Costa Rica Business News – Francisco Mena slurped a spoonful of coffee and instantly discerned that it had been roasted too long. “This one has a roast problem. It’s over-roasted. I can taste it,” he said.
“This one rocks the boat,” Mr. Mena, a coffee producer/exporter from Costa Rica, said during a visit Saturday to Zummo’s Cafe in Scranton.
Mr. Mena was hosted by another coffee expert, Zummo’s owner Mary Tellie, who also owns Electric City Roasting Co. The goal of the visit is for Mr. Mena to learn more about the opposite end of the coffee industry – the roaster/retailer – and impart his knowledge back home to other coffee farmers.
“He’s traveled all the way from Costa Rica so he can understand what we do on the roasting end,” Mrs. Tellie said. “Francisco is a very, very, very respected member of the coffee community, in practices, in helping producers understand how to create a quality product. What we’re talking about is the sustainability of the farmers.”
Mr. Mena added, “I want to learn respectfully how coffee is managed once it leaves the farms. We’re creating relationships between producers and roasters.”
Having both ends of the coffee spectrum better understand the other may be critical for their survival, especially as a bumper crop in South and Central America has created an oversupply that has plunged wholesale prices to a seven-year low, they said.
There also are many variables and factors between growing beans and brewing cups that can greatly affect the bottom line, including commodity price speculation, that neither the farmer nor the retailer control, they said.
As a “boutique” roaster and buyer of highest-quality coffees, Mrs. Tellie worries that the price collapse threatens not only producers selling the crop at a loss, but also the industry in the U.S. if the farmers are forced to quit.
Mr. Mena and Mrs. Tellie and others held a “cupping celebration” tasting event at Zummo’s on Saturday in search of the perfect cup of coffee. They sampled a handful of coffees and graded them in several categories, such as aroma, sweetness, acidity, mouth-feel, flavor, aftertaste and balance.
“There’s a lot to it. We learn new things every day,” Mrs. Tellie said.
BY JIM LOCKWOOD, thetimes-tribune.com