The group quickly invited me to come to the Bella Vista farm with them to cup coffees with prominent coffee producer Luis Pedro.
COFFEE NERD ALERT: CUPPING
One of the important ways in which green coffee buyers decide which lots or farms to buy from for their cafe is by “cupping” coffee. Cupping is a systematic, regulated way of brewing coffee so that a sample can be tasted the same from one place in the world to another. The Specialty Coffee Association of America in the mid 1980’s created a guideline to follow, the specifics of which can be further researched here.
For context and education purposes, I want to quickly go over the basics. 8.3 grams of coffee is ground medium course and placed in a 5 oz cup. Approximately 150ml of nearly boiling water is used to fill the cup to the brim and the coffee is steeped for 4 minutes. Once the brew is complete, a spoon is used to break the layer of coffee grinds, called the crust, that has developed at the top. Rich aromas are released upon breaking the crust. Two spoons are then used to remove all the grinds from the top of the brewed coffee, and it is cooled for about twenty minutes to allow clarity in flavor. Once lukewarm, it is standard to use a cupping spoon to slurp the coffee loudly covering the entirety of your pallet.
The coffee is then scored using a one hundred point scale based on fragrance/aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, sweetness, clean cup, and uniformity. Anything above eighty points is considered specialty. Not only is cupping used at origin to taste and buy lots, but it is used regularly in our roastery for quality control ensuring every roasted batch we sell is up to our standards. Temple also holds free public coffee cuppings in our training room every Friday at 2pm!
After getting way too caffeinated off 40 samples from different lots and farms all from the Hunapu region, I was able to spend my next two days off getting to know baristas from 49th Parallel out of Vancouver and Saint Frank based in San Francisco. After staying up late walking the cobble stone streets and enjoying the amazing food and drink options in Antigua, we decided to wake up bright and early the next morning and hike one of the nearby Volcanoes.
The view from the top of Pacaya was breathtaking! The hike, however, was hell. I consider myself a mildly fit person. I don’t actively work out, but I’m on my feet eight hours a day so that helps when I fill out my doctor’s questionnaire on daily physical activity. The only comfort I found was when the guide (who has hiked the volcano over ten thousand times in his twenty-four year career) mentioned that our particular group set a fast pace.
Even though I was one of the last in our group to complete the hike and enjoy the views overlooking the city, everyone was still so encouraging. The volcano had hot spots of heat escaping from the ground, which we used to roast marshmallows. We also brought a hand grinder, coffee, and hot water to see if we could attempt to brew some coffee, because you know, why not try and brew coffee on top of a volcano!? I was reminded how small and tight knit the specialty coffee community is. I was blessed by their knowledge of the city in recommending the best food and drink options as well as their help in navigating the language and culture. They were the most ideal group of travelers, and the most loving group of individuals.