Jools Walker: Welcome to Adventures in Coffee, a podcast about the toasty and chocolaty world of coffee brought to you by Ikawa Home and Siemens Home Appliances.
Scott Bentley: Yes, here on Adventures in Coffee, we serve you surprising coffee stories to open your taste buds and minds, and hopefully to inspire you to have coffee adventures in your very own kitchen.
Jools Walker: I'm Jools Walker, otherwise known as Lady Velo on other parts of the internet. I am a bestselling cycling author from east London. And of course your very everyday coffee lover.
Scott Bentley: I am Scott Bentley. I'm the founder of Caffeine Magazine, all round coffee dork, I'm also an art director and a brand strategist.
Scott Bentley: So Jools, look, I've got two coffee bags in front of me, and I wonder if you could tell me what ways they are different.
Jools Walker: This one is an old school Italian roast, and the other looks like a specialty coffee. So, looking at the Italian coffee, there isn't a heck of a lot of information on there apart from the fact that it's a classic Italian coffee.
Now, the second bag. This looks like it's come from a specialty roaster, and this gives me a lot more information on it, Scott. So I will know the altitude that the coffee has been grown at, the variety, the processing and the flavour notes.
So there's a lot more going on
Scott Bentley: And what about the difference in the price?
Jools Walker: The first one that you showed me was about £3, and then this one I'm looking at is £20.
So, Scott, it seems here that the more information that's provided the higher the quality is, and the higher the price.
Scott Bentley: Yep, bang on the nose.
OK, look, there's an interesting thing here. Where did that idea come from? I'm going to give you a little clue. I'm going to show you now a picture of the back of a wine bottle. So this is the label on the back of this wine bottle. What do you notice, Jools?
Jools Walker: There's some quite interesting technical information on here. So, we've got details about the primary soils, the barrel regime — Barrel regime: 16 months in French oak. The flavour notes: Rose petal, black cherry
Scott Bentley: Can I get you to read out what it says under primary soils?
Jools Walker: Marine devised sediments confer complexity and vibrancy.
Scott Bentley: I'm laughing at this, but the reality is there are many things from the wine world which have been kind of borrowed by the coffee world to try and increase the value and the price of the coffee.
Jools Walker: Have we got some other examples of that happening?
Scott Bentley: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. You can look at things like the coffee tasting wheel, the notion of things like terroir. And then of course you've got the more recent things, like, you know, processing. You know, that's the stage between, you've got the red cherry and you’re getting the green bean out of it. I mean, these processing methods that have been borrowed from the world of wine, they can produce some really interesting coffee flavours.
Now look, many processing techniques have been borrowed from the world of wine. You've got things like anaerobic fermentation and carbonic maceration. And people in the coffee world, you know, they're asking themselves again and again, what's the next logical phase? Where can we go next? Maybe we could do things like biodynamic coffee, or I don’t know, skin-contact coffee? I mean, we can do this stuff.
Jools Walker: Now, I'm going to have to stop you there, Scott, because the other day, Producer Man James was interviewing Lucia Solis. Now Lucia is a coffee and wine processing specialist who has her own podcast. And when he told us about what he had discussed, we decided we absolutely needed to bring her on as a guest and co-host for the show.
Scott Bentley: Yeah, absolutely. Because I think Lucia did suggest that it's all very well and good for us to be sitting in our cafes and our homes, making coffee, to keep borrowing these things from the wine world. But once we are actually taken to the farms and really see how these products are really made, it might question whether we should be borrowing so many things from the world of wine.
Jools Walker: So in this episode, we have Lucia with us, who's going to give us a very interesting peek behind the curtain of these two products that we love to drink, coffee and wine. And, you know, maybe this comparing and contrasting of the two will help us appreciate the beverages a little bit more.
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Scott Bentley: So, look, we can't wait to bring Lucia on, but just before we do, let's have a quick word from our sponsors.
Jools Walker: So Scott, can I, somebody who has never ever roasted a coffee bean in her life, roast coffee like an expert on the Ikawa Home?
Scott Bentley: Pray tell, dear Jools, pray tell.
