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Coffee and Tea Reports from the Front Lines

Brazil Maps Coffee DNA

Brazil - Scientists in Brazil have cracked the genetic code of the country’s best-known product, coffee, and are hoping to use the information to create a super coffee, richer in taste, more aromatic and resistant to disease and frost, reports the Straits Times.

A two-year government project that cost $6 million studied 200,000 sequences of coffee DNA and identified 35,000 genes, which in combination give the drink its flavor and aroma, according to a statement made on the Brazilian Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues’ ministry’s web site.

Discovering coffee’s genome sequence was the project’s first phase. Researchers will now work to determine the genes’ functions, which will allow them to apply for patents, said coordinator Carlos Colombo.

The goal is to create “a coffee with better flavor, taste and resistance to disease and weather,” said Colombo, a professor at the Agronomy Institute of Campinas.

The project will cost $2 million (S$3.5 million) and the data will at first only be accessible the Brazilian government and applied to the country’s coffee production. But five or six years from now, researchers say the information will be open to all Brazilian companies. Foreign competitors may be able to use the information then, for a price.

Brazil’s coffee industry employs 8.5 million people. The country controls 28% of the world’s market and exported $1.5 billion worth in its last harvest.

Brazil hopes to use the data to raise production of gourmet, organic and new caffeine-free beans within two years. They will use the government-run database to develop, through natural means, a “super coffee” that tastes and smells good, while doubling the country’s coffee crop and cutting production costs by 20%. This would be achieved naturally through cross-pollination of coffee plants and not through genetic modifications in a laboratory, he added.

Panama Coffee Sets Online Auction Record

Panama - Esmeralda Special coffee from Hacienda La Esmeralda in Panama, set an online coffee auction record when it sold for $21 dollars a pound this summer. Two of the competition’s American judges, Danny O’Neill of The Roasterie in Kansas City and John Sanders of Hines Public Market Coffee in Seattle, were so impressed with Jaramillo that they formed a buying group along with Groundwork Coffee in Los Angeles, and were determined not to be outbid and win seven bags of this coffee from the mountains of Western Panama.

Competition was intense during the internet auction as it became clear early on that several bidders were after the small lot of seven 60-kilo bags. When the auction closed, Esmeralda Special from Hacienda La Esmeralda had sold for an unheard of $21 a pound. Commercial-grade coffee is currently trading in commodity markets for around 73 cents a pound.

The online auction was hosted by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). Ten additional lots totaling over 18,000 pounds of high scoring coffee from the “Best of Panama” were also sold in the online auction, fetching prices from $1.25 to 22.53 a pound.

To learn more visit www.haciendaesmeralda.com and www.panamacoffee.org/index.htm.

Honduras Sets Online Auction Record

Honduras - For the first time ever, Cup of Excellence Internet auction in Honduras set a 2005 price-per-pound Cup record, when 1,500 pounds of Arabica green beans, grown by small-scale producer Gregorio Martinez, were purchased by Maruyama Coffee for the Mikatajuku Group for $13/pound-a total of $ 19,500.

The auction prices ranged from $3.50/pound up to the high of $13.00/pound. All 21 lots of coffee offered were sold to specialty roasters and international buyers who paid a total of 4168,903 for 34,800 pounds of the best green beans in Honduras. The average price paid was $4.85/pound-or more than six times the current New York market (approx. 75 cents/pound) for Arabica beans.

At the country’s first Cup of Excellence competition, Gregorio Martinez’s coffee was declared the “champion of champions” by an international jury of experts who selected a total of 21 winning coffees from an original 286 Arabica samples submitted, based on qualities such as aroma, flavor, balance and absence of defects. Gregorio received the high score of 95.69 points for coffee from his 20-hectare farm, located in the Lempira region of northeast Honduras.

The Cup of Excellence is a nationwide tasting event created by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) to identify, promote and earn better prices for quality coffee.

“We think this is a great success,” said Carlos Umanzor, IHCAFE’s regional manager and national coordinator of the Cup of Excellence.

For more information about the 2004 Honduras Cup of Excellence visit: www.cupofexcellence.org or www.cafedehonduras.hn.

Guatemala Sets Record at Q-Auction

Guatemala - A new record price of $1.55 per pound was established in the Guatemala Q-Auction for finca Buena Vista, from Huehuetenango, bought by Caribou Coffee Co. Ltd, located in Minneapolis. All seven coffee lots, about 1,266 bags of 69 k, were sold above $1.00 per pound. This result positions Guatemala with the highest weighted average, $1.27 per pound, in Central America.

The event took place in Anacafé headquarters, where not only the winning producers, exporters, the media and observers gathered, but also representatives of the United States Agency of the International Development, USAID, and the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, who wanted to testify to the success of one of the various programs they finance in the country.

Gerry La Rue, director of operations of CQI, said one of the most important things is now “the follow up each exporter makes in order to fulfill the needs of the buyer.” For him, “this will make the difference in building relationships among buyers and suppliers.”

The Q-Auction will now prepare a demanding schedule for next year, where more countries are expressing an interest in offering their quality coffees through the Q-Auction program.

For more information regarding the Guatemalan auction program contact Gabriela Cordón at gabrielacv@anacafe.org. For more information regarding the Q-Auction program, contact Gerarado León-York at gleonyork@coffeeinstitute.org.

Green Tea Lowers Cancer risk, says study

Japan - An extensive study by a government research group has found that women who regularly drink green tea run a lower risk of developing stomach cancer, reports The Asahi Shimbun. As for men, researchers were unable to find any significant difference.

The study was conducted by a group from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and headed by Shoichiro Tsugane of the National Cancer Center.

Around 73,000 people in seven areas around the country took part in the research, which compared daily green tea intake levels in those who developed stomach cancer to those who did not. The men and women in their 40s, 50s and 60s were tracked over periods of seven to 12 years.

For women who had at least five cups of tea a day, the risk of stomach cancer was 33 percent lower than those who drank less than a cup. The risk of developing cancer in the lower stomach was especially low. Those who drank five cups or more of green tea daily halved the risk of developing cancer in the lower stomach compared to those who drank less than a cup.

Tea & Coffee - September/October, 2004
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