I do not deprive myself of anything, my passion is coffee: Catador de Xicotepec

For to be a coffee taster you have to train, and a lot. Try and try until you know how to distinguish all the nuances that indicate whether the cup you are consuming is specialty or commercial coffee, but also love the aromatic one. At these levels, tasting acquires a technical rigor that not only does not reach all palates and noses, but also takes it far away from enjoyment. An example of this is that they must do without cigarettes, alcoholic beverages and spicy food. Their work is crucial, for example, in the launch of products to the market or in the certification of a harvest that has a designation of origin or quality seal.

For 38 years, Roman Valderrábano Sampallo, better known as El Catador, has exercised this trade and for twelve years, with the degree of Q Grader, has been recognized by the Coffee Quality Institute. In 2008, there were 28 certified tasters in Mexico and only two in Puebla.

On his farm « The Paradise », located in his native Xicotepec, Puebla, which is located at 1,230 meters above sea level, in the mesophilic forests -which represent only 1 percent of the national territory, the perfect environment to plant the aromatic-, put Launching a Coffee Route, an experience that shows from how it is cut and produced, to the cupping process, its main attraction.

He says that on this tour “we are checking aromas in the forest and it helps tourists to awaken their senses. We arrive at a viewpoint that has approximately 600 meters of fall, we sell, let’s say, the mist and the feeling of being here; We go through a demonstration coffee garden and in season where there is product the tourist cuts and if not, they come and see the coffee in green or flowering, and they already arrive here and we teach them the cupping ”.

However, it marks that the main purpose is « that they leave with the knowledge of being able to distinguish a commercial coffee, let’s call it that, against a specialty coffee. »

Presume that in your municipality you have a good coffee because it is in a privileged position and climate, « and that gives a good taste in the cup, a good body, a good acidity ».

Regarding his professional work, he explains that he is hired to make tastings that allow mixing: « We are dedicated to exporting rather than toasting, the latter perhaps two percent. »

In this sense, Valderrábano Sampallo confirms that a taster should not smoke or drink, « and when you are going to taste, you must not have previously eaten spicy foods, because they do affect you a little bit. »

However, he refuses to deprive himself of something, since he never liked smoking, “and neither did he drink. I have a problem, if I drink even a little, I feel a burning sensation and I am not a masochist, that’s why drinking was not given to me. I am not depriving myself of anything, because my passion is coffee ”.

Narrates that descended from grandparents and coffee-growing parents, “So I grew up among coffee”, but he clarifies that his sensory parameters allowed him to be qualified to enter as a taster: “I started more or less in 1984 in a company, Inmecafé, which was run by the government, and in 1985 he joined Cafemex, a private company, which already had national recognition ”.

He details that in those years there were no cupping specialists, so this process was done with the support of Inmecafé: “It was like a footballer. According to your skills, people were realizing and they were hiring you and giving you a better salary, until 2008 when we were certified and there someone did come and evaluate you that you really have the skills ”. Therefore, this certification is also confirmed by people in other countries.

A taster is born and made

For Román Valderrábano Sampallo, a taster is born and made, this despite the fact that some at birth lack organoleptic qualities, “And no matter how much you want it is not given to you. Although some based on practice, he develops them. It is not very definite that someone was born a wine or cheese taster, but rather that you simply go on doing it from day to day and you are perfecting yourself for that skill ”.

For this reason, he points out that when rating a coffee, it is verified acidity, body, aroma, flavor and fragrances: “The aspect is also scored and with all this we determine a score. We can say that it is also of such height, year or if it has damage, and where did it get it ”.

He explains that damages can be acquired in the process, “when we taste we can say this coffee was over-fermented or this coffee was given too much temperature and aged very quickly. We determine all this and it can be useful (…) it is important that the producer knows what he is doing wrong to improve and at the same time improve his price ”.

World-renowned coffee

For « The Taster », Mexican coffee at an international level is one of the best and is recognized, especially, because it has good marks and scores compared to others, “but in soft coffees, because Brazil competes in the economic or current ones because their coffee has a process different, there are dealing with machines. Obviously the taste is completely different, there is no margin of comparison with a Mexican coffee ”.

It specifies that they are called soft or washed coffees because of the process that is applied: “It is not the same for someone to come and cut by hand fruit by red fruit, than a machine gripping and taking out ripe, over-ripe, green or chicken on the bush, of everything, and put it into a process ”.

Of Mexican coffee produced above a thousand meters above sea level, says that it will be good, but it will depend on how they work it during the process: « A good process makes a coffee very crisp and has a better preparation, which gives it a better flavor ».

Mention that coffee should never be black, « It must be coffee »; and the temperature for cupping is hot, warm and cold. Asked if it should be sweetened, he responds: « A good coffee should be without sugar, if it is bad, it does not deserve it. » It stands out that the fruit, when cut, has a honey that remains in force for almost a month and is what gives it its sweetness, which allows it to undergo alcoholic fermentation. In addition, it states that the cups for cupping are not washed with soap, but with the same residue: « No detergent or anything is applied. »

He refers that when smelling it, specialty coffee allows one to perceive « a mixture like vanilla, chocolate, ground cane, but ultimately sweet. » In contrast, a commercial coffee can smell musty. The difference is that the first one has cut pure red fruits and on the other, a little about the plant: “There may be some that did not dry out quickly and acquired mold, hence its earthy flavor (…) There is no way to remedy damaged coffee, although there are ways to mix it, and that’s where the taster’s work comes in, to save the flavor. We mix it and we do intermediate tastings to improve the coffee ”.

Recognizes that the price of Mexican coffee will change according to the marketing you have; while regretting that the Kopi Luwak, whose characteristic is that the grains are ingested by the civet or civet cat, which then discards them —by natural means—, is considered the most expensive in the world because in his saying, “it is the worst in the world”.

Tasting day

Román Valderrábano points out that starts working from 5:30 in the morning and the first thing he does is check the price on the stock market to move the lots of aromatic that he is in charge of. He points out that contrary to what happened in the past, now all the participants in the process are connected to verify the stock exchange process, « so now it is more even. »

Mark that in your performance has tasted up to 600 cups in one day « For so many tests that were coming in and still in the afternoon they could find me in the Antigua Parroquia de Jalapa (having a cup) ». Regarding the verification process, he explains that it consists of sipping a cup and spitting out the drink.

He refutes that coffee takes away sleep, because he knows a large number of people who, on the contrary, makes them sleep. “Some tell me they have a cup and wake up or others that they should have a tea to sleep, but the tea has twice the caffeine; So how do you explain that you go to sleep with tea? « 

As an anecdote, he comments that on some occasion he tried to stop drinking coffee and only served three days. “My need was so great that I had a bad coffee at an Oxxo. I had never felt the need for caffeine. «