Jools Walker: So, the other day, I roasted up a coffee from a number of smallholder farmers near the cold blue water of the Laguna Azul in Guatemala. Now, I quite like a medium to light roasted coffee, but I felt that this coffee tasted a bit grassy and a little too acidic. So I roasted it just a tad darker instead by tapping the medium-dark recipe on the Ikawa Home. And I popped it in a bag and sent it north to the capital of Scotland.
Matt Carroll: So, my name is Matt Carroll and I own and operate Fortitude Coffee up here in Edinburgh.
Jools Walker: Now, Matt has tried his fair share of coffees.
Matt Carroll: When we first opened we were a multirotor cafe before we started roasting our own coffee.
Scott Bentley: So, the man seems to know his stuff. What did he think of your roast?
Jools Walker: Well, he put it to his lips…
Matt Carroll: That's really nice. It's very sweet, initially. I think my first instinct is like a syrup sponge. Nice though, I like it.
Jools Walker: Would you like to know who roasted the coffee? Which speciality roaster did it?
Matt Carroll: Go for it. I'm very curious.
Jools Walker: That would be me roasting it.
Matt Carroll: You?
Jools Walker: Yeah, in my kitchen.
Matt Carroll: Wow! Very good!
Scott Bentley: So, Jools, if you ever fall out of love with the bike, you know, maybe you could swap riding for roasting.
Jools Walker: That could be the name of my new roastery actually. But what you can do is go and visit Matt’s cafe in Edinburgh, which is Fortitude, and we've linked to their Instagram in the show notes.
Scott Bentley: So, dear listener, roast coffee your way with the Ikawa Home.
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Jools Walker: Lucia, welcome to the show. Thank you for joining us today.
Scott Bentley: Welcome, Lucia!
Lucia Solis: Thanks for having me.
Jools Walker: Could you introduce yourself, please, for our dear listener.
Lucia Solis: So, I am a coffee processing specialist in Columbia, and I work with coffee producers. So, in my previous life, I worked for 10 years in the wine industry, and then in 2016 I started devoting myself to working exclusively with coffee producers. And the podcast was born out of a desire to not want to continually repeat myself.
And so I realised that I really wanted to have an audio library of a lot of the things that I was talking about, really specific to fermentation and microbiology as applied to coffee.
Scott Bentley: From your perspective, why did you want to work with us on this episode about coffee and wine?
Lucia Solis: I've spent a lot of time on coffee farms and on wine vineyards. And once you're in both of these worlds, when I see how much the coffee industry is borrowing from wine and wine processing techniques like anaerobic fermentation and carbonic maceration, etc., I really realised on a deeper level how irrelevant they are to coffee.
And not just irrelevant. I actually think that they can be really dangerous. I think when we treat coffee farms like vineyards, we can actually be doing a lot of serious harm. And I want to take you on this journey to show you why. But, instead of telling you guys about how these two worlds are different, I wanted to bring on two friends of mine, colleagues, that are both in the wine world and in the coffee world, and let you hear directly from a coffee producer and a wine producer. So, first up, coffee.
Karla Boza: So, my name is Karla Boza. I am a coffee producer at Finca San Antonio Amatepec in El Salvador.
Lucia Solis: So, on top of being a coffee producer, Karla is also a Q grader. So, a Q grader is kind of the coffee industry's version of a sommelier. And I have a whole podcast about how I don't think that's a very good comparison, but it kind of gives you an idea that she is a very professional and trained coffee taster.
She's also participated in coffee competitions in El Salvador, and she's written for many publications in the industry.
Jools Walker: Oh wow, Lucia, she sounds like she's pretty established.
Lucia Solis: Yes, Jools, that’s right. And not only is she a really interesting person, but her coffee farm is quite unusual for two reasons. For one…
Karla Boza: Something unique about our farm is that it used to be a theme park, and it was El Salvador's only theme park around the ’80s. Then it had to shut down because of the civil war. It reopened, again, it shut down again, and then that area was left abandoned.
Lucia Solis: It changed hands a couple of times, and then eventually her father came to own it.
Scott Bentley: So, this is like the Chessington World of Coffee then, is that right?
Jools Walker: You beat me to it! That's what I was going to say. But yeah, so Chessington and Alton Towers are big theme parks over here, so I'm already imagining how massive that must be.
