Producer Aida Batlle farewells Australia

In the past week Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne have been graced with the presence of fifth generation El Salvadorian coffee farmer and Director of the Specialty Coffee Association, Aida Batlle.

From 17 – 25 November, Aida has been on a “hectic” road show exploring some of the country’s best roasters and sharing her farming wisdom with hundreds of industry members.

“It’s been a whirlwind trip, and extremely overwhelming, but a privilege to visit Australia for the first time,” Aida said.  “What’s been interesting to me is just how much you all love espresso.”

Bureaux Collective and Condesa Co.Lab hosted a Spotlight on Aida Batlle on 24 November at Hunted and Gathered in Cremorne, Victoria. Bureaux Collective’s Tim Williams described Aida as an “advocate for sustainability and innovation, with a global reach”.

Aida provided insight into winning Cup of Excellence 2003, her processing methods, harvests, managing pickers, experimenting with cascara and the hardships farmers currently face in El Salvador.

“For security purposes, I have two personal body guards and trained canines. To protect our crops from looters and thieves, I and 25 neighbouring farms hire security to ensure our coffee isn’t stolen, and that our pickers and workers remain safe. If you’re not careful, cherry theft will occur, when someone comes onto your property and picks your entire farm,” Aida said. “It’s hard to live in a third world country, but once you’re on the farm you’re reminded just how beautiful it really is.”

Aida said despite so much research being implemented to roasting and machinery within the industry, she said farmers could further controlled experiments at ground level.

“I think the biggest gap in our industry at present is a lack of understanding of the challenges farmers face. People assume that once you’re finished harvest, you’re done for the year. Not true. By that stage you’re just getting started. There’s so much work in preparing our crops for the new season,” she said.

“I think we need to be more sensitive to the face that buyers are dealing with the livelihoods of families. If something goes wrong with our crop due to rain, drought, disease or theft, we have to wait another year to try again, but for roasters it’s easy to buy elsewhere. When Coffee Roya hit for instance in 2012, I went from producing 250 bags of high end coffee from our Mauritania farm to just 25 bags. There’s no insurance on our crops. Climate change is having an impact. We’re seeing temperatures rising and rain when we don’t want it. You just can’t predict how well your crop will go.”

As for what’s next, Aida said her goal remains the same each year: “I try to stay innovative and see what more I can do.”

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