After some extensive delays, we recently received the first samples from our spring coffee harvest in Haiti. When the samples arrived I hustled over to Topeca Coffee, where they graded out the samples in the lab, against other specialty coffees from Ethiopia, Brazil and Yemen. There was some stiff competition in the room, and it was more than a little unnerving.
We tested the samples from several farmers, from whom we are purchasing micro-lots. These samples were all of the heirloom variety, Arabica Typica. Although all of our farmers grow the same type of coffee, that has been grown in Haiti since the early seventeen hundreds, each sample carried a unique cupping profile.
Every farm has it’s own unique characteristics, and all of the variations factor into the cupping profile. Things such as elevation, soil type, density of the canopy that provides shade, health and age of the plant, composting process, and then of course how the farmer harvests and prepares the coffee.
There are no two farms that are the same, no two harvests that are the same, and no two cups of coffee that are identical. Coffee is alive and ever changing up until the moment it is brewed and poured into your cup.
Having context of this didn’t help to ease my nerves. Our 2016 harvest had graded out very well and we had hoped for the same results, but until the grading paper was completed by independent experts we simply couldn’t be sure.
After an hour of silence (other than the slurping that comes with coffee cupping), we reviewed the scores. Our Haitian coffee had graded higher than all of the other micro lots, and had proven once again to have had a very complex flavor profile that was sincerely enjoyed by the experts.
It will be a couple of months before the harvest is completed, the cherries processed into parchment, sun dried on the pad, sorted, and processed into the green bean, and then sorted again. Each and every bean will have been touched by no less than a dozen hands throughout the process. It is meticulous and at times exhausting work for the farmers and mill workers. But in the end, it is the effort put into each coffee bean that creates such and exciting cup of coffee.
Now if we can just beat the rain and get the harvest in the warehouse, we will feel a lot better!