Lucia Solis: We need a translation for the Americans! I'm like, what is that?
Scott Bentley: It's like Disney! The UK’s Disney World.
Lucia Solis: And because it was a theme park, it’s actually very close to the capital, San Salvador.
Karla Boza: There’s a McDonald's maybe five to seven minutes away from the gates of the farm. You can get Uber Eats delivered to the farm. If you're on the patio and you look to the left, you will see all of the centre of San Salvador, and if you look to the right, you'll see a volcanic lake that is right next to us.
Scott Bentley: That’s kind of mind blowing though, Jools, isn't it? It's kind of, whenever you think of coffee farms — I mean, I've been to some coffee farms in Colombia — it is up a mountain, it's really narrow, the jeep is slipping on the cobbles and just trying to get you up the side of this thing. But yeah, the fact that you can be on a coffee farm and then phoning in pizza…
Jools Walker: Yeah, not quite as secluded as I imagined. But that in itself is just fascinating.
Lucia Solis: And actually, Karla didn’t grow up thinking that she would be in coffee at all.
Karla Boza: I actually studied sociology, and prior to that I was working with a water non-profit and also with an immigration program here in El Salvador.
Lucia Solis: So, Karla is a very unusual coffee grower. She speaks English, she's university educated, she has the means to travel, But for me, the element that's most interesting about Karla is that she's very young. So, we know that in coffee, the average age of a coffee producer is about 65 — that's the average age is 65 years old — so coffee growing is not really appealing to the next generation.
Scott Bentley: She does sound fascinating.
Lucia Solis: And I also spoke with a winemaker…
Todd Kohl: Yeah, I'm Todd Kohl. I'm the winemaker for Wayfarer Vineyard, and along with my wife we own and make the wine for Curves and Edges.
Lucia Solis: Todd and I are friends from school. We both studied winemaking at UC Davis. And then after we graduated we worked together at the same winery, and we had some extra time and were just super overachievers. So in 2012, during the daytime we would make wine for the winery, and then we would come home in the evenings and then we would make our own wine. I made garage wine in my house with him.
Todd Kohl: Quick background on me: Born and raised in California, where I currently live and make wine. Went to UC Davis to study how to grow grapes and make wine, and then spent about five years doing internships around Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley. And I've been at Wayfarer now for about 10 years.
Lucia Solis: For those of you who don't know, Napa Valley is about an hour north of San Francisco, and it's considered one of the top viticultural areas in the United States.
Jools Walker: OK, so Lucia, how are you doing this comparison between the two?
Lucia Solis: We're going to be looking at three different points of comparison between Karla's farm and Todd's vineyard: the picking side, the processing side, and then the economics of all of it, because there are three big points that I want to get across to you guys. The first big point, and this might sound super, super obvious, but in coffee, we really just want the green bean. We want the seed. We don't really care that much about the fleshy fruit or the juice or the skin around it. But in the wine industry, we want the opposite. All we care about is the juice and the skin, and we're trying to make the seed as invisible as possible. This might sound really simple, but it has very profound implications.
So what I want to do now is show you, for example, what does that mean when it comes to picking? Let's look at how Karla does picking and then compare that to how Todd does it. First up, Karla.
Karla Boza: What happens is that we usually start picking coffee, basically around sunrise. And it goes on until around maybe like 2 p.m.
Lucia Solis: So, Karla might have a dozen or more pickers with sacks trudging up and down her slopes. Each sack full of coffee that maybe weighs, like, 50 kilos. These are really very heavy bags that people are expected to carry up these steep slopes.
Scott Bentley: Wow! That's two Boris bikes on your back.
Karla Boza: We try to ask them to cut and harvest the coffee right when it's red, like really mature. And I always tell them to wear long sleeves, pants, long socks and closed toe shoes, because we have a lot of bugs and a lot of insects. There might be, like, poison ivy or something with thorns around. So you want to be very careful that you don't have skin contact.
Scott Bentley: So, you’ve got these coffee pickers on the side of a mountain, in subtropical conditions, full clothes.
Jools Walker: That's what I was thinking. The long sleeves, the trousers, everything covered — it just feels like it's very hot and exhausting work.
