Rodolfo Ruffatti Batlle: Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #67

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Rodolfo Ruffatti Batlle: Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #67

Coffee Insurrection
1- Introduce yourself: who are you, where are you from, where do you work and what’s your job.
 
My name is Rodolfo Ruffatti Batlle, I was born in El Salvador and grew up in different parts of the world. I'm a coffee producer and I also run an importing company based in Berlin, Productor Coffee, which helps distribute my coffee as well as coffees produced by my friends.
 
2- When and why did coffee become important to you?
 
Both my parents' families have a long history producing and exporting coffee (6 generations) and I grew up seeing a very commercial model of coffee, with my dad trading coffee in the commodity market. I was not interested at all in that rollercoaster, buy, sell, buy sell.
 
In my 20s, I was living in Rome and I tried to connect with coffee roasters there, but I just ran into commercial operations that didn't seem interested in connecting to the source. I remember asking one roaster what he was roasting and he answered, "I roast whatever the boss tells me to roast". I tried to find out where the coffee came from but it seemed he didn't know or didn't want to share the information.
 
In 2010, I went to Berlin and the specialty coffee scene was already getting started there. I found it so motivating to see the importance they gave to coffee producers, putting the producers' names on the coffee bags, and people talking about the importance of sourcing and connecting with producers. Seeing that this new world existed, where quality was appreciated and the producer was valued, encouraged me to get into coffee.
 
3- Do you remember the first coffee you had that was more than “just a cup of coffee”?
 
It was a Sidamo Natural from . I bought a V60 and brewed it at home and the floral, fruity notes got to me, showed me the possibilities and complexities a coffee could have.
 
4- What’s your favorite thing about going to work in the morning?
 
Hanging out with clients and becoming their friends and also going to my farm and seeing the different varieties as they grow.
 
5- What’s your favorite brewing method and why?
 
I do cupping style in a big whisky tumbler. I think you can be much more consistent with cupping style as you remove the human/hand pour variations. Coffee is guaranteed to be always well extracted if you get the grind/coffee:water ratio correctly. And I like to use a big whisky glass as it holds the heat and you have a good quantity of coffee to drink, which allows you to discover a coffee, taste it as it opens up slowly over a long time, so you can really enjoy the evolution of a coffee cup.
 
6- Which is the best coffee you ever tasted?
 
There is no best coffee. But the most satisfactory coffee for me was Juana's Kenya variety from 2014. It was the first year I was back in El Salvador doing my own