Your Cart: 0 Items

Source Trips

March 6-8, 2012

During the drive

Although I have made the drive up to Huehuetenango many times over the years, this was my first time meeting the Aguirre family and I was a bit nervous (but mostly excited to finally complete this part of my journey as a buyer at Stumptown!) I was in the presence of coffee royalty. The core of the day was spent beginning a relationship, making connections and ultimately sharing who and where we have been in this life of coffee.

We took a short cut to avoid a road closure south of La Democracia. We paused for a break with Arturo Senior’s friend at a farm named Huixoc in a town with the same name. Alejandro, the owner, eagerly toured us around his wet mill, drying patios and beautiful nursery filled with Caturra and Bourbon varietals. About an hour later, we headed out to finish off our last hour of driving to the farm. We arrived just as the daylight bled out of the narrow valley known as El Paraiso, which borders Finca La Bolsa and Finca Limonar.

Finca El Injerto Day 1

When we arrived, Arturo Sr. and Jr. said a short prayer to the Virgin Mary at the shrine on the north side of their beautiful hacienda. We quickly toured the wet mill as pickers brought their coffees to the newly renovated receiving station. They divided up the receiving boxes into two separate lanes to speed up the process. The change gives the pickers more time to clean up after work, get home and have their meals. Typically, receiving stations are hectic and pushy. Arturo Sr. installed a TV above the station that shows local soap opera, crime channels and soccer, which successfully created a calm environment.

Arturo Jr. is working on some new projects which will greatly improve fermentation including building an additional fermentation tank, finishing tiling the entire washing area and tiling all of the tanks. We then toured the washing channel which utilizes a gravity system to allow the heavy, dense beans to flow through a tub and eventually be pushed out by force. The floaters, or less dense beans, stay on top of the water and are separated out without using as much water or damning up the channels with paddles. This system improves the coffee quality while streamlining the system.  Each depulper works for up to 40 quintals (100 kg) per hour. Injerto began doing a secondary depulping process in order to ensure that all of the dense coffee is consistently depulped. As we walked down to the drying patios, Arturo mentioned that they are about 2-4 weeks out from the end of harvest. After a short dinner at the end of a long day, we were ready for bed.


Finca El Injerto Day 2

Over breakfast, we discussed some ongoing projects such as the new warehouse for resting parchment. This building is connected to the new clinic, maintenance room and four newly installed showers and bathrooms for workers. The clinic has been a mainstay at El Injerto for years with a physician who visits every 15 days from the nearby town of La Democracia. The family decided to build new housing for their year round workers with the funds from last year’s auction. Eight of the ten families will receive new homes. Later that day, we dropped by one of the homes still under construction. Arturo Jr. conveys a huge sense of pride about their social programs. They’re building a playground and nursery for the pickers’ kids, which will enable the pickers to have their children supervised and provide activities during harvest. Injerto also pays twice the hourly wage as their neighbors. An expectation of higher scrutiny in all things concerned with harvesting and processing comes with the higher wage. Some workers have found it too demanding, but this is what sets Injerto apart.

Injerto ferments their coffee for up to 60-70 hours. After channeling and density separation, they do a secondary soak for 10-12 hours. The coffee is then spread out on patios to dry for seven to eight days. They finalize the drying process in Guardiola dryers until the moisture level reaches 12%.

In the morning, we visited the nursery which houses over 45K plants which are predominately for restoration of older plants, although some will be used for new areas of expansion within their property. We also saw the worm nursery and compost program. They are playing around with some new ‘honey’ coffees on raised beds, too. During our tour, we had the chance to get in a quick wholesale meeting via Skype. It was so cool to connect Arturo with the Portland team.

El Injerto continues to maintain their aggressive pruning program which involves selective pruning within regions of the farm to promote plant health and branch density. This type of stumping promotes three generative shooters known as Grandfather, Father and Son, with each new shoot slightly heartier than the next. This type of pruning can be costly, but in the long run, it is best for the plant and the farm’s long term productivity.

