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  • When Coffee Runs through your Veins: A Conversation with Maria Pacas

    When Coffee Runs through your Veins: A Conversation with Maria Pacas

    Those of us who live and breathe specialty coffee have probably become used to associating high-quality and innovation with a few familiar names by now: the Mierisch family in Nicaragua, or the Zelayas in Guatemala, for example, have been doing wonderful things for the specialty coffee industry and their local communities for years. Producers like Camilo Merizalde and Elkin Guzman have been breaking barriers and leading the way for innovation in Colombia, while the Pereira family in Brazil has set the standard for high-quality coffee production across Minas Gerais. When it comes to Salvadoran coffee, you can’t not be aware of (and astounded by) the influence and importance the Pacas family has had in their country’s coffee industry.

    The Pacas began their affaire de coeur with coffee when Gerardo Barrios, the Salvadoran president between 1859-63, introduced the idea of growing coffee as a permanent crop. A very forward-thinking president, he saw potential in the volcanic soils of El Salvador and made it easy for people to purchase land for the purpose of coffee-growing. Don Jose Rosa Pacas, a lawyer by profession, seized this opportunity and 150 years of hard work later, the family hasn’t looked back. 

    From left to right: Maria Pacas, Juan Alfredo Pacas (director of quality and productivity), Marcela Pacas (director of HR & Social Impact), Alfredo Pacas (CEO), William Zuniga (agronomic manager), Danilo Arriaza (agronomist), Antonio Melendez (farm manager), and Carlos Carcamo.

    A couple of weeks ago, as I sat on my couch on a grey Friday morning (the type Melbourne nails to perfection), I had the privilege of getting schooled in coffee-growing by Maria Pacas (Don Jose’s great-great granddaughter) over the phone. While discussing her family’s successes, challenges, and everything in between, one thing became very clear: coffee at Cafe Pacas is both a family affair and an expression of love for one’s country - no wonder the coffee is delicious!

    (The following has been edited for brevity and clarity; full transcript can be found here)

    How long have the Pacas been working with coffee?
    My family has been involved in the coffee business for five generations. My siblings and I are the fifth generation to be working with coffee; however, the generation previous to my father was only focused on the producing part of the coffee, but not on the processing. The family produced coffee and sold the cherries to a local mill, not really knowing what happened to that coffee afterwards. Now, and for the last 30 or so years, we have full traceability of every coffee produced and are able to have direct relationships with our clients.

    Do you mainly grow coffee in the Santa Ana department?
    Yes, our main production is on the western side of El Salvador, on the Santa Ana volcano, and another volcano that is beside it, Cerro Verde. Los Bellotos, the washed coffee you have, is from Cerro Verde; La Providencia is from the Santa Ana volcano. Los Bellotos in particular is a very special farm for us, it really shows us that the different microclimates really contribute to the flavour profile of each farm. It’s amazing how even the same variety of coffee can taste very different from one farm to another!


    Growing coffee on a volcano requires heaps of meticulous work, as seen at Finca La Providencia

    Do you have many memories of coffee being grown as a child?
    Oh totally, we grew up going to the farm regularly. My father and grandfather always transmitted the love for coffee that we should have, and it was great to hang out and to run around the coffee trees. Talking to the various people who work at the farm was especially important in developing a sense of family. We still have people working with Cafe Pacas who actually started when I was a kid, and their families continue to work with us. It really is like one big family that we have here.

    How many people benefit from the work done by Cafe Pacas?
    In the whole organisation, Cafe Pacas, we have nineteen different farms. In total, during harvest season, we provide jobs for around 900 people. During non-harvest season, which is from May-October, we provide jobs for around 450 people. For us it’s very important to continue in this business, and to be sustainable, because coffee is very important to El Salvador, as many families depend on this work to subsist. Coffee is also the most important forest that El Salvador has: the environmental impact we provide for the country is quite important.

