Trip to Central America

Many of you have noticed that for almost two years Bailies Coffee Roasters have been pushing to buy more and more coffees directly from the producers. This has been going very well, especially in Colombia, Brazil and Indonesia. Central America has been quite difficult for us in the past and that was the reason for my 3 weeks trip to Honduras and Guatemala. We know many producers and exporters from these countries, but that is not enough for the long term relationship on the level we would like to have.

The trip was divided into three weeks, the first of which I spent in Honduras. I visited different farms, co-operatives, dry mills and cupping coffees wherever I could. Honduras is a beautiful country and the specialty coffees are getting better every day. That was also confirmed by results of this year’s Cup of Excellence which gave out 3 presidential awards (90+ scoring coffees). More surprisingly on 3rd place finished variety called IHCAFE 90 and on 7th place variety Lempira. Both of these varieties until now have been considered “commercial” varieties without the possibility of reaching a score of 86, not speaking about 90! These results give hope to thousands of farmers who thought that they wouldn’t ever be able to produce specialty coffee with their commercial Arabica varieties.

From Honduras I moved to Guatemala City where I spend my second week observing Guatemalan Cup of Excellence competition. Nowadays there are rules that if someone wants to become a judge he / she has to go through the observing of at least one jury. During the observing the scores are recorded and analysed but they do not count against the final results. After observation the candidate receives feedback as to whether he/she has been recommended to become a CoE judge or not. For me it was an amazing experience, as we cupped many interesting coffees. We’ve also practised cuppings with new CoE scoresheets and scoring system that is about to be introduced for the upcoming CoE competitions. The feedback I got from my observing was twofold – my way of scoring is closest to Japanese green coffee buyers and I was approved as a CoE judge. I take both as a compliment.

During the last week of my trip I travelled in Guatemala, primarily in Atitlan, Huehuetenango and the Fraijanes regions. I visited 8 excellent farms and 2 dry mills. I talked about this year’s crop, about our co-operation for next year and a long term relationship with Bailies Coffee Roasters. I cupped a few really interesting and special lots, interesting varieties and I can’t wait to share them with our customers. Altogether we’ve purchased 14 different lots just from Guatemala. It has been a nightmare from logistics point of view for me which is also the reason I didn’t find time to write this report sooner. The coffees will finally land in a couple of days and we are all excited to start developing roast profiles for them and offering to our customers.

I believe the trip has been extremely successful. Bailies Coffee Roasters have secured a dozen of new relationships with farmers in the two countries now that we definitely want to keep working with. We want to help them increase quality and support them to create more experimental lots for next year. Thanks to buying directly from farmers we can make sure that the prices that we pay for our coffee are invested into the community and quality of the coffee. I hope our customers will be excited about the new coffees as much as I am because they are really some of the finest coffees Guatemala has to offer.

Jan Komarek

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