Arturo Sr. mentioned that he purchased his Tekisic from El Salvador in the ‘70s for $20 per kilo. Tekisic, derived from ‘tekiti’ (the Nahuat word for ‘work’, and ISIC (Instituto Salvadoreño de Investigaciones del Café), translates to ‘the work of ISIC’. He shows pride in bringing this variety to Guatemala so early. It’s yet another example of how progressive El Injerto is when it comes to varietal discoveries.

Later in the day, we cupped two tables. Overall, the standouts for me were:

Maragogype – savory, sugarcane, brandy, cognac, elegant.
Bourbon Nativo – almond, cinnamon, plush toffee-like body.
Cima – lemongrass, piney, bright but short on the body and aftertaste.
Pacamara – chive, molasses, honey, cola berry.
G1 (Panama Geisha) – stunning, jasmine, honeysuckle, peach and red apple.

Finca El Injerto Day 3

I awoke brutally early in the morning to prepare to leave by 5am due to the road closures from heavy rains which caused a road washout south of La Democracia. The trip was not only amazing and vital, but clearly cemented the ongoing relationship with El Injerto. Huehuetenango is one of my favorite regions in the coffee growing world, and Injerto is the crowned jewel.

darrin daniel
Finca El Injerto
Huehuetenango, Guatemala

After a full day of traveling from Portland I arrived in Bogota with Darrin, our head green coffee buyer. We had a week to meet a number of coffee producers and see their farms.

From my perspective as a trainer and educator at Stumptown, Colombia is an amazing place to visit. Unlike many coffee producing areas, you see evidence of the entire nine month production on one tree; you can find flowering alongside unripe and ripe coffee cherry. Colombia’s coffee production is primarily made up of small coffee farms that do their own small scale processing. Hand crank depulpers remove the cherry’s skin before the coffee is fermented for about 18 hours, washed, and then laid to dry in raised parabolic drying beds that protect the coffee from sporadic rainfall. Each farmer is individually responsible for quality in each of these steps and it shows as each lot is tasted and scored.

While at the farms that compromise El Jordan and La Piramide, I came to understand how Roya, or coffee leaf rust, dramatically decreases yields. The methods for preventing Roya are much easier and more effective than treating the infected plant. This problem is a major cause of decreasing yields throughout Colombia and influences farmers to plant rust resistant varieties that yield lower quality in the cup profile.

Producing high quality coffee doesn’t always mean raising the cost of production for famers. Achieving great coffee requires attention to detail year round on the farm. This can actually make a producer more efficient than they were before since it results in higher yields and less defective coffee to be sorted out.

One of the biggest focuses for Virmax’s technical assistance program is helping farmers increase productivity through soil analysis, sustainable pruning, planting, and coffee leaf rust prevention. Ultimately, this is necessary to increase farmer profits even if they secure a great price for high scoring coffee.

After a week full of flights, 6-8 hour drives up into the Cordilleras, talking with coffee farmers and touring farms, I left Colombia with a deepened respect for the work that makes great coffee possible and the ongoing work that we all participate in to develop and sustain this level of quality.

Jon Felix-Lund
Portland Trainer and Educator

Day one Nairobi, Kenya

The red eye gave me no chance for a wink, but I was lucky enough to get some early morning nap time before heading out of the city to see an animal preserve for giraffes in a sub-district of Nairobi called Karen. We then headed a few miles away to see Karen Blixen’s house, the women who was portrayed in the Sydney Pollock movie “Out of Africa”. Then we took a quick jaunt over to Mamba, an animal sanctuary for crocodiles and ostrich’s, where I witnessed a young man poke sticks at 12-14 ft. male crocs to get them to hiss. At least that was my take as I clung to the guard rail. Afterwards, we moved on to slower, kinder things: I held a 2 year old croc in my hands while the driver and our guide Sammie toiled with my iPhone for a snap or two that seemed to take an eternity. Wildlife handling is just not in my blood.  By this time, it became clear that it must have been a Sunday and the offices of our exporter coffee group were closed and I had to make like a tourist or end up falling prey to jet lag. Luckily, tourism won out.