Lucia Solis: And I want you to think about those cherries. They're moved around in these really heavy sacks and moved from place to place. They're really rough and tumble. When I first saw this in the coffee industry, I was horrified as a winemaker, how these coffee cherries were treated,
So now let's go to Todd, and I asked him what happens on his picking day.
Todd Kohl: We harvest everything at night. So, we start harvesting at midnight and we finish at 5 a.m. We have a tractor with what's called a bin trailer. It holds two of our half ton bins. So on that tractor, we have a large light tower with LED lights, and it floods the whole area around it with light. And then, the second aspect is each person has a headlamp.
Jools Walker: Why does Todd pick at night?
Todd Kohl: So, it's really important to pick for us at night. Because if we pick during the day, a few things can happen. So the grapes are warmer during the day. All the fruit gets eventually put into a half ton bin and then stacked on a truck. So that creates juice, and if it sits in there and it's warm for two hours, then it can actually start fermenting, along with bacterial growth or other things that can happen. And we don't want that to happen yet. I'm not ready to start fermenting until I'm ready to start fermenting.
Lucia Solis: You can hear that Todd is constantly trying to minimise heat and breaking any of the fruit, like physically breaking the grape clusters. Because any physical damage and heat can accelerate the microbial process of turning grape juice into wine. And if he doesn't put this much care into picking, the wine flavours will be unpredictable
Scott Bentley: This is a really interesting contrast here, because Todd is being so careful not to break the grapes and not to let any of the juice kind of seep out. But for Karla, it's just like, let's just get them off the tree, get them in a bag and get them down the mountain as soon as possible.
Jools Walker: Just such a contrast between the two.
Lucia Solis: Exactly, as I said before, it's really about getting the seed out. So we don't really care about the flesh that much in coffee. But in wine, it's a totally different ballgame. It's all about the flesh and how you treat that flesh. So being careful is really important. And in coffee, what first horrified me, I realised is not really that important.
So now, the next big point that I want to get across, and it's pretty obvious, but when you think about it, in wine, grape juice needs a fermentation to become wine. Without a fermentation, grape juice will never become wine. But in coffee, we don't really need the fermentation to have coffee. The seed can still be roasted and become the coffee that we brew and enjoy.
So, let's look a little more deeply at the processing side. What do we do with the fruit once we have it? How do we process it? What are the priorities for Karla versus Todd? So again, let's start with Karla’s farm. So, she's got her cherries…
Karla Boza: Yeah, they'll spread it out on the floor.
Lucia Solis: She picks out the bad cherries.
Karla Boza: Like, overly matured, that is damaged, or unripe.
Lucia Solis: Now, remember how Karla's farm is in an old theme park? So what they do is they actually spread the coffee cherries to dry underneath the sun on the grounds of the theme park.
Karla Boza: It used to be where you arrived with the gondolas from the teleférico, and that's where you would, sort of, land.
Lucia Solis: And one of the challenges that they have on this theme park is that they have very little water. So their processing method is a natural processing, a dry process method, where the sun is what dries the coffee cherry, with the skin still on the cherry, and then you have to hull it later on.
Karla Boza: And we definitely want to get all of that, or as much as we can, done by sunset, because there is no water, no electricity where our patios are. So, for the next few days, we have a designated patio manager. His name is Rogelio.
Lucia Solis: And how does he know when the coffee is dried and it's ready to go inside and be stored?
Karla Boza: We have a moisture meter.
Lucia Solis: So once Rogelio sees that the moisture is just right, he has to get the coffee cherries off the patio so that we can get the green seed out of it
Karla Boza: So, we don't have our own mill. So we try to do things as low-tech as possible. What we do is we have a small hand-mill for corn, and in that we put the coffee, and once you grind it up, it actually works really well for removing all of these exterior layers from the coffee cherry. And it's super low-tech. You don't need electricity for it. It's really easy to use. And then we gather the green beans, and we put it in the moisture meter, and we measure how much moisture it has.
Lucia Solis: So then the coffee goes into sacks and the green beans are ready to be shipped to a roaster.
Jools Walker: I mean this in the nicest way, that it's quite simple, isn't it.
Lucia Solis: I think Karla says it best: It's low-tech.
Jools Walker: Mmm.