    How do you guys approach innovation at Cafe Pacas?
    We are always seeking out things to innovate, all the time. The good thing is that our team also recognises the importance of innovation. The coffee varietal Bernardina is a perfect example of that, because it was discovered by the farm manager of Finca Los Bellotos. We couldn’t tell you we spend a specific amount of time thinking about innovation, because we are actually always doing it. We are constantly looking for opportunities. We are constantly receiving visitors who have travelled to other producing countries, and in conversation they may share what they have seen in countries like Panama, Brazil, etc. Then you start getting ideas and then you start making experiments and trials to find ways to improve quality. For us, innovation goes very much in hand with our everyday production.

    We still have people working with Cafe Pacas who actually started when I was a kid, and their families continue to work with us. It really is like one big family that we have here

    What are the most exciting things to look forward to from Cafe Pacas in the coming years?
    At Cafe Pacas the most exciting thing we are doing is experimenting with different cultivars of coffee. The quality we are getting with them is really, really outstanding. We have a renovation plan in the farms that we have identified as having the most potential to produce specialty coffee where we are going to use these varietals, so we will have new coffees coming out!

    What are the biggest challenges you foresee in the coming years?
    Well, there are many challenges we have to face as coffee producers! The biggest one for us is the high cost of coffee production in El Salvador. It’s a crop that is very vulnerable, and there are many farmers who don’t meet their cost, so they are just abandoning the farms. We are actively participating with different associations and non-profits to help these producers to continue in the coffee business. One of these associations is the Alliance for Women in Coffee. I’m part of the board for that association, and we organise many events to motivate and encourage coffee producers to continue their work.

    Also, the prices of coffee in El Salvador are very low. At Cafe Pacas we are mitigating that risk by producing higher quality coffee and establishing direct relationships with our clients, so that we can work on a ‘fixed price’ basis, not one related to the C-Market, but rather to the cost of production for the year.

    Another challenge we have is the amount of labour required to produce coffee in El Salvador. Since coffee prices are low, and productivity is low, producers have a hard time committing to growing coffee. At Cafe Pacas we have to find different ways to attract people who have the talent to produce specialty coffee, and then to stay with us too.

    Biodiversity is key in creating the type of healthy environment required for growing specialty coffee

    How badly were you affected by La Roya (coffee leaf rust), and does it continue to be a challenge?
    La Roya attack started in 2012, and the worst year was 2013. We took a huge hit that year, and we are slowly recovering from that, but we are still battling it. We take roya samples every fifteen days during the rainy season to monitor it. Many people in El Salvador decided to grow varietals (like catimor) that are supposed to be more resistant, but we chose not to because those varietals didn’t meet the quality we wanted in our coffee. In addition, Roya mutates: those varietals may be resistant to it this year, but they may not be resistant to the type of roya experienced the following year. Our philosophy with roya is to learn to coexist with it without sacrificing quality; we try to keep our farms as healthy as we can, because it’s not possible to eradicate it completely.

    As a producer, what would you tell the people who drink your coffee all the way across the world?
    I’d like to make them aware of how many hands had to touch that coffee before it got into their cup, and how many lives had to be involved in order for the consumer to get to drink that special cup of coffee. Their consumption of the coffee contributes in such a positive way to the people in El Salvador, and to the environment of El Salvador as well!

    Both Los Bellotos and La Providencia are available at the MAKER Brew Bar and through our online store.

  • Producer Series 01: Luis Anibal Calderon, of Finca Villa Betulia

    We are excited to introduce the first release of our upcoming Producer Series: Three coffees grown and processed by Luis Anibal Calderon and his family in Finca Villa Betulia.
  • Colombia: Workhorse or Show Pony? With Carlos Arcila

    Colombia: Workhorse or Show Pony? With Carlos Arcila

    Though there are larger coffee-producing countries in the world, it's hard to think of a more versatile one than Colombia. Nowhere in the world can you find big, rich bodied coffees alongside high acid, delicate ones in the quantity and quality you find here. As the Colombian specialty coffee industry has grown and evolved, many producers are focusing on exotic varietals and complex processing methods in ways not seen ten, or even five years ago. The core production hasn't changed, though: if you look at most coffee blends out there, the vast majority of them feature a Colombian coffee as one of their main components. Full-bodied, chocolatey coffees that work really well with milk are found in spades in regions like Cauca and Nariño, and are a perfect fit for the Australian market, where nearly half of the coffees ordered are lattes. Our very own Maven Seasonal Espresso has been 100% Colombian for the last two years, and we owe much of our success to it.  

