World's `4th best' specialty coffee
Jesus Mountain: Grown in Nicaragua, roasted in Manteca
The coffee experts have spoken.
The fourth best specialty coffee in the world is roasted right here
in Manteca with beans grown on a coffee plantation in Nicaragua
started by "three amigos" including two Manteca developers including
one that once sold trinkets to tourists at Lake Tahoe near the
casinos and another who previously worked the ski patrol at Sun
Valley in Idaho.
Jesus Mountain Coffee - roasted at Spreckels Park by the partners in
AKF Development - was selected as the fourth best specialty coffee
in the world by the Specialty Coffee Association of America at the
2007 Roasters Guild Cupping Pavilion Competition in Long Beach May 8.
There were 104 entries in the competition conducted by the world's
largest coffee trade association.
"It's similar to blind wine judging," noted Bing Kirk of Jesus
Panels of judges assess six distinct attributes - taste, fragrance,
aroma, aftertaste, body, and flavor. Coffees are also judged - like
wine - by what type of food they can best be served with.
It was the first time ever for a Nicaraguan-grown coffee to break
into the top 10 in the elite competition.
Kirk noted that a lot of attributes impact the quality of beans -
micro-climates, soil, and elevation - just like with wine.
There were three separate days of judging that whittled down the
field. At one point, the Jesus Mountain Coffee was No. 2 before
being edged out by three others.
But that didn't bother Art Nunes Jr. who noted the winner - the
Panama coffee estate known as Hacienda La Esmeralda - only produced
30 bags of coffee and has won the top award for three consecutive
years from a long-established coffee farm. Jesus Mountain has only
been in production for the last several years.
Nunes helps oversee the roasting of Jesus Mountain Coffee at the
former Spreckels Sugar offices that now serves as home to AKF
Mike Atherton compares the fourth place finish in the blind taste
test as comparable to when California wines made inroads into world
dominance when experts in blind taste tests rated the Golden State
creations as good or better than what hailed from France.
"This is big," Atherton said.
It has taken Jesus Mountain five years to reach the 2005 production
level of 300,000 pounds of coffee beans.
A massive planting effort on the side of Nicaragua's second highest
peak - El Cerro de Jesus at 1,792 meters on the Honduras border -
means that the 1,000 acres that the partnership has purchased in the
rain forest that's shrouded daily with clouds has the potential of
producing upwards of 900,000 to a million pounds a year.
The general rule is a pound of coffee per tree.
Atherton and Kirk along with Dave Lintner have been friends since
their days of attending San Jose State.
Lintner was in Nicaragua with the Peace Corps in 1975 when he
convinced Atherton to join him.
At the time Atherton owned a tacky tourist shop dubbed "The Middle
Earth" that sold trinkets at South Lake Tahoe within a block of
"The hottest selling item was smashed beer bottle ash trays,"
Atherton left behind selling postcards and trinkets to tourists to
work with Lintner overseeing a farming operation in Jalopy,
Two years later, Atherton convinced Kirk - who was working with the
ski patrol at Sun Valley Ski Resort in Idaho - to join them.
The trio - or "three amigos" as they like to call themselves - fled
the country during the Sandinista revolution.
Lintner returned to Nicaragua after the war but kept in contact with
Kirk and Atherton who got into home building in Stockton and Manteca
and their new development partner Bill Filios who joined them at the
start of the Spreckels Park project.
Lintner in 1998 convinced the other three to return to Central
America to consider possibly investing in coffee property abandoned
during the revolution. The four now own close to 1,000 acres that
rise from 1,000 to 1,500 meters on the mountainside.
They have modernized the rural coffee plantation and established a
school, a church, dorm-style housing for workers, modernized the
operations and built roads.
Jesus Mountain Coffee employs close to 200 workers - including
pickers. There are also 17 workers who hand-paint the sacks with the
colorful Jesus Mountain logo. The sacks have become a high-demand
item with collectors and fetch $25 apiece when they are emptied at
the Manteca roasting facility.
The AKF partnership also owns one of the largest coffee plantations