Adventures in Coffee Growing – by Martin Diedrich

Sunday morning coffee harvest today. I picked coffee from just one specific tree, a Garnica Arabica variety.Coffee_picking-6-15-1 We have about 14 different Arabica varieties growing on our small Costa Mesa coffee farm. The Garnica tree was full of ripe, sweet fruit, of which the seed is the bean one makes coffee from.

The Garnica variety is a hybrid that was developed in Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico in the 1960’s. That region is now the only place it grows commercially.

Our Garnica tree was heavy with coffee cherries
Our Garnica tree was heavy with coffee cherries

We are told it is a hybrid of Arabica varieties, Mundo Novo, and Caturra. Its fruit is particularly sweet, which inspired me to do an isolation on it so that in about four to six weeks when it’s ready I can roast and cup the results to see exactly what the Garnica tastes like. The coffee needed to come off the tree anyway, because the tree is setting up for a massive flowering to produce next year’s crop. One wants to have the tree able to focus it’s energy on the next crop, not the previous. In the meantime, this morning’s three pound picking yield is now fermenting. In about 48 hours I will wash it, then sun dry it for a week. Another two weeks of resting, then it will be ready for roasting and cupping. More later………..

I was able to harvest 3 lbs. of cherries from this tree today
I was able to harvest 3 lbs. of cherries from this tree today
I de-pulped the coffee beans and now they will ferment
I de-pulped the coffee beans and now they will ferment
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Meet the Barista: Eight Questions with MEGAN HERRERA

This is an ongoing series in which you will get to know a little bit more about the fine young men and women who prepare your coffee at Kean Coffee through a series of random interview questions. Megan Herrera has been a valuable part of our Kean Tustin team for over two years. Megan’s love for basketball helps her shine as a barista as she applies her multi-tasking, fast-paced, high energy maneuvers on the court to our fast-paced coffeehouse environment. At Kean Coffee just as on the court, Megan is small but mighty. That’s why we love Megan! 

Megan Herrera of Kean Tustin

KC:  What do you like best about being a barista?

MH: Making the perfect drink for the customers and making them happy, knowing I’m doing my best.  

KC:  What is your favorite coffee drink?

MH: Caffe Napoli

KC:  What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday (when you have the day off)?

MH: Play video games, play basketball.

KC: What was your favorite toy as a child?

MH: My Woody doll from Toy Story.

KC:  What is a fun fact that most people do not know about you?

MH: I want to become a vampire.

KC: What were your favorite and least favorite Halloween costumes ever?

MH: Favorite: Max from “Where the Wild Things Are”. Least favorite: I was a baby.

KC: Name one of your personal skills or traits that you are most proud of.

MH: My humor. I’m the funniest person around. Really.

KC:  Who was your idol when you were a kid, and why?

MH: Kobe Bryant because I wanted to be as good as him at basketball.

KC: Thanks Megan!

Recognize this guy? Meet Dwayne Carroll!

At Kean Coffee we love our regulars – our guests who come in so frequently and regularly, sometimes spanning many years, that we learn their names and they learn ours, often becoming good friends with our staff members. We value their input and enjoy learning more about them and hearing their stories. Meet Dwayne Carroll, a beloved regular at Kean Newport and Tustin! 

Dwayne chillaxin’ at Newport with the pooch

My first cup of Martin’s coffee was when the Diedrich Coffee opened at Marguerite Pkwy and Crown Valley in Mission Viejo. I was there on opening day. I remember the first manager – a very nice lady, however I can’t remember her name. This shop was always a meeting place for the neighborhood, and always full of young people from Saddleback college being so nearby, always a happening place.

When I heard that Martin would be opening Kean Coffee, I felt it was a blessing even if it meant driving all the way to Newport Beach. Then when the people of Tustin where able to talk Martin into taking over the original Diedrich location on Newport Ave. and he opened a second Kean Coffee there, it was even closer for me, as I live in Mission Viejo. I was thrilled.

I go to Kean Coffee about five times a week, either location. Both are excellent for coffee, and a great staff that promote the quality product. As for me black coffee is my favorite. The best thing about Kean is the coffee, and having met so great people. Our dog is always treated well, with water bowls and tie down rings so you can go in and place an order. The other great experience was meeting my very best friend at Diedrich Coffee when he was going to Saddleback College as a student. Then when he graduated from there he went to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo for two years. Then on to UCI in Irvine to get his Masters. Now he works for Oracle, a success story. When he is in town we now take a drive to Kean Coffee, like old times.

