CoE El Salvador 2010

Just back from being part of the international judging panel at the El Salvador Cup of Excellence.  It was held near the town of Concepcion de Ataco, in the heart of the Apaneca-Ilamatepec region in the western part of the country, not far from the Guatemala border.  Twenty four judges were in attendance from eleven countries.

Score Farm Region Variety
91.05 FINCA SUIZA Apaneca-Ilamatepec Bourbon
90.48 EL AUSOL Apaneca-Ilamatepec Pacamara
90.45 LA MONTANITA Alotepec-Metapan Pacamara
89.25 SAN ISIDRO Apaneca-Ilamatepec Bourbon
89.16 LOS ANDES Apaneca-Ilamatepec Bourbon
88.86 SAN JOAQUIN Apaneca-Ilamatepec Bourbon
88.84 LA BATALLA Alotepec-Metapan Bourbon
88.84 LOS PIRINEOS Tecapa-Chinameca Pacamara
88.7 LAS MERCEDES Apaneca-Ilamatepec Pacamara
88.18 LLANO GRANDE Apaneca-Ilamatepec Pacamara

Of the top ten coffees, half were Bourbon and half were Pacamara.  One of the attractions of going to El Salvador was a personal fondness for the Pacamara varietal.   This varietal is  a cross between the Pacas natural mutation of Bourbon, and the large Maragogipe, an offspring of Typica known primarily for its size but also with fans for its flavor.   When all is right with Pacamara it exhibits dramatic, dark fruit flavors, layers of them.  El Salvador is perhaps the place where more Pacamara is grown and experiemented with.  While only 5% of coffee grown is Pacamara, it is often in the top group of competition winners as was the case here.

Here are some photos on Flickr.

El Salvador is a unique origin and in some ways the value of its coffee is not really well known.  Unique in Central America, mainly two varietals make up the entirety of the country’s production, Bourbon and Pacamara, with the vast majority Bourbon.  Some of the Bourbon is Pacas.  Bourbon itself is grown in Red, Pink and Yellow varieties.  In much of Central America one comes across a dominance of Caturra and Catuia but not here, where the Bourbon is heirloom.  The only real derivation is with Pacamara, the relatively new coffee, that is itself a star in the making. A dozen years of war set this country’s reputation as a dominant coffee origin backward; once it was the world’s third largest, but the re-establishment of that fame is now beginning to emerge again.

In all, a wonderful experience with good coffee friends, old and new.  And a chance to savor some of the truly world class coffees from an origin that is still under the radar compared to the quality offered.

Bye Bye i-Roast2

i-Roast2 display panel

Looks like this may be the  end of the line for Hearthware’s i-Roast2 home roaster. The item has been out of stock for many months, since fall 2009. At first , US distributor Hearthware, said they had rejected an entire shipment for quality control reasons and a replacement shipment was expected earlier this year. That projected delivery time passed with no roasters arriving and the date was moved back a couple of more months. We have periodically checked in asking for an update. Yesterday, when we checked once more, we received this reply:

“Unfortunately our i-Roast2 is still on back order. We are expecting a shipment of replacement parts and maybe a small shipment of roasters sometime in August. We will not receive replenishment after that. We will be forced to discontinue the i-Roast2 after stock runs out. We are working on the next version of our roaster. The release date has not been set.  I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this shortage has caused you.”

If it turns out to be true that some small amount of roasters does arrive in August, and if it makes sense at that time, we will secure some.  Otherwise, we will keep our eyes peeled for a new and hopefully improved model up the road. The i-Roast2 was itself a breakthrough roaster in some ways as it offered programming of up to 10 profiles, each with up to 5 roast stages. The hot air roaster had more power and airflow than its competitors, and except for the smoke it generated (which could be vented out a window) it was a useful roaster, particularly for those who prefer dark roasts.

For the moment, Fresh Roast’s new SR500 and SR300 models are the nearest competitors.  They too have been out of stock for a short while, but gladly we can report a shipment is now on the road heading our way, and, we should be shipping within a few days.

Best of Panama 2010 results

Best of Panama 2010 competition results were sent to us yesterday. Here are the top ten coffees and their corresponding scores.

