Arabica Coffee Could Be Extinct in the Wild Within 70 Years


ScienceDaily (Nov. 7, 2012) — A study conducted by scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK), in collaboration with scientists in Ethiopia, reports that climate change alone could lead to the extinction of wild Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) well before the end of this century. Wild Arabica is considered important for the sustainability of the coffee industry due to its considerable genetic diversity. The Arabicas grown in the world’s coffee plantations are from very limited genetic stock and are unlikely to have the flexibility required to cope with climate change and other threats, such as pests and diseases. In Ethiopia, the largest producer of coffee in Africa, climate change will also have a negative influence on coffee production. The climate sensitivity of Arabica is confirmed, supporting the widely reported assumption that climate change will have a damaging impact on commercial coffee production worldwide. These are worrying prospects for the world’s favourite beverage – the second most traded commodity after oil, and one crucial to the economies of several countries. The research is published in PLOS ONE on 7 November 2012.

The study, which uses computer modelling, represents the first of its kind for wild Arabica coffee. In fact, modelling the influence of climate change on naturally occuring populations of any coffee species has never been undertaken. Surprisingly, even studies on plantation coffee have been limited, despite the concerns of farmers and other industry stakeholders.

The researchers used field study and ‘museum’ data (including herbarium specimens) to run bioclimatic models for wild Arabica coffee, in order to deduce the actual (recorded) and predicted geographical distribution for the species. The distribution was then modelled through time until 2080, based on the Hadley Centre Coupled Model, version 3 (HadCM3), a leading model used in climate change research, and the only one available that covered the desired time intervals, for several emission scenarios, at the resolution required (1 km). Three different emission scenarios over three time intervals (2020, 2050, 2080) were used. The models showed a profoundly negative influence on the number and extent of wild Arabica populations.

Two main types of analysis were performed: a locality analysis and an area analysis. In the locality analysis the most favourable outcome is a c. 65% reduction in the number of pre-existing bioclimatically suitable localities, and at the worst, an almost 100% (99.7%) reduction, by 2080. In the area analysis the most favourable outcome is a 38% reduction, and the least favourable a c. 90% reduction, by 2080. Bioclimatic suitability refers to the combination of climatic variables that are necessary for the health and survival of a species: loss of optimum bioclimatic suitability places natural populations under severe environmental stress, leading to a high risk of extinction. This study assesses the survival of Arabica, rather than productivity or beverage quality, under the influence of accelerated climate change. There are other studies showing that the productivity (yield of coffee beans) and beverage quality (e.g. taste) of Arabica are tightly linked to climatic variability, and are strongly influenced by natural climatic fluctuations.

Of the two analyses undertaken, the locality analysis is regarded by the authors as the most pragmatic and informative. The predicted reduction in the number of Arabica localities, between 65% and 99.7%, can be taken as a general assessment of the species’ survival as a whole, given the scope and coverage of the data and analyses used in the study. However, the predictions are regarded as ‘conservative’, as the modelling does not factor in the large-scale deforestation that has occurred in the highland forests of Ethiopia and South Sudan (the natural home of Arabica coffee). Moreover, because of the lack of suitable data, the models assume intact natural vegetation, whereas the highland forests of Ethiopia and South Sudan are highly fragmented due to deforestation. Other factors, such as pests and diseases, changes in flowering times, and perhaps a reduction in the number of birds (which disperse the coffee seeds), are not included in the modelling, and these are likely to have a compounding negative influence.

A visit to South Sudan (Boma Plateau) in April 2012 provided an opportunity to test the modelling predictions via on-the-ground observation. On comparing these observations with a study on Arabica made on the Boma Plateau in 1941, it was clear that not all of the environmental stress evident could be attributed to deforestation or agriculture over the 70 year period. The modelling predicted that Arabica could be extinct in these forests by the year 2020, due to climate change, and this appears to be realistic given the poor health (lack of seedlings, loss of mature Arabica specimens, low frequency of flowering and fruiting) of the remaining populations observed in 2012.

