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Topic: Oaxaca report>(was: +Re: small commercial roaster) long (2 msgs / 122 lines)
1) From: Oaxaca Charlie
--- Peter Barnes  wrote:
<Snip>
 The trip was wonderfull. Exiting?...Some fiestas were real
blowouts, one wedding in particular was really over the top. Bus
rides through the mountains can be more exiting than one would
wish...
 Ben asked "How's the crop?". So-so. Out of season heavy rains
late last winter forced some flowering that resulted in  some
ripe cherry a month earlier than usual this fall, and estates
couldn't find any pickers for that part of this year's crop.
Small producers can pick their own, but after 6 years of below
cost of production prices many have packed it in and left to
look for work elsewhere. Most estates can now only afford one
weeding per season, instead of the three weedings that used to
be customary, so the trees only have fruit high up above where
the weeds grow-light crop, very light crop. Worse still, all the
big buyers (exporters and intermediaries) are squeezing all the
producers, paying as little as possible, giving out small,
desperately needed, advances to the estates with the best coffee
(everyone else is on their own), but only after a contract is
signed insuring delivery at a patheticaly low price for the
beans when they're ready. Even worse still is the fraud being
perpetrated by one large exporter regarding Organic/Fair Trade
coffee. Orders from importers are taken, lets say for 1,000
sacks, producer groups are told the order was for 500
sacks,(they are never allowed to see the actual contracts) the
other 500 sacks are bought very cheap by the exporter from lower
grade producers in less favorable areas then mixed with the
primo Organic/FT beans and sent north at FT prices, resulting in
lovely profits for the multi-millionaire administrator of the
big export company, much less income for the  Organic/FT
producers, and an undeserved reputation for poor quality because
of the mixing with low grade stuff that's going on without their
knowlage. Some people in the know(middle management field agents
of the exporter) are spreading the word around to the small
producer groups, and seeking more direct contacts with US and
European importers, but it's hard going. Exporting is a heavely
capitalized business, the big exporters have all the capital.
Some importers are directly involved with growers. Sustainable
Harvest's work with an Organic/FairTrade coop near Pluma Hidalgo
seems to be working pretty well for all parties concerned, but
that's only a couple of containers a year. A few specialty
importers from Europe are getting the odd lott of primo by
helping the growers with the exporting costs, and some good
estates are only pre-selling the minimum needed to pay
harvesting costs, being certified not only organic but by the
Rainforest Allience, which covers many of the social justice
concerns that Fair Trade certification does for small producer
coops. I saw a draft document prepared by Starbucks ("Prefered
Supplier" Certification) that is almost word for word like the
Rainforest Allience's rules. Great coffee, sustainably grown
while treating the workers fairly, is being safely horded while
good markets are being searched out. Buyers will have to offer
some kind of premium price, something just over $1 lb. would do
it. 75 cents lb. is the most I heard of any primo estate
producer recieving for the best, totally clean ,high grown
beans. Small growers and most estates with primo are being paid
closer to 60 cents lb., lower quality stuff goes for 10 cents
lb. or less.
 One grower who's coffee sometimes is sold by Sweet
Marias-"Finca Olivo", has a nice crop this year. Pickers and
other workers like working there. Weeding , prunning and
fertilizing with compost, lime etc. is up to date and it looked
like some nice picking. I was given a bit of the first beans
that were ripe, and it's very nice. That estate is one of only 4
or 5 in Pluma Hidalgo(out of 100 or more) that's harvesting the
entire property (most are leaving large sections unpicked) and
selling just their own coffee instead of buying cheap from the
neighbors and reselling with the finca's name on the bag. 
 I looked and looked for the finca "Trinidad" where that great
Pluma Tom was selling came from. No luck. There never has been a
farm by that name right in Pluma Hidalgo, there was in nearby
Cafetitlan, but's been abandoned for a couple of years. An hour
and a half drive away there's a finca Trinidad, but I was there
last year visiting the guy's brother next door (great coffee),
but I don't think that's it either since production there is
very low and ,it being certified organic I'd have expected it to
be sold as such. A mystery that will have to wait another year
to be solved.
 I visited quite a few roasting operations. Not one was doing a
good job. Average roasting time per batch is over an hour, with
at least 1/2 hour cooling after. Yuck. Not one chimny from the
roaster that goes out through the roof, either. Poor roaster guy
inhales a lot of smoke every day, using mainly 20 and 30 kilo
roasters.
 It took me just two roasts to teach some friends with a 10 kilo
roaster how to go from one hour roasts to 18 minute ones, and
their customers have noticed the difference.  I took a chance
and bought 6 kilos of cacao and tried roasting that in the
coffee roaster--great success, very exiting for me. What used to
take 3 hours, roasting on a clay tortilla plate over a fire can
now be done in 10 minutes, and the results are impressive,very
even, full oil expression. I brought back a lot of home made
chocolate that kicks ass.
 Some Pluma growers have some cardamon plants stating to produce
a crop, a sideline that might help them out, so I tried that for
the first time in some coffee. Very nice!
  I checked in on the list from time to time when I was
someplace with a computer, but I missed a lot of posts... Too
busy roasting now for upcomming christmas sales to read through
them all.
 Saludos, y'all
  Charlie
=====
Brick Oven Roasting in British Columbia 
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2) From: DEchelbarg
Thank you for the wonderfully interesting report.


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