Lucia Solis: And listen, low-tech works for Karla, because it's all about freshness.
So they're getting it off the trees as quickly as possible, they're drying it on the patios very quickly because they want to avoid those heavy rains, trying to get the coffee to this stable point so that they can ship it off and it can get to its final destination. So, speed is a really important factor.
Jools Walker: So, Lucia, what is it like on the wine side? What is it that Todd’s doing?
Lucia Solis: OK, so first thing’s first, I want you to picture in your mind what Todd's facility looks like.
Todd Kohl: If you come in the big roll-up door where the fruit comes in, on the left side you would see a big press. Then you would see two stainless steel tanks. To the right of that is where our sorting table is. But then off to the side, behind walls, on the left and right, we have our barrel rooms for barrel storage. And those are fully temperature-controlled, humidity-controlled.
Jools Walker: The levels of precision already!
Lucia Solis: So yeah, the tanks in these facilities are pretty intense, but even before the grapes have arrived, Todd has scrubbed everything down, the whole wine-making team — everything!
Todd Kohl: We sanitise anything that's going to touch the fruit, including our own hands and feet. The sorting table that I mentioned, it'll get some sort of soap on it to rinse and clean everything up. And then it'll get an acid to neutralise it. And then an actual sanitising agent to really sanitise. We do that with the press, the tank — anything that's going to touch that wine at all gets a full sanitation.
Lucia Solis: So, in a typical eight-hour day, we spent about four hours just cleaning and sanitising.
Jools Walker: So, why is there so much sanitation going on in the wineries?
Lucia Solis: It's all about the fermentation and the microbes that are doing that fermentation.
Scott Bentley: I mean, Lucia, I wonder if you can elaborate on why this fermentation is so important.
Lucia Solis: Well, in wine, fermentation is the key to quality. Without fermentation, grape juice will never become wine. So, the identity of the microbes that are doing this transformation are the ones that give wine its characteristics, that give wine its flavour.
Scott Bentley: I think I get this. So there are these microbes. They're doing the fermenting. And the wine is going to taste more like this with that microbe and it will taste like something if you use a different microbe. So, it really matters what microbe you’re using and you've got to be on top of it.
Lucia Solis: Exactly. However in coffee, even though there is a fermentation that is part of the processing, it's not necessary. You can completely skip the fermentation and you can still have coffee seeds turn into green beans, turned into roasted coffee. The fermentation can definitely impact the quality of the coffee, but it's not necessary.
Jools Walker: So, for Karla, it's much more low-tech, it's low cost and a lot more accessible, Whereas for Todd, it’s much more high-tech and definitely much more high infrastructure, because the fermentation literally makes or breaks his wine.
Scott Bentley: I get it now. Coffee doesn't need complex fermentation to be a good coffee. But you can use it and it helps, right? If you include a fermentation stage, it could taste much better.
Lucia Solis: Well, yes, that's true. It could taste better. But this is my third and final point: Coffee and wine are just economically worlds apart, like totally different worlds apart. And indeed, what's economically feasible in the wine world is not necessarily appropriate or feasible in the coffee world.
So, I want to give you an idea of just how different these two worlds are economically. So let's look at the pickers. I asked Karla how much they earn.
Karla Boza: So what is determined by law is what we follow. And we pay $1.92 for an arroba, and on top of that we also provide people with three meals a day.
Lucia Solis: An arroba is a weight measurement that they use — it's about 50 kilos — and Karla told me that the average picker might pick two arrobas a day.
Jools Walker: OK, so if we end up doing the maths on this, so that's like $1.92 per arroba — I hope I said that correctly — and then you're doing two hours a day, so that's $4?
Scott Bentley: Wow, $4 and some food — you ain't getting rich on that!
Lucia Solis: And now for the contrast, let's go over to Todd in Napa. And when I asked him what a typical worker would earn when picking, this is what he said…
Todd Kohl: Around $200, $250 for the day. And again, it's going to be a, probably, six-hour day.
Jools Walker: Yo, that's huge!
Scott Bentley: I’m in the wrong game!
