely forcing farmers to pull out a lot of trees. When you consider that it takes a new coffee tree around three years to produce decent cherry you realise the problem this is causing farmers in the region. Spraying of insecticides is one way of tackling the problem but is very costly, otherwise pulling out and isolating sick trees is the only real solution. Jorge explained that as well as some spraying they increased the amount of new trees in the nursery last year and were also able to get one more year of harvest out of healthy old trees that would normally be replaced to help offset the losses to Roya. DCIM100GOPRO
New seedlings in the nursery to replace trees lost to Coffee Leaf Rust.
Roya was definitely a problem here but compared to what I saw later on in the trip on farms in El Salvador and Guatemala it was not catastrophic and Jorge and his farm manager Elder have done a great job controlling the problem. In fact Jorge told me that production was actually up this year from 6 containers to 7, which is a fantastic achievement in the middle of the Roya outbreak. We chatted about the commodity market price of coffee which at the time was at a five year low and Jorge replied that thankfully he was protected from this by the fact that he sells his entire production to quality conscious importers like Falcon who pay him outright for his coffee and agree a price based on the quality of the coffee not the market price. This is fantastic to hear as it is exactly the sourcing model we follow at Small Batch and why we use specialised importers such as Falcon to find and finance these coffees as it means the best coffees for us and the best prices and payment for producers such as Jorge. Jorge also told me that because all his coffee was already sold and at good prices it meant he could relax, not worry about the fluctuating market and focus on processing the coffee beautifully, preparing the farm for next year, implementing roya prevention and improving facilities for his employees and the people in the local village. Again this is exactly why we buy coffee in the way we do, to try and create long term, relationships like this that allow producers to focus on the issues they need to. The fact that Jorge is able to sell all of his coffee in this manner is awesome and I hope it is a model we can help to recreate with other producers. 5
Coffee drying on patios in the sun
The next day we were up early to hike to the area at the very top of the farm, known as the San Enrique lot, the area where our coffee was coming from this year. For the last two years we have bought the main crop from all over the farm but now that we are buying a larger amount Jorge offered to separate out the highest grown coffee from San Enrique just for us. Generally speaking the higher Arabica coffee grows the better the cup quality. There is obviously a limit to this as the higher you go the lower temperatures become meaning these delicate plants cannot survive. In certain areas where the temperatures stay clement such as Bolivia and Ethiopia, coffee can grow at over 2,000 metres but in Central America the highest we see is usually around 1800m. At Finca Muxbal the San Enrique lot is at around 1650m above sea level and this altitude and temperature suits the three main varietals grown there, caturra, catuai and mundo novo. The view from San Enrique is amazing with the Tacana volcano behind you, Guatemala in the distance and the plantation on it’s raised plateau beneath you. This area contains more Mundo Novo varietal than the rest of the farm as it likes the higher altitude and upon cupping the coffee back in Brighton we found it to be a touch sweeter and more peachy than the main lot. 6
View from the top of the farm looking down onto the plateau. The red roofed buildings are the farm house and wet and dry mills, the smoke is coming from the mechanical dryers. The road on the left is in fact the border between Mexico and Guatemala and high on the right on the other side of the canyon is the village of Union Juarez
After lunch and a swim in the river we visited the school that Jorge and Maeggi built for the children of the farm workers. Muxbal is home to around 15 year round workers and, during harvest season, up to 60 or 70 seasonal pickers who come to stay on the farm with their families. The children are not allowed to work in the fields and instead attend the well-equipped school on site. When we visited last year Jorge told us that they didn’t have enough uniforms for all the kids and that this was a shame as the uniforms motivated the kids more than anything else to attend classes. 7
Sim filming the kids in their Small Batch school uniforms
