Thursday, July 30, 2009

La Soledad, Acatenango, Guatemala


A new shipment of George Howell's arrived fresh yesterday (roasted Monday)! I order two pounds every four weeks, I find that is about the time it takes to really soak in the flavor and nuances of a particular coffee.

I tried the La Soledad first and am sipping it as I write. Guatemalan coffees have been my favorites for a long while now, because of the "crisp acidity." A little on Guatemalan coffees from Kenneth David's quintessential resource Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing, and Enjoying:

"The highlands of Guatemala produce several of the world's finest and most distinctive coffees. The mountain basin surrounding the austerely beautiful colonial city Guatemala Antiqua produces the most distinquished of these highland coffees Guatelmala Antigua, a coffee that combines complex nuance (smoke, spice, flowers, occasionally chocolate) with acidity ranging from gently bright to austerely powerful.
Generally, Guatemala has preserved more of the traditional typica and bourbon varieties of arabica than many other Latin American countries, which may account for the generally superior complexity of the Guatemalan cup. Most Guatemala coffee is grown in shade, ranging from rigorously managed shade on large farms to the serendipitous thickets of small growers."

La Soledad contains Bourbon, Pache, and Caturra varieties, and is produced in the Acatenango region of Guatemala, near the city of Guatemala.

Interestingly, there are three live volcanos around the region, which might explain some of the coffee's complexity... (reminds me of a personal story about forest fires and apple cider... mmm). This region is on the other side of the beautiful ancient city of Antigua’s two (of three!) volcanoes, one of which is currently spewing smoke.
La Soledad’s quality dominates this coffee region, having received several Cup of Excellence awards over the years. The 270 acre farm averages over 5,000 feet in altitude and is heavily shaded with soil-enriching leguminous trees.
Henio Pérez's family has owned La Soledad, named after his grandmother, since 1895.

Anyway, back to the coffee.

Howell describes this coffee as "full bodied, honeyed, smoky-orange and dark chocolate notes, balanced with that classic razor-fine acidity." A gem of a Guatemalan coffee all around.

Using the nifty wheel from my last coffee post, I came up with much the same thoughts, though I thought that though the coffee's taste was certainly sweet-acidy-piquant, that there could be hints of a winey-tang. As far as aromas go, La Soledad deftly bridges the gap between enzymatic-fruity-citrus-apple and sugar browning-chocolaty-chocolate-like-dark chocolate... The depth and complexity of Guatemalan coffee is hard to beat. Mmm! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I was walking to work today along the B line, around the reservoir, up Beacon, sipping the last of my Konga Coop and saying my chotki when I was overwhelmed by the number of people I missed. So many people from so many different pages of my life. I decided that this longing is yet another personal, experiential proof for the existence of God (and an afterlife I suppose). It is such a strong longing that, in my mind, it cannot but have an end. Like several other experiential proofs I've encountered and encounter often - Annie being the strongest & most often, trance being numbered among them as well - in the words of GK Chesterton, "it is the place where the walls of this world of ours wear thinnest and something beyond burns through."

I miss you all, love you much, and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers on a nearly daily basis. Namaste & Christ Be with you :)


Sunday, July 26, 2009

An Update: Law School, Work, and Thoughts

Hello Friends,

Just thought I'd put a sort of summative note up for those who are interested :)


I'm finishing up my job at Boston College's Office of the Vice President for University Mission and Ministry, a year in the same position! It's been a lot of fun, at time a lot of work, and occasionally a lot of stress. I redesigned their entire site within a basic framework, invented a newsletter design (in the process teaching myself CSS and relearning HTML), learned to write according to strict principles, and learned a lot about working for Jesuits. I'm looking forward to being done, but at the same time, I'll miss it.
A few weeks ago I started working for Kaplan in earnest, teaching the LSAT to an awesome group of 7 students at MIT.
It has been great working with people again, rather than spending 8-10 hours in front of a computer. :) I've been relearning a lot of what I knew about teaching in Civil Air Patrol and really prepping well for Law School as well.

I'm not planning on working (really, I might have an "on-call" sort of position with the Lonergan Center, but we'll see) during Law School b/c the first year is notoriously hard, time-consuming, and crucial for a lawyer's entire career. It'll be nice to focus only on school for the first time since freshman year in undergrad!