The outcome of climate change in Ethiopia for cultivated Arabica, the only coffee grown in the country, is also assumed to be profoundly negative, as natural populations, forest coffee (semi-domesticated) and some plantations occur in the same general bioclimatic area as indigenous Arabica. Generally the results of the study indicate that Arabica is a climate sensitive species, which supports previously recorded data, various reports, and anecdotal information from coffee farmers. The logical conclusion is that Arabica coffee production is, and will continue to be, strongly influenced by accelerated climate change, and that in most cases the outcome will be negative for the coffee industry. Optimum cultivation conditions are likely to become increasingly difficult to achieve in many pre-existing coffee growing areas, leading to a reduction in productivity, increased and intensified management (such as the use of irrigation), and crop failure (some areas becoming unsuitable for Arabica cultivation). Despite a recent dip, coffee prices are still the highest they have been for some 30 years, due to a combination of high demand and poor harvests. It is perceived by various stakeholders that some of the poor harvests are due to changed climate conditions, thus linking price increases to climate change.

It is hoped that the study will form the basis for developing strategies for the survival of Arabica in the wild. The study identifies a number of core sites, which might be able to sustain wild populations of Arabica throughout this century, serving as long-term in situ storehouses for coffee genetic resources. In many areas of Ethiopia loss of habitat due to deforestation might pose a more serious threat to the survival of Arabica, although it is now clear that even if a forest area is well protected, climate change alone could lead to extinction in certain locations. The study also identifies populations that require immediate conservation action, including collection and storage at more favourable sites (for example in seed banks and living collections).

Aaron Davis, Head of Coffee Research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, says, “Coffee plays an important role in supporting livelihoods and generating income, and has become part of our modern society and culture. The extinction of Arabica coffee is a startling and worrying prospect. However, the objective of the study was not to provide scaremonger predictions for the demise of Arabica in the wild. The scale of the predictions is certainly cause for concern, but should be seen more as a baseline, from which we can more fully assess what actions are required.”

Tadesse Woldemariam Gole, from the Environment and Coffee Forest Forum in Ethiopia, says, “As part of a future-proofing exercise for the long-term sustainability of Arabica production it is essential that the reserves established in Ethiopia to conserve Arabica genetic resources are appropriately funded and carefully managed.”

Justin Moat, Head of Spatial Information Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, says, “The worst case scenario, as drawn from our analyses, is that wild Arabica could be extinct by 2080. This should alert decision makers to the fragility of the species.

“Our aim is to develop and apply these analyses to other important and threatened plants, on a routine basis. There is an immense amount of information held in museum collections around the world, such as Kew, and we have only just started to unlock their potential for assessing some of society’s most pressing issues.”

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”A dream come true”. Meet Miguel Lamora. 2012 Spanish Latte Art Champion and 2012 WLAC contestant.

The 2012 World Latte Art Championship is over but baristi still rolling in their coffee shops back home. Some of them are determined to fight again  next year for the title which takes place in Niece, France. The enthusiasm from all participants, from various countries was high in Seoul, Korea.  Some were lucky, particularly our specialty coffee diplomats from Russia, Brazil, Germany, Poland, Lithuania and South Korea. Some were not so fortunate and were unable to reach that last step. In my opinion all of the contestants were champions just judging by the thoughts of being selected to such prestigious event in coffee history to compete on the World level. This does not mean that others have no skills in pouring beautiful latte art or their efforts do not deserve a big round of applause.

During this amazing event I was chatting with the winner of 2012 Spanish Latte Art Competition, Miguel Lamora. Miguel is also the winner of the Regional Barista Competition from Catalunya and holds  2nd place at the Spanish Barista Competition. Some would probably say that star did not shine bright enough for Miguel to be selected to the final, or perhaps his pour was not consistent to match the patterns presented to the judges. In my own opinion Miguel’s performance was outstanding. His calmness, great personality and the self-confidence in what he was trying to achieve led him to the 8th place in WLAC 2012 which is not bad at all. It’s like running a marathon.

Miguel’s participation at WLAC in Seoul coincided with his 28th birthday which was celebrated among his friends who came to support him . Including his competitors and other folks from specialty coffee industry on November 3rd. Apart from his passion to coffee, Miguel also enjoys other hobbies like photography, music and tranquility of the nature. The current economic situation in Spain and the prediction of the repeated austerity measures as we see in Greece, left Miguel unemployed. Unemployment in Spain reached it highest level and most young citizens are having a difficult time making ends meet. To some extent, it has also affected the coffee shops throughout the country. Miguel moved to Barcelona two years ago to pursue his passion for specialty coffee and become the Barista Trainer for local school of coffee.

