Product Reviews By Carlyle Coash Unroasted coffee beans at Cafe Gran Batey in Puerto Rico. The last few years we’ve seen a host of different studies looking at coffee and the health benefits connected to it. Something important to remember about the benefits of coffee is taking into account the quality and amount one takes in everyday. Moderation is important, so your five triple lattes with two packets of sugar every day may not be so good for you. A cup of high quality coffee, on the other hand, may be very beneficial indeed. However, there’s coffee and then there’s Coffee. The first is bland, low grade and ho-hum. The latter is robust, potent and created from the best beans you can find. You might remember that at the moment I’m traveling in Puerto Rico. The adventure continues and I’m getting an education on coffee today during a visit to the Cafe Gran Batey in Utuado Puerto Rico. You might say that’s a long way to go to get a lesson in coffee, but it’s well worth it. Somewhat hidden off kilometer marker 11 on Rt 111 outside the town of Utuado in west central Puerto Rico, sits a modest family run coffee farm. Here they make small batches of high quality 100% Arabica coffee. In Puerto Rico coffee growers are divided into high and lower grade producers, with strict requirements for those wanting to be placed in the high grade category. The process for this takes far more time, so only a handful of farms get this designation. Our tour guide is Daniel, the son of the owners. Since the harvest just wrapped up, the farm does not have an abundance of beans to show off – at least on the plant. Plus this year, during a crucial growing time, Puerto Rico experienced a drought. This caused some of the harvest to be delayed as plants did not mature when they needed to. This kind of natural event can have deep impact on farms like theirs. They managed through it, but worry what next year might bring. Since Gran Batey focuses just on Arabica beans, they have one harvest a year. Their operation is small, so the tour does not take too long. Daniel tells the story of how they process the beans from the plant, selecting only the best beans to continue on in the processing. If they are not a certain size or quality, they are sold to the larger commercial coffee growers for lesser quality brands. Since they are certified a high quality farm it is essential for them to stay vigilant in what gets processed. Since the processing requires the removal of 4 different skins from the bean, this helps them evaluate as they go to assure only the best beans get through. The discarded skins are collected and used in the mulch for the plants so that they can maximize the use of everything they grow. As the skins come off, the beans are dried slowly and then stored before roasting. As they sell packages of coffee they hand-roast the stored beans. This way you get fresh beans with a powerful bouquet. At one point Daniel opens a large container of roasted beans and the rich scent almost knocks us over. This is the real stuff. The tour ends with Daniel’s mom Lotty preparing a fresh cup for us to taste. She uses a metal stove top percolator, which makes a strong, flavorful coffee. She also heats fresh milk to add in if you want. The coffee is so fresh and of such high quality that a little goes a long way. One little cup had the impact of about 5. Lotty prepared plates of biscuits and other treats to go along with our tasting. There is a jovial, warm atmosphere as they share their experience of coffee growing. A couple hours slip by without effort. It feels like sitting at home with family shooting the breeze. Another couple arrives and Daniel takes them off for a tour. Although you can purchase bags of coffee through their website, we opted to take a few bags with us. Lotty bags and seals the coffee right there, so we get very fresh treats to take with us. In fact every order is done this way, so you know that your order was not sitting on a shelf for a month before being shipped to you. The farm offers tours most days but it’s a good idea to call first to make sure someone is there. There is no charge for the tour and no pressure to buy any coffee. Once you try some though, it’s hard not to resist. Like a good wine, an excellent bag of coffee is worth every penny. To learn more about Cafe Gran Batey go to www.cafegranbatey.com. You can also call 787-636-5442. Lotty is likely to answer, so be prepared to speak in Spanish. Daniel speaks english, so emailing him at [email protected] is the best if Spanish is not a strong point. If coffee is part of your diet, I encourage finding a high quality brand like the one at Gran Batey. As with many things, the quality of the product is important. You want to get the most out the things you consume. Being mindful of quality and source of a product can mean your body gets the most benefit. The energy and intention that goes into the product is also important. We felt that when we drink their coffee in the future, we will drink in a lot of love and care as well. The world certainly needs more of that. As always, To Your health.