Barista skills come to the campo.

For six weeks this summer, the Liga Masiva team is based in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic, partnering with our organic coffee farmers on a series of coffee excellence projects. As part of this project, we conducted the farmers’ first ever cupping of their coffee to introduce them to its smells and flavors.  In Part 1 of this series, we provide commentary on the tasting.  Part 2 will outline why this coffee cupping might just revolutionize the way trade works for small-scale farmers.  Part 3 will enable you to join the farmers in your own in-home coffee cupping.

Today was the big meeting we’ve been awaiting and planning since we packed our bags for Jarabacoa. And… it started a bit awkwardly.

At 11am, the farmers began arriving from the mountains by motorcycle and on foot for their first coffee cupping.  As they assembled, the familiar awkwardness of a first wine tasting (what with all of that uncomfortable swirling, sniffing, and spitting) was palpable in the group.

Jacinto looked particularly skeptical, saying he had never drunk coffee without sugar. (Sheepishly, this blogger admits she’s not terribly fond of coffee without it either.)

The discussion started with the smells and tastes—everything from floral notes to nuts and chocolate—that are present in coffee.  One of the farmers remarked what most first time tasters think but don’t say, “What do you mean the coffee is going to taste like caramel?  It should taste like coffee!”

After the initial moments of uncertainty, the farmers became their typical talkative selves, opining on which coffees smelled and tasted the best.  Smelling the dry grounds, Jacinto asked, “Why does this coffee smell so sweet if it doesn’t have any sugar in it?”

Interestingly, four of the five farmers identified the lesser-quality coffee, the kind they normally drink, as the best brew on the table.  This allowed us to have a conversation about different coffee preferences, and to discuss the qualities people look for in Liga Masiva coffee.  To each his own in terms of coffee flavors, but these farmers now have a better sense of how small actions on their farm– like not letting the coffee sit too long before washing it– affect the cup.

In tomorrow’s post: how this kind of experience is a critical piece of revolutionizing trade for small-scale farmers.