As barista myself , an addict towards specialty coffee and one who appreciates aroma, flavor, body, complexity and taste, I love to speak to other baristi across the globe to find out what attracts them to specialty coffee, and  at what point they realized that their life would change dramatically. Miguel is back in Spain, and we decided to chat a little bit more about his career and what coffee means to him. Miguel shared his story with me. It began  8 years ago when he was employed as a waiter with the intention to make some money and cover his personal expenses while taking technical courses on illustration. It was than that he was introduced to latter art by one of his ex-colleague that not only turned his life upsite down but changed his view towards coffee. No regrets whatsoever.

The most attribute that Miguel appreciates in espresso is intense and pleasant flavor combined with sweetness and acidity (i.e balanced and refreshing) that compliments with fruity and floral notes with no harsh bitterness in finish.  We should not forget that espresso has three phases; water, oil and foam. James Hoffman once said that “coffees with interesting and delicious flavors often have a higher level of acidity“. In the coffee industry we would probably agree that the balance in espresso we are trying to achieve gives us a pretty good idea of what is going on.

Espresso is nothing without rich crema, and when pressurized water hits the ground coffee the interesting things start to happen. I have asked Miguel about espresso crema and here what he said: “It depends how it is… it must to be elastic, dense, good color… symbol of a good extraction, not under, not over…” As far as brewing method concerns Miguels prefers V60: “V60 is one of my favorites, it produces very clean cup with an amazing flavor. The Chemex is very elegant and tasty“. But when Miguel is away from home or attending various events outside of Spain he prefers to carry with him the easy brewing method, Aeropress which is perfect for traveling. Now we are going back to latte art and that was the main reason why Miguel ended up in Seoul and how we found out about him. Milk chemestry is one of the aspect of achieving the right texture for latte art. You can use 2% or whole milk or other milk alternatives if you can succeed. But whole milk tends to have a softer foam than non-fat because of the fat present. Why latte art is so important? Miguel shares his thoughts “the customers really love it and also it helps to increase your sales because of it, but we can’t forget that the most important thing is the flavor in the cup“.

We always refer specialty coffee as a third wave of coffee when agronomy, ecology, understanding the six essential elements such as the correct coffee-to-water ratio, a coffee grind that matches the brewing time, understanding the flavor where it comes from, etc. etc. had a tremendous impact on specialty coffee industry. I did not include here different way of processing coffee, the soil and altitude which are important factors that engage with each other before ending up in our cup. So I asked the question:

Mikhail Sebastian: With all the achievement and progress coffee industry has made towards introducing and establishing specialty coffee, do you still think we are in third wave of coffee movement?

Miguel Lamora: Absolutely, the coffee industry appreciates the great job specialty coffee has done in this market. Everyday more amazing coffees are discovered that at the end turn in our baristi hands. And as baristi we share the knowledge, do a lot of cupping to find new flavors, learn more from experts, and of course from producers from coffee growing regions that we support.

Being far away from Spain and not witnessing the economic disaster that wrapped this beautiful country and learning mostly from the news, I wanted to find out from the actual Spaniard about the impact that affected coffee businesses in this southwestern European nation on Iberian peninsula. Here what Miguel has to say: “It’s true that in Spain the situation is not the best, the government is not helping to open coffee shops, you have to invest a lot of money and obtain a lot of licenses, hard way… but I think that in few years, step by step, we can achieve a good standard in the speciality coffee industry. Baristas are more interested in specialty coffee and people like Javier Garcia (4th place in WBC 2012) from Right Side Coffee and Joaquín Parra, are starting to roast speciality coffees with great approach“.

Miguel is still being adjusted after Korea and overwhelming joy and happiness is still as Miguel says “a dream come true“. “If someone had told me 8 years ago that I could take part in the World Championship I would probably thought that this person was crazy…” As far as taking the 8th place in 2012 WLAC Miguel is not dissapointed at all but on the contrary, “I’am very happy with my results” said Miguel. Most baristi who are professionals in latte art had an opportunity to be trained by experts but some learned techniques on their own and Miguel is not acception: ” I started by myself and nobody explained me anything how to make Latte Art“.

