How Close Are the Margins in Quality Between the Very Best Coffees?

Finca Nuguo Beat Hacienda La Esmeralda By Just One Fifth of One Point. How Common Are Such Results? [crossposted from the OCN blog] I’ve been a judge on a few international cupping panels, in Africa and in Latin America, specifically. One thing you notice when you spend a lot of time around competitions like ACE’s Cup of Excellence and AFCA’s Taste of Harvest, is that the difference in quality between the very best … [Read more...]

How to Cup Coffee When You’re Sick

Can you cup while you have a cold?

Can you cup coffee when you have a cold? Should you cup coffee when you have a cold? The answer is yes and no, but perhaps not for the reasons you were imagining. 2014 greeted me with a nasty cold this year, and trying to drink some lovely Ethiopian coffee that I got from the shop down the street was a frustrating affair. I knew it tasted "good," but I couldn't quite tell why. It reminded me of the many times I or … [Read more...]

Coffee Travels in Colombia — Antióquia and Medellín

colombia coffee and horse

In late June, I was in Antioquia, a large department of Colombia. Antioquia (the Spanish version of the name of Antioch, an ancient Anatolian city known for its holy hand grenades), is not as well known in specialty circles as some other areas of Colombia, such as Cauca and Huila. However, the total arabica production there is huge. If Antioquia were its own country, it would export more coffee than the entire … [Read more...]

The Next Wave in Coffee Auctions? Specialty Farmer-Direct from Honduras and Nicaragua

fincas mierisch coffee auction

My friend and former colleague (at Intelligentsia), Steve Mierisch has been in contact lately about his family's farms' coffees in Honduras and Nicaragua. Coming up on April 25th, they are holding an auction for these coffees. The Mierisches are working with the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, who own the Cup of Excellence auction system, the best known and most elite coffee auction program in the world. This is … [Read more...]

The Best Shoes For Traveling to Coffee Origins

honduras ethiopia coffee origin shoes

In the last five years I have traveled to coffee origin countries about 30 times, to the best of my recollection. That's about 6 trips a year, spread over 12 or 13 countries, mostly in Latin America, but also in Africa and Asia. On all but one of those trips, I have taken the same pair of shoes. Not the same brand, no... the exact same pair of shoes. These shoes set me back about 65 bucks, if I recall. I've … [Read more...]

Ethiopia Again — The Motherland of Coffee

ethiopia motherland of coffee

Greetings from the Motherland. I'm in Ethiopia now, preparing for the Taste of Harvest competition and all kinds of cupping activities that are happening before and after. I'm getting an up close and personal view of how this year's crop is; I will share some general impressions once I hit the cupping tables early next week. For now I am just fighting off the jet lag and indulging in some injera and chickina … [Read more...]

Coffee — Every Year is Better Than the Last

coffee scholars daniel humphries happy new year

Happy New Year. I have been in the specialty coffee industry for over ten years now, and I can honestly say that every single year has been better than the year before, both for me professionally and, more importantly, for the industry as a whole. Not everything is perfect all the time, of course. Sometimes we uncover new problems just as we think we are solving an old one. For years we bemoaned the low price of … [Read more...]

Common Cupping Mistakes — Not Really Blind

blind coffee cupping protocols

These are some of the most common mistakes I have seen in cupping labs in my career. These are the problems that pop up again and again. Even when you warn people to prepare for the problem, they often underestimate the problem. These are concerns for you to address whether you are setting up a one-time cupping on the road, or whether you are building out or improving your own permanent lab. I have a friend who … [Read more...]

Cool New Sample Roaster

coffee sample roaster proaster lab machine green coffee korea

I got the chance to play around on a cool new sample roaster today. The machine is manufactured by Taehwan, in Korea. The brand name is the Proaster. Proaster had a shop roaster up and running at the Roaster's Guild retreat in Oregon last week. They already offer larger batch roasters. This week they paid a visit to Boot Coffee in California and helped install this two-barrel sample roaster. Good-looking … [Read more...]

Common Cupping Lab Mistakes — Smelly Cups

You're focused in on the coffee, you're about to write something brilliant on your cupping form. You're reaching for your pencil as you tuck your head to the side and spit into your cup. Boom. Plastic nasty reek. You've lost the brilliance. I have set up hundreds of cuppings in over fifty different venues (I lost count somewhere), in ten different countries, from New York City to to mountains of Harar, Ethiopia. … [Read more...]