Lucia Solis: Now, it's kind of not fair to compare California real estate. So, I lived in California most of my life, and I can tell you that the real estate prices are astronomical. So, the cost of living between California in the Bay area and living in, you know, I live now in Colombia, but I've also lived in Mexico, and I lived in Guatemala — so living on a coffee farm is less expensive. Your overheads are very different. But it's still, keeping that in mind, an incredibly different world in even what the pickers are paid.
Scott Bentley: Well, absolutely.
Lucia Solis: So you've already imagined both of these facilities: Todd's winery and Karla's theme-park-turned-coffee-processing facility, but now let's look at some of the costs between these.
So, for Karla, her costs include the drying tables, maybe plastic sheeting, she has the wooden tools to move the coffee, she has a moisture meter, and then that hand-crank corn mill.
Jools Walker: Maybe Karla's looking at spending $1,000 or so on that?
Scott Bentley: Yeah, maybe several hundred or something like that.
Lucia Solis: But for Todd's professional facilities…
Todd Kohl: We'd spend, you'd spend at least half a million dollars, and that would just be for a few tanks, a press and a sorting table.
Jools Walker: I gasped when I heard half a million dollars!
Lucia Solis: And now, finally, let's look at what Karla is able to sell her product for versus what Todd is able to sell his wine for. So, for Karla…
Karla Boza: What we've charged for this harvest, the ’21-’22 harvest, I think it's like $3.20 per pound, compared to last year, which was $2.60.
And, you know, in the UK, you might find that coffee, Karla's coffee, for about £9 per bag. And of that £9, she has probably earned £1.60. That's roughly double what the typical coffee farmer would earn, so it's pretty good.
Jools Walker: OK.
Scott Bentley: Yeah, it's probably pretty good coffee then.
Jools Walker: So, let's see: How much does Todd actually earn for his wine?
Todd Kohl: Yeah, so a retail bottle, 750 millilitres, retail price is $90 for a pinot noir and chardonnay.
Jools Walker: I mean, it's kind of obvious, but can you talk us through why there is such a big discrepancy between what Karla is earning and what Todd earns?
Lucia Solis: Todd sells directly to the end consumer. And there are a lot of tourists who come to Napa, to the wineries, and he's able to build up a relationship directly with the people who buy his wine.
Karla, on the other hand, sells through intermediaries and ultimately to a roaster, who then sells it to a final consumer. So, for Todd, he's able to set the price that he wants to set, and people come to him to buy his wine. But for Karla, she can only really sell to a number of people, because she's not able to sell directly to the consumer.
She has less ability to just say, “This is the price that I'm going to sell my coffee for”, and then people are going to come and buy it.
Jools Walker: OK, so if there's this trend now of, basically coffee producers, sort of using these funky wine fermentation techniques, how expensive would that be, Lucia? I mean, doing these things like carbonic maceration, and stuff like that?
Lucia Solis: Well, I think something that we need to think about is that when a lot of producers are looking to wine to do these examples, they're really just copying what they're seeing. So, a lot of times they invest in the tank, the equipment that Todd was talking about. So a lot of producers will invest in some of these expensive stainless steel tanks. And a lot of producers can spend a significant part of their income just trying to buy the things to copy these processes.
Scott Bentley: So look, Lucia, at the top of the show, we mentioned how the latest thing that the coffee world is borrowing from the wine world are these really out there, crazy fermentation techniques, anaerobic fermentations and the carbonic macerations, that sort of thing.
But as you put it, some of these fermentation techniques are not only wildly inappropriate, but actually maybe even quite dangerous for some of these coffee producers to be really involved in. So, I'm curious; do you have a story of when this has maybe gone wrong for a producer? They've been asked specifically to do something and then it's kind of not worked out.
Lucia Solis: Unfortunately, I do. And I actually have a lot. It's not an uncommon story that I hear from producers that reach out to me because of things that have gone wrong.
But there was a producer that I was working with in Peru, and he was asked for a particular anaerobic process. He did as much reading as he could on the internet about how to do it. But once he did, he did about half of his production in this way, and once he had finally finished the process he sent a sample to the buyer, and they didn't like it. And so they didn't end up buying the coffee. And because it was such a weird process, he couldn't find anybody else to buy his coffee. So, for that year, he lost half of his production — it was just sitting in the warehouse. And when I talked to him it was about 18 months later, and he still had that coffee sitting in the warehouse because he couldn't find anybody to buy it. And this was really a striking example, because it wasn't just that he lost half of his production and he lost that income and maybe he lost some time. It was such a significant investment for him that he was really questioning his position in coffee at all. He was thinking, “I think I might need to leave coffee”.