Law School:

I'm going to Boston College Law in the Fall, as many of you know. For more information: ; ; I'm really excited for it! It's an awesome school, Annie and I are already enculturated into the city, and we won't have to move. :)

I just finished Law Preview, a course that my good friend Dave recommended to me and I learned many things that will have a huge impact on the next several years:

  1. The first year is very time consuming, so much so that, honestly, for the next nine months I anticipate spending a good half of my total time on homework. The reason for this is two-fold: first, the grades made in the first year of law school direct the entire remainder on one's law career; second, it's 15 graduate credits a semester.
  2. Law school is expensive, not a whole lot of aid because the schools know that the average salary right out of law school is $160,000/yr which pays off student loans pretty swiftly. (I'm still seeking out and applying for all the scholarships I can find, of course) I was aware of this but also am looking to go into the public/not-for-profit sector which pays a quarter to a third of that figure. Often law schools will assist their students in paying off their loans if they choose a public service type job so until taking this course, I was planning on that route. However, (see next number)
  3. I learned something about working at large firms where the median salary is $160,000 a year: their training is the best in the industry. So, if I ultimately want to work in human rights, does it behoove me to have the best training in the industry or not? It's a deep question, which doesn't need to be answered now, but at the moment I'm leaning toward a 2-4 year jaunt in "big law". Doing so would help to set us up after a good 9 years of school, moving back to the West Coast, setting up our farm community, and provide awesome training for the remainder of my legal career.
  4. What about the PhD in Philosophy one might ask? Integrating that in has become a little more difficult, but I still plan on doing it, when has just been made a little more vague. Most likely after the jaunt in Big Law if that happens. I plan on staying in touch with the philosophical world as well though. With an MA I can "legitimately" write in journals and present at conferences, especially on the combined law/philosophy topics.
  5. I'm of the belief, having had a good introduction/preview of law school, that their emphasis on writing will really help in my writing in all areas. This is good.
  6. The possibility of transferring after my first year is still a strong one, however, I learned that it is not worth doing so unless one is making a jump of some 20-30 ranking points. This being the case, I intend on applying to Harvard, Stanford, and Berkeley next summer. Whether I get in or not isn't too much of a concern for me at this point. BC is a great school and produces a good number of law professors in its own right.
All thought out? Certainly not, but there is a lot to consider... the first year is the crucial part and determines a good bit of the further pertinent questions.

*Note too though, even though law school is a lot of work, tucking one's head and blocking out all else is a bad idea, so don't fear, I still plan on seeing you all, having the occasional beer, hitting up the BSO, and movies as well. :) (as if any of you doubted that Taylor the Social would ever wholly become a library ghost)


So far we've visited both sides of the family and had wonderful visits both times! Keeps us certain that the West Coast is to be our home. Sure, our ideal would be the Seattle area (with a cabin on the beautiful Lake Chelan to write disserations ;) but God knows best. I'll be done with UMM the first or second week of August and Kaplan by August 24th. It'll be nice to have a few days off before the plunge.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Konga Cooperative Reserve

After my last coffee post, one of my very good friends, M sent me this beautiful wheel, whereby I will be able to include more tasting detail in my coffee blog posts! Thanks M!

Today's coffee, one that I have been sipping for awhile now, Konga Cooperative Reserve produced in Ethiopia. Terroir Coffee says this about the beans:

"Konga Cooperative Reserve, Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia (Fair Trade, USDA Organic)

We paid extra for this small specially prepared lot from the Fair Trade certified Konga Cooperative. The coffee is organic as well. The Konga Cooperative has 1683 farmers of which 133 are female heads of family. The average size of a farm is 1.25 acres on which coffee and various foods for the local market are grown. Yirgacheffe is amazingly lush with vegetation. The coffee is grown at over 6,000 feet in altitude. This Konga also has that lush full-bodied apricot core with exceptionally pronounced clarity and sweetness.

Yirgacheffe is one of the great aromatic coffees of the world. It is often used in the finest Italian espresso blends, such as Illy, to add a critical floral element. The scientist- quality coffee pioneer Ernesto Illy (Illy Coffee) stated at the SCAA Conference in Boston, 2003 that the coffee of this region shared an aromatic component found in Darjeeling tea and Chanel #5.

Favorite of Food & Wine Magazine, March 2006

Roast Style: Full Flavor Roast
Harvest: 2006
Altitude: over 6,000 feet
Soil: volcanic
Arabica Variety: Ethiopica"

Using my nifty wheel, I'd have to say it's nose is certainly fruity, almost to the flowery point, giving me a scent of cherries rather than apricots. The taste is a sweet-mellow-delicate, especially brewed with a Swissgold filter.

One of my very good friends, J came over for dinner last night and had a few questions about espresso makers. She is heading to Marquette in the fall for a PhD in Philosophy, looking to have good coffee on a budget (aren't we all), and driven to the point of really desiring a good espresso maker by the lunatic ravings of our mutual friend P who is currently filling the tweetosphere with mocha talk...

A noble enterprise to be sure. I pointed her to this fabulous site: which has a solid offering and even better guidance in purchasing a good machine. I use the stovetop brewer personally, primarily because my tastes still lie in the full flavor roasts, which espresso doesn't bring out well.