A couple of weeks ago I had the distinct privilege and pleasure of going to El Salvador to meet Aida Batlle during my first origin trip with PT’s Coffee. Senora Batlle is one of our Direct Trade partners, and the producer behind Finca Kilimanjaro which will be re-launched later this year. The context for my going is rather personal, so if I may be so selfish, allow me to quickly tell you some of my story:
Coffee is a seductress like none other. When she beckons, you answer. Coffee chose me about 4 years ago, and since then it has been my prerogative to learn all that I can about this new lover. I spent some months living and working on a coffee farm in Hawaii, and upon coming back to the Midwest was given the opportunity to work for PTs as a barista at our College Hill store. Suddenly, so many of the best expressions of so many of the best coffees in the entire world were readily available to me, and I’ve loved every moment of it.
Another unique trait of the Coffee Road is that epiphany lies around every corner. I won’t ever forget when I had a cup of Finca Kilimanjaro for the first time. Talk about a ‘eureka!’ moment. This coffee told a story, answered unanswerable questions, and inspired untapped emotion- all in waves and in ways that can’t be told. The experience is inexplicable, but it is one of those that addresses that impossible question of “Why? What is the point?” and keeps you going, inspired.
Since then I have had another dream realized by being entrusted with the position of Roasting Apprentice. And so about a year after that first encounter, it was a big moment of culmination when I had the honor of roasting Finca Kilimanjaro for the first time. Recalling to mind the transcendental nature of this coffee, and the important part that it had played and was playing in my own journey, I passed some of these sentiments along to her. Of course there is no separation of product and producer in an example like this; a thank you was in order.
You can well imagine my joy when Jeff Taylor would tell me that they wanted to send me to El Salvador to meet and work with Aida Batlle. This woman has been profiled by the New Yorker and TIME Magazine among others, is already busy enough with this year’s harvest concluding, and is in constant demand from specialty coffee’s key players. Yet, she was willing to make some time and space for me, our production team was willing to pick up my slack for a week, all while I had nothing to offer but my humble appreciation. And so, I got off the plane a couple of weeks ago, walked out of the airport, did not see my name being held up by any strangers, hopped into a cab and rode off into the El Salvadoran night.
I owe you a more comprehensive trip report. I’d like to share my own 2 cents about the ongoing stress Roya is putting on producers in El Salvador, and what it means for us here. I also look forward to sharing more about Aida Batlle the person: what she means to Coffee, to us at PT’s, and to me personally. I have an opinion or two on the coffee itself as well (spoiler alert: it’s amazing). But for now, may I take this soapbox moment to address you the reader, the coffee lover, and say thank you from the bottom of my heart for that essential role that you play in it all. You are the noble recipient of that last expression of a zany relay of jobs done right where good enough was never an option; that absurd miracle called coffee. A theatrical bow to you for taking part in the madness– it is such a joy to share in it with you. Coffee is a seductress like none other. When she beckons, you answer.