During the winter me and Mike Riley from Falcon Specialty decided we wanted to help Jorge provide new uniforms for these kids and it was awesome to see them all, many of who we recognised from the previous year in their brand new uniforms (apart from at break time when a lot of football shirts came out. The school really is testament to Jorge and Maeggi’s commitment to their community at Muxbal. As well as the school there is a fully stocked doctors surgery not just for workers but open to all inhabitants of the local village with twice weekly consultations. Meals are prepared in clean and well-equipped kitchens (home to a beautiful antique tortilla press) and must meet minimum protein and vitamin requirements, there is a well-stocked shop, modern toilets and new and expanded housing was in the process of being built. These things may not sound like much but they far exceed the conditions you see on most coffee farms and are a huge part of the reason why Muxbal is the only farm in Central America to receive a 100% audit from Rainforest Alliance, who examine not only environmental but also social conditions on farms. 8
New and improved housing being built for the workers
Unlike many farms in the region Muxbal is home to its own wet and dry mill. While most farms of this size would have their own wet mill, most would send their dry washed coffee to a commercial mill to be hulled, graded and packed for export. Muxbal’s isolated location means it is set up to do everything in-house and this again means Jorge can keep a close eye on all the processing and keep quality high from plant to export bag. 10_11
The wet mill in operation and parchment coffee resting in the dry mill before export
With this in mind we discussed the idea of doing some special natural and honey process lots next year to see how they cup as I explained to Jorge how much we liked natural process coffees here at Small Batch. A few weeks after I got back Jorge sent through pictures of some small African style raised beds they had built for exactly this purpose, and hopefully next year we will have some natural and honey lots to complement the main crop! 12 13
Jorge and Elder’s first experiments with naturals and honeys
After a hugely enjoyable few days it was time to head off for Guatemala but Muxbal had been amazing as ever. We got an absolute ton of beautiful footage for the film and some early samples of the 2014 harvest to take home and taste (sadly these were later confiscated by Nicaraguan customs officers another story for another day). 14
Surrounded by Clouds
In conversations with Jorge after I returned I told him that we really wanted to push forward with the natural and honey process coffees as well as some varietal separations especially as he was developing a small varietal garden at the farm, and we agreed to pay a little extra for our coffee this year and in future years to offset some of the cost of these experiments. A few weeks ago there was a very strong earthquake in the San Marcos region of Guatemala that borders Finca Muxbal. The quake was very strong at the farm and even down in Tapachula where Jorge was, strong enough he said to make everyone run into the street in their bed clothes. Thankfully up at the farm no one was seriously injured but the new worker housing they were building took heavy damage as did the Caricol access road. Some serious landslides down the valley sides led to several large boulders blocking parts of the road and more pressingly the river. The road is the only way in or out of the plantation and is followed closely by the river that was effectively dammed by the boulders, not what was needed at the start of the rainy season. Clearing the road and the river became number one priority at the farm and Jorge emailed me to say that he had to spend some of the extra money on dynamite to clear the fallen boulders! These sorts of events are just one of the many challenges faced by coffee producers and highlight how hard it can be for producers to plan long term, try new techniques or invest in new equipment as there are constantly problems like earthquakes or roya to be dealt with.
It is very easy to ask farmers to do some natural processes for you, or to separate out some day lots but the realities of growing coffee in rural parts of the world mean there must be some financial support there to facilitate this. 15
Jorge and Maeggi Rodriguez
This is becoming rather a long post but I feel like I can’t say enough about this amazing coffee and the amazing farm and family it comes from. I’ve been to many beautiful coffee farms and there are many coffees I love around the world but Finca Muxbal will always be my first love. It was the first farm I ever visited and we more coffee from there than anywhere else. There are many reasons for this and I hope if you have made it this far you will understand some of them! Check out Finca Muxbal in ‘The Origin’ below and please do try the coffee, its awesome! Al

