We had the good fortune of connecting with Kimberly Marcaccini and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kimberly, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
One thing that is sometimes overlooked in coffee, is the humanity involved from bean to cup. What do I mean by that? In the process that results in that delicious black liquid gold that we drink every morning, there are caring hands that are involved in every step. Particularly regarding specialty grade coffee, which is what I will focus on. Let us start at the first stage. Farmers propagate from a coffee seed in order to grow a new coffee plant. Farmers are very attentive to the picking of coffee berries because it is imperative that only the ripest are picked from healthy Arabica coffee trees, referred to as “mother trees.” The chosen berries are carefully pressed using the fingers to squeeze out the two seeds in their parchment covering without damaging them. The second stage following soon after is when the seeds are planted in a nursery. Farmers give expert daily inspections for approximately nine months. When the sixth pair of leaves have formed and before branches are developed, these farmers plant the young plants out in the soil. The plants are left to mature into trees for at least 3 years, where it begins to produce a mature fruit. After the waiting game, we enter the third stage, coffee berry picking. After a flowering period, the flower rapidly develops into a berry and by 6- 10 weeks the berry reaches maturity and is ready to be picked. Berry pickers pass repeatedly among the trees at intervals for a few weeks, meticulously handpicking only the ripe berries leaving the others to continue ripening. There are machines that can strip the branches; however, they can damage not only the berries but the tree as well. Only handpicking can guarantee that the berries picked are ripe. In addition, entire ecosystem thrives on a coffee farm. On one tree alone, there are various animals and insects that make the coffee tree their home. Some can be relatively benign like bees, owls, and birds while others can be quite deadly such as poisonous snakes and hornets. Coffee berry pickers must be very aware of their surroundings as they harvest. Especially since the nearest hospital is more than likely miles away. To become beans the berries must be processed which leads us to the fourth stage. There are various processing methods used around the world, but the three main methods are natural process, washed process and honey process. These processes function to remove the fruit from the seed. At some point in each process, farmers lay the beans outside for 4-12 days to dry. While drying, they manually turn the beans several times a day to facilitate water evaporation and prevent fermentation from starting, which compromises the quality of the coffee. The turning is done using simple wooden tools that looks similar to a rake. Once the beans reach the desired moisture content, usually around 12 percent, farmers store the beans in warehouses, where they are left to rest for up to two months before being processed further in the dry mill, leading to the fifth stage. The dry mill stage is last stage before the coffee is shipped out to importers and roasters. Here the farmers and workers perform the final quality control. The beans are place on conveyor belts and “sorters” will hand pick and discard defective beans. Some farmers go a step further and place beans through a machinery that can sort beans by size, density and color. Sorters will then weigh and pack the coffee into burlap bags lined with protective specialty plastic bags and shipped out. We have reached the final stage which leads to the product that we have all come to know and love, roasted coffee. I may be biased but it is my favorite stage because roasting coffee is my specialty, pun intended. As a roaster, I can tell you that each coffee has its own “personality” that can be enhanced through the roasting process. If I roast the coffee too light, it will taste hay-like or vegetative. If I roast the coffee too dark, the coffee will taste acrid or smoky. Each coffee, due to their process and density is roasted differently and have their own individual roast profile or “recipe.” It is important that I sample roast new coffees that are shipped to my roastery, Coffee del Rey, in order to find the proper roast profile. After sample roasting, I cup or taste test the coffee to determine if I roasted the bean correctly. Once I have found the proper roast profile for that coffee, I cup or taste test the coffee again to determine the tasting notes that have been brought out through roasting. Then the production manager packages the freshly roasted coffee into specialty coffee bags, slaps a label and roast date on the bag and puts it on the self, where the coffee waits for you pick it up and enjoy. This very short-winded response to a simple question barely scratches the surface of all the people involved in this complex process. A book would need to be written. But wait, books and articles have been written by coffee professionals. It is great to live in a day and age where we have access to information about coffee from direct sources and coffee professionals. The more we are aware of what is physically required in each stage that it takes from bean to cup, we will become conscientious coffee drinkers who appreciate all those [hands] involved in the different stages. It may even make your coffee taste that much better.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Coffee del Rey has been serving the Plano area for the past 8 years and we have made a name for ourselves as coffee roasters who are quality oriented, and community driven. Roasting and brewing the best coffee is only half of what we do, the other half is relationships with farmers and consumers alike. We look to work directly with farmers and when that isn’t possible, we work with selective importers that invest and positively impact and assist the farmers that they work directly with. We are particularly proud of our long-standing direct-trade relationship with Spirit Mountain Ecological Reserve & Coffee Plantation in the Dominican Republic. Through our continuous partnership, we have been able to support scholarships for children to attend the Doulos Discovery School in Jarabacoa, D.R.. As one of our best selling coffees, we are excited that they are fostering new processing methods and always striving to produce the best coffee possible. We are also proud of our relationship with Damarli Estate in Bouquet, Panama. They provides above minimum wage for their farmers, health care and free housing during harvest. We not only look to support communities abroad, but we also look to help our local community as well. We are proud to support the North Texas Food Bank by having a portion of all our profits go right back into the community.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Downtown McKinney has that small country town charm. There are restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries and clothing boutiques to discover. Every Saturday, a few block from the town center is farmers market. There are local farmers that sell the freshest in season produce, The various baked goods booths, is enough to make your mouth water. But best of all is the taco food truck that has some of the best tacos and a ceviche that can’t be beat. It’s also the best place to dog watch or pet.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost, God who opened the necessary doors for me to be where I am. Larry and Lawana McPherson for starting Coffee del Rey, passing the baton and trusting me to lead the business.