Traveling the world to buy coffee can change a man. In much of Latin America, even my name changes. Something about the local dialect turns Ryan into Bryan, even when typed. I don’t mind.
In Antigua, amongst the Zelaya children, with whom I have spent a lot of time over the past five years, I’m Tío Ryan. All it took was a bit of hide-and-go-seek, some soccer, and way too much tag. I’m exhausted just thinking about all of that running around. But mostly it was Funny Bunny that cemented my place in the Zelaya family.
Funny Bunny is a board game the kids introduced me to. They didn’t just beat me at it, they destroyed me. Wiped the floor with me. Got to the top of the hill first and laughed as their bunny-shaped pieces enjoyed a figurative carrot at my expense. I’m pretty sure they cheated, but what can I do? They’re kids. And now they always look forward to my visits so they can kick my ass again.
Ricardo “El Tigre” Zelaya probably taught his nieces and nephews everything they know about winning, because he’s been doing the same thing with coffee for as long as I’ve known him. He’s been producing awesome coffee by ignoring the rules. Instead of planting high-yield, disease-resistant varieties, he planted Bourbon and Caturra, which require a lot of care, but also produce an outstanding cup. Instead of the most efficient processing, Ricardo has developed a process that’s a bit more difficult that produces much higher quality. And naturally, his cousin, Luís Pedro Zelaya, takes care of milling the coffee, employing his expertise in sorting and logistics.
Ricardo’s coffee is just spectacular. Exotic and yet somehow restrained. Simultaneously wild and elegant, juicy and smooth. It’s packed with flavors of dark chocolate, candied orange peel, and raspberry, with a subtle hint of lavender.
It really should be considered cheating to produce coffee this good.