By Amber Barkley, Team Leader – Allegro Coffee Roasters Bowery (NYC)
Everyone I spoke to about the Allegro Origin trip told me that it would change my whole outlook on coffee. They said that no matter how passionate I was about it, no matter how amazing I found it, no matter the admiration I felt for the people who grow and process coffee for us, that was nothing compared to how I would feel after I had seen it for myself.
They were right.
I was fortunate to be selected to attend this year’s Origin trip to Costa Rica, where we visited the Las Lomas and Sumava coffee farms, wet mills, and the Exclusive Coffee dry mill. Every step of the way, we met people who take honest pride in their work: a woman farmer at Las Lomas who never stopped smiling, the owner of Exclusive Coffee who told us that his company was created to fill a niche and help small farmers grow, the harvesters who quietly and efficiently focused on their work.
It was a true honor to meet and learn from these people, who embody everything we stand for at Allegro. The farmers experiment with different varieties of coffee trees and processing methods, searching for the best cup. Exclusive Coffee roasts and tastes small batches of the coffee they process so that they can give the farmers feedback and recommend which of their lots to enter in competitions. The harvesters are well-paid and well-treated, and it shows in the care they take to hand-pick only the ripest cherries.
Everywhere we went, we were encouraged to touch and taste: coffee cherries right off the branch, tough skin and light fruit, bland and sweet, bitter when chewed too long. Coffee seeds, slick and pale right out of the fruit, sticky and warm on drying beds in the sun, rough in our fingers and smelling musty-sweet. Being so close to the source of the coffee we love, being able to touch and smell and taste every part of its journey, and meeting all the people who help it along the way, made me feel incredibly humbled and proud to be a barista, part of the journey in my small way.
There is no limit on things to learn about coffee, but what impressed upon me the most during the Origin trip was this: the amount of labor and care that goes into crafting a single cup of coffee, as the beans change hands from farmer to processor to packager to sourcer to roaster to baristas like me, is immense and intensive. Coffee is about people, and the stories we share. Every cup brings us together, from New York to Colorado to Costa Rica and beyond.