     

    Breathtaking views, captured by MAKER founder John Vroom

    Though most of the bigger lots that come from Colombia are 'regional blends' put together by co-operatives and exporters as a way to highlight specific characteristics of the various coffee-growing regions, importers are hard at work to make smaller lots from specific estates or producers more accessible to roasters. In 2016, MAKER founder John Vroom was in Colombia with our good mates Cafe Imports Australia, and got to spend time with producers and exporters alike, cupping and selecting both farmer-specific lots, as well as bigger, regional ones that later became the basis of our coffee line-up. It is this kind of scale and range that make Colombia such a fascinating origin to source coffee from.

     

    Colombia is the third largest coffee producer in the world - just look at all that coffee!

    Last week we sat down with co-founder and co-director of Cofinet and La Pradera washing station (in Quindío, Colombia), Carlos Arcila, and spoke to him about the changing face of Colombia's coffee, and the challenges of supplying it to a coffee-obsessed country like Australia.

    Tell us a bit about Cofinet and its history.

    Cofinet turned three years old in June of last year! I'd say we're a very young company for Australian standards, but behind it is all the experience of the many years my family has grown coffee for.

    I am the co-director and co-founder, along with my brother Felipe. We founded Cofinet with the intention of adding value to the coffee produced by my family and to process it through La Pradera washing station. We quickly realised this wasn't going to be enough and that we needed to work with other producers. Most of my family's coffee was, and still is, fairly average in quality, and we needed better coffees and more offerings in order to grow.

    I actually never did any coffee-related courses during my studies, everything I have learned so far has been through working with coffee hands-on with people I have met along the way, and through talking and learning from coffee producers in Colombia. I learned from my family and their experience, and through the close circle of people they have worked with for decades. Before starting Cofinet, I actually cupped every Saturday and Sunday, for over two years straight, with a number of roasters and coffee professionals in Sydney. I listened carefully and learned a lot, and developed my palate that way. Even though I studied Civil Engineering for seven years during university, I now feel like I actually know more about coffee! 

    Felipe and I mainly learned through doing, heaps of practice and gathering heaps of empirical data. This is especially so at the farm level, since there aren't many people who are doing experimental processes (like naturals and honeys), so there's been a lot of trial and error.

    Now, three years in, I feel comfortable cupping with any coffee professional I meet, and at La Pradera, our processing and farming techniques are improving day by day. We've applied all that we have learned and come a long way in a very short time. I never imagined I'd be in this position three years ago. It's something we have to continually remind ourselves of, because we strive to improve every day, but it's important to look back and say "Wow! I never imagined we could accomplish so much in three years!"

    How long has your family been working with coffee?

    Eighty years! It all started with my grandfather, and later with my father, who inherited a single farm. With time, he purchased six more farms, and now we grow coffee in seven farms. One of them is where we operate out of (La Pradera), and they are all located in Quindío, a region were many of the largest coffee companies in Colombia started out, as it is part of Colombia's Coffee Triangle

    Most of the larger coffee companies in Colombia still have head offices in the region, but as the coffee industry has grown, it's moved on from the area. Now, places like Cauca, Huila, and Antioquia are better known and produce higher quality coffees. 

    Eighty years is a lot! Does that mean you've literally been around coffee your whole life?

    My dad has been working with the same coffee exporters for forty-five years, which is the same company where my grandfather worked for thirty-eight years. I've been going to coffee farms with my dad since I was a kid. One of my favourite childhood memories is climbing to the top of my dad's enormous harvester, and jumping on to giant piles of coffee! We'd do flips and all sorts of acrobatics in the air, and end up completely buried in the coffee. We also have horses in the farms, and grow a few other crops, so we'd ride around the farms every time we visited.

