Sunday, January 01, 2006

Finca Botancia

Anyone Reading? Please leave comments; we'd love to hear from home.

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Finally, a word from Celina...

Hola amigos!
So as to not disappoint those of you out there waiting with bated breath for word from me, I blog. It's hard to know what to say, as the other posts capture our experiences so well. Being here is different the second time around, but just as wonderful, and I am making a conscious effort to make new friends and try new things. (I wish I could say my Spanish has considerably improved). I've been to the festival (there's a 3 day festival going on just down from the finca) a couple of times now: drank lots of Victoria beer and sang 80's tunes, danced one dance with a random Ometepino, saw the craziness that was the rodeo, and walked 45 minutes down the road only to take a van back to where I began (not all in one night, thankfully).
This place is so beautiful and the people are so wonderful! But now I'm being bitten by ants, so I will go.... Time for some pinto gallo y huevos!
Hasta pronto!

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El Proyecto Tostador: chapter 4

This was the day we started roasting for Finca Magdalena’s needs, i.e. coffee brewing for serving cups at the cocina and sale of 1 lb bags of coffee to the tourists. The plan was to roast 5 batches of 4 lbs each. Since on Sundays the cocina crew changes (1 week on, 1 week off) there were a couple of roasters (tostadoras) who did not see the roaster or the process on Saturday, I did the first batch so all could see and then Oura, Cristina, Carmen, each took turns doing subsequent roasts. They actually roasted 13 kilos in 7 batches. Seven batches were quite dark, like full city ++ - partly due to the novice speed of getting the drum out and beans in the cooler. The last 3 batches they aimed for much lighter roasts - they came out before the end of 1st crack, so City- to me, or cinnamon. We talked about combining all the roasts but then after discussion decided to "grab" two visitors from England, prepare a cup of each and do blind tasting. Many took sips out of the cups and the majority preferred the darker roasts. But, José Maria liked the lighter. So, he and I talked some more and he said his opinion is not important; the opinion of the clientele is what matters.

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El Proyecto Tostador: chapter 3

Hoy es el dia de Año Nuevo. Yesterday, New Years Eve, was the day of the new roaster. We actually got everything set up and gathered las tostadoras y otro socios de Coop to do the first roasts together. I spoke some in Spanish to the group and introduced the machine. All were excited but I could see skepticism in the eyes of some and anxiety in the eyes of others, and some pure fascination.

It was most timely - Cristina, one of the roasters, was working on two batches in the ceramic bowl over wood fire as we were getting things ready. I was repeatedly checking on Cristina's progress - the photo of her roasting should tell you the real reason behind this whole project. She was working on 4 kilos of beans and expected the roasting of them to take 1.5 hours.

That is 1.5 hours of constant stirring over the wood fire with lots of wood smoke, she wipes the tears from her eyes and sweat from her face every few minutes, not to mention the endurance necessary to stir and stand, oh, by the way, it's hot too. I noticed she had another 2 kilos waiting to do after the first batch was finished - to me, admittedly a weakling from the north, but this looks a little bit like bondage labor, and for anyone it is really unhealthy breathing. The quality of the roast is secondary to the health issue.

There was lots of help with getting things done. The "Igors", as Lee and Wes have been referred to, did great work - you can can see them making the hole for the thermometer. Henrietta (Enriqueta) has been invaluable, and gracious - since every time I get stuck with my Spanish, I yell, "Enriqueta", and she is at my side, ayudar con mi lingua debíl. Genevieve, Kris, Kristi, ever ready with cameras.
Celina and Ilse keeping me stable, clam and in touch. Pat and Elisa watching over Robertito, aka "Beto" today. Diane our mom superior, who knows all and pays attention to all details - we would not be here if not for Diane.

So, all the equipment was inspected carefully - Ron Kyle's RKDrum is a center of attraction - construction admired. With Doña Carmen at my side we start the process of the first burn in roast. We are using some beans from last year, sort of parchment coffee - they are pretty soft and seem to have a high moisture content, but what we have today - I am a little concerned about the second roast, the first roast we will actually sample (cup). I have never roasted parchment before so I don't know how they will react in the roaster.

David Mitchell (who arrived yesterday from Bainbridge with Lisa, they are in fact Socios, coop members, and have a house next to the the finca, sits with the others and translates my intro where I don't have the Spanish, i.e. most of the intro.
The "OveGlove" gets a demo and is quite a focus of interest.

Well the burn-in roast goes quite a bit faster than I like, about 9.5 min to the end of second crack - I could have gone a little further for the burn-in since we want to get the beans very oily to season the drum. For the first "real" roast I backed off on the preheat temp and the roasting temps - this grill is better than mine up North and seems to put out more heat - I don't think it is just the 90 degree ambient temperature, more btus.

I am so pleased with how things went. Doña Carmen could not wait for any bean rest and she made a pot of of coffee for all to taste. It was good, not great but considering we have many kinks to work out it was fabulous and, I think, erased much of the skepticism. Monday we plan to roast five batches of 2 kilos each - after all this is a functioning cocina and the guests want their coffee.

Below is Everito, Yami's and Ever's new baby - the real reason all of us are working, la futura, los niños!

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From Kristi and Genevieve

Kristi and Genevieve blog:

Feliz ano Nuevo from Ometepe, We are amazed at what we see everyday. It is beautiful and wild. The bugs are extra large and a bit creepy, but really cool. The people are welcoming and gracious. Transportation is by bus, Burro, walking, or hitchhiking with the locals. We had a great ride in the back of a pickup with 8-10 local builders. Pat got to ride in the front seat. There is a photgraph on every corner. It's a lot like going to camp in the Jungle. We go to sleep to the sounds of howler monkeys and wake up to flocks of noisy parrots. We are getting our fill of rice and beans and refresco, (a local drink made of fruit juice). Standing at the top of the finca we look out at the Lake Nicarauga and the Volcano Concepion. It takes your breath away.

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