My first exposure to coffee was as a young child growing up in Brazil. I remember picking coffee cherries off of trees growing in yards and horseback riding trails. My other memories of coffee were the Cafezinho’s served everywhere and on every occasion. The stuff was awful. At that time Brazil kept all the low quality products in the country and exported all the good stuff. Brazil was also of the mentality that quantity was more important than quality. Since then my perception of coffee has changed.
I am passionate about quality coffee. My first exposure to specialty coffee was in 1986 as a part time coffee clerk. The store I worked at smelled fabulous. The customers loved the product. Of course I had to try the product. To my surprise the coffee was quite good.
In Costa Rica
After a year of working in the stores I was promoted to the purchasing department at the company. It was here that I learned about the complexity of coffee. I had a wonderful mentor who taught me about coffee. I spent hours cupping coffee and learning about the different nuances. From there my coffee education flourished while I had the opportunity to attend the SCAA’s conferences. I learned about cupping, roasting, brewing, coffee varietals, certifications, and origins. Along the way I met hundreds off coffee professionals who further enhanced my learning. I have had the opportunity to be a judge for The Best of Panama, Cup of Excellence, Rainforest Alliance, Southeastern Barista Championships, and Barista Ultimate Challenge. I have been a station instructor for Craft Roasting and Espresso. After almost 30 years in the industry I am still learning about coffee.
My love of coffee took me to Costa Rica where I saw my first wet and dry mill. Since then I have taken my husband David to Costa Rica and I have been a Cup of Excellence judge for Costa Rica. My husband wants to retire there.
My next coffee journey took me to Jamaica and the Blue Mountains. What an adventure it was driving up the mountain on the wrong side of the treacherous barely two lane road. I yearn to enjoy another cup of coffee in the peaceful Blue Mountains over looking Kingston.
The company I was working for was a supporter of Habitat for Humanity. Many of the coffee field workers across the world have inadequate housing. I had the privilege of working on a project in Guatemala with awesome coffee, beautiful countryside, and wonderful people.
Guatemala with Habitat for Humanity
After Guatemala I went back to Brazil with a new appreciation of coffee. My first trip back I was amazed by the quest for quality coffee in Brazil. Farm after farm was investing in quality coffee at a time when coffee prices were plummenting and farms around the world were being abandoned. For days I cupped coffee and made recommendations for which coffees were worthy of competing in the Cup of Excellence. Many of those which I recommended went on to win the Cup of Excellence award. I have been back to Brazil numerous times with my husband since then.
In Brazil with my husband David
Later on I went to Panama where I had the opportunity to be a judge for The Best of Panama for three different years. I had my first exposure to Geisha coffee on my first trip. As part of a group buy I secured the Esmeralda Special Geisha on auction.
Cup of Excellence in Colombia
My first Cup of Excellence judging experience was in El Salvador. Here I found the wonders of single origin espresso. An espresso I will never forget being prepared in the middle of a coffee field. We also enjoyed coffee made in a French Press with water and a portable stove brought up to the # 1 winning Cup of Excellence farm which was rustic and fun.
With the Cup of Excellence, I later went on to judge the Cup of Excellence Colombia. I loved meeting up with my “coffee family” from around the world.
One of the best cups of coffee I have had was in the Dominican Repbulic. We spent the day travelling up the mountains on rugged roads. We toured some farms and then stopped at a lovely cottage. We unloaded a propane tank, coffee, water, matches and camp chairs. The coffee was made in a Moka pot. We sat on the porch overlooking a valley and mountain. Our meal consisted of crackers. What a wonderful way to end the day.
Nicaragua is an amazing country. My trips to this country have taken me all over. My first trip was to Selva Negra, winner of the SCAA Sustainability Award. Last year I throughly enjoyed the time I spent with some of Cup of Excellence judges visiting the Fincas Mierisch. The appreciation for nature on these farms was incredible.
Traveling to Honduras was interesting. The airport seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. Our host from Ihcafe went out of their way to make us feel welcome and teach us about Honduras and their incredible coffee. It was an honor to be a part of the Cup of Excellence Jury for Honduras.
I look forward to sharing some amazing coffees and stories with our customers.