Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Las tostadoras take over

Today el groupo took off to visit Hotel Villa Paraiso. It is a hotel on the isthmus owned and run by an Austrian couple that is quite different from other accomdations. It sits on a high bank of the lake and has hot showers; no we did not indulge. We were there for lunch, ice cream and to look around. Lunch was fabulous; the coffee left something to be desired. I asked about where the beans came from and found out they were green beans from Finca Magdalena which they roasted themselves using the ceramic bowl traditional method. I told them about the new roaster at the finca, Sonia was quite interested - the conversations will continue.

On our return the bus dropped us off in Balgüe, at the bottom of the road up to the finca. When I got almost to the top, I encountered Doña Carmen, smiling she told me that they had been roasting coffee all day, they balanced the roast to get something in between the light and dark roasts of Monday, she said it was wonderful. A few steps later and I could smell the pungent/sweet smell of good coffee roasting. My excitement built as I approached the veranda, climbed the steps, and there was a crowd gathered around the roaster. Roasting was still going on and lots more smiles and excitement. Las Tostadoras had roasted on their own all day and were all ready nailing the roasts to what looked like a fine Full City- roast, i.e. before the beginning of second crack. Tourists were asking lots of questions, and wanting to buy bags of beans. José Maria was watching from the side and seemed very proud of the product of the day. Las Tostadoras were beaming with their accomplishment. They seemed now at home with the new roaster and I think some sense of liberation from the old method with its smoke and endurance demanding effort.

I was pleased beyond any of my expectations at the rate of their progress with the new machine. I hoped that the new roaster would become welcomed but was quite surprised that it took only one or two days for them to get completely into this new technique. And, the roasted beans looked wonderful. In a mere 48 hours the quality of the cocina coffee changed dramatically. I watched folks going up to the counter and ordering "café grande" - a big cup - I had never seen that before here and didn't even know that you could order a grande, it's now become the order of choice. I think they are going to need to roast a lot more coffee. Figuring out the roast scheduling and the quantities, etc. Also I had the idea that US$.30 was too cheap for the cups and suggested a price rise to US$.50 per cup, also raising the 1lb bag of beans price for tourists to take away with them, should go from US$3.50 to US$5. per pound. On Thursday is the meeting of the Coop's Coffee Commission, and I have been invited, another great honor, and I am sure the discussions will go on for several hours, including the pricing issues.

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