Brazil: Coffee that Tastes like a Candy Bar

candy bar coffee snickers

We messed around with as many different coffees as the buying and roasting team could provide. We knew we wantedsome Brazil coffee in there. But what to blend it with? We tried Brazil with Ethiopia. Brazil with Guatemala. Brazil with Sumatra. They were all pretty good. But nothing tasted like what the client requested: a liquid candy bar. Finally we thought: What if we just mixed the Brazil with … Brazil? So we … [Read more...]

Understanding Colombia’s Fly Crop


[This post is cross-posted from the OCN blog. ] Colombia, probably the single most famous coffee origin in the world (especially where I am from, in North America), has several unique characteristics that separate it from all other coffee origins. Chief among these is the presence of the “mitaca” — or “fly crop.” The fly crop is a sort of alternate crop of coffee that is harvest at the opposite time of year … [Read more...]

Close Up View of a Top-Level Panama Coffee Farm


I wrote a somewhat lengthy and in-depth profile of one of my favorite places in the world, Finca Hartmann, over at the OCN blog. Here's a preview: In the highlands of Western Panama, along a furiously curving road that takes you through the mountains to the Costa Rican border, there is a small village called Santa Clara. And within Santa Clara, up a dirt-road turn off surrounded by high, arcing trees, there is … [Read more...]

Natural Process Coffees Need Special Attention During Packaging and Shipment

Natural Process Coffee

Over at the Origin Coffee Network blog, I have posted a video that we took in Panama during this year's harvest. Working at origin with dedicated and innovative coffee farmers is like taking a master class in specialty coffee every single day. When we were in Santa Clara, Panama, in February of 2015, we investigated a huge variety of local coffee — visiting farms, and cupping relentlessly in an effort to get a … [Read more...]

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...]