Dwayne Carroll – Mission Viejo, California

Are you a Kean Coffee regular? If you would like to tell us your story and be featured in a future blog post, please let us know by emailing blog@keancoffee.com! 

Meet the Barista: Eight Questions with MANUEL RODRIGUEZ

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Manny Rodriguez- out standing in his field

This is an ongoing series in which you will get to know a little bit more about the fine young men and women who prepare your coffee at Kean Coffee through a set of random interview questions. Manuel “Manny” Rodriguez has been with Kean Coffee for two years, as a barista in our Newport coffeehouse. In addition to being an awesome barista, Manny is a high achieving college student who aspires to become a teacher. Whatever he is doing, Manny works hard and always strives for excellence, while at the same time keeping a great attitude. That’s why we love Manny!

KC:  What do you like best about being a barista?

MR: The best thing about being a Kean barista is crafting every single drink from scratch using world class ingredients to make drinks of great quality and taste our customers can experience.

KC:  What is your favorite coffee drink?

MR: Turkish latte is my favorite drink with no doubt. I love the taste of espresso, cane syrup and cardamom in the same drink.

KC:  What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday (when you have the day off)?

MR: It has been a while since I had a Saturday off. However, on a typical Saturday afternoon I go to the gym, read my Bible, and watch sports among other things.

KC:  If you could travel to any place in the world, where would you go?

MR: If I could travel to any place in the world I would go Egypt.  Egypt’s history of pharaohs and archeology have always fascinated me.

KC:  What is a fun fact that most people do not know about you?

MR: Most people do not know I have a great sense of humor.

KC:  Name one of your personal traits or skills that you are most proud of.

MR: I am a good listener.

KC:  Who was your idol when you were a kid, and why?

MR: My idol has always been my grandmother. She raised me and taught me values such as respect, kindness and selflessness just to mention a few.

KC:  If you had to enter a cooking contest and prepare your best entrée or dessert to impress the judges, what would you make?

MR: To impress the judges I would make chocolate-covered marshmallows topped with shredded coconut.

KC: Thanks Manny!

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Latte art by Manny of Kean Coffee

Judging Guatemala Cup of Excellence 2011 – by Ted Vautrinot, Kean Coffee roaster

There is a special magic wafting through a room filled with passionate coffee professionals intent on finding the absolute best coffee from Guatemala’s crop this year. Every sniff, every slurp is carefully evaluated and scored- descriptions of honey, cherry, chocolate, caramel fill the margins as each coffee gets a meticulous assessment before moving on to the next possibility.

Carefully pouring the water

I was fortunate to return to Central America to be a judge for Cup of Excellence Guatemala. Our 22 member international panel hailed from Japan, Germany, England, Australia, Russia, Korea, Canada, Morocco, Norway, and the U.S.   Our purpose was to identify the best examples of Guatemala coffee that year so we could buy it and bring it home to our customers, and also to recognize and reward the efforts of the producers who developed a truly stellar coffee. The top 20 coffees chosen from the over 300 entries are sold at auction. The winners get the best price for their crop, as well as respect and admiration from their peers. The biggest winner, however, is the coffee consumer, because the methods and care the producers employ to produce a competition quality coffee raise the quality of all the different lots coffee on their finca (farm) and translate to a better cup in our coffeehouse at home.

intense concentration in the lab
COE judge Sherri Johns, scoring
Top Ten Winners

The judging is exhaustive. By the time we get to the final top ten round at the end of five days we’ve cupped each of the coffees four separate times and huddled up in the conference room after each round to compare (and defend) our scores. Judging Guatemala coffee is particularly challenging because each of the eight producing regions- Antigua, Huehuetenengo, Coban, New Oriente, Atitlan, Fraijanes, San Marcos, and Acatenengo has a unique and delicious flavor profile. Because of Martin’s history and relationships in Guatemala coffee we’ve had many examples of different regional coffees from Guatemala in the coffee house, as many as five at one time.

Central Plaza, Antigua

We also took time to visit the producers and fincas, and see some of the sights. In the old city of Antigua beautifully restored churches seem to be on every corner. The cobblestone streets of this former capitol of all of Central America weave through a town with absolutely no billboards, neon, or any of the trappings of our everyday life. I felt transported back in time strolling through the charming central plaza.

