Category Archives: Emily’s Overseas Training

Emily’s Back With News Of Our Projects

I had an amazing time in Central America, but it is good to be back home, too. I hear I’ve managed to miss out on some serious April showers – I can’t believe there is talk of standpipes and drought warnings too!

Anyway, during my trip, I spent lots of time getting to know coffee growers, cupping some great coffee and learning tons about growing and processing coffee beans. While I was there, I also found time to visit some suppliers who received funds last year from Taylors for social, environmental or technical projects that they wanted to carry out on their farms or within their cooperatives.

At Finca Chanjul and Guadelupe in Chiapas, Mexico – who supply us with coffee for Decaffe – they had just taken delivery of four active carbon water filters. These will filter both river and rain water to provide clean drinking water for everyone on both farms, which can be up to 600 people during the harvest season. These will be installed in the next few months as part of their kitchen renovations, which will be finished in time for the next harvest later this year.

Cooperative Nuevo Sendero, who supply us with coffee for our Guatemala Cloud Forests, applied for funds needed to complete a primary school. They needed to buy windows and doors for the classrooms, put down proper concrete floors outside to make the school ready for the rainy season, and install a suspended ceiling in one of the classrooms to prevent it overheating in the summer. After they completed all of this work they even had some money left over, which they put towards building a small office for the teachers to work in. The school was looking lovely. All the classroom walls were decorated with bright and colourful displays and they had even put up decorations especially for our visit. The headmistress presented me with an award to say thank you, which is now on display in our tasting room in Harrogate. Every time I see it will bring back wonderful memories.

In Nicaragua, La Bastilla has a primary school, a secondary school and an agricultural high school for the children of families working and living on the farm as well as those of the neighbouring community of Las Colinas. They got in touch to tell us that, due to budget cuts at the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, the salaries of their three secondary school teachers were no longer going to be funded by the government. That meant that the secondary school might have to close which would have been a huge loss to the community. So, between the two of us, Taylors and La Bastilla were able to pay the teachers’ salaries and keep the school open.

Although these are only small projects, it was really wonderful to see the difference that they make to our suppliers and their neighbouring communities, and how excited they were to show me what they had achieved and what their plans were for the future.

Out of everything I saw and did on my trip, I think these projects had to be the most rewarding, and it’s nice to know we’re bringing you coffee with a conscience. Anyway, it’s back to work for me, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Adiós amigos!

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Emily Meets Her Fairtrade Organic Makers

Emily here again. Well, since I last reported in, I’d moved on from La Bastilla’s fantastic Eco-Lodge near Jinotega, Nicaragua and the scale of things changed noticeably.

Coming from the big estates to small-holder co-operatives was quite a contrast, from hundreds of hectares to just a handful. I’d been looking forward to meeting Ervin, the manager of Coomprocom in Matagalpa, as I had heard so much about this co-operative that supplies us with coffee for our Limited Edition Fairtrade Organic Nicaraguan Matagalpa Mountains.

Taylors has been buying coffee from Coomprocom – a Fairtrade and organic certified farmers’ co-operative – since the late nineties and we have developed a very close mutually beneficial relationship with them over the years.

We spent the first part of the day discussing the history of the relationship, and Ervin took the time to explain to me the big differences between conventional and organic production. An impressive 70% of Coomprocom’s members are certified as organic and Ervin revealed how most of those farmers had hardly any changes to make to their traditional farming methods to achieve their organic certificates. That’s one of the benefits of always having done things simple and naturally.

Later in the day Ervin showed me precisely what he meant when we visited the farm of one of the members who showed me their coffee trees and explained how they have never used expensive chemical sprays or fertilisers. They rely instead upon manure from their animals, composted fruit from the coffee cherries, and a special mix of milk and molasses that they ferment for 20 days – and yes, it does smell as disgusting as it sounds!

That afternoon, during a blind cupping of loads of different coffees from Matagalpa, I was genuinely delighted when I selected a lot from Coomprocom as one of my favourites. It had the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity which creates a lovely juicy character, and a delicious nutty flavour providing the complexity which makes it just right for drinking cup after cup, all day long.

In my final blog entry next week, I’ll be saying goodbye to Central America and coming home, but not before I’ve brought you news of some projects part-funded by Taylors in Guatemala and Mexico that are making a real difference to people’s lives.

Hasta la próxima semana!

