To assist us in this project we invited our good friend from El Salvador, Rodolfo Ruffatti. Rodolfo has been producing some of the most interesting natural coffees to come out of El Salvador in the last couple of years. We couldn’t think of anyone better to help guide the good people at Akmel’s farm.
To get started we went through the sorting process at the raised drying beds together with farm manager Befekadu and the regular workers. Rodolfo was telling them how important it is to remove any cherries that were not perfectly ripe. If you have never seen the end result of the coffee you are creating at farm level, it is very hard to know how important this step is! To make this clearer, we brought back some of Akmel’s coffee that we had roasted. It was easy for everyone to see the difference in colour of the roasted beans and that we needed to improve the sorting.
After this we went out in the fields and picked coffee with a small group of pickers. Here we could show what quality we were looking for, regarding ripeness and colour of the cherries. These pickers went on to collect a full bucket of all the four single varieties Akmel is growing in large scale at the farm. The varieties are 74-110, 74-142, 74-165 and 74-40.
Once they had collected their full bucket, we collected all the coffee cherries at the drying tables. The improvement in picking was absolutely astonishing and we could now do proper tests where we dried these single varieties separately. This gave us a clear idea of how the varieties differentiate from one another.
As I’m writing this we are in late November 2017. We are at the very beginning of the harvest and back at Akmel’s farm. The improvement in taste quality from last year’s work has been great and furthermore we now know which varieties we prefer. We have been looking forward to being able to give this feedback to all of Akmel’s employees.
The farm looks healthier than ever and there are plenty of ripe coffee cherries ready to be picked.
Together with Akmel, we have been going through all the improvements from last year. It’s been exciting to tell the staff how pleased we have been with the great job they have done by significantly improving the quality. At the same time we are also highlighting the importance in keeping focused on the quality, with the ultimate goal of creating a natural coffee as clean as a washed coffee.
This focus will not only be getting us a better tasting coffee. It will also result in less wasted coffee as unripe cherries are now not getting picked, rather, they are left to fully ripen which results in a larger total harvest.
Furthermore, it will also mean that we can pay a higher price, based on the quality, to Akmel benefitting all workers as well as the local society.
Akmel is very active in supporting the local community and has helped to construct a local school along with providing stationary and medicine for the kids at the school. Akmel is also proudly supporting the local police force to ensure that the area is safe for everyone.
When Akmel was explaining all of this it was obvious how important it is that we work together to increase both the quality and the prices of the coffee.
Looking over the very first pickings of the season, spread out on the drying tables it is clear that the picking has taken another step forward in quality. One contributing factor is the weather which has been easier on the plants this year. For the last two years in a row we have witnessed hail storms at the farm resulting in damaged cherries and from that, damaged coffee beans. This year there has been no hail and we hope and believe that this will show in the final taste when we receive the coffee mid 2018.
So what’s next?
Akmel’s farm is 200 hectares in total. About half of this is still wild uncultivated forest so thick that you cannot even walk in there. Here the wild animals, insects, trees and plants live as they always have, without any interference from humans.
On the border to this wild forest Akmel has been planting 3 new varieties. These are Wush Wush, Buna Woshi and Geisha. The plants seem to be growing well here, even though they are battling for the energy in the soil with the natural weeds and tall trees surrounding the plants. Unfortunately we will have to wait approximately four more years before we get the very first samples to test.
The natural forest and keeping the farm as natural as possible has always been a great deal for Akmel. The sun-charging solar flashlights and solar power cells are the only electrical sources available and are used to charge phones. Akmel has no generator and processing the coffee naturally eliminates waste water. There is nothing at play here apart from pure natural resources and pure natural organic coffee.
It is really going to be interesting to see where we can go regarding quality of natural coffee from the Limu region. Only time will tell. But man, it’s interesting working together with Akmel.
Oh yea.. then there is the bucket.. more on that later..
This year we gained traction on a fermentation project we started together with Rodolfo last year at Akmel’s farm. The idea is to let the coffee cherries ferment in its own juices without access to air. This way, we will avoid the coffee starting to get mouldy and create a more acidic profile than we usually see with Akmel’s coffee. Last year we tried it out in quantities of 15 kg. The results from last year were really interesting and so the idea this year is to try and do the same fermentation but in a larger scale and a bit more refined. Instead of 15 kg, we have experimented with 400 kg coffee cherries at once. This testing is only the very early stages and hopefully the coffee will taste amazing. If so, we hope to be able to serve a few cups of this very special lot in our coffee bars later on in 2018!