26 Jan The Coffee Trail: Learning Through Meeting!
A Text by Christian Lacroix, on the Coffee Trail.
I doodle, sitting in a comfortable folding chair, facing the Pacific Ocean. And I become aware of the pleasure that is renewed each morning. Finding myself alone, in an isolation created by the echo of the waves that pound on the shore. Savouring this moment, during which I aspire to compose words about my tour on the Coffee Trail.
Yesterday, December 25, a day of contemplation and, as tradition would have it, we exchange wishes. A friend, André, quotes something written by Jacques Brel to offer a us few good words. In this extract, Brel clearly expresses desires such as, “I wish you birdsong when you awaken and the laughter of children”. On the reading of this text, I realize that since the beginning of this voyage, the privilege of being awakened by birdsong has happened to me many times. What an uplifting sensation, desiring to experience this freedom! We share an instructive vision of the way in which one can assume mastery over oneself. We have the chance, we humans, at least, surely, to enjoy the capacity to think and to reflect. The quality of the morning music played by my friends who defy gravity is responsible for the depth of the contemplation I describe. The words concern meeting with a person close to you. A bit of context is required here on the camping, where we took several days of rest and writing, and where there were all sorts of people of different nationalities, motivations, histories, convictions, different objectives and characters. I met Niki, a Caucasian women of Swiss origin with a solitary and independent allure. She told me of her journey, this shepherdess who guards a thousand sheep seven days a week all season long at two thousand meters altitude in Switzerland. To have shared this person’s depth and courage remains a privilege. We proclaim ourselves masters, mostly, of our own destinies. The fact of living alone for six months – isolated, without communication, and traveling the world the rest of the year to discover other countries and cultures – what maturity.
Lifting the Veil on Hacienda Tobosi: Exploring Further than Appearances.
The first time I spoke with Stéphanie Pitre was during a meeting that served to examine our common experience. We had shared technical support as partners during the first artists’ residence in Peru, a project organized by the L&L Collective which Léa, the Director, undertook with Uniterra. Stéphanie knew of my expertise from my professional life, as I had participated for a week as party to a program to underscore the value of the operations of coffee roasters and baristas in the Lima region of Peru. My sole responsibility: analyze and advise on the qualitative levels of the work performed by members of an association known as Artebar. During this meeting, Stéphanie described to me in detail a visit to a coffee producer that she undertook in Costa Rica. Her enthusiasm and the narrative she related inspired me to research Finca Tobosi in more depth. I explore the company’s Web site and with my own eyes want to see and understand how a farm could acquire such a degree of quintessence.
Saturday morning, 9:00 a.m., we were present at the rendezvous in the agreed location. We find ourselves before an immense old door, closed, made all of metal. A person who identifies himself as a guard points us to a location on the other side of the street, ten feet further up. Arrived facing our destination, we knock to announce ourselves. A man comes to meet us; he tells us that his responsibility with regard to the livestock explains his presence here; we are beginning to ask ourselves whether the specified location is correct. Verification completed, with regard to Jorge, the thoughtful employee admits to the existence of Jorge the coffee man, but says that he is away because today is a holiday. Reassured, I tell him we will wait. A moment later, a van appears with Jorge at the wheel.
I confirm, after a moment of conversation with our host. The evidence is plain to see concerning his high level of knowledge and skills. His training as a botanist allows him to meticulously manage the cultivation of different collections of coffee trees. The arrangement of the plantation, oriented according to the percentage of shade created by the fruit trees, or by the geographical orientation of the maintained lots, spreads before us. There is none of the variety “Catimor”, which is resistant to disease but possesses a lower level of organoleptic complexity, which shows that the methods implemented to combat this disease, called “la roya”, are working. Whether red or yellow Catuai, Bourbon and even a species of “Geisha”, here is the proof that Jorge stays up to date with regard to new preferences. The finca manages 30 hectares of land divided between two locations, nineteen hectares at Tobosi at an altitude of 1,400 meters, and eleven hectares at Copey in the Dota region at between 1,800 and 2,000 meters.
The detail that adds great value: the operation after the harvest. 95% of the coffee sold is qualified as the “Honey” type. The modified classical treatment process gives the coffee a presence of honey flavour. As with vineyards for wine, each artisan possesses his own methods. Jorge has developed a recipe that pleases many coffee roasters. Once again the majority of the finca’s sales is in the Asian market.
It is impressive to see all the passion that motivates Jorge in his work. It is easy to see that the finca, which belongs to his uncle, does not face any obligation to support a family. I say this without bitterness, but it is important to me to note this so that readers understand the differences between the coffee farms we visited. My satisfaction: realize and observe that for many alimentary products having gastronomic attributes, numerous growers working with related skills, wines, beers, cheeses, bread and others, aspire to this quest, seeking to excel, that gives so much pleasure.
The analysis will be complete when Jorge sends me samples from the next harvest.