Iglesia de San Francisco, Antigua

Visiting the Zalaya Family Fincas in Antigua was especially moving for me. The Zalayas have been producing coffee for generations, and we’ve had many of their coffees at Kean since we opened. We toured through finca Santa Clara and viewed the Bourboncillo (dwarf Bourbon) plants as well as the wet and dry mill facilities. I am always struck by the amount of passion, care, and hard work that go into each individual 132lb bag of green coffee.

We also travelled east to visit the Keller’s finca Santa Isabel. Like Martin’s family, the Kellers began producing Guatemala coffee four gene

Central Plaza at Night, Antigua

rations ago after emigrating from Germany. They operate an organic farm, creating their own compost and natural fertilizers and keep their rows of coffee within the natural rainforest that grows around it. They’ve also set aside a large nature preserve adjacent to their finca to retain the habitat for the indigenous flora and fauna of the area .Although we are familiar with the concept of parkland, the Guatemalan government is not. The Keller family paid for and set aside this land because they feel it’s the right thing to do, just as they’re committed to organic practices. We’re currently using two of their coffees in our line-up, as a decaf, and in our espresso.

Bella Vista in the shadow of the volcano Fuego

Before heading home I took a side trip to Martin’s childhood home of Panajachel on the shore of Lake Atitlan. The charming village and breathtaking view of the lake with the two volcanos on the distant shore were worth the twisting, jolting, careening 5 hour bus ride from Guatemala City. My hosts the Jones (Jones Coffee Co, Pasadena) family showed me around the town and gave me a tour of Pana Kids, a multi-lingual school they support in the village. The school teaches Spanish, German, English, and the Mayan language to the children, most of them of Mayan descent. The Mayan language is becoming lost as Spanish and English become the lingua franca in the area, and the school’s aim is to preserve the Mayan culture and heritage while giving the students the tools to be integrated in the modern Guatemalan world. As I showed my photos to Martin and Stephen they recognized a few of the sights from their childhood- the churchyard where they played soccer, the marketplace, and the shambled docks on the lakefront.

Ricardo Zelaya pointing out the fincas in Antigua
fog-shrouded fincas, Antigua
Ricardo at the 150 year old family estate

On my journey home, my bags brimming with samples of green coffee to cup with Martin, I was again struck by the connection we have to the people a half a world away that nurture a seed from the earth that eventually becomes the cup of coffee that creates the community we enjoy at Kean. All the toil, the planning, the relationships we develop serve the village we’ve created in the heart of Orange County, and most importantly- in our hearts.

Happy cupping!

Ted Vautrinot

Head Roaster, Kean Coffee

Martin's hometown of Panajachel

Yemen Haraazi Supreme – a coffee pictorial from Martin Diedrich

The steep, rugged Haraaz Mountains of Northwestern Yemen are a world apart from the rest of the country. The terrain is dramatic, wild, rocky, and often inaccessible.The area has resisted the modern world and in the hinterlands one can still feel the pulse of medieval times. Ancient fortified hilltop villages of stone houses cling to the steep slopes, creating a near bibilical panorama.

Rocky mountain slopes are carved with ingenious centuries-old stone terraces to preserve the scarce soil and precious rain in this dry region, in order to grow coffee.

Approximately 500 families, living throughout the region, continue an unchanged tradition of coffee farming that goes back well over a thousand years.

Yemen is the origin of Coffea Arabica, which derives its name from Qahwa Arabiyah. For centuries, Yemen was the world’s only source of coffee which was exported from the Port of Al Makha and when permanently lent the name “Mocha” to the coffee of Yemen origin.

A FAIRLY TRADED AND ORGANIC COFFEE

The small holder farmers that grow the Yemen Haraazi Supreme that we are offering for 2011 are being rewarded for their coffee quality and efforts with a fair price. They are also getting agronomic and technical assistance to support the production of quality. These efforts and the fair prices are also supporting new wells, water treatment facilities, access to health care, and education in these communities.

Though not certified, this coffee is 100% organic. Coffee farming in Haraz is organic by default because there is no convenient availability of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. The coffee is farmed in traditional ways that have been practiced for hundreds of years – all by hand. This is in part why the coffee is so unique.

