Coffee with a story: Zen Café travels to the source, finds flavor
As a coffee roaster, I work with products influenced by terroir— environmental conditions that give those products the unique flavor of their origins. Because of this, I often share with customers where my coffees come from and the processes that shape the final product—from harvesting and washing to drying to roasting.
What I am not always able to share, however, are the backstories about the coffees I carry.
My first correspondence with Rudy Cárcamo, a coffee farmer from La Unión, Honduras, was a Facebook message that simply read “Gooooordooooo!” (Fatty!). It was actually meant for another friend, but Rudy accidently sent it to me. If it weren’t for Rudy calling me Fatty, though, I might not have taken a chance to fly down to La Unión, work with Rudy on his finca and experience the wonderful flavors of Rudy’s coffee imparted by the terroir.
How does one experience terroir? I started by waking up to the rooster’s crow, then riding up some of the most treacherous roads I’ve ever experienced in the back of Rudy’s pickup truck at 4,500 feet with my hands tucked in my T-shirt because it was freezing (and I was the only guy who didn’t bring a jacket). As we continued our ascent, the truck became more cramped with the coffee pickers we were picking up on the way.
After our arrival, Rudy informed the picking manager where to begin picking, and off we went back down the mountain for breakfast and to start raking the coffee on his drying patio. When we got there, I could smell breakfast being prepared and see a friend of the family handcrafting and cooking corn tortillas on the wood stove in back. Before we ate, Rudy’s wife, Patty, came out with coffee and a delicious sweet corn bread that was still warm from the oven.
As I sipped my coffee and savored every bite of Patty’s cornbread, in front of me lay Rudy’s coffee beans, harvested the day prior, drying in the sun. In the distance, Rudy’s farm was visible. At that moment, I experienced what the French call goût de terroir—the taste of terroir: the sun, the smell of the soil, the cold mornings, the hot afternoons, the taste of ripe coffee cherries, the smell of coffee fermentation tanks, the washing and drying of the coffee.
This experience comes back to me every time I sip Rudy’s coffee— one I wouldn’t have without going to its origin.
Zen Café Coffee Roasters
1302 High St.
South Bend, IN