    As a kid, I wasn't very involved in coffee, but we'd always be out and about with dad as he worked. We just didn't know or understand much of what was happening. My mum actually managed all seven farms for about fifteen years - she probably knows more than most professional agronomists because she did it mostly by herself. The farms produced avocados, oranges, bananas, and pineapples too.

    In fact, a lot of coffee farmers in Colombia have had to cut down their coffee plants and replace them with fruits, as the price of coffee is too unstable. People like my family have had to grow other produce, because in some years, coffee's price is no good; farmers end up losing money rather than making any. Price has become unstable and production costs are on the rise, which is why nowadays our farms actually grow more oranges than coffee! If you work hard and have a good harvest, but the price drops, or you don't sell your coffee at the right time, you end up losing money. To avoid that, you have to have other crops growing in your farms. Ten years ago our farms produced twice as much coffee as they do now, we've had to cut trees down over the years, because it's too hard to make a living out of growing coffee exclusively.

    You mentioned Cofinet started as a way to bring your family's coffee into Australia and to increase La Pradera's output. How has that model changed as the business has grown?

    That was the initial idea, but the samples we kept receiving weren't very good, and we quickly realised we had to do something different. That's why we began bringing other farms' coffee as well. La Pradera produces just under 10% of our total output, but those coffees come with a premium on top of the price, as they are exotic varietals, or processed using experimental methods. Thanks to this growth, La Pradera employs fifteen full-time staff, and during harvest, our family's farms employ around 300 people - with hundreds more across the farms and cooperatives Cofinet works with.   

    Beautiful coffee cherries drying at La Pradera. Photo by Felipe Arcila

    How do you choose the farmers and co-operatives you work with?

    It's a job that requires extensive field work. We got a lot of references through my father's job, but we then had to start visiting people and co-operatives in the farms surrounding us. Nowadays, people send their samples in to our lab, where we cup them. We easily cup 50-100 samples a day at times. Once we determine the quality is good, we visit each farm, and begin a relationship with them if we share a similar ethos.

    One of our goals is to work with the same people year after year. We aren't a giant multinational company, and we don't force anyone to sign extended contracts. But if people have good quality coffee, and a desire to improve it, we try to maintain those relationships every year. Quality comes first, though.

    People also like working with us because our preference is to pay for the coffees we purchase up front - always. We pay for the coffees we buy the moment we come to an agreement - not several weeks later, as has been the general rule in the past. Offering such good conditions made people interested in working with us, as it's a way to help so many struggling farmers. 

    Our structure isn't built on speculation - rather than waiting to see how much we can sell a coffee for down the line, we focus on identifying good quality coffees and buying them on the spot. We try to purchase complete lots as a way to make sure we can work with the same farmers the following year. This is why around 95% of the coffees we purchase end up on our offerings the following year.

    With so many options and for such a big market, how do you choose which coffees to buy?

    We have a few categories of coffee on our offerings. We've become well-known for the exotic and new varietals we bring into the market. We look for them every year, even though we recognise it's very difficult to maintain those relationships year-to-year. That's not because we don't try to, but if a producer makes a name for him or herself and gets a bit famous, they may get a better price for it somewhere else. 

    We also offer more conventional microlots, from more common varietals like Caturra, Tabi, or Castillo - these are coffees we work really hard to keep every year. We look for clean coffees with distinct flavour profiles, to guarantee they only get better every year.

     When it comes to bigger regional lots, or working with co-ops, the plan is to build a relationship thinking forward. We have good relationships with several co-ops, which sometimes means we have to buy coffees that are slightly lower scoring than in previous years, because our aim is to be supportive. We work together so that we can then buy their coffee again the following year. We aim to buy whole, exclusive lots, even though there's a few that we share with other companies, as we aren't able to buy such big volumes - yet. Our goal is to one day only offer exclusive lots, as this would mean we've been able to support farms and co-operatives without relying on other parties to assist. With these bigger lots, our goal is to find big-bodied and sweet coffees that will most likely end up in a blend. Our goal is to find a clean cup, with zero defects, and a minimum score of 85.

