The coffee of Autumn

The moon is a blazing orb shrouded by the branches of bent, arthritic oak in the eastern sky. What an amazing spectacle it is as it rises over the treetops to illuminate the night. One of those moons I used to wish for throughout the night of an adventure race; one that freed us from the need for headlamps. The kind of moonlight that made me turn off the headlights of my car and drive by the reflection of the snow on a wintry night in Illinois when I was a foolish teenager. The wispy clouds shine white in the inky sky with pinhole stars scattered sparingly between. 

I’m in the Wichita Mountains, sitting in front of a small, hot fire with the moderate chill of night and chirp of crickets surrounding me. On the three-hour drive here I was drinking our newest coffee, Sircof Venecia Honey. It’s a seriously good cup, tightly wound with pear, chocolate and honeysuckle, but today I noticed a savory nutmeg finish that lingered sweetly like a good Scotch. It’s Autumn and Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching. The season of dusk with the cold night of Winter on its heels. The past two Wednesdays, after the Wednesday Night Ride, I pedaled my bicycle home in the fading light of day. And at the crest of the bike path in Crosbie Heights, overlooking the mellow Arkansas River, above the railroad tracks with the trestle crossing water and a background of oil refinery towers and tanks, the orange light of dusk stopped me in my tracks. The receding, colorful light reflected around a curve in the river, glinting off the water, the color of the embers in my campfire. It’s really amazing to watch the sun set and the sky turn midnight blue. It feels like a miracle. 

This past April I was at Finca Sircof, in the Alajuela region of Costa Rica. As I walked around the farm, visiting with Marco and Maricela Oviedo, it was apparent why this coffee is so good. The farm is small and the milling is primitive, and Marco is a meticulous farmer. His land was clean and organized. The trees were healthy and productive. And he seemed to know each individual coffee tree, having raised them all from seed, nurturing them into fully productive adults. Marco was aware of the fragrances and flowers and fruits throughout his land. He seemed more curator than farmer. But his youthful, weatherbeaten face and calloused hands showed his dedication to the work of farming. The Venecia variety of coffee is a relatively unknown tree, found only in the lands around the Alajuela region. Known for its productivity and uniformity, the variety has a surprisingly tasty profile. Marco grows this coffee, harvests it at the peak of ripeness, and processes it in a way that can be very tricky. He strips away the skins of the coffee cherries and spreads the sticky, mucilage-coated beans on the ground beneath a greenhouse arch. Dried in the sun over the course of twelve days, the coffee develops a sweetness and flavor which enhances the inherent cup of the Venecia coffee. Probably the most technically difficult type of milling, this is a process that’s easy to mess up. But Marco pulls it off spectacularly. And he’s doing it right now. Coffee production, processing, export, and import are time-intensive, so the coffee you are drinking today is the coffee Marco was making a year ago today. It’s a masterful cycle, and I hope you’ll think of his hands in the coffee as you enjoy this cup.

After I visited Marco and Maricela, I took a four hour bus ride to Arenal Volcano to run an 80km race through the rainforest. Running very long distances is one of the things that refreshes my mind and spirit and keeps me sharp and able to do what I do every day. It’s the simplicity of running and the grueling determination required that steels my resolve and enlivens a spirit of new possibilities. 

This race was particularly inspirational and as I ran into the approaching night, with a flashlight on it’s last leg, I grasped a sense of ultimate freedom. Like this full moon loosing itself from the thorny grasp of the silhouetted trees to soar into the lightly veiled sky. Autumn holds that freedom. Released from the grip of Oklahoma’s oppressive summertime heat, we bask in the campfire smoke and the fragrances of the season, the chill air, the turning leaves, and the rich flavors, which are perfectly delivered in a cup of Sircof Venecia Honey.