Mikhail Sebastian: How do you achieve the appealing texture in espresso?

Miguel Lamora: Good coffee, well roasted, freshness, grind on demand, dosage, tamping, and extraction.

Miguel prefers light or medium roast and as he said “it depends on the preparation“, and as far as bitterness goes “I hate it” replied Miguel. Achieving the perfect milk texture to create beautiful latte art depends on “milk and finding your own way of frothing milk” explains Miguel. Further he continues “first add the air and then break the bubbles“. And of course milk is not the only ingredient to latte art, “the crema of espresso is also very important contributing factor to perfect latte art“, Miguel reaffirms.

At the conclusion I was interested in how Miguel would rank his own performance during the competition and here what my new friend had to say:

I watched it and I really liked it, not because for the sake of being a part of WLAC. I felt comfortable during my presentation. I went overtime by 50 sec and I think that costed me to move to finals. I also saw some mistakes that I can correct for the next time but I’m very happy with my 8th place on the world ranking. Of course I was a bit nervous! Only 6 min to show the judges your job of the last months of training, and of course the job of your life is a great challenge, but I like it“.

To watch Miguel’s performance at 2012 WLAC in Seoul, Korea click here

Wish you a best of luck Miguel.

Mikhail Sebastian

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An unusually aggressive coffee-eating fungus has crept higher than 6,000 feet above sea level for the first time in Guatemala, threatening the country’s most prized beans, a top Guatemalan coffee official said Thursday, Jean Guerrero of Dow Jones Newswires reports from Mexico City.


“Antigua, our famous coffee, is being affected,” Ricardo Villanueva, president of the Guatemalan Coffee Association, or Anacafe, told Dow Jones. “This has never happened.” The fungus, known as roya, lowers the quality of harvested coffee beans and slashes the productivity of plants. Mr. Villanueva said he believes the output for the 2012-13 season that began this month won’t see a significant impact, but the following season’s production could be hit by a year-on-year drop of up to 15 percent. Throughout Central America, coffee plantations are seeing particularly strong outbreaks of roya, largely as a result of climate change. The fungus tends to spread with humidity, but it has rarely been found at altitudes beyond 3,500 feet. Guatemala’s coffee output is usually relatively stable, at 3.8 million 60-kilogram bags last season, according to the International Coffee Organization. The coffee season in this Central American country runs from October through September of the following year. Mr. Villanueva said the costs of eradicating the fungus are expensive, at more than $50 per hectare for an application of the necessary pesticide. However, producers have in some cases applied it up to three times to no avail because the fungus has become resistant to chemicals. The country’s volcanic Acatenango region, which received a denomination of origin certification that boosts the premium on its beans two weeks ago, is also suffering severe damage from roya. Small coffee producers, representing half of Guatemala’s total, are the ones experiencing the worst of the damage, the coffee official added. In many cases, the fungus has caused the leaves of coffee plants to fall off, leaving the plant vulnerable to another disease that dries it out entirely.

By OLAM Specialty Coffee

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Wednesday, November 7th, 6:30–9pm in Los Angeles, CA

Featuring a preview of our new Honduras film, a tasting of our Apolis + Handsome Co-op Roast and a keynote presentation from Handsome Founder, Chris Owens, and Honduras Coffee Farm owner, Curt Hamann.

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Burundi Cup of Excellence Internet Auction :: Wednesday 7th November


Cup of Excellence is the most stringent and complex competition in the industry today.  This first-ever Burundi competition was no exception.  To discover the 17 winners – 14 national cuppers, 20 international cuppers, 8 observers and 4 guest cuppers analyzed 9,672 cups in the 3-week cupping process.  Each top ten winning coffee was scored 105 times.  We are proud of the coffee industry in Burundi, of the farmers and washing stations that put their coffee through this kind of scrutiny, of the staff that worked diligently every day and are grateful to the cuppers.

Burundi, more than any other coffee-producing country, relies on coffee as a means of generating export income.  Coffee accounts for over 80% of total export earnings and provides jobs for 800,000 Burundians – a quarter of the country’s workforce.  Coffee growers are all smallholders and they deliver ripe cherry to coffees washing stations (CWS) located throughout the coffee growing regions.

