By Sam Sobolewski
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
On December 26, I attended a lecture and cupping with Tim Wendelboe, 2004 World Barista Champion and owner of the renowned, self-titled roastery and cafe in Oslo, Norway, hosted by Supersonic Coffee in Berkeley, Calif. The subject of both the talk and the cupping was Tim’s work with Elias Roa, owner and operator of Finca Tamana, a coffee farm in the Huila Department of Colombia.
Tim is the first to admit that Finca Tamana is not his favorite coffee. When he first tried it a few years back it tasted fermenty and was inconsistent from cup to cup. But in an ambitious move he decided to work with Elias anyway and to invest in improvements to the farm that would hopefully translate into better coffee, promising to buy the full harvest at a minimum of $3.50 per pound. Under Tim’s direction (and largely on his dime), Elias implemented a slew of changes to how he picks, washes, dries, and stores his coffee, the details of which now make up a new Tim Wendelboe book named after the farm. The pickers’ work is now more painstaking and more difficult, but at a better rate of pay, and since Tim decides how much to pay for coffee based on cupping scores, there are now incentives in place to improve quality for everyone involved.
The cupping portion of the event was organized chronologically and included examples from three different harvests, three different cultivars and a few experimental processing methods. Tasting through the progression felt like watching the progress made at Finca Tamana in fast-forward. It still may not be Tim’s favorite coffee in Colombia, but it’s fast becoming a very good one that he can proudly stand behind.
Sam Sobolewski is the co-founder and bar manager of Bartavelle Coffee and Wine Bar in Berkeley Calif., and has been a barista for over 10 years. He’s only just now getting into roasting and plans to buy a small sample roaster soon with the intention of pestering a lot of talented people with questions.