Day two, Dorman’s cupping lab
We ran through close to 160 cupping samples: AAs, ABs and many PB grades. The morning tables produced a few great samples, especially from groups such as Ngunguru, Kora, Kihuyo (from Muthega factory), Gichathaini, Ndimani and Ndaroini. At the end, we realized that we hadn’t tasted the previous week’s selection of our fondest coffee: Gatomboya, Gaturiri, Kagumoini, Kangunu, Ngunguru or any of the other Kenya standouts that we look for at Stumptown. All in all, there were about 13 that had showed some promise. After cupping for 9 hours straight, I felt a little dejected and worried we might not find the beauties I was hoping to find. This led to calls for a big meal, so we went for a feast at Curry In a Hurry which, later in the meal, was coined Curry not in a Hurry, which was just fine with us. This was a bastion of amazing Indian styles from the southern regions.

Day three
At 3 am I was already up and clamoring for more samples. I hoped for bright and silky coffees that would display deep toned body, floral nuance, citrus that holds high tannin, nectarine, peach, currant and marked by the rare and often sought jasmine. Cupping in Kenya is as close to coffee heaven as you can get. The range and intensity speak for themselves, and this morning I’m ready for another full day of sweetness and vibrancy. Fingers crossed we get there.

We cupped through some Gatomboya, Gaturiri and a few other standbys. We found two, if not three, stellar coffees. Karatu showed some promise with its floral, pine and jasmine aromatics, followed by apricot, white pepper, lemon balm, white grape and tones of cleanly washed Yirgacheffe. Karatu is from the Thika area, with elevations around 1,700 meters. The Ngunguru Peaberry was amazing with its fresh butter, hints of lime, currant, bergamot and a long spiced finish. Pretty sick. The Peaberry Ngunguru has the promise of cracking the 90s.

Last year seems to loom as the year of small output, high prices and excellent quality. We will see how things progress, but most Kenya predictions are for modest prices, good to hopeful for us, and some potential Grand Crus.


Written by Head Roaster, Steve Kirbach, in late February 2012.

It was late on a Friday. I was sitting in our green lab with Ryan when I got called over to our offices. I went into Mary Ellen’s office and she asked me to close the door. I wondered what we were going to talk about. She asked me if I’d be willing to go to Honduras to help Ryan at El Puente and visit the Caballeros. Apparently he was hoping I could come. If so, I’d be leaving the following Wednesday. What an opportunity! How could I say no? I headed back to the green lab greeted by Ryan and a sly grin.

I left the following Wednesday night and arrived in San Pedro Sula, Honduras the next afternoon. I got off the plane excited and a little nervous. I had read some crazy stuff about the crime and general vibe of San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras after Tegucigulpa. How much of Spanish did I remember? Funny enough, the last time I had spoken any was over a year ago when Moises and Marysabel visited New York and we had all walked around Brooklyn.

I passed through the doors from baggage claim and instantly saw Ryan waving with a big smile next to Moises Herrera and made my bee line. Before I knew it, I was headed off at the pass by a huge hug and kiss from Marysabel. As I we all exchanged greetings and headed for the car, Moises said ‘Welcome to San Pedro Sauna.’ Sure enough, I was hit by a massive wall of humidity and more sun than I had seen in months.

As we drove through the city, we began the long road to Marcala, La Paz. As we drove, Marysabel pointed out each city we passed saying that each one was a beautiful city. I think this sort of optimistic wonder really embodies her personality.

We passed Lake Yojoa, a beautiful lake nestled between mountains. At one point, there is a long row of food stands. Each one sells the same thing: a fried fish with plantains. I asked if the stands each tasted different, they laughed and said they didn’t know because they always go to the same spot. Moises explained that he always asked for tortillas instead of plantains – he still carries some serious Guatemalan pride! Marysabel and her family have been going to same stand since she was a child. Recently, the owner died and his daughter took it over, but the Caballeros still go there.

