My first update from Colombia, where Evan and I are on a jury to select the best coffees in Huila, Colombia, spoke to being humbled by our place among specialty coffee geeks. Folks like the two of us, just with bigger reputations and better experience.
But that humbling took a humble backseat, today, to the appreciation shown us by the farmers, mill workers, students, families, and everyone else we’ve shaken hands with in Huila. In the end, it’s their lives that bring us here. Their lives who have been dedicated to coffee, to providing for family, to improving and then improving on that improvement. So to be smiled at, admirably, by those farmers and their families is about as humbling an experience as there is to be had.
We so often take for granted our situations, more specifically our food, and even more specifically our coffee. Some of us stop daily, or semi-daily, into our favorite cafe for a cup of coffee. Others of us grab a bag of beans from that cafe, or from the grocery store (not recommended), and brew it up at home. We are the end of the coffee process. Our cup is finite. It’s brewed, it’s enjoyed (hopefully) and then, in a matter of minutes, it’s gone. That coffee’s life climaxes and bids farewell in your very drink.
What leads us to this cup is staggering. Farmers and their families climbing muddy hills that make my hill workouts look like recess. Climbing those hills to make the best crop possible, and for only one harvest a year. One. And once this crop is picked, with care going into the exact day at which the coffee cherry is ripe, it is processed with precision that we only strive for in our brewing back home. If you think the care we put into weighing our coffee beans and measuring our espresso extraction is intense, spend one day watching a crop of specialty coffee being processed.
And then, when it’s all been picked and it’s all been sorted, and if the farmer is so flipping lucky that his/her crop is graded high enough to earn his/her family a “healthy” wage, the coffee still needs to be processed with even more precision. Each bean from each coffee cherry, picked by hand at the exact right time and dried at the exact right humidity, is hand sorted to ensure that no bad bean makes its way into our bags.
God forbid we treasure our coffee like that.
So when these farmers look at Evan, and look at me, and thank us in appreciation for what we’re doing, it’s humbling. Blessed are we to be the recipient of this labor, to be lucky enough to put an end to the coffee lifecycle. A life that has spanned months and months, from hand to hand to hand to hand, from truck to boat to freight. To us. To our cup.
It’s we who are appreciative. Let’s hope we can find a way to show it.