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Emily In Nicaragua: New Places, Familiar Faces

A lot has happened since my past blog entry – it’s been non-stop ¬– but I’ll start where I left off. Well, after my short time in Guatemala, I arrived in Managua, Nicaragua and took the long drive up into the mountains to Matagalpa. Here, I spent a few days with Bencafe who run a dry mill in Sebaco. I learnt all about the processing and export of some of the Rainforest Alliance coffees that go into many of our blends like Lazy Sunday and Rich Italian. Later in the week I moved on to Jinotega to spend a few days visiting the farms where some of this coffee is grown between Lake Apanas and the stunning Cerro Datanli El Diablo national reserve.

All these Rainforest Alliance certified farms were absolutely beautiful. Each had hundreds of hectares of coffee growing in the shade of native tree species including the guava tree with its distinctive white bark standing out against the rich dark green of the coffee trees. At least half of the land of these farms is protected forest, which is left completely untouched. Coupled with the mountainous landscapes, this makes for some incredibly dramatic scenery.

I was even fortunate enough to see some familiar faces on this leg of my trip. I was delighted to have paid a visit to La Bastilla which, if you’re a regular follower of this blog, you may remember is managed by Markus Fischer who came to visit Taylors earlier this year. I also got to catch up with Ricardo Rosales and Isidro Leon-York, last year’s Suppliers Of The Year, when I visited their farms, Jesus Maria and La Colonia. They were really eager and proud to show me around their coffee plantations and explain all of the work going on right now.

You see, even though the harvest is over, it doesn’t mean this is a quiet time on a coffee farm. Quite the contrary, in fact. The trees have to be pruned, the ground cleared, and any remaining cherries have to be collected to prevent the spread of ‘Broca’, an insect that bores into coffee beans. All of this has to be completed before the rains start at the end of April. As they only finished the harvest at the end of March they’ve certainly got their work cut out. On top of that, the wet mill, which has been in operation throughout the busy harvest season processing all the coffee cherries, has to be completely dismantled for maintenance and repair and re-assembled. The work never stops.

While I was visiting La Bastilla I was lucky enough to be able to stay at their Eco-Lodge on the plantation. I’d heard a lot about the place before my trip and was excited to be experiencing living there. The Eco-Lodge is run by the technical college at La Bastilla where high school students study for their diploma. They also learn about business, agriculture and tourism and by running small businesses themselves, this will mean that the school will eventually become self-sustaining. Along with managing the Eco-Lodge, they rear chickens and cows and grow vegetables, which they sell in nearby Jinotega. My room had a fantastic view out between the mountains and over Lake Apanas. As the sun went down I could hear howler monkeys in the distance – it really was quite a magical place.

That’s it for now, I’m on the move again. I’ll be spending the next few days in and around Jinotega and Matagalpa visiting even more farms as well as some Fairtrade Co-operatives. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Hasta luego!

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Emily’s Guatemalan Eco-Wormery

Me again. A lot has been happening at my end. The weather has been incredible over here but I believe I missed a mini-heatwave back in Yorkshire. Typical.

Anyway, I’ve just finished my first week in Mexico visiting three Rainforest Alliance certified farms in Chiapas in the south of Mexico. I hopped on the overnight bus from the border town of Tapachula to Guatemala City where I spent three days with Fedecocagua – an association of cooperative farmers in Guatemala.

I was really interested in seeing their dry mill in action, just outside Guatemala City. This is where they receive ‘parchment’ coffee from their producers from all over Guatemala. In this single dry mill, they mill around 23,000 tonnes of coffee each year. As the harvest had just finished in Guatemala, all of the warehouses are full to the brim with parchment coffee awaiting milling. Once the protective parchment casing is removed from the coffee, the green beans are sorted first by density where any of the light and damaged beans are removed, then by colour to remove any black or sour beans or beans with blemishes. Finally the beans are sorted by hand before being packed into 69 kilo sacks ready for export.

I was lucky enough to also visit Anacafé the Guatemalan coffee export association. They control all the area’s coffee exports – around 3.65 million bags of coffee each year. As well as issuing export licences they also have a team of expert cuppers who taste a sample of every coffee leaving Guatemala to ensure that it reaches the required export quality. Among many other things, Anacafé is also responsible for marketing Guatemalan coffees around the world. Guatemala is famous for a really diverse range of flavours of its coffees. While I was there, I learned how they have identified eight different coffee producing regions and defined the unique flavour characteristics for each one – from a winely-fruity Highland Huehue to a delicate, floral Volcanic San Marcos.