    What would you say is Colombia's biggest challenge in the coming years? 

    The most important thing that is missing in Colombia's coffee industry is transparency. We are the type of company that does all of its work internally; it's a vertical business model, as there are no brokers or third-parties in the way. We think that if roasters and farmers work more directly, things will improve, and the value of the players in the supply chain increases. This lack of transparency is especially noticeable at the farm-level, and it requires us to do countless quality control checks when sampling and purchasing coffee.

    Production-wise, things are stable. With the recent explosion of new varietals and experimental processing techniques, Colombia is truly a specialty coffee producer! We no longer solely produce coffees for blends! The challenge now is to get the bigger producers out of the 'commodity coffee' mentality and to focus on quality. The older generations of coffee farmers are mainly focused on volume, and are very slowly realising that quality coffees will earn them a premium price. This switch will definitely improve Colombia's image. For generations, the focus was to produce more coffee, not high quality coffee - and our challenge now is for big farm owners to get on board with this idea and produce even better coffees.

    Would you say this is due to the cost of producing high quality (85+ points) coffees?

    I wouldn't say the raw cost of coffee is the only issue. Exotic varietals, like Geshas for example, yield less fruit and require more care. That means that you start off losing money before you even harvest your first crop. But the biggest thing that adds or detracts coffee's value is the picking and processing, and at bigger estates, it's hard to control their quality. Smaller producers do a lot of the work themselves, they are in control of every step of the way. At farms bigger than 5 hectares, things become more difficult to manage, and a lot of coffee can end up being picked and processed poorly. Educating pickers and farm managers is very important, but the bigger the estate, the more difficult that task becomes. 

    Careful sorting is a must at La Pradera

    What would you say is the most exciting thing for Colombia's coffee industry in the foreseeable future?

    More barista champions winning with Colombian coffees and the older generations of farmers continuing to change their minds! We are an incredibly diverse country when it comes to varieties and cup quality. I genuinely believe in 2-3 years we can be at the same level of a country like Panama. That's the level of quality we should be aiming for.

    Finally, how would you like people in Australia to think about your coffee?

    As a representative of Cofinet, I would love for people to think more carefully about what goes on behind each cup of coffee they drink. Sure, some coffees are better than others, but each cup deserves respect. For us, as coffee buyers and roasters, its easy to point out good coffees from bad coffees. But the reality is that behind each cup of coffee, whether it's a good one or a bad one, there's thousands of hands and heaps of labour - each one of those steps deserves respect. I would love for people to approach these coffees with that in mind. I always appreciate when people are able to give me constructive feedback, and tell me what they think makes one particular coffee good or bad, and how we can improve that, because we always want to be moving forward. It's really difficult to hear that your family's work produced something 'horrible,' with no feedback as to why that is. In that sense, feedback that isn't constructive can be really difficult to take.

    When representing La Pradera, we want people to try our coffee and for them to think it may be from Panama, Ethiopia, Costa Rica... not a stereotypical Colombian 'blender'! We want them to associate our coffees with well-established specialty coffee-producing countries until we are able to change Colombia's image in the eyes of the world.

    The current iteration of The Maven, one of our seasonal espressos, comes from El Tambo (Cauca, Colombia) and was sourced with the help of Carlos and his team. You can drink it at the MAKER Brew Bar and purchase a bag in-store or online.
  • A Kenyan Showcase, with Joe Tynan

    A Kenyan Showcase, with Joe Tynan

    It's not hard to love Kenyan coffees: the combination of elegant acidity, rich sweetness, and fruit-forward flavours is difficult to resist. We enjoy working with them because we love coffees that are complex and approachable, and Kenyans never fail to be both. Currently, we have two on offer: Gatina AA, a classic Nyeri fruit bomb, and Kapsokisio, a coffee that shines due to its delicate acidity and soft body: it is both flavourful and restrained, with easily distinguished notes of tropical fruit and green apple, and a lingering sweetness. 

