Fortified! That’s the best word I can think of to summarize the way most of us are feeling after the Extraordinary Coffee Workshop that took place just over a week ago in Guatemala. It never ceases to impress me just how much power there is in community, and how easy it is to find inspiration when surrounded by people who share a genuine passion for what they do. That is the real secret to the success of ECW; this unique collection of talented coffee people from very different backgrounds who, when we unite and spend meaningful time together exploring ways to get better at what we do, always discover new strategies to help unlock latent quality potential and more reasons to keep challenging ourselves.
The content and the locations change each year, but the outcome is the same: a return home with more vigor, fresh ideas and renewed motivation to try even harder in pursuit of excellence in coffee. ECW serves as a validation to all of us that there is deeper meaning in the labor we do, that all the deliberate, time-consuming effort required by so many individuals on a daily basis serves a tremendous purpose. It reminds us that the frustrations we encounter as a result of being so obsessive about getting things right (and so self-critical when they don’t turn out exactly as we had hoped) are worthwhile because the result of this obsession is something profoundly beautiful. Part of what drives ECW is that spending this time together as a group reinforces our collective understanding that we are all doing some heavy lifting, and the weight feels lighter when we look around and see that we are actively supporting each other’s efforts and helping each other succeed.
The 5 days were full–we visited farms in Antigua and Acatenango to study different management systems, learned about soil microbiology and nutrient cycling, toured a progressive dry mill, worked on cupping calibration and extraction science, got up to speed on some groundbreaking studies on coffee variety behavior, and spent an entire day sharing some of the collective knowledge of the ECW massive with a group of 150 Guatemalan coffee farmers.
The 7th annual ECW was the biggest one we’ve done to date–nearly eighty people from sixteen different countries came to participate, more than double last year’s event in Ethiopia. Many of the producers have returned home just in time to greet the beginning of the upcoming harvest, and our team is charging directly into what is always the busiest time of the year, so there is not much time for rest. Fortunately we’ve got the all the energy generated during the ECW week as fuel to power us forwards.