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Sourcing Q&A: Joshua Tarlo, Head of Coffee

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Joshua Tarlo is our Head of Coffee at Origin. He’s about to embark on a 20 day trip to multiple coffee growing regions in Central America and Africa. We caught up with him briefly, to chat about his expectations for the trip and what he’s most excited about this year.

 coffee-sourcing

Which countries will you be visiting on your trip? 

It’s a bit of a long one this year, jumping between Central America and Africa. We start where we start every year, with the Mierisch family in Nicaragua. From there it’s a quick flight to El Salvador to see Fernando Lima at Santa Elena farm, and then some time with Carlos Pola at San Antonio. After El Salvador we head to Kenya to cup through hundreds of coffee to find some special ones to bring back to the UK. We’ll spend a few days in Northern Nairobi before flying to Honduras to visit the Mierisch family again. Their farm at Cerro Azul creates some of the best coffee we’ve ever tasted. The last stop is Panama, where we’ll take a road trip to visit some of the most acclaimed coffee farms like Esmeralda and Hartmann Estate.

Why this time of year?

It’s harvest time in most of the coffee producing regions we visit. Every January, we start counting down the days for life on the road. This is my favourite time of year; it means we get to taste some of the most vibrant and delicious fresh coffee in the world. 

What are your expectations?

We spent the last few years rapidly expanding the countries we work in. Only three years ago we were sourcing from three countries; now it’s eight. It’s an exciting time for us. We’re focusing more on developing the relationships we’ve built, experimenting with new processes, and seeing how we can add more value for the producers and get new kinds of coffees in the hands of baristas and consumers.

Are you looking for something special?

Every year we have two lists. One is the coffee we need to bring back year after year, and the real heart of the coffee we share. The other is a list of ideas for coffee we want to find. The latter is a hunt for coffee that is unique, which we can’t help but bring back to the UK. It also the place where new relationships often start, a sort of training league for the coffees that become part of our mainstays.

What relationships do you have with the people you meet?

It’s always great to revisit the farm and mill owners. From catching up with Fernando Lima, and the abundance of delicious food he provides for lunch, or sipping cool Tonja lager atop Finca San Jose with the Miersich family.

Can you tell us a little bit about your plans for El Salvador?

We visit El Salvador almost every year. It’s a playground for experimenting with coffee and trying new things. We’ll have a small film crew joining us to capture what it’s like when we source and shine some more light on the whole experience of buying coffee. We’re also going to be tasting some experimental coffee processing and maybe some new coffee tea we’ve been investigating.

When do you expect to see the finished cup?

For the experimental processing, we are hoping for some pretty wild flavour notes as we are changing the chemical composition of the water that the coffee is fermented in. It should make a unique cup. For the tea, well that one is so far from anything we’ve tasted that all I know is I hope it’s delicious. The first coffee on sale will be the Nicaraguian, which will be available this April.


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