The truly unique and special part about the coffee industry is the potential to be part of the whole process from the farmer planting the seed to the final rich, dark cup. Here are some more important coffee facts.
Coffee is grown in the humid, warm tropics with temperatures above 60 degrees. We look for coffees grown at elevations around 1500 meters, or 5,000 feet. Coffee plantations, best working in a diverse ecological community on mixed species of intercropped forbs and trees, with mixed fauna, produce fruit once per year. After an annual nine or ten month waiting period, blooms appear and small white flowers give way to ripening fruit. The harvest begins when the berries turn from green to the bright red ‘cherry.’
Depending on latitude and elevation, coffee harvest season runs from September through March. There is great variability in when green coffee is available for the roaster. For example, a good, fresh crop of Brazil is difficult to come by in the beginning of May, just as a good crop of Guatemala is difficult to find in February. Hand picking involves taking your woven basket and walking from tree to tree, removing red fruit and leaving the green. Harvesters take a few passes through the season to gather the fruit, with the best going first. Beans are dried to a ‘pergamino’ state, the husks removed and then graded – the higher grade coming to roasters like us while the lower quality prepared for domestic use or for cheaper coffee that we avoid with a passion.
Organic vs. Conventional
There are three main reasons for people to use conventional growing techniques, aka “with synthethic inputs”.
1. When ~18 inch seedlings are transplanted, many use a Round-Up herbicide to kill grasses and forbs that may outgrow the seedlings. The machete is also an option, which employs locals but can increase the ultimate cost of coffee that you drink, especially if the worker is given a fair wage.
2. Fungicides may be used to combat molds and fungi. There are at least three significant fungi that affect Central American plants. Many organic and shade grown farmers do not have a great issue with fungi due to the added biodiversity and diligent oversight.
3. Coffee production, as with any crop, mines the soil of potassium, phorphorus, nitrogen, magensium, calcium, etc. This must be replaced somehow. Since World War II, this has been with synthetic inputs. Many organic farmers use composted chicken manure, cow manure, etc.
All of our coffees at The Buena Vista Roastery are slow roasted by hand. We carefully select only the highest quality specialty Arabica coffees grown throughout the world, between 4,000 to 6,000 ft. Because we understand our part in making a difference for our planet, we emphasize only sustainably grown coffees that are either organic, shade grown or socially responsible and/or Fair Trade certified. We also support farmers who strive to meet or exceed these standards, but cannot afford the cost associated with the certifications. We believe that their noble efforts deserve rewarding and are proud to bring their coffee and story to you through our product and our website.
Green Bean Storage
Green beans arrive in the burlap sacks we have all come to love for gardening, curtains, potato sac races and much more. While each sack is a piece of art in itself representing the area and community from which it traveled, the burlap is porous and susceptible to slight changes in humidity and temperature. In the high desert of the Rocky Mountains, we work to maintain an equilibrium of ambient temperature and humidity for the sake of the bean and consistency of the final roasted product.
Our roasters know that changes in the moisture content of the bean influence a roast, as does wind, barometric pressure, and other daily conditions. We therefore balance art and science when hand roasting our coffees. We use a process development matrix to bring out the unique and subtle flavor characteristics of each coffee, to continue to bring you the high quality specialty coffee that we have been recognized for over the past 15 years.
High elevation roasting at 8,000 feet truly enhances the roasting process and the resulting cup characteristics that you will experience. We know that making bread at elevation necessitates changes in the way you bake. The same is true for roasting coffee. This is due to air pressure, the boiling point of water, the density of the coffee bean and the amount of free oxygen available for combustion in the roaster. Roasting at such a high elevation takes more time than at sea level. This slower roasting allows the natural oils and flavor nuances hidden inside the green coffee beans to become fully developed and brought out as the coffee beans are carefully and passionately roasted. Through this process we can tease out the flavor characteristics of our high mountain grown Arabica coffees.