Only with your support can Cup of Excellence begin to better define which regions and washing stations are producing the best qualities, help identify and extend these best practices to other washing stations and raise the value of the winning lots and of the country’s entire production.  

‘Traceability’ for Burundi and Rwanda had to be adjusted from the Latin America model to better reflect the realities of coffee production.  After extensive discussions we invited each of the 176 operational washing to enter up to 4 samples. Each sample represented a specific ‘day lot’.  The competition received samples from 70 washing stations in 9 of the country’s 11 growing regions.  All coffees are 100% Red Bourbon varietal.

While potato defect is a problem in Burundi, research is underway to prevent it or to identify and remove it.  Until then, we can only reassure buyers that these winning 17 lots – including 3 Presidential Awards – have not exhibited any potato defect during the entire competition. 

We invite you to participate at the auction for these exceptional small lots on Wednesday 7 November (starting 09:00 EST New York).  If you have any questions or need any help please contact us at

Thank you for your support!
The Cup of Excellence Team
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The 2012 Nordic Roaster Forum

The 2012 Nordic Roaster Forum

Recently, 65 coffee roasters from around the world gathered in a vaulted loft above the Johan & Nyström roastery, just outside of Stockholm. They were there to discuss topics ranging from agronomy to direct trade and Nordic roasting philosophies. The Nordic Roaster Forum is an annual event that began last year in Göteborg as a roaster specific extension of the larger Nordic Barista Cup event, which took place earlier this year in Copenhagen.

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‘The barista is the diplomat for specialty coffee’ – Hiver van Geenhoven. The Chromatic Coffee Company.

Those of you who familiar with Barefoot Coffee Roasters from San Jose, CA and had a chance to visit it roastery and get the first hand experience with the roasting process, perhaps met Mr. Hiver van Geenhoven who roasted coffee for Barefoot from 2009 to 2012. At Barefoot he was involved in cupping, sorting, roasting, testing, brewing, production and more. Hiver loves coffee and pretty much dedicated in what he does. He studied Political Science at the California State University from 2005 to 2006 and as he put in his own words “this place was less than ideal”. In 2012 Hiver left Barefoot and became a co-founder of The Chromatic Coffee Company.

