Tuesday, August 23, 2011

RG Retreat - Day 2

Aug. 19, 2011
Our team picked up our 10lbs of green coffee and got to start dreaming of how to roast them in order to win the competition. We pretty much had to dream all day, because we were in the last roasting session (3:45 - 5:45).

The time went quickly, though, as we had an interesting presentation from an Honduras estate owner about experiments he's conducting (the Manzano Project). In the afternoon, I took part in a roundtable discussion on direct trade. Finally, at the end of the day, we had our turn at 2 roasters in the roasting tent. We had a Dietrich and a US Roaster to work with. Other teams were working away at their roasters the whole time. It's a pretty fun atmosphere and I learned a lot from our more experienced roasters -- including how to use a roasting form to track the roast profile.

The Manzano Project: Emilio Lopez Diaz, owner of Quatro M in Honduras, designed and implemented an experiment over a period of 5 years. He wanted to see the difference in taste that would result if the same green coffee, from the same lot, grown with all the same variables, was processed 4 different ways: natural, semi-natural, mechanical wash and full wash. It was great that the final product of all his labor was available for all of us to cup! I thought they were all quite good. I don't have my scores, however, because Emilio asked us to turn in all our sheets.

Direct Trade: There was no agreement on a definition of the term "direct trade". Some assume, that if they are using an importer, they are by definition not doing direct trade. I disagree.I don't believe there needs to be a definiton at all, and certainly not that one. There were others in this group of 20 - 30 people that,like me, see direct trade as a continuum, on which some roasters are farther than others. Others want direct trade to be something they can say "yes we are" or "no we're not" to, like the Fair Trade (FLO) certification. The conversation included another point about direct trade that is difficult -- does it have to be something that has some social or community benefit for the growing community? If a roasters is "simply" buying/selling coffee, does that qualify as direct trade?

Roasting session: The part we were all waiting for! We decided to roast all 3 coffees: the Mancala, the Copan and the Santa Barbara on both machines, giving maximum chance to derive the optimum roast from each. We took turns, but a few of the more experienced members were definitely directing and doing the most. The tent set-up itself is pretty amazing. 8 little roasters working away. One giant exhaust pipe going down the middle and out the back. And all this is surrounded by a gorgeous river + mountain setting on a perfect summer day. Once our roasts were done, Mathew Hill whisked away our 5 brown bags to "rest" in secluded safety until the cupping, early the next morning.

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