Last month Kirstie, from New Zealand, came to visit our farms with the purpose of learning how to make a great cup of coffee. It was the first time for her in a coffee farm and in Latin America. I asked Kirstie to share her experience with you….
On my first day at work as the “More FM” intern I was asked to make a cup of coffee. After failing miserably I was handed an envelope which held my fate. The letter inside read “you are going to the country where Gravity coffee beans come from-El Salvador”.
Before I knew it I found myself running out of 239 Ponsonby Road in Auckland, New Zealand and arriving into San Salvador airport in El Salvador. I knew little about El Salvador, where it was or what I would be faced with when I arrived. When I stepped out of the airport I was immediately struck by a wave of heat. It was nine in the morning and about 37 degrees.
We drove through San Salvador the capital city on the way to Monte Sion the coffee farm. Everything was so surreal, I still could not believe I was half way across the world. The landscape was beautiful a lot of mountain ranges, volcanoes and greenery everywhere I looked. It was about an hour ride up to the farm along a very bumpy road. It felt like I was constantly on a roller coaster but once I saw the brightly painted blue and yellow gates of Monte Sion it all seemed worth it.
We were about 1,300 feet above sea level looking over mountain after mountain. It was absolutely breathtaking I had forgotten all about the heat. The farm was all beautifully hand painted mostly in blue and yellow. We went on a short tour around the farm before breaking for lunch. I was amazed at the number
of trees one farm contained they just did not seem to stop. We headed back up for lunch with the workers. It was hard to communicate with them since no one spoke english but you can always use the emotive language.
After lunch Lilliana started handing out food packages to the workers. This happens each month and is totally voluntary from the owners of Monte Sion. Depending on the number of people in each family determines how much food is given. Monte Sion do many things for the community including running health clinics as well as numeracy and literacy programs for the children.
Then we walked up into the hills where I learnt about the coffee making process. It was hard to take everything in because we had the most stunning view but I did my best to listen. There is so much I never knew about coffee. Firstly, the bean grows as a bud on a tree this then becomes a gorgeous white flower which drops off and begins the cherry growing process. A green cherry shaped flower develops and in time turns a deep red colour.
At Monte Sion these cherries are all hand picked. I learnt how the altitude, hand picking and organic materials used influences the taste of the bean. Inside the cherries are two small coffee beans. The beans have a sticky nectar around them which tastes like a sweet melon. The sticky substance is what gives the beans there amazing flavour. Stu, the Gravity Coffee brewmaster, showed me which were the best cherries to pick to ensure the beans are at there prime and then he left me to pick 6000 of them.
After carefully selecting 6000 cherries I was taken to the Mill where my beans were de pulped which mean taking the skin off so only the beans are left and then dried. At the mill there is a huge courtyard specifically for drying the beans. After the beans are dry they are turned onto a conveyor belt where workers hand remove any effected beans so only the best beans are bagged up and sent all over the world. Some of the defects include weather and animal destroyed beans or left over shells. Once only the best beans are selected they are bagged into large Hussein sacks, stamped and sealed ready for delivery.
This is only the first step of the coffee making process, I am extremely lucky to have this unique opportunity. I never knew how much work actually goes into producing a single cup of coffee. I learnt so much from my trip and I am so thankful that we had the best hosts possible. It was then time to head home to learn how to create the perfect brew and how to make the perfect barista coffee before testing out my new found skills on the “More FM” breakfast crew, all within one week. I cannot wait to wow people with my extensive coffee knowledge.