I became a barista straight out of high school, and I remember just gleefully engrossed myself in the art of it all: learning about roasts, difference in caffeine content, various methods of brewing, identifying flavor notes, the endless possibilities of partnerships between coffee and milk and sweetness... It was as addicting as the beautiful drug of coffee itself! After a year or two, I became confident that I had a solid education on the intricacies of coffee. It was only when I met my soul mate and now husband, Seth Coleman, that I was introduced to the other side of the process, and a whole new world of coffee education that seems to be more limitless and exciting than ever.
Two short months after our dreamy beach wedding on the Oregon coast, Seth, my sweet momma, and I made the journey out to tropical Fiji for some cultural indoctrination and an experience of a lifetime. After spending a few days at the Mission Fiji base with our good friends, we trekked up to the highlands aboard a bumping and swaying cargo vehicle loaded with a few dozen Fijians, ourselves, and everybody's various carry-ons. Our dusty arrival was greeted warmly with shouts from the village kids and, of course, humji (gathering to drink tea). I've come to believe there is never a shortage of laughter in any Fijian home - time together and the inevitable joys that are included are simply part of the way of life on the islands.
The day after we arrived was scheduled for business... Time to hike into the jungle with our friends and farmers and be a part of the cherry harvesting ourselves. We walked a good mile along the dirt road before taking a small turn-off towards the shaded river valley where the coffee was ripe. I've never been a part of anything like what we did that day... Sweating profusely in the tropical sun, clambering through the undergrowth to stretch for the perfectly red clusters of bright cherries and dodging the earwigs and ants that infest the branches, doing our best to keep up with Nene (the affectionate Fijian term for women and mothers)... It was as adventurous as it was eye-opening.
Our little local business is proud, not only to sport the exotic name of Fiji and be the first Fijian coffee ever in the United States, but also to claim the word WILD in a whole new way... There are very few coffees in the world that have not been domesticated and farmed, which granted, does stray from the more controlled and consistent product that may appeal to the more scientifically inclined... But our coffee? Our coffee is nothing but art. We take so much joy in the inconsistencies; the uniqueness and character of every harvest, every roast, every bag! Our quality comes not from controlling the growing process, but from simple, tried and true trust of Mother Nature's good work - beyond organic. The elevation and climate that allows our cherries to thrive is equal in perfection to that of the prized Kona coffee of Hawaii, and with those elements in place, all that's left to worry about is the post-picking process. It has been such an incredible journey to dive into the different methods of cherry processing and discover the way we are now implementing in order to bring our next harvest to a whole new level. Through sun drying the sorted cherries and allowing the naturally present flavors of the tropics to ferment into the beans, there will be even more depth and quality to the flavor profiles of our coffee!
I believe that when you share the smooth tastes of chocolate and coconut goodness with the ones you love, it should be just as much of an adventure as it was for that bean to get from a cherry on a tree all the way to the steaming mug you hold in your hands... I know that's what Fiji Wild has been for me - an adventure that's brought me closer, not only to my immediate family, but also to our global family. And there is nothing more fulfilling than that.