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About

John Simpson For most of my adult life I sold stories to radio, television, book publishers, magazines, film producers and even newspapers. It was while I was doing this that my way of life dissolved into something totally unfamiliar.

One day I woke up to find myself out of the story business and into the coffee bean trade; from a cold climate into an oven. From Canada to Costa Rica.
How did the two get connected?

Even in my own wild imagination it was hard to say “a coffee bean is like a story”. It took a bit of time but gradually I saw the experience as an extension rather than a transition.

Rather than writing my stories I found myself telling them, just like a tribal teller of old.  There I was selling coffee beans and telling stories at the same time to the tourists from the cruise ships.

 It wasn’t like I was trying to flog my stories but rather my new clients were constantly inquiring about life in the tropics and I couldn’t hold back from telling a story with every bag of beans I sold.

A big half kilo bag of beans was enough to give the buyer a sketchy biog and a few tidbits about life just above the equator.
The first question that invariably starts it all going is, “how did you get here?” Sometimes I say glibly, “by airplane,” and then tell them that I was heading some place else but disembarked from the airplane, liked what I saw, and stayed.

And then I tell them that I do not have a mule and my name is not Juan and that indeed the beans are Costa Rican and not Columbian. And yes I have been in the coffee business now for 15 years and that my English is so good because I come from another planet called North America.  

John and Lydia My entrance into the world of coffee started when I took up residence in a house in Costa Rica in front of a major local coffee toaster called Café La Moderna.
 
That was in the pacific port city of Puntarenas.  Since the facility was no longer being used for toasting coffee but rather for storage I suggested to the owner that I would write an entertaining scenario about coffee, its history and use that could be enacted in the patio as a tourist attraction.
 
(Always working a story.)

 We consulted with an art director from the national theatre, made some sketches for sets while I researched the coffee bean and all things associated with it. But in the end it all came to nothing.

My Lady (now the infamous Shade Lady) who was sharing this project with me said why don’t we sell the bean directly to the tourists instead, it had to be more profitable than my Coffee-land idea. So that’s what we did.

First we started with the cheapest bean and then with knowledge worked our way up the mountain to the best of the best; the Tarrazu  Pastora bean.

Gradually we stopped buying from toasters to buy directly from the  cooperative of growers (who are signatories to the Fair Trade Agreement) and started to toast our own—and package our own, dropping the inferior beans for only the Tarrazu, a single source origin bean that has not been blended or mixed with inferior beans.

RoastingAnd that is where we are at this moment, toasting, packaging, selling directly to the tourists on the cruise ships and via the internet.

And still telling stories.

If you were to be standing beside my little table on the beach you would more than likely overhear a typical encounter like this:

“You speak pretty good English.”

“Thanks. I think I have a good handle on the language.”

“Sounds like you come from New York.”

“No.”

“No? I have a good ear for accents. Where do you come from?”

“Baghdad.”

(Laughter) “You do not.”

“You’re right. From Canada.”

“What the heck are you doing way down here? Escaping the snow?”

“No.”

“Well how did you ever get into the coffee business?”

“I tried starting up a plantation in the Yukon but had trouble getting coffee pickers (always moaning and complaining about the cold) so I moved the operation south.”

“You did not.”

“You’re right. Do you want to hear my spiel about our coffee? I can do it in 15 seconds as long as you don’t interrupt.”

I tell them about the advantage of purchasing high elevation coffee which produces beans with greater density and how this triggers a release of all the bean’s oils when it is toasted with less heat and that acidity (which is different from bitterness) dictates the taste but has to be balanced for a full body bold cup of coffee.

And how the bean from Tarrazu meets all these standards.

Some walk away, others walk away after the first 10 seconds. Those who stay until the end often say thank you and then walk away. A few actually buy a bag of beans.

And then I ask questions about my spiel to see if they have been listening.

Can’t help it, it’s part of the baggage of being a story teller.

In the end they feel like they have experienced something different, someone different which they intend to tell as a story to their friends when they get home.

I think it’s called recycling.