We got to Chinacla at about 6:30 at night after a long bumpy drive. First, we went to the wetmill. The mill was built by a Guatemalan, so it has the same style washing channels you see at Finca El Injerto, another outstanding Direct Trade relationship for Stumptown. The first thing that struck me was the overwhelming sweet and slightly fermented smell of cherry. They were working through the night depulping the day’s pickings. The Caballeros use three Panagos in their wet mill. One of the Penagos is dedicated to special lots with its own soaking tank. Moises explained how they reuse the water, filtering the ‘clean’ into a separate tank. The dirty water was pumped back to the top and used to push the cherries down to the Penagos.

Then we went into the drying area. The Caballeros have 3 guardiolas, large drum driers for coffee. The first one, that they refer to as their lucky one, is Indian made and has never failed. It was hot and had a very sweet smell that reminded me of the early stages of roasting. We met Don Raul Manueles there. He manages the wet mill and is Moises’ ‘right hand’ man. Don Raul carries himself with an air of competence. He said hello to Ryan and noted that he had never seen me before. Marysabel introduced me. I felt like he was taking stock of me with his handshake. Who knows what he thought.

Moises then described the system they use to organize the lots. They have a numbering system on each bag of parchment. Ryan described the Colombian system of tagging and Moises seemed interested, as did Marysabel. One of the things I noticed the whole time I was there was this same desire to learn about alternative ways to do things and a general sharing of ideas.

Then we jumped into the truck and headed to Marcala. Once in Marcala, we went to their house and all had a beer with Don Fabio, Marysabel’s dad who also has coffee farms. He greeted Ryan with a huge hug and was obviously glad to see him. Both Ryan and Fabio are masters at cracking jokes!

The next morning, after breakfast, a french press of Finca El Puente and a brief explanation from Don Fabio of the fires that had recently happened in Tegulcigalpa, we were off to see as many farms as we could fit into the day. Fabio made sure that we would back early enough to show off his composting involving his beloved cows. As we rode, I was struck by the unique beauty of Marcala. With white rock everywhere and beautiful pines, it reminded me of a warmer version of Montana. Same ruggedness. Same hard land.

We started back to the wetmill. Ryan and I were surprised to see something we had missed in the cover of night; they had built raised drying beds as well as a solar drier. Ryan expressed his pleasant surprise and instantly began looking at the pergamino, the dried bean still in its shell. His extensive experience in Colombia allowed Ryan to suggest some modifications that could potentially improve efforts already under.

Then it was off to see the farms, the first of which was El Campo. The youngest of their Farms, El Camp is planted with Catuai and Pache. Next, we went to Las Amazonas. On Amazonas, there is Tekisik, Catuai, and yellow Catuai. It was a great time to be there because pickers were there getting cherry. Some of the plants had a fungus called Ojo de Gajo, a fungus that thrives in excessive humidity. The leaves get the spore and fall off and then it spreads. The remedy luckily is simple: trim back some of the trees giving shade and direct sunlight will kill the fungus. We also met many of the employees picking. Again everyone had a smile for Moises and Marysabel. It has a very family feel. All the picking that Ryan and I saw was very nice!

El Puente was the next destination. On the way there, we passed one of Don Fabio’s farms. Marysabel said that some of her fondest childhood memories were spent on the coffee farm. All the small farms within El Puente make up the original farm. We all stood on the top of the hill and looked out over the range. It was gorgeous. Ryan and Marysabel talked about a waterfall over the ridge that Ryan had gone to before saying it was too dangerous, like the typical mother she is. Moises was the one who had first seen this are known as “la Piendrona” in Chinacla and had recognized it as an excellent place for growing coffee.

