Our New Product Development Roaster, CJ Tait, has been spending some time on the ground at Finca Idealista. We asked him to keep us updated on the experience and after much anticipation CJ sent us this report to share with all of you coffee lovers.
"Matagalpa reminded me instantly of the 'dorps' in South Africa, except for the beneficios! Some are large, some smaller, but all are strewn with coffee.
One cannot begin to imagine the amount of work that goes into producing coffee until one actually visits a farm like Finca Idealista.
Their farm is part of a group of coffee producers that are connected to the world's specialty coffee industry via Gold Mountain Coffee Growers.
Their mission couldn't be nobler: to produce coffee of the highest standards, thereby ensuring not only a better price and higher quality of life for the farmers, but also that roasters and cafes can create the most delicious coffee possible.
Every stage of the process is overseen by staff hand picked by Benjamin Wiener, Director of Gold Mountain Coffee Growers, and owner of Finca Idealista.
This involves an absolutely insane level of attention to detail, and a tremendous amount of hard work.
Pickers (escoltadors) start the day at 06h00, filling baskets attached to their waists by hand (rain or no!).
At 12h00, they weigh out their lots, and thereafter sorting (escoger) begins.
This is a tedious process that often takes four hours or more! Coffee is sorted into three groups:
- Podrido (fermented),
- Pintos (under-ripe),
- and Maduro (ripe).
Once sorting has concluded, the coffee is taken to the wash station, where it is pulped (not naturals, but more on that in a bit) and floated. This part of the process involves throwing the coffee into a pit, which feeds into a machine that separates the cherry flesh from the seeds (known to many of us as beans).
Once pulped, they're borne along a canal, with little gates that allow "flotas" (beans that are less dense, more often than not with imperfections) over and out, whilst preserving the denser beans.
These are then taken to drying tables, where they are again sorted. Beans with defects are removed by hand.
Once dry, the remaining beans without defects are taken to the dry mill (along with the perfectly ripe cherries that were selected for Natural Process) where they are laid out on drying beds.
Natural (coffee beans still inside the cherry), Honey (pulped coffee beans with a sticky goo called mucilage) and Washed ("clean" beans, without fruit flesh or mucilage) all end up here.
Again, further hand sorting takes place to pick out imperfect beans.
Samples are taken for roasting (which need to be hulled - a process that involves removing the hard outer shell that covers the beans).
These roasted samples are then cupped and scored by Ben himself (all of them!) and thereafter, the full lots are ready to be hulled, sorted once more for any remaining imperfections (again, by hand!) and, finally, packed and prepared for shipment!
These lots are priced according to the variety, which determines both the character of the coffee and the size of the yield.
The greater the price, the more complex and enjoyable the taste, just as with fine wine or whiskey!
Additionally, if roasters like myself buy more of Gold Mountain's best, we incentivise farmers to grow more delicious (and often more difficult to grow!) varieties, such as Geisha and Yellow Bourbon.
As an aside, I had the rare and good fortune to taste a micro-lot (about 500g in total!) that tasted of pronounced jasmine, strawberry, mango and super sweet Orange!
When I asked Ben if Truth could order some he had this to say:
"It’s like a wine you’ve saved for 25 years because it’s so amazing and only open it on your 60th wedding anniversary on your yacht with a helipad."
So for now we'll have to settle for some of their other amazing coffee!
For those reading this, know that when you drink coffee from Gold Mountain Coffee Growers, you really are drinking some of world's best and most ethical coffee!
Wherever you may be, thank you for drinking coffee!