     

    The slopes of Mt. Elgon, as captured by our friends at Cafe Imports

    Like the majority of coffee from Kenya, Gatina and Kapsokisio come from lots made up by hundreds of smallholder farmers who are usually members of one of the many cooperative societies producing coffee. Gatina is from Nyeri, whereas Kapsokisio comes from Mt. Elgon, a region in western Kenya (bordering Uganda) that has only recently started to gain acclaim for its potential for high quality coffee production. Everybody knows how delicious coffees from regions like Nyeri or Kirinyaga can be, yet Mt. Elgon had stayed under the radar up until a few years ago, when Tim Wendelboe first ventured into the region, and later began investing in its infrastructure through the funding of drying beds.


    Drying beds at Kapsokisio FCS, courtesy of Tim Wendelboe

    A couple of weeks ago, we invited head of Cafe Imports Australia and good mate, Joe Tynan to tell us about his experience procuring Kenyan coffees. Over a cup of Kapsokisio, Joe shared some insight into what it's like to source coffee in Kenya, and the challenges farmers face as they attempt to produce some of the most delicious coffees in the world.


    So Joe, what exactly is your role at Cafe Imports?
    I manage the Australian office and do our international sourcing for Kenya. I do a lot of the building out of containers for the Australian market, which is all QC'd and selected through by the main sourcing team, but my primary role (in sourcing) is Kenya. It's good fun!

    How long have you worked at CI?
    It'll be three years in May. Initially it was Tim Chapdelaine who was working with the Australian market, until Noah Namowicz took it over about five years before I started. I was actually buying from him when I was buying at St. Ali, and Code Black, but eventually it became evident that there needed to be a physical presence in Australia. I was the first on the ground Cafe Imports staff member in Australia; before then, Noah was doing everything remotely.

    Seeing as you have a specific role in buying Kenyan coffee, the place must be pretty special to you…
    Totally! My "lightbulb coffee" was Kii AA, around 10-12 years go. It was the first coffee that made me go, "Damn, that's really good! I want to know more about that!"

    Had you visited Kenya for sourcing prior to your role a CI?
    Yeah, my first trip was in 2014. I visited a number of different factories and a couple of estates. I've now been back pretty much every year since.

    This is a big question, but how does CI purchase Kenyan coffees?
    We buy in a variety of ways. We have a great partnership with Dormans in Kenya, who work with a number of different groups to procure their lots, and own three dry mills. They get a sample of every coffee processed through each mill, and then decide if they will purchase or send to the auctions. When we're there, we get to cup all of those as well and can buy them through "Second Window," which is a pseudo-direct trade system. Basically, instead of having to bid on a coffee (at auction) here we can negotiate back and forth with the farmers to find a price we agree on.
    We do purchase some through auction because there are some coffees we really like that aren't processed at any of Dormans' dry mills, like Kii, Gatomboya, and a few others. We have also built relationships with a few farmers over the years, like Boyce Harris of Chania and Oreti Estate in the Thikka Plateau. We visit him every year, negotiate a price and buy directly from him.
    There is another avenue which we are exploring, because it's a way to have a bit more input and work more directly with producers, which is to work with smaller estates. Working with one or small group of farmers usually allows us more interaction in how coffee is processed and we hope it will lead to variety selection as well as input on farm practices. Through this avenue we are able to request processing methods and help the producers get a bit more money directly, rather than it going through the factories. We have a few people in Australia and the US who work with us and the small estates, which is an exciting program we’re really trying to support.

    Do you remember how Kapsokisio was bought?
    Kapsokisio was a stand out lot from one of the hundreds of coffees we cupped while at Dormans in Nairobi. Super different in profile to most regions of Kenya so I nearly didn't pick it, but it was too unique and delicious to pass up!

    When you approach sourcing in this capacity, do you focus on purchasing coffees that represent the region or coffees that are unique and different?

    It's a unique thing to buy coffees in such a large volume, for such a large company. My history was in purchasing for a roastery, where you need to have that staple Kenyan that follows the "expected profile," and then maybe you'd add something else on top of that that's a little unique as contrast.
    In this situation, we are purchasing with the Australian, European, and US markets in mind, and are trying to buy to that diversity of preference and price points. You have to have all of it, or as much of those examples as possible, in a way that looks after the roaster, as well as the farmer or co-op. It's all well and good to have the exception to the rule, but not everyone is looking for that. And vice versa.