Chromatic Coffee Company is located in the California Bay Area. The roasting facility is in downtown San Jose and the cafe is located in the city of Santa Clara. The Chromatic cafe specializes in espresso and pour over coffee, including single cup Hario V60, and Chemex. On the espresso bar multiple single origins are offered as well as a seasonal blend. Most the equipment has been modified of created to suit the specific needs in order to craft a consistently great cup of coffee. La Marzocco Stradas reside both in the cafe and the lab, where constant testing of the product takes place. The cafe uses an advanced reverse osmosis system that recombines filtered water to achieve consistent quality water that feeds to all the machinery. Chromatic Coffee Company does not have website yet but if you have facebook account you can “like” and find more about this new venture by clicking here. Chromatic Coffee Company located at 5237 Stevens Creek Blvd. Santa Clara CA 95051
Mikhail Sebastian: At what stage did you realize that you will end up in the coffee business?
Hiver van Geenhoven:  I was fascinated with the abundance of options that the coffee industry has to offer. I first was interested in coffee after doing a college presentation on the nutritional properties of coffee beyond the effects of caffeine. Coffee as a whole maintained my interest unlike anything else I had ever encountered. It has politics, economy, international trade and business, social issues, art, creativity, science, machinery, electronics, agronomy and agriculture, a whole lot of opinions, just to name some. At that point I decided to pursue a career in coffee. The only thing to find out was what and how.
Mikhail Sebastian: What attracts you to be prominent in the rapidly growing specialty coffee industry?
Hiver van Geenhoven: This industry is geared by some of the most varied and driven individuals I have ever met. One has to be aware of what the other is doing and stay ahead of the game. There are multiple ways of doing that, from quality control to marketing, but as I feel, everybody’s heart is in the right place and I think it drives the desire to achieve excellence out of all of us involved in the specialty coffee industry. The bay area is a growing center of fine coffees, and I for one, want to see it expand beyond San Francisco.
Mikhail Sebastian: You were part of the team of Barefoot Coffee Roasters for some time. What made you separate yourself from Barefoot and go on your own? Was it a hard decision to make?
Hiver van Geenhoven: The decision was a complicated one. I have been fortunate to have experiences in origin trips that have taught me a lot about processing and specific qualities. This has influenced my roasting techniques and philosophies to control my machinery in a way that I find bring forth desirable cup qualities as well as develop some of the best characteristics unique coffees have to offer. There comes a time one wants to create something uniquely theirs, and I have some amazing friends whom I am proud to be able to say that Chromatic Coffee Co. is of our own creation, the fruit of our own labor.
Mikhail Sebastian: You are co-founder of The Chromatic Coffee Co. Whose idea was it first in setting up this new coffee shop, and how did you come up with it?
Hiver van Geenhoven: James Warren and I wanted to work together. We always enjoyed hanging out, and he was always gracious enough to teach me everything he knew about espresso machines. From electronics to mechanics, this guy always blew my mind. He made the first pressure profiling system I ever saw before anybody else had such thing on the market. Patrick Martin came along later down the line and is the stitching that holds us together. Extremely driven individual. He had just moved down from Portland and was a very demanding barista with a hunger to learn everything about every aspect of coffee. I would be nowhere without these two guys. I love them and would do anything for them. There are a few more individuals that are the heart of this company, and really complete who and what Chromatic is. An odd group of individuals highly specialized in their own fields.
Team of the Chromatic Coffee Company. From the left: Patrick Martin, Hiver van Geenhoven, Otessa Crandell and Benjamin Henderson
Mikhail Sebastian: Was it risky starting a new coffee shop/roastery in the San Jose Area? Do you have competitors, and how does it reflect on your business?
Hiver van Geenhoven: It is always a risk starting a new venture, but we were confident and goal oriented. I don’t really think of other shops as competition. As a coffee industry I believe our goal is to promote coffee culture and variety. The fine folks over at Bellano (and B2) coffee do an excellent job and we are currently organizing more events to bring out more of this community and promote coffee as a whole. The way I see it, the more people drinking coffee, the better. Variety and accessibility are very important. It drives excellence.
Mikhail Sebastian: Roasters try to give the best of a few different beans to make the coffee as complex as possible. As a roaster, how do you determine what type of roast is suitable for consumers/your customers? Do you have a preference?
Hiver van Geenhoven:  I offer my customers the same coffees I would drink and am excited to share with them. I don’t feel I would be doing an honest job if I were to offer something that I was not proud of. Nobody is forced to come to our establishment, and we offer what we do best. Our baristas recommend coffees that they personally love, and describe them from the heart.
Mikhail Sebastian: What is the difference between light, medium, and dark roasts? What effect does it have on the final preparation of the coffee beverage? Lets say, drip vs espresso using those roasts.