Photos courtesy of Mr. Shabbir A. Ezzi

Musings of a Nicaragua Cup of Excellence Judge – by Ted Vautrinot, Head Roaster for Kean Coffee

April 26, 2010; Ocotal, Nueva Segovia, Nicaragua. Twenty four judges, all coffee professionals, focus beyond the 90 degree heat and humidity in the classroom/cupping lab to give their undivided attention to flight after flight of the very best coffees Nicaragua has to offer. Every detail is scored to a strict protocol on the journey to find the ten absolute best coffees in Nicaragua this year. The event is Cup of Excellence Nicaragua, and I am one of the international judges discovering these often stunning coffees. The panel hails from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Central America, and the United States. Our purpose is to identify the best examples of Nicaragua coffee for the international market to bid on at auction, which gives the local producers a clear idea what extremely high quality specialty coffee is, and their impetus to produce this is the higher prices the top coffees are awarded at auction.

At the end of each day of cupping we travel out to the country to view the coffee production firsthand. The first evening we toured a Benificiado (coffee mill) where the entire cooperative’s coffee is dried on basketball court-sized patios and African-style raised beds. It’s then milled (removing the parchment covering from the bean) in towering three story machines; graded by size, color, and quality; bagged in jute and stored. The facility was pristine and well-organized by certification; organic, fair trade, and organic fair trade. This cooperative is committed to raising their standards of quality to meet the demands of the specialty market so their members can earn a good wage to care for their families. We shared a Nicaraguan meal of beans, rice, pork, and blood sausage with the farmers and operators that had come out to meet us and share ideas about our common passion- coffee. Back at the Hotel Frontera (4-star by Nicaraguan standards, think Motel-6) we sat by the pool and shared our own personal experiences and coffee stories until late in the night.

Ted cupping in Nicaragua

Next morning we are back in the hot, humid lab for round after round of cupping. No discussion is permitted while we are scoring, we save that for the breakout after each flight of 9 or 10 coffees. Then we share, and sometimes defend, our scores for each coffee. These are skilled coffee experts, all with strong (sometimes varied) opinions on what separates very good coffee from excellent coffee. The Nicaragua national judges spent the previous week weeding through the 300+ entries that weren’t good enough to make the final cut. Our job is to sort through the top 60 fine coffees to determine the 10 best. We’ll choose the top 30, cup again to find the top 10, and cup yet again to rank the 10 winners. By the time a coffee has reached the finals it will have been scrutinized on six separate occasions by exacting, discriminating judges.

One evening we travel close to the Honduran border to visit Finca Santa Lucia and walk through the rows as the Patron explains which varietals of Caturra, Catuai, Bourbon, and Pacamara are doing well and why. We trudge down river a bit to view the nursery where 20,000 tiny coffee plants are beginning their life, to be transplanted into the finca in two more years. The Patron also describes the trapping methods they’re using to suppress the pests that attack and devour the ripe coffee cherries. The trapping is less expensive and less harmful to the environment than pesticides, and seems to be very effective.

Cupping begins with evaluating the dry aroma of the precisely roasted ground coffee. Each table has 4 examples of each of the 9 or 10 coffees in the flight- inconsistencies within the samples of a particular coffee are penalized. The hot water is then poured, four minutes later we’re ready to “break” the crust of coffee that’s formed at the top. A rush of aromatics bursts up and we discern and score that. The coffee is still too hot to taste so we wait another few minutes, then the real tasting ensues. Aroma, flavor, acidity, body, balance, sweetness, and finish are all evaluated and recorded. Sometimes only half a point will separate two superb coffees (out of a possible 100 point score). Is the body in harmony with the acidity? Does the aroma match the sweetness in the cup? Having one or two great qualities isn’t enough; the coffee must be excellent in every area to advance to the top ten. We continue cupping for 45 minutes, noting and scoring the changes as the coffee cools, then turn in our scores and retire to another room to discuss.

Another evening we journey to Dipilto to see how the cooperative and USAID are assisting the coffee producing community. A school has been built to support the children of the region, some travel up to 12 miles each way for the opportunity to attend. In many families the elementary school children bring home health and sanitation education that would never otherwise reach the family. The goal is to create a healthy, sustainable life for these families so generations can continue to thrive while producing the fine quality of coffee the market demands. The children were sweet and shy, the teachers were proud to present the programs they were teaching and the rising test scores the children were achieving. More children than ever before are matriculating their grade and they are staying in school longer. Later at dinner we chatted with exporters about the political climate in Nicaragua and some of the slight-of-hand movement of lower-grade coffees from Honduras and Nicaragua to Colombia to fetch higher prices and fulfill contracts. I am grateful for the transparency we insist on at Kean Coffee, we know exactly where our coffee comes from.

