My recent trip to Guatemala had two purposes: receive intermediate roasting classes and to finish the necessary paperwork to be able to export the coffee beans from Guatemala. My roasting classes were taught at ANACAFE (The Guatemalan Coffee Association), and the experience was priceless. I was shocked to see some of the same teachers I had five years ago when I received my Barista classes. I had been all over coffee for over a year now, and I have set the bar high, but to my surprise, the Guatemalan teachers were highly educated, and they answered every question of mine quickly and accurately.
ANACAFE has a vast influence over the coffee in Guatemala; every bean that is exported pays a tax to ANACAFE, making it a large organisation. The structure of the course was the following, two days of the introduction of coffee roasting and two days of intermediate coffee roasting. Each day was split in two, where one teacher taught the first part, and another was teaching the second part. I believe there were around five teachers between twenty and thirty years old.
As soon as you start travelling to countries between the tropics you realise the immense poverty that exists in these regions and how the bottom part of the pyramid sustains themselves with almost nothing. Usually, the farmers from these regions, are not educated, and the corruption in their villages is enormous. That is why I got surprised when I heard that the same teachers that were teaching us how to roast (and cup) coffee were travelling to the mountains of the country to help the farmers with their crop. ANACAFE has free programs for Guatemalan farms where they advise the farms the right steps to follow to become a more organise and lucrative farm. What I loved about these type of actions was that the teachers that taught the classes were not only coffee experts (one of them was a certified Q-grader), but also they do field work and understand to its core the whole coffee cycle and processes.
My first surprise of the course was that we were only two persons in the class, a woman from El Salvador who recently received cupping classes in a United States coffee boot camp who works as the head roaster of a big firm that producers, exporter and roasts coffee from El Salvador and myself. I am surprised that ANACAFE did not cancel the classes, but since they heard we were coming from abroad, the teachers decided to impart it even just with two students. The woman and I have read several books of coffee and work in the industry, which made the classes exciting and informative. Since the very beginning we were discussing the water activity in the beans, the characteristic notes of each region, the importance of the grind and its effect on the brew, we debated about almost everything.
As far as coffee roasting, the class was extremely organised. We used a 5 kg US Roaster Corp. The course covered everything from the history of coffee roasters and how they developed through time to the roasting curve and the different coffee roast profile. I immediately ask for the advance coffee roasting classes which they are currently constructing, which consist of how to roast coffee with various processes (washed, dry, honey), varieties, altitudes and how to exploit the intrinsic notes each coffee has depending on its own characteristics. The four days we roasted an SHB Nuevo Oriente 2018 from Guatemala. It is an incredible experience to roast a coffee and listen from your instructor stories and facts about the coffee you are roasting. I believe that every producing country should have a sophisticated coffee organisation with classes and help towards the people working in the coffee industry.
The added value of the course was the cupping classes we received. The second half of the last two days was for us to cup the coffee that we roasted. It is a beautiful experience to see the different notes that the same coffee has to offer depending on its roast profile. We graded them with the cup of excellence format and with the SCA format as well.
My recommendation to the organisation was also to impart the classes in English. I believe that if they could offer a (From Crop to Roast) course where they took people to the farms to see different processes and teach them to roast those specific coffees there would be a massive international thrive towards that course and more people could get educated by these fantastic people in the beautiful training rooms they currently hold.
J.E. Gutierrez Abril