October and November can feel like a lull in coffee. The excitement of the summer months has receded, and we begin ramping up for the winter holiday season. We also find ourselves finishing up the Central American harvest’s green coffee supply, and eagerly awaiting the South American green that is on the water as we speak.
We have made it one of our top priorities at Kuma to focus on bringing in the freshest seasonal coffees we can. The time from when coffee cherries are harvested, processed (depulped, fermented, dried, rested and stripped of parchment) and shipped, to the time we roast them is of vital importance to quality. Once green coffee is taken out of its parchment, it begins the very slow decline in moisture levels. When coffees are processed correctly, they last the longest. If only this were always the case. Slight miscalculations or errors in processing green coffee can be detrimental to the flavor and shelf life of green coffee quality. Every roaster has encountered this, either in their own stock or in samples they receive from importers. Importers are often the ones that assume this risk, but those that buy direct run the risk of coffees showing up in the US in much poorer shape than when they were purchased at origin. As we learn from our experiences, we take steps to mitigate those risks.
We brought in 10 individual lots from farms in Guatemala this past February. We also purchased a water activity meter, which is a tool that helps us know the movement of moisture in green coffee at any given time. It is only one piece of the puzzle, but over the course of weeks and months, it gives us some idea of how quickly a coffee is holding up. Of the 10 lots we brought in, one had exceedingly high water activity readings from the start and continuously. As we roasted samples of it from month to month, the cup quality degraded to the point we didn’t feel we could release it as one of our offerings. To add insult to the loss, it was one of the highest scoring lots when we cupped it at origin.
When Mark went to Colombia this past July to purchase coffee direct for the first time, he made sure to try and collect more water data on each lot he was purchasing, in hopes of avoiding such future losses. Green buying is one of the most disciplined and difficult parts of the coffee roasting business, but the rewards make it so worth it. Our Colombian container should be arriving within the month, and we eagerly await the awesomeness it holds. In the meantime we bought in a few superstar Colo lots from our friends at Red Fox Coffee Merchants, which will be releasing starting today. We love being able to share our coffee with you, thanks for being a part of it!