Pascale, who is responsible for managing our farmer relationships was back out in coffee territory; she spends most of her year travelling and visiting producers on behalf of Union. She returned from Ethiopia, a very special coffee heartland, where she visited the Yayu Wild Forest.

One of the last remaining mountain forest fragments of Arabica Coffee (coffee arabica) in the world, the Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere in Ethiopia is vital for the preservation and conservation of coffee.  To preserve and maintain its primary and secondary wild forest, and prevent any further damage to the forest or loss of coffee species,  the local communities need to have other livelihood options as well as seeing a viable future for themselves in producing speciality coffee.

At Union, we are collaborating with Dr Aaron Davis, Head of Coffee Research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to work with the Yayu community to protect the forest and create a sustainable income for themselves. Pascale visited Yayu to evaluate how we would develop the project.

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cascara-infusion-recipeJudging from the way our Coffee Cherry Fruit (Cascara) is disappearing out of the warehouse, you’re all embracing it as much as we have – hurrah! This is excellent news, as we’re determined to spread the word about how brilliant this stuff is and we’re thrilled at the response it’s getting. Now let’s start to have some fun with it.

We’ve been experimenting with this “Coffee Cherry Fruit” at the Roastery, and Oli has created some delicious and refreshing infusion recipes for you to try at home. After a lot of arduous testing and in-house debate, Oli’s selected the following combinations as a jumping off point for you. Try them and tweak them (brewing time, water temperatures and ingredients) to your taste.

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Maricela Elizabeth Ochoa de Valdivieso runs a very special farm. Although their output is small, just a few bags of beans each season, they focus meticulously at each stage of production.

All the grandchildren called their grandmother Mama Dalia, and when Maricela inherited the farm from her, she renamed it in her memory. Maricela lives on the farm with her husband, Javier and four children. She has been growing coffee for four seasons; producing Bourbon and some Pacamara varietals.

The soil of the farm is extremely rich in organic material which supports the coffee that is grown under shade-trees; most are leguminosae of various species and also  Cyprus, Tangerine and Plantain. The farm employs 8 men and 2 female full-time workers.

All the coffee is produced as Honey process which means that during milling, the mucilage from the pulpy fruit is retained and dries to produce a sticky honey residue on the bean. This contributes fabulous sweetness to the cup which results in this wonderfully sweet and fruited coffee.

farm-page

How to serve

As an espresso: very juicy and syrupy, has red berry coulis notes with silky milk chocolate notes finish.

With milk: we recommend it as a Macchiato, Piccolo, Flat White (between 3-5oz). Has notes of ripe cherry jammie dodger, hint of cocoa powder and caramel.

Served as a filter: starts with winey red apple, followed by kiwi and toffee notes. Syrupy body. Clean and mouth-watering finish.

Reminds us of

Discover the beans

Mama Dalia, Natural, Pacamara, El Salvador

Beautifully balanced tart blackcurrant against sweet mango-like flavours. Depth is from base notes of milk chocolate with a long syrupy sweet mouthfeel.

Varietal – Pacamara

Process – Honey

We’ve talked about  what a coffee bean is – so now we take a look at whats happening in the field?  We may undertake around twelve ‘origin’ trips a year on average, to visit the farmer partners and producers we source our coffee from and to learn more about changes during the season on the farms. Pascale, a development economist reseacher who’s been working with us, has also been visiting producers’ co-operatives in Guatemala. She had the opportunity to observe more about planting coffee and also what other crops are important to the farmers to diversify their income.

How is coffee grown?

Young coffee plants are grown in nurseries, shown here which is in Guatemala. 

Here coffee producers grow new young coffee plants in a special format so they can be transplanted into the land parcels within the first year. The plants are either grown in plastic plant pot-bags as in the picture or directly into the ground. The plants are placed neatly in rows because one needs to have room around the plants to fertilize and to weed the surrounding area (to avoid disease transmission).

Why is crop diversity important?

The farmers often grow other crops too, for a variety of reasons; to give shade to coffee plants, to provide for their own food needs, and to have other sources of cash crops to contribute to their  income outside of the coffee season. Here’s a great project in Huica that Pascale visited:

The women of Huica have a mushroom project, which not only provides an alternative income source but also diversifies their diet. They grow the mushrooms in an old barn that has the correct moisture and light levels.

There are different ways to cultivate mushrooms. These women use maize stalks as the growth medium, which are abundant because tortillas which are made of maize dough feature in every meal here. Mushroom growing does not require a great investment, only the seeds and plastic bags need to be bought every time.

After approximately 45 – 60 days the mushrooms are ready to harvest. The crop can be susceptible to disease, but if taken care of properly a substantial harvest can be managed in relatively little space. The harvest takes place every two months and the sales at local markets and to friends and neighbours provides regular cash flow. During the coffee season, women often stop mushroom cultivation, as coffee requires all of their time.  And they need to use the barn to dry and store their parchment coffee.

Coffee ready to be picked:

Still green and immature coffee beans are shown here together with new coffee flowers not yet opened. The flowering of the coffee plant is dependent on several factors, most importantly rainfall. 

With the first rains during the wet season the coffee plant starts to flower with coffee blossom.  This is not only a magnificent sight, like these plants in Tuiboch, Todos Santos, but also brings with it a delicious aroma of jasmine.

One can often find banana or plantain trees in the coffee fields, planting both cash and food crops in the same area is an optimal way of using space.

Next time I want to discuss some of the problems and issues that can affect coffee plants during the growing season – and how farmers overcome them.

 

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