On my last day in Guatemala I headed out of the city to visit the Nuevo Sendero co-operative from which we source Fairtrade coffee for our Guatemala Cloud Forests. They took me to see their wet mill where all the farmers deliver their coffee cherry. Here I was shown all the different stages of sorting and processing and drying of coffee as well as some clever modifications they had made to the process to make it more efficient. I was then taken to see their wormery. Don’t worry, they use the worms to break down the waste coffee pulp and turn it into rich compost for the farmers to use for their coffee plants. Very simple and really eco-friendly.

My time in Guatemala was over all too quickly. I made many friends there and discovered many things that I think make a real difference to the coffee they produce, the environment and the local people.

So it’s off to the airport now. Adiós Nuevo Sendero and Fedecocoagua – hola Nicaragua!

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Emily’s Off Again!

Finca Guadelupe

Regular readers of this blog might remember that, as a trainee coffee buyer, I had my first bit of overseas training in Africa last year – well now I’m on the road again, this time with a trip to Central America.

I arrived in Cordoba, Mexico on Monday and spent my first couple of days with Descamex – the people who decaffeinate our coffee for Decaffé. I was shown around the decaff plant to see the process in action, the labs where all the tests are carried out on the coffee pre-and post- decaff, and the cupping labs where samples of all the coffees are cupped by expert tasters.

We send Descamex the arabica coffees we source from farms in Mexico and Brazil. As they unload each container they take samples for analysis. Detailed reports are then produced for each coffee, containing info on the exact composition of the beans, including of course how much caffeine they contain. The amount of time the coffee needs to spend in the extraction process depends on the original caffeine level in the beans so great care must be taken at this stage to ensure the coffee is properly processed.

Once the analysis is complete and the production team have received the details of the extraction time the coffee enters the first stage of production where the cell structure of the bean is softened – this helps speed up extraction of the caffeine. Then it goes into the extractor. Here it’s immersed in water that contains all of the soluble elements of the bean except caffeine. The caffeine is gently removed from the bean as the imbalance of caffeine between the bean and the solution draws it out. In order for the caffeine levels not to reach equilibrium the solution is kept in constant flow through the extractor and the caffeine filtered out before it enters the cycle again.

Once the extraction is finished the coffee is moved to the driers where it slowly returns to its original condition. After this, tests are carried out on the beans to ensure that the caffeine has been removed. Then the coffee is packed, loaded into a container and shipped to the UK via the port at Veracruz on Mexico’s Atlantic coast.

From Descamex, I went on to visit the port at Veracruz (which is a lot warmer than our UK port at Teesport!) and then down to Chiapas, on the border with Guatemala, to visit the beautiful farms – or ‘Fincas’ in Spanish – that supply us with some of the coffee for Decaffé.

Next week I’ll be travelling to Guatemala to visit the cooperative that supplies us with coffee for our gourmet Guatemala Cloud Forests.

¡Hasta luego!

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Down At The Coffee Mill

Ever wanted to know more about how coffee goes from being a cherry on a tree to a delicious tasting drink in your cup? Well, this short video (shot by our Emily in Kenya) shows one of the key parts of the process.

At the milling stage, fresh coffee cherries are passed through this basic machine, which helps to filter out the good from the bad. First, spinning discs separate the flesh of the cherry from the bean inside, then they are graded using water – better quality beans are heavier, so the lighter stuff floats along the top and passes down a different channel. Simple eh?

Our trainee coffee buyer recently visited some our key African coffee suppliers as part of her development – find out more about her experience here

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Last Stop Nairobi!

Emily with Simon from Sangana in the cupping room

After a fantastic week in Nyeri, I headed back to Nairobi for the start of my final week in Africa.

I spent a few days with Sangana, another exporter we work with, tasting loads more coffees and visiting the Kenya auction. These few days were the perfect opportunity to tie together everything I had learned about the production of Kenyan coffee and the structure of the industry here.

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A Taste of What’s to Come

Kenyan coffee is prized for its exceptional quality. It’s famous for its lemony acidity and honeyed sweetness, and the hallmark of the best Kenyan coffees is a wonderful sharp blackcurrant flavour.

So this week I was eager to get out of the office and visit the farmers to find out how they produce such fantastic coffee. I’ve escaped the hustle of Nairobi and have settled into the more relaxed pace of life ‘up country’.

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Coffee Cupping in Kenya

This week finds me in Nairobi, with exporters C. Dorman, who we’ve been buying coffee from for over 20 years. When I arrived at the offices on Monday morning there was barely time for a quick introduction to everyone before a spoon and an apron were thrust into my hands and I was led into the tasting room for what was to be the first of many cupping sessions that week.

We tasted nearly 100 cups at lightning speed with the cuppers calling out scores and comments for each coffee.

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