El Salvador origin trip recap with Kiersten Rex

We sat down with our head roaster, Kiersten Rex, to talk about her recent origin trip to El Salvador.

Who are you and what is your role at Messenger?
K: My name is Kiersten Rex and I am the head roaster as well as co-founder of Messenger Coffee.

Was this visit to Finca La Calera, El Salvador your first origin trip? 
K: I have been in coffee growing parts of the world before and have been near coffee production, but never close enough to get my hands on it. So yeah, this was my first coffee-focused origin trip. With a solid production team, I’m finally able to leave for a week!

After getting your hands on the process a bit more, what did you learn, what stuck with you? Eye-opening moments?
K: Every part of it was eye-opening. I have always been able to explain coffee processing from books I’ve read and other educational materials, but it all came to life after seeing it in person. The sorting of the coffee, the removing of parchment, and the time it takes to do all of those parts were things that are hard to wrap your mind around. Also, being able to see the color variation of the different honey processes before milling was amazing.

How have these coffees changed from the first year you roasted them until today?
K: The coffees have changed in crazy ways over the years. I am initially afraid of messing them up when they come in because they roast differently than any of our other coffees. I have to approach them differently each year. The first year of roasting the natural Colomba (Capital Del Mundo) I was blown away by the strawberry jam note I was getting out of it. The next year that was so much more subdued, as far as fruit notes go, but was very sweet and caramel-like. Some of the coffees that didn’t cup high enough to be released in our line-up the first year have turned out to be really phenomenal. I've learned that I can't have too many expectations for what’s coming in. There are so many factors.

Outside of coffee, what was a standout moment in El Salvador?
K: Outside of coffee experiences, the stand out moment in El Salvador was having pupusas with the pickers and farm staff. Samuel, co-owner of Finca La Calera, organized a pupusa lunch by his dry mill with everyone. I think I almost equally enjoyed sharing stories and laughing during the car rides from farm to farm. I got to meet some really great coffee professionals. 

What other coffee companies did you travel with?
K: Extracto and Tanager from Portland, OR and Airship from Bentonville, AR.
How will visiting origin affect the way you approach coffee in the future?
K: Visiting the farm reminded me why I started loving coffee to begin with. There is so much work that goes into every part of coffee. We should be the vessel to show that off by maintaining quality and telling the story of the farm. It doesn’t start at the roaster. It starts with the quality practices on the farm. After talking to coffee producers, the majority of them want to do new, innovative projects with the coffee. They want to expand their coffee offerings in different ways too. This gave me more freedom to explore how I approach my roast profiles and my job in general.