    CI also runs the ‘Regional Select’ program, which is designed to highlight the individual profiles of particular coffee-growing areas. Do you source a Kenyan lot as part of this program?
    Yeah, that's right. That's put together in conjunction with Dormans when we're there. We aim to construct a typical cup profile from each region, because I think it’s safe to say that there is regionality to coffee. We know it in Colombia, we know it in Brazil, and in other areas... In Kenya, I think it's exactly the same, there is definitely region specificity in cup. Our ‘Uteuzi Jimbo’ program is one that works to highlight this diversity of profile and hopefully give roasters a chance to experience each region's potential. Hopefully we're bringing in one more region this coming year, from Mt. Elgon, which is where Kapsokisio is from.

    Have you visited the Mt. Elgon region yourself?
    I haven't been out west yet, but it's something I'd like to do this coming year, it's definitely on the radar. I think it's a region of great promise! Kapsokisio is obviously the flagship of the region, but given the profile I think it's a very unique area and one I'd like to get into a bit more. There's a few other areas to the west that I've been told still grow a few of the old Scott Lab varieties, which is exciting!
    While we tend to focus on that central region of Nyeri, Kirinyaga, and Embu, there are definitely some amazing coffees out in the west. So far what we've tasted from the region is not your typical Kenyan coffee, it's more tropical, sweeter and floral, but still with that same brightness and presence in the cup. It's a different acidity than what people expect from Kenya.

    How would you say Kenya has changed over the years since you’ve started visiting?
    I think the biggest change in Kenya at the moment is climate. Kenya, along with the rest of the Horn of Africa, is going through a massive drought. Everything's getting dryer and the seasons less predictable. Every year I've gone, it's been different weather. The first year I was there in a CI capacity it was raining the whole time. Last year, it was dry – it didn't rain a single drop. I'm curious to see what the coming year will be like. That unpredictability is really bad for farmers, it throws their seasons off, making their crop smaller every year. Last year was very dry, which lead to a small harvest - that meant there were less AA, AB, and PB lots, and the prices went up because of that. They’'re predicting the same thing for this year, which makes it a hard origin to buy from. Kenya is amazing and the coffees are outstanding, but they are getting more and more expensive every year. The pointy end of the spear is really, really pricey. There were some ludicrously priced coffees at the auctions this past year, it was pretty wild.

    When you see the effects of climate change, do you think that will mean fewer good coffees are going to be produced, or…?
    I would say that what is produced will continue to be exceptional, there will just be less of it every year until the drought breaks. Coffee will continue to get more expensive because every roaster needs/wants a Kenyan in their line-up - demand has not gone down, it's just the availability. The quality of the top grades should still be the same, which is the important thing to remember. Essentially, through the mill, the coffee is still graded the same way; but with fewer inputs (nutrients), the spread of those grades changes and the higher grades reduce in numbers.

    With that in mind, how do you think we consumers should approach these coffees?
    I think the biggest thing that anyone that consumes coffee needs to be aware of, is how fragile any agricultural practice or product is. Your potential to support a group of farmers, or a farmer that works on his own, is huge. It's a tough life! Producers are working to make something valuable in a climate that is increasingly harsh and unpredictable. This is making it more and more difficult and expensive for something delicious to be made. The fact that something good has been produced should already be commended, and that's what we recognise as a base level of Specialty Coffee. If it's exceptional, be ready and OK to pay a little bit more so it continues to be available!

    Focusing back on Kapsokisio, what kind of tasting notes do you get from this v60?
    Long slurp and pause ensues...
    Mango, watermelon, white honey… really floral. Not quite black tea, but it's got that rich tannic front as well. The Kapsakisio AA is an astonishingly good coffee!

     

    Both Gatina AA and Kapsokisio are available at the MAKER Brew Bar and through our online store.