Hiver van Geenhoven: For all of us it is important to bring forth each coffee’s unique origin character, weather that is influenced by cultivar/varietal, elevation, soil composition, harvest dates, processing methods, drying techniques, etc. This is best achieved by not roasting to a point where roast character takes precedence. As far as brew method is concerned, as a rule of thumb, my roast that are intended for drip are a little faster and the roast is stopped very soon after first crack. For espresso, the roast is slowed down a little to allow for more acid breakdown and developed for a little longer after crack, but not necessarily darker.
Mikhail Sebastian: What coffee brewing method do you prefer most?
Hiver van Geenhoven: I tend to like coffees that are fruited, floral and clean, so methods that provide a lot of flavor clarity and less body are ideal on a regular basis. That’s not to say that I dislike body, I just rather focus on quality of mouth feel rather than thickness in the cup. Chemex and Kalita are very nice, and less frequently, syphon.
Mikhail Sebastian: You have been cupping coffee for quite a while. Coffee is a very complex product. It has a lot of chemical compounds. The aroma, taste, body and all the nuances associated with coffee require a lot of sensory skills to distinguish which coffee has floral notes, which one leans toward earthy, smoky, etc. and it all depends on the region the coffee beans come from and the altitude it grows on. What coffee region and country do you best attribute yourself with and why? What is the best way to develop and build the sensory skills in order to articulate the proper reference of coffee notes?
Hiver van Geenhoven: I feel that many African and Central American coffees perform well in the methods I described, but they are also very versatile coffees. I have to say that I need variety in my life of coffee drinking! I love spicy, caramel, chocolate, and anything else as long as it is sweet and clean. As far as active identification, practice. Get a friend and cup lots of coffees. Triangulate. Make it easy to identify, then start making it harder and harder. Put a dry process Ethiopian next to a wet hulled Sumatra and pick them out. Put a Guatemalan wet processed next to a wet process El Salvador. Then put the same countries then separate lots! Its lots of fun and can become very challenging.
Mikhail Sebastian: The coffee flavor comes from origin growing regions, processing, blending, roasting, packaging, and preparation. In terms of processing, what is your favorite method and why?
Hivern van Geenhoven: As far as origin processing goes, I prefer wet processed coffees. There are multiple different experiments I have tasted within this style of processing that I have found very pleasant. The double ferment found in Kenya creates a fantastic flavor profile that works well with the specific cultivars found there when done well. The wet processing of coffee tends to provide the cleanest, brightest, most complex cup, but coffee has taught me to maintain an open mind. As an agricultural product, there seems to be very little absolutes, and I have a growing interest in many honey-processed coffees that provide complex, sweet, and clean cups.
Mikhail Sebastian: Blending requires a lot of efforts. How do you manipulate coffee beans from various regions in order to achieve the desired blend? Do you know beforehand the final result by combining African and South or Central American coffee together in order to achieve that particular smell and taste that people fall in love with?
Hiver van Geenhoven: Blending requires patience and consistency requires constant cupping. I prefer to roast blend components separately, and then blend them afterwards. I attempt multiple roasts, and then various ratios. Then we taste shots of all of them, and taste them over the course of a few days. Then we do that a few more times. I only do blends for espresso.
Mikhail Sebastian: There are different types of sugars within coffee during roasting. Can you explain this?
Hiver van Geenhoven: Yes! To the best of my knowledge, it is important to understand the precursors of the sugars that are going to end up in your cup. The sugars that one starts out with in green coffee are not the same as the ones that begin to caramelize during crack. The sucrose (and other sugars such as glucose) are produced during photosynthesis, and then are used up during cellular respiration, breaking down into malic and citric acid. These acids degrade during a roast. The reason I bring up acids is because it has a huge effect (amongst many other variables) on how one is capable of perceiving sweetness. There are many different acids that form and degrade during the roasting process, and sucrose has been found to be a direct precursor to acids, such as acetic acid and lactic acid. The processing at origin will too have an effect on what compounds are found in the green product. Some compounds are formed and some others are leeched out. That being said, complex carbohydrates break down into simpler sugars with various degrees of sweetness. During the first crack it is important not to allow the coffee to lose temperature, which could result in seizing the formation of desirable sweetness and creating the eluded “baked out” flavor, which is so disappointing. Once these sugars are well developed, it is up to personal preference how much an individual want to caramelize the sugars. Keep in mind that the more you caramelize, the more sweetness is lost and becomes bitter and burnt. Sugars that are found in coffee are highly dependent on cultivar, elevation, processing, and roasting, but the most common types of sugar found in coffee are the disaccharides sucrose and maltose, and the monosaccharaides glucose and fructose. I hope this has not complicated things.
Mikhail Sebastian: What is the ‘Golden period’ of roasting?
Hiver van Geenhoven: I believe you are referring to the moment right before crack, and the duration and intensity of the first crack. Right before the coffee mass becomes exothermic, it seems to experience an endothermic flash. It helps to be aware of this to achieve a controlled intensity during crack, if that is what is desired. Depending on the coffee, one may want to develop a coffee with more intense of a release of energy, or more subtle and sustained.