Next morning we’re back to the selection rounds, scrutinizing each coffee again to determine the top ten. Between rounds our head judge Paul Songer shows us the statistics on our scoring. Not surprisingly, our scores tend to group together by geographic region. The cuppers have tastes that are specific to their own part of the world. Generally, the Japanese/Koreans seem to favor a very bright acidity, the Scandinavians favor a medium body, and the Americans favor a deep sweetness. Because the scoring is compiled on a curve only a truly exceptional coffee will achieve a high score, because individual preferences will average each other out. The level of concentration is intense, these are all wonderful coffees and only the slightest nuances separate them. When we submit our final scores after four rounds all the cuppers are spent, and our tongues are a bit raw.

That afternoon six of us have been invited to join a local producer, Sergio Ortiz, to visit his finca and view his methods. Sergio is a super-passionate young man committed to producing the best quality coffee. He’s one of the few producers with a Q-cupper certification, and he’s constantly tweaking his methods and tasting the results to produce better coffee. He’s hot-rodded a Brazilian pulping machine to separate the ripe from not-ripe cherries better, and has an air-conditioned storage room for his pulped coffee to slow the fermentation process. Sergio was like a mad scientist as he clambered up and down the three-story machine pointing out the modifications and adjustments he’d made. We traveled back down the hill to Ocotal to a local beneficio to cup the 6 different production variations, as well as 14 coffees from other producers in the region. The different variations all had distinct flavors, the time Sergio spends refining his methods are making a noticeable difference. By the end of the day we had cupped 53 different coffees, our brains and tongues were ready for a rest.

On our final day of cupping we had the 10 finalist coffees; our job was to determine the order of placement. The entire group of judges was fired-up and focused, this was the reason we came to Nicaragua. Every single coffee was wonderful, and we bent to the task with relish. We spent the next hour becoming intimate friends with each coffee, listening to what it had to tell us about where it had been and how it had been cared for. I left the table confident that I had given my complete attention to every offering and been open to what each had to present to us. As always, we compared and discussed our scores afterwards, but we wouldn’t know the final results until that evening.

The Awards were held in the local sports arena downtown, all the Finalists were present to see who would place well. After all the opening remarks and adulations, and a sweet, moving folkloric dance presented by a children’s group, the winners were announced one by one. The capacity crowd cheered and supported each contestant; this was a big honor for each producer to place in the Cup of Excellence. As the top eight scores were read the crowd applauded louder for there were an unprecedented 8 Presidential Awards (scores above 90 points). This was a truly outstanding showing of dedication and hard work for the year. Picture after picture were taken afterwards, families beaming proudly, friendly rivals shaking hands, winners displaying their awards. Eventually the celebration moved down the street to a local hall where food, drink and music flowed freely. The students from the region’s coffee college who had spent the week assisting us professionally and stoically were there, dressed to the nines and ready to cut loose. The entire community was bound together by their passion for excellence in coffee and celebrated their achievements that night.

The next morning we said our good-byes, some judges leaving for home while I stayed on with a small group to visit some fincas in Matagalpa, about 4 hours drive away. Our band was hosted by Dr. Miersch and his family, one of the top 3 winners in the competition. Over the next three days we toured half a dozen fincas owned by the family and I got an in-depth education on varietals, grafting, land management, and the care and respect the family show the workers that live on the fincas and husband the land. A few fortunate villages have small hydroelectric generators installed on the streams that flow down the mountains, providing lights, and amenities unavailable even a few years ago. As we drove the few hours it took to get to each finca I got to listen to Paul Songer discuss with Erwin Miersch the changes in the countryside and the techniques being employed to produce the coffee at each location. The family’s operation is well-considered and thoughtful, trying various methods and keeping all the best. We toured a few miles of hillside on horseback; hardy, strong cowponies used to negotiating the muddy terrain. Our attempt to rescue a young cow that had fallen doubled over into a ravine failed, we eventually got her pulled out but she couldn’t stand on her dislocated hip. Dr Miersch told us the hands would come back later to put her down and distribute the meat to the village. There is little waste in this part of the world.

The country is beautiful and green, yet still hard and unforgiving. Plantations left untended were choked and overgrown in only a few years time. The work of pruning, caring, and tending is never ending; it is a way of living for the people who do it. A few pounds of coffee on our retail shelf is the result of years of careful labor by the people that live in this rugged paradise, I try not to forget to be grateful for the effort they put forth generation after generation. My journeys to origin have forever changed the way I see a 132 lb bag of green coffee on the roasting floor.