1. Esmeralda Geisha 93.81
2. Panacoffee Geisha (Tito Vargas) 90.79
3. Carleida Geisha 88.82
4. Carmen estate 88.35
5. Don Diego (Volcan area) 86.68
6. Elida Estate 86.42
7. El Burro Estate 86.17
8. Pacamara Don Julian 85.91
9. Kotowa Don K 85.48
10. Don Diego 85.39

This year organizers of the competition asked jurors if they would roast, cup and score coffees in their own facilities. Participating jurors, which included our Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea, were required to follow the same protocols observed when the event was held in Panama. All coffees were coded and unknown to us and all participating jurors. An auction of these winners will take place on May 25th. The top three places are Geisha, as the varietal is increasingly planted throughout the area with much success.

We are happy to see farms of several of our friends in the top group and will have a number of their coffees in the coming weeks and months. Please keep on eye on the new arrivals section of our site.

The private auction of coffee from Hacienda Esmeralda will be on May 18th. It will not include the winning lot from this competition.

Various coffee ramblings

There are a few noteworthy events taking place in the world of coffee at the moment.  It’s a great time of year because most coffee throughout Central America has just been harvested and the best of them are either in repose or are in transit to consuming nations.  This resting period after processing allows flavors to mellow and mature, so the top coffees repose for one to two months.  This is especially true of very high grown coffees that initially can be quite acidic with newly harvested, grassy overtones;  seasoned cuppers know the great potential that augers for them.  Like barrel tasting new wine and getting a sense of how it will taste later in the process  The good news is that we have secured some fantastic coffees from Guatemala and Costa Rica, having recently returned from touring farms there and doing extensive cupping (more on this to follow shortly).  Some, but not all of our Panama coffees have been selected.  We are looking at other origins in the region and evaluating samples;  we expect to be in El Salvador on the International Panel in May, where we will taste the country’s best offerings along with other cuppers.

Kenya coffee this year will be considerably more expensive that any in recent memory.  We strive to have one or more top, auction lot Kenya AA coffees and this year we will continue this practice.  However, it’s going to cost more if we and you want to have those terrific coffees we’ve gotten used to.  Weather patterns are changing globally and in some origins growers are gradually planting higher to offset warmer conditions.  Continue reading ‘Various coffee ramblings’

New Fresh Roast models now on sale

Two new models from Fresh Roast, the SR500 and SR300, have arrived and are now available.  These two roasters replace the discontinued Plus 8.

Two new Fresh Roast models to debut in January

The Fresh Roast Plus 8 is being replaced by two new models with the first shipment now expected in early January. The new models address issues that users have had with the previous model, an entry level roaster on the market for many years. Both new models will cost more than the predecessor, however, they remain quite reasonable.

Model SR300:

This is a larger version of the former Plus 8.

  • Twice the roasting capacity as before, 120 grams, roughly 1/4 pound.
  • Digital display. Maximum time on the control is 9.9 minutes.
  • Has three buttons: Up, Down, Cool.
  • At any point during the roast 6 seconds can be added for every tap of the Up button; likewise, the Down button takes away time in 6 second increments.
  • Tapping the Cool button overrides the timer and places the roast into a 3 minute cooling cycle.

Model SR500 – All of the above features plus:

  • Three temperature settings that be adjusted any time during the roast. High temp is 490 degrees; Medium 455, Low 390.
  • A separate Fan Speed Control has been added that allows fine tuning of the roast. Generally, you would want the highest speed at the start of the roast when beans are heaviest and have yet to lose moisture. The would help keep beans moving. Later in the roast lower speeds would be desirable.
  • In addition to the three buttons Up, Down and Cool are fan speeds Low, Medium, High, and, a variable fan speed control knob.

Fresh Roast SR300
Fresh Roast SR300

Fresh Roast SR500
Fresh Roast SR500

We will be selling these roasters at the lowest allowable price, $109 for the SR300 and $159 for the SR500. Considering the improvements, the SR300 is only about $20 more than what the Plus 8 was selling for. We have no more of the old Plus 8 model remaining, so there will be no stock here until new models arrive. It’s a shame both the Fresh Roast and the competing i-Roast2 are not available this holiday season as both companies are both missing seasonal shoppers. Fortunately, we are in good shape with the deservedly popular Behmor 1600 as well as other roasters.