Moises moved to Honduras in 1992, managing a mill for a Guatemalan exporter he had worked for in Guatemala. He originally was an accountant for the company, but as he spent his extra hours in the cupping lab fell in love with coffee. After living in Honduras for a bit and using some insurance money from a car accident to buy land, he met Marysabel. They married in 1996 and begin cultivating and growing coffee on the farms.

From there we hiked down to El Pino. El Pino is planted with Lempira. In between the Lempira, Moises has planted young Geisha plants. Next year, he will cut down the Lempira to give the young Geisha room to grow. This kind of thinking is a serious example of long term thinking. The first crop probably won’t be ready for four years and first crop yields are always small. Hopefully though, the trees will thrive and produce a truly extraordinary cup profile.

El Pino flows into La Matilde, Moises and Marysabel’s first farm. La Matilde consists mostly of Bourbon variety plants; however, in 2007, Duane suggested this could be a perfect spot for the fabled Geisha and brought them seeds. They planted them in May of 2008 and, so far, the plants are looking great. As I popped one cherry in my mouth I couldn’t believe how different it was from the Catuai I had tried earlier. So much clarity and acidity, like a candied version of a coffee cherry. We are hopeful for this years’ first, first small crop of Geisha from Matilde!

After a quick lunch of tajadas (fried banana) de guineo verde, and an abridged history of coffee in Marcala – they used to mill the coffee by rolling large stones, we headed for the Caballero home. Once we got there, Don Fabio started explaining the complex composting system the family uses for young plants. They use the cherry from the mill and lay it out in a foundation, then they put lime (abundant in the mountains) on top. When it’s ready they mix it with cow dung from Fabio’s 90 beloved cows.

Then we saw the family’s nursery. In the nursery they have Moka, Maragogype, Catuai, Geisha, and Jackson as well as a Guatemalan plant for shade, Grevillea. They showed how they put the seeds under cover and wait to see which ones sprout with a straight root. Those then become the iconic soldiers before their transformation into young plants.

After visiting we took a short rest then headed back to their house for dinner. Marysabel made ‘baleadas’, a Honduran dish made of a thick flour tortilla, filled with beans, crumbled cheese and eggs then folded and fried. Fabio made good on his word and we had the remaining three types of beer, Imperial, Salva Vida and Barena. Barena was light and smooth, but Imperial was the winner. I have a new love of canned beer now. Marysabel brought out an ice cream she made with a native berry, mora, a delicious blackberry with a slight citric note.

The next morning we woke to go to San Pedro and cup with Christian at Bon Café, our Honduran importer and evaluate the first glimpses of the El Puente lots. The best samples had a whole new level of depth as well as acidity that I don’t remember from El Puente. The ‘grape’ was still there but with more stone fruit as well. The sweetness was more elegant with hints of vanilla and toffee. I am truly exited for this coming year’s crop!

I left Honduras with a combination of outstanding samples from my favorite table and a healthy sunburn. I can’t wait for El Puente’s return and look forward to roasting their finest lots for you!

While spending time recently with our sourcing partners in Kigali, Rwanda, I shared a bag of our Costa Rica Marvin Robles and explained his operation: front yard beneficio. They became excited and said that they knew a man with a similar operation. The Rwandese Marvin Robles.

Shortly after writing about this event, I had the chance to visit this enigmatic man and his mill, which he’s named Huye Mountain Coffee, in South Butare. David Rubanzangabo was the head agronomist of SPREAD before turning his attention to building his own mill. The SPREAD project helped improve farm production and harvesting in the area. They also built and managed washing stations and cupping labs. While the rest of Rwanda, and most of Africa, centrally processes their cherry (farmers bring and sell their cherry to a washing station) David built his own mill to process his cherry himself. He even built his own depulper in the style of a McKinnon (a disc depulper with agitated density separation after depulping).

Delivery on bicycle by hired pickers is common in Rwanda, with the load strapped to the bicycle wherever it fits. It feels good knowing that many of the bicycles were made possible by the efforts of Stumptown in conjunction with Bikes to Rwanda. The bags of coffee cherry are immediately unloaded and spread on the ground for sorting, ensuring only the ripest cherries are processed.