Small Batch on the road

Guatemala

As I’ve mentioned countless times before, the summer is my favourite time for coffee as we welcome into the UK the fresh crop arrivals from the varied and wonderful region of Central America. This month we are very much focused on Guatemala as we have four new coffees from this beautiful country in the roastery. pic 1

Finca Villaure, Huehuetenango

Coffee has a long history in Guatemala and still plays a major role in what is the largest economy in Central America. Coffee grows in almost all of the country and makes up 40% of agricultural revenues. The distinct topography of Guatemala, a land made up of hundreds of volcanoes and microclimates is ideally suited to growing great coffee and the variety of flavours available in what is a relatively small country is amazing. Guatemala also benefits from one of the best national coffee associations, ANACAFE. Based in the capital Guatemala City, ANACAFE provide a number of services for producers. Farmers who are not experienced cuppers can have all their coffees cupped and scored by qualified tasters. This valuable feedback is not available to a surprising amount of producers around the world and is incredibly helpful in increasing the quality of a producer’s coffee. To promote the coffees of Guatemala, ANACAFE also categorised the many microclimates into eight distinct regions, each with their own unique cup profile. The eight regions are; Acatenango Valley, Antigua, Atitlan, Coban, Fraijanes, Huehuetenango, Nuevo Oriente and San Marcos. This year we have bought two coffees from Fraijanes, one from Huehuetenango and a returning favourite, Santa Ana La Huerta, from its own tiny sub-region of Sierra de las Minas. Situated in Guatemala’s eastern highlands, about 4 hours drive form Guatemala City, the Sierra de las Minas area is a protected biosphere and is home to one of Central America’s largest cloudforests. The region is relatively remote and is home to one of my favourite farms, Finca Santa Ana La Huerta, owned and operated by the great Rony Asensio. pic2

Small Batch on the road

El Salvador

numberplate The central American season is well and truly underway now as we have three coffees from El Salvador in the roastery and in the shops and arrivals from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico all on their way. From El Salvador we have returning coffees from two of our favourite farms, Finca El Carmen in Ataco and Finca La Fany in Ahuachapan. I visited both these farms in January of last year and although I was in El Salvador this January I was based in the Santa Ana area and unfortunately didn’t get over to El Carmen and Fany this time. [caption id="attachment_1539" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Orange Bourbon Cherries Orange Bourbon Cherries[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1550" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Al with Fernando and Antonio Alfaro Al with Fernando and Antonio Alfaro[/caption] These are now key coffees for us, this is our fourth straight year with El Carmen and Fernando has again prepared the orange bourbon microlot specially for Small Batch which we are super happy to offer alongside the main red bourbon crop. We have bought washed coffee from Rafael and Carmen Da Silva off and on since we started at Small Batch but after I cupped their natural process coffee when I visited the farm last year we have fallen in love with the silky strawberries and cream flavour of this beautifully prepared coffee. We are thrilled to have this coffee back again this year and I love it so much I have made it the fourth selection in my Grand Fromage range. [caption id="attachment_1542" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Finca La Fany overlooking the Pacific at sunset Finca La Fany overlooking the Pacific at sunset[/caption] Unfortunately there is not quite as much of this coffee as we expected this year due to the terrible destruction being caused again by Roya, or Coffee Leaf Rust. Rust struck all of Central America very badly in 2013, but thankfully when I visited this year it seemed that the outbreak had slowed somewhat in Mexico and Nicaragua. Sadly it was not the same story El Salvador and Guatemala, who seem to have suffered more than last year with production way down especially in Salvador. We are going to see a definite shortfall of top quality coffees from these countries this year and it is very sad to see such diligent and skilled farmers losing crops in such quantities. [caption id="attachment_1543" align="aligncenter" width="600"]A tree destroyed by Coffee Leaf Rust at La Fany, despite the presence of cherry the lack of leaves shows the tree is dead and will have to be pulled out A tree destroyed by Coffee Leaf Rust at La Fany, despite the presence of cherry the lack of leaves shows the tree is dead and will have to be pulled out[/caption] The producers are tackling roya with extensive pruning and spraying of chemicals where necessary and hopefully we will see the kinds of improvements we saw in Mexico and Nicaragua in Guatemala and El Salvador next year. Thankfully the coffees are cupping as tastily as ever and we are very proud to offer these three great coffees from one our favourite origins. [caption id="attachment_1541" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Izlaco volcano seen from the slopes of the Santa Ana Volcano Izlaco volcano seen from the slopes of the Santa Ana Volcano[/caption] We still have a couple more El Salvador’s to arrive later in the summer from the farms I visited in Santa Ana. We have just received our Costa Rican coffee into the roastery and expect our Guatemalan, Nicaraguan and Mexican coffees from Finca Muxbal to arrive in early July. Couple this with the arrival of fresh crop Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees and this really is the best time of year for great coffee! Al

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