December 16, 2016

The Business Behind Specialty: Micro Festival El Salvador Day 2


The final day of Micro Coffee Festival El Salvador started bright and early – perhaps a little too bright for those who’d been enjoying the Cihuatan rum and Cadejo beers the night before! After a delicious breakfast of tamales, the presentations and activities began.

With a wide range of speakers and activities, day two took a look at practical business skills and what it means to be “specialty”.

Spanish Version: Los Negocios detrás del Café de Especialidad: Micro Festival El Salvador  

Coffee fest

Re-Evaluating Our Definition of Specialty

Expanding the definition of “specialty origins” was a trend throughout the event. In addition to Salvadoran coffees, day one also featured cuppings of Indonesian coffees, and Saudi Arabian roasts. And on day two, Thiago Borba of Burgeon kicked things off with How to Move From Commodity Coffee to Specialty Production. He focused on Brazilian coffees, and the following Brazilian cupping was a popular affair.

Later on, Malian Lahey presented Ka’u coffee. Never heard of it? You might recognise the coffee grown just a few miles down the road: Kona. Or at least, you might think you recognise it: “Kona coffee” legally only has to be 10% Kona. The other 90% – well, it can be anything from Ka’u coffee to damaged, low-quality beans. And it’s often the latter, Malian explained.

“But Hawaii farmers consistently produce specialty coffee,” Malian told us – and then she proved it with a cupping of Ka’u coffee.

kau coffee

A Practical Business Focus

Mayra Orellana-Powell of Royal Coffee looked at how producers and importers can build smooth relationships, from making contact to sending documentation and communicating issues early on. A key tip to producers trying to improve their coffee quality: cup. And don’t just cup alone, but cup with the community. Invite fellow producers to help in detecting areas for improvement.

Straight after lunch, Gilberto Baraona presented the results of an Anacafé study on GrainPro vs concrete patios as used by the Tomastapec Cooperative in Guatemala. The result: similar cupping scores were obtained from both (based on three samples from each), but with GrainPro the cost went down from approx. $2000 to $800.

Following up from this, Ildi Revi of Ally Coffee spoke on practical ways to ensure employees perform at their best. Drawing on scientific studies and the Human Performance Technology Model, she suggested new approaches to motivating workers, identifying training needs, and analysing issues in the workplace.

Malian Lahey also looked at business issues, recounting how she offered Hawaiian producers $5.50/lb only to discover it cost them twice that to produce it – and how she tackled this issue. And Michelle Marie de Matheu examined how to maximise crop diversification from both an agricultural and brand perspective.

Ildi Revi

Ildi Revi presents on employee motivation, training, and performance.

Learning From Specialty Alcohol

Everyone’s heard coffee and wine compared before, but coffee and rum? Turns out there’s a lot to learn from this liquor. Ron Cihuatán is famously the first Salvadoran rum produced on a commercial scale, by specialty coffee producer Juan Alfredo Pacas.

Alfredo, as he likes to be called, took us through the process of making coffee before leading a cupping of two rums at three different stages of development. This allowed us to understand the importance of processing on the final cup – an insight that is unfortunately much harder to obtain in coffee.

ron cihuatan

Ron Cihuatán Solera 8 and Solera 12 were cupped at three stages of development.

SEE ALSO: Producer Insight, Barista Skills: Micro Festival El Salvador Day 1

A Latte Art Throwdown

The day cooled down – or should we say heated up? – with a latte art throwdown. Approximately 20 people participated in the hopes of winning an SCAA-certified Behmor 1600+ roaster and a Keep Cup.

Francisco Javier Escobar Flores of OverDose Coffee Roasters walked away with the prize, narrowly beating El Salvador Barista Champion Víctor Florez Menéndez. He plans to use the Behmor for sample roasting, telling us that its small size and consistency in roasting makes it perfect for this.

latte art throwdown winner

Francisco Javier Escobar Flores with his Behmor roaster and Henry Wilson of Perfect Daily Grind.

Connections Made

With attendees from the Americas and Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, people didn’t just make new connections. They made new connections with different parts of the world.

After Mayra Orellana-Powell spoke on The Supply Chain From an Importer’s Perspective, questions on how to work with Royal Coffee came flying in: “What cupping scores do you accept?”, “How does you grade the coffees you buy?”, “Would you consider accepting this varietal?”

Similarly, throughout the event, we witnessed business plans being made and farm visits being planned. More than one exporter and roaster informed us that they were considering diversifying their portfolio to include more Salvadoran coffees.

And while the festival is now over, the event is not: international guests returned to their host families to continue their week at origin, visiting farms and mills, cupping, and benefiting from producer expertise.

Perfect Daily Grind

Want to read more articles like this? Sign up to our newsletter!