Mikhail Sebastian: Do you think that coffee bitterness is the negative aspect of the beverage? Can bitterness help tame coffee acidity?
Hiver van Geenhoven: I find that excessive bitterness in the cup is not pleasant, but neither is sourness. There needs to be a balance of acidity, sweetness, and very little bitterness to create a pleasant cup. Alkalinity in water is what helps buffer acidity in coffee, so having good water is crucial. A total TDS of 150 is ideal, with no more than 50 parts per million consisting of your alkalinity. Excessive alkalinity can make a very bland tasteless cup of coffee.
Mikhail Sebastian: Did you ever come to the point that you felt you had palate fatigue after consuming or tasting a lot of coffee drinks during the day?
Hiver van Geenhoven: Absolutely. The most I have been able to do is 4 rounds of cupping consisting of a total of 36 different coffees, 5 cups each, in 3 hours. I feel it is more the effects of the caffeine rather than an actual physiological response of my tongue. If there is a sample that is very defective and astringent, I have to take a break before I can return to the cupping table and resume tasting.
Mikhail Sebastian: Where do you get your green coffee beans from?
Hiver van Geenhoven: Currently, about half of our coffee is directly sourced, and are from producers we know personally and have a lot of knowledge on their farming and processing practices. Given this is our first year of operation, we hope to see that number increase, but I am always happy to work with conscientious importers. Our current offerings consist of coffees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Kenya.
Mikhail Sebastian: How consistent are you in creating a flavor profile during roasting?
Hiver van Geenhoven: I use a very fast tracking software system that allows me to measure the incoming temperature, bean probe temperature, and exhaust probe temperature. This helps greatly in providing consistent results, but it is more Important to stay with the coffee, and watch them in the drum. Use your most important tools, your senses! Sight, smell, and sound. It is important to observe the physical development of the live organism, which is so variable from bean to bean. Measuring time and temperature help create consistency, and I find myself getting better and better at doing this. One needs to understand how much the environment can have an effect on the whole action of roasting, and how your instruments and tools behave. Barometric pressure, relative humidity, temperature, storage conditions, batch size, bean size, mass change, volume change, moisture change, using an afterburner, etc. are just a few things to keep in mind
Mikhail Sebastian: In terms of roasting profile as a roaster, how do you select different beans to make coffee as complex as possible?
Hiver van Geenhoven: Cupping, a lot of cupping. Take into consideration some physical attributes of your coffee, which will influence some guidelines on the best reaction rate, and experiment with some roasts. Then we cup them all, and learn from the information collected that best enhance the desirable qualities we find to be inherent to that coffee.
Mikhail Sebastian: How do you define high quality coffee?
Hiver van Geenhoven: High-quality coffee is meticulously cultivated and processed. It starts with the seeds, and how well they are grown and cared for throughout their life. They are pruned and cared for, and must grow at relatively high elevations. People who know how to identify ripe coffee cherries must harvest the fruit at the right time. The fruit is processed immediately after harvest, and observed closely during processing. They are sorted through thoroughly, and exported soon after dry milling. Coffee needs to be stored in the proper conditions in a relatively stable environment. Fine coffees are never past-crop. That said, quality coffee has no offensive flavors, and are at minimum, sweet and clean.
Mikhail Sebastian: What is your prognosis about the future of specialty coffee in the United States?
Hiver van Geenhoven: I feel very fortunate to be part of this current incarnation of specialty coffee. There is a growing interest from young people in good quality coffee. It is extremely focused on what is occurring in origin. I see the niche market expanding, and more places that can be accessed by the masses.The bay area is a rapidly growing coffee roasting hub, and awareness of coffee is expanding. I hope to see more of a focus on creating excellent machinery, technology and products that will not only enhance the customers experience, but the coffee professional’s as well. One must never forget how important hospitality and great customer service is – in an era where people can buy amazing coffee online and learn how to make it from videos on the internet, there is nothing quite like walking into a wonderful and unique coffee bar, and have somebody who is genuinely excited to share something with you that they themselves love to drink. This is very important. The barista is the diplomat for specialty coffee. They are the ones that must communicate the importance of this beverage and the long journey it has taken. Coffee has become the new wine, people are paying attention to fragrance, aroma, flavors, tastes, mouth feel, acidity, sweetness, and actively seek qualities found in coffees and how they compare to other coffees. Education is important to develop a knowledgeable consumer base and is a responsibility many have taken to provide in their cafe’s, with public cuppings, or even events where the producer comes to talk about their experiences and their coffee. Although it will still appeal to a small share of the market, I believe that is rapidly growing.
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