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Mercanta Coffee Hunters ( a tale of woe)

PostPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2003 10:07 pm
by Steve
Right this is for Raf and Eward first of all. I hope you don’t mind but I had the opportunity to go with one guest to Mercanta today to see a couple of presentations and participate in a cupping session. The Guest thing needed to be sorted out last week for names and alike. Raf lives to far away for a day trip I thought (but after my travelling experience I live to far away) and Eward was in the US of A. I hope your both not offended but I took Phil (you both have first dibs on the next jolly that comes my way). I really don’t want to offend you and I hope I haven’t.

I'll give you a run down of the day

05:45 am

Alarm goes of at a strange time. I was under the impression there was only one 5 o clock in the day but again I'm wrong

Hit the M6 on the way to Milton Keynes to catch a train (from Stafford £115 from Milton Keynes £31 it was an easy choice).

06:30 am

Radio 5 Live tells me they have closed the m6 m1 link and its log jammed round there so a quick change onto the m40 m42 means im going to miss that train.

08:29 am

Good time made and BR being delayed means I catch my 08:13 train after all hurrah!


Get on train at Vauxhall looking for a balding bloke with glasses and find out through mobile phones he is in the carriage next to me!

10:15 swap carriages and meet this balding guy in glasses and get into heavy chat.


realize we are on a train and need to get off it at some point. Try to get off too early and have to jump back on with some strange looks from the common people on the train (common people ask Phil:) )


Arrive 5 mins early at Mercanta and look for life. On the stairs bump into CM of H&V bit of a shock pleasant enough and doesn’t start a fight or anything )

11:00 through till 14:35

Talks are really interesting. The guy from the farm in Brazil particularly talks about sustainability and how looking after his workers and environment produces better coffee. We then move on the cupping session which is great fun (Phil will back me up). The Brazilian `we tried brazil fortalaza me thinks but id need to check was really really really nice. I think I may be taking some this month. The Columbian guy was ok but the beans he brought were typical Columbian he kept saying there was no single estate Columbians out there ( I wanted to shout I’ve got some and its darn fantastic, but didn’t).

14:45 through till 16:00

Phil accompanies me all the way to my train (what a sweetie on our first date he walked me home ;) ) we natter natter natter the common people (ask Phil) on the train looked at us like nutters talking coffee coffee coffee.

16:00 till 19:15

The train broke down on the way to Milton Keynes, the M way was standstill and it ended up I miss my sons parents evening (now his teacher thinks hes from a one parent family as Sarah was too embarrassed to say where I really was) but made the Stoke vs Sunderland football game (im a Sunderland fan and we lost so im not happy) so all was not lost.

22:00 just got home to an order for Italy (never sent to the coffee capital of Europe before) and a parcel from the Specialty coffee Association of America with my cupping kit loads of big bright cupping posters and music from the coffee lands CD. So when the new roaster arrives we can do a cupping session at the roastery.

And that was the day. I'll let Phil do the rest as I may have missed out some stuff.


PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2003 11:35 am
by Raf
good story. Now Phil's version!

More on the day at Mercanta - 1

PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2003 12:21 pm
by phil
Well, when I realised we'd just bumped into CM I was a bit nervous. I have to say he looks younger than I was expecting. I found the way the woman from Mercanta was fawning over him a bit offputting, but later when she was every bit as nice to Steve I forgave her.

The only other thing I'll say about CM is his that the arrogance you "hear" in his email communication is clearly evident in his personal manner. A bit "cock of the rock". Wonder why he did a runner at lunchtime?

Onto the coffees. Yes the Fortaleza is great. BUT it's a totally different coffee to the Fazenda Cachoeira Bourbon! It's an Icatu isn't it , Steve? Or rather, mainly Icatu.

I can understand CM having both of them in his line up. They're very different. The fact that they're both Brazilian is almost irrelevant. Maybe I could get Mercanta to sell me some FC in one of those baby 10kg bags they're talking about Steve, if you're not going to stock it?

Actually, it's worth noting that CM isn't the only specialist selling FC. Monmouth sell it too. So Hasbean selling it would be "me too" but it wouldn't be in Charlie's face so much.