Much of the beauty of David’s coffee is derived from the intelligence of his processing method. From the depulper, the pergamino passes through a concrete channel which simultaneously washes the coffee and provides an opportunity for further separation. David uses this separation to remove floating pergamino which can include some under ripe coffee and coffee that has been infected with the potato defect. Since the potato defect can ruin even the most elegant coffees, any attempt to remove as many infected beans as possible is critical.

His typical process is 12 hours fermentation, followed by a wash and then soaked for 15 hours. The coffee is pre-dried under lots of shade while bad parchment is removed. This is a crucial step, as the integrity of the parchment is critical to the proper drying and quality, and a slow initial drying in shade improves this. Also, this provides yet another chance to remove the potato defect since it appears more easily while moist and in shade.

David is fortunate to have a sister, Rachel, who roasts and cups for him. Rachel previously cupped with SPREAD and was even partly trained by our own Duane Sorenson, as well as other international cuppers. Rachel checks the quality of the lots coming off the drying tables and can relay her results back to David and the mill which encourages continual improvements to the quality based on the cup characteristics and quality. Aleco has known Rachel for years, and is stoked to have her helping out David, as we know that we can rely on David’s quality to be nothing short of awesome.

We cupped with Rachel, and also pulled some fresh parchment samples from the warehouse to cup in Kigali. The results were promising. Most of the samples were creamy, displayed lots of brown sugar, dark fruits like black cherry and even some floral finishes that evoked lavender. Aleco wasted no time reaching an agreement with David and both parties are very excited about the relationship.

It will be some time before we see fresh coffee from Rwanda, including David’s. But despite the small crop in Rwanda this year, so far the results are looking very positive for Stumptown and our producers in Rwanda.

While Stumptown has been visiting Rwanda for years, this is my first trip ever.
I’ve always loved the coffee from Rwanda. A description on an early offering from Stumptown was ‘pomegranate,’ something that has stuck with me since. While this year the coffees we offered showed more complexity and range than any one fruit, their bright but elegant acidity abounds. The Rwanda crop is especially small this year, predicted to be the smallest since the mid-90s. Due to some market conditions that were well broadcast and perhaps over-discussed in the last 6 months, many washing stations paid too much for cherry, speculating that the prices would continue to rise, but since they have lagged lately (just a tiny bit), many of them are holding coffee that they cannot even sell to break even.

In one case, neighbors of Kanzu were so aggressive with their prices paid for cherries that Kanzu barely operated this year, and we fear for our ability to secure coffee from this area; we will be following up with their neighbors. I’m especially desperate to get my cupping spoon back on the Kanzu, which I shorthand describe as being the most cantaloupe-laden coffee I’ve ever had, but we are unfamiliar with the neighbors  and their processing which could preserve what we historically love about that coffee, or ruin it.

We’re delighted to report that early cupping of new crop Muyongwe is delicious: big, chewy body, honey, apricot.

I brought a bag of Marvin Robles to share with our sourcing partners here in Kigali, and explained his (mullet and) operation: front yard beneficio. They got excited and said that they were in touch with a man who operated similarly. While most of Rwanda operates under the centralized washing stations popular throughout East Africa, this guy has a tiny mill that he’s using to process his own cherry. Rwandese Marvin Robles. The coffee is exceptional with lots of brown sugar, cream, dark fruits (like black cherry) and lavender.

Today is Umuganda, a day dedicated to community service that appears to begin with no work and no activity (and no transportation permitted either). Tomorrow we will head for Butare and from there we will be able to visit David Rubanzangabo (Rwandese Marvin Robles). Based on some meetings here in Kigali, there are also some exciting new projects in new locations, many of which are at skyscraping altitudes, and we will visit some of these as well.

On Monday we’ll cross the border into Burundi, stopping in Kayanza. Of course we will be visiting Bwayi and Kinyovu, and as always, some new washing stations.

Follow us on twitter to see our live notes and pics.