I made an episode with him called “The Escape Velocity of Coffee”, because he was just thinking, “I don't think I can be in this industry at all anymore”.
Jools Walker: That’s awful!
Scott Bentley: I mean, that's just so damn irresponsible of the person that asked that. I mean, in some ways, you're asking the people least able to carry the burden to carry that burden. And if you want that, put your money up, and say, well if it goes wrong, I'm still going to pay you for it because I've asked you to do it. Surely that's the only decent thing to do!
Lucia Solis: I think so.
Jools Walker: I mean, I'm kind of confused. Who exactly is asking these coffee producers to do it? I mean, it's not me writing emails to it, to coffee producers and saying, “Hey, do like a funky whine process for me”. I mean, where is this demand coming from? Who's pushing for this?
Scott Bentley: Well, Lucia, just before you give us an answer, let's have a quick word from our sponsor.
[Ad music begins]
It's time to take a coffee trip with Siemens Home Appliances.
Scott Bentley: Alright, Jools. Tell me where we’re going.
Jools Walker: My friend, I am whisking you over to Costa Rica, and we are heading to Doña Aracelly Robles’ farm.
Scott Bentley: And why did you choose this particular one?
Jools Walker: Oh, Scott, I was utterly drawn to this coffee, because I really love the story behind it. Now, let me take you to the lush and foggy town of Frailes where Doña Aracelly Robles lives.
All of Doña Ara’s childhood memories revolve around coffee, and she inherited a share of her mother's coffee farm. Now, when this happened, she took over the matriarchal role after her mother's passing. And, you know, she's very much about looking after her family and feeding them and making sure that they're OK. So, there's this real multi-generational thing going on. And that, as you know, would talk to me, because I live in a multi-generational house, and mama Velo is very much like that. Now, she really wants future generations to reap the same benefits that the coffee industry has actually given to her.
Scott Bentley: Wow, that's a lovely story. Tell me, how are we brewing Doña Aracelly’s coffee on the Siemens EQ700.
Jools Walker: Well, Scott, I'm going to be tapping this one in on the touchscreen. Cafe XL, with the distinctive aroma setting, and it will be a normal double-shot strength in a 360 ml cup size.
And this coffee, Scott, it's called Aracelly Robles, and it’s roasted by our friends Girls Who Grind Coffee in Warminster.
What are you getting from this coffee?
Scott Bentley: Yeah, I'm definitely getting, like, a black tea vibe. What are you getting?
Jools Walker: I can taste very, very dark chocolate.
Scott Bentley: And there is a nuttiness here as well . Well, thanks for taking me on that coffee trip with Siemens Home Appliances.
[Ad music ends]
Jools Walker: So, Lucia, I've got to know, please tell me who is it that's asking these coffee producers to take these massive risks with their processing and basically borrow all of these crazy, funky techniques from the wine world?
Lucia Solis: Yeah, Jools, I think it's really interesting too, because you're right. It's really not coming from consumers. Because again, remember Karla doesn't sell her coffee directly to the end consumer. She sells it to the intermediaries. And so it's the intermediaries’ role and the roaster's job to make these coffees exciting and interesting and to sell them.
And so, where they’re looking to differentiate the coffees, the more you can put into describing this coffee, the higher perceived value and the higher price you could potentially get.
And so, a lot of this pressure is really coming from the middle, kind of back. Both ways, from the middle back to the producers, and then from the middle out to the consumers, to want these coffees.
So, it's creating kind of like this weird vortex that is kind of unfairly putting all of this pressure towards producers to create these coffees, which as we've seen, it can be very difficult for them, given their circumstances.
Jools Walker: So Scott, I have to ask after Lucia has so brilliantly taken us on this journey; we have heard about how coffee has borrowed from wine — what are your thoughts on that now after hearing this?
Scott Bentley: Hmm, yeah, thanks for kind of like throwing me under the bus there, Jools. Um, no, I think the interesting thing here is that there are many good things that we can take from wine, but I think to kind of just overlay a different business model onto coffee is not helpful or productive. And actually, maybe what we should do is just let coffee farmers be coffee farmers and do what they do very well and compensate them for what they're doing, and maybe not demand of them things which are outside of their comfort zones, maybe.
Jools Walker: What you just said, Scott, about not demanding things that may not be possible. That's got me thinking, what can I do as a consumer? Because, I'm not the one demanding that, the consumers are not the ones demanding that — there are lots of middlemen running around making these things happen. So, as you know, at this end of the scale, what is it that I can do as a consumer to be better?
Scott Bentley: I don't think I'm particularly well positioned to answer that, but maybe Lucia is.
Lucia Solis: Now I'm being thrown under the bus! No, I think that as consumers we still do have a really strong voice in terms of our voting and what we're voting for when we're purchasing these coffees. And, you know, I'm hoping that after listening to this you just have more awareness. I think it's really difficult for consumers to know what is marketing and what is genuine. But, I still think that when you pick up a bag of coffee or when you're ordering something and it has this language or it has these types of processing, just ask yourself, “Is this something that I want to vote for? Is this something that I want to continue to see?” If we can just start with that awareness, and start to get more curious about our coffee and where it's coming from and who's making it, I think that that is the first step towards making real change. And shifting some of that power back to producers and to coffee production.
[Inspiring, flowing music begins]
Scott Bentley: I think that's a wonderful place to end.
Jools Walker: Lucia, thank you so much for taking us on this journey.
Lucia Solis: Thank you, guys.
Jools Walker: It truly has been very, very eye opening and is making me think about wine and coffee in very different ways.
Scott Bentley: Yeah, I'm also thinking it's four o'clock, which is very close to five o'clock, which is very close to wine o’clock.
Jools Walker: I knew you were going there!
Jools Walker: Lucia, if our dear listener wants to find out more about you and your podcasts, where are the best places for them to find you?
Lucia Solis: Well, my podcast is called Making Coffee with Lucia Solis. And if you like any of this going off the deep end, going into production, that's mostly what my podcast covers. And I go into a lot of other aspects of making wine. So there is a three episode series on terroir and kind of debunking how we really shouldn't use terroir for coffee production in our language. I also have other ones talking more about carbonic maceration and getting, like I said, a lot more off at the deep end.
Jools Walker: And of course there will be a link in the show notes to all of this as well.
Scott Bentley: Yep, thank you very much, Lucia. And I'm sure we'll have you on a podcast again very soon.
Jools Walker: Oh, for sure.
Lucia Solis: Thanks, guys.
Jools Walker: Thank you so much.
Scott Bentley: Take care.
Jools Walker: Shall we roll into the credits then?
Scott Bentley: Let's do it.
Jools Walker: So, this podcast was produced by James Harper, and he wrote and plays that piano music you hear in the background. And it is edited by Amedeo Berta.
Scott Bentley: Now, dear listener, we loved making this episode, but it probably took James, our dear producer, a solid 30 hours of work. And that's just his time, let alone our own and Amedeo Berta. So look, do consider supporting the show by becoming a Patreon.
Jools Walker: You can help us make these really involved episodes for the price of just a coffee a month.
And we want to give a huge thanks to the handful of Patrons who already support us. Now, we thank you every night before going to bed. We say a little prayer for your existence. But if you would like to become a Patron and hear our telepathic thanks every single evening, follow the link to Patreon in the show notes.
Scott Bentley: And if you can't support us on Patreon, another thing you can do is to share the show with your friends. Maybe do something like create a screengrab, put it on social media, tag us in there, and we promise that we will repost it.
Jools Walker: Dear listener, in the next episode, I'm going to be taking you on a very personal and absolutely fascinating story all the way to the Caribbean.
Scott Bentley: The story behind one of the most expensive coffees in the world.
Jools Walker: Oh yes, Scott. In this episode, I'm going to help you see Jamaica, the country where my father is from, in a completely new light.
Scott Bentley: I cannot wait. But until then, drink lots of wine and be very wary of those crazy, expensive processing techniques splashed across your coffee bags.
Jools Walker: Buh-bye!