Part 2 later when I have some more time

Part 2

PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2003 2:38 pm
by phil
Well what else did I get out of the day?

For me, the absolute highlight of the time at Mercanta had to be the tasting, even if I did feel that I was there under false pretences. BTW this was another place where I felt CM's pushy, arrogant nature made itself felt. I'm a quiet diffident sort of chap really (good job Allyson's not here or she'd be rolling on the floor) so I kind of hung back and let Massey push in front. Anyway, participating in the full ritual was absolutely fascinating.

The Colombians were for me a bit more interesting than Steve says. Not as fascinating as the Fortaleza, for sure, but interesting still. If your estate Colombian really is so much better than that Steve, you should be shouting it from the roof tops. Your web site makes it sound like just another nice but not terribly interesting coffee.

I also learned that greens (especially wet processed ones) actually mature. They mature and get better before they get old and taste worse. The Fazenda Fortaleza from 2002 tasted much better than the 2003, which is still maturing and which Steve described as having a bit of a "sting" to its aroma. The 2003 will not be shipping in the UK for another month or two yet, by which time it should be much better.

Finally, I learned how to say "Cachoeira". Not easy for us Northern European types. You say it cash-wear-ah (or at least that's how I hear it). Hey, it's this sort of trivial thing that makes life interesting!

Meeting Steve

PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2003 3:00 pm
by phil
Imagine one of these moments in a film where two people run towards each other in slow motion with their arms out? Well that was us at Clapham Junction, trying to get into the same coach on the train.

Well, maybe not quite like that. :lol:

Ignoring all the cheeky comments I have to say that meeting Steve was a real pleasure and if we'd never gone to Mercanta I'd still have had a really good time just chatting to him. He really is the nice guy in person that he seems to be on the forum and by email.

Thanks for inviting me Steve, it was a real pleasure all round. Sorry you had a crap journey. Oh yeah, and what a shame Sunderland got beaten 3-1 by Stoke! Never mind. :wink:

PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2003 5:04 pm
by Raf
Good stories by all, you may now resume your life.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2003 5:15 pm
by Steve
Whats a life :?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2003 5:43 pm
by Steve
Oh yes thanks for the compliment Phil I like the nice chap bit :D


PostPosted: Sat Sep 27, 2003 2:49 pm
by Sunnyfield
Steve, you have made me jealous! In a good way! :-)

If the opportunity ever arises again, I would love to join.


I'm not impressed so far

PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 4:10 pm
by DrZeus
Perhaps it's my "American Attitude" shining through again (shame on me) but I'm one of those who feels that email is a valid form of business communication and should be treated exactly the same as a phone call.

I emailed Mercanta, and received a reply from Stephen (a rather drippy and wordy sales pitch). He said that after I tell him I'm interested in their business, he'll give me a list of their inventory and prices with shipping to Faro, Portugal. I replied last Friday, asking for that information now, so we can use it to make some decisions, but 6 days (4 work days) later I haven't heard back. It's not an option for me to do business over the phone, so I rely upon email exclusively. If I can't establish a good rapport via email then I don't do business.

PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 9:36 pm
by Steve
I totally agree in the majority of cases but it comes down to do you want real quality coffee? These guys have really impressed me. They are passionate about sourseing special stuff. Give them one more go and see what the reply is. I assure you it will be worth the effort.

PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 9:44 pm
by DrZeus
I didn't want to give the impression that I was pulling the plug on things with them. They're about the best in the business in the side of the Atlantic, from everything I've been able to gather (especially considering our focus on sustainable coffee). I have every intention of giving them more chances...but I'm not very happy with this time around.

PostPosted: Sun Oct 19, 2003 9:52 am
by DrZeus
Well, I've finally heard back from Mercanta via email. Just thought I'd let everybody know. :) I'll let everybody know what the result is.

After some discussions with my wife, there is somewhat of a chance that we'll be taking our business idea in a slightly different direction (ie: not roasting the coffee ourselves, but also expanding our inventory to include teas, spices, chocolates, etc). I know it's a turn-around from all the work I've been trying to accomplish -- locating a roaster, green coffee, etc -- and I'm not terribly thrilled with the idea, but there are some definite pros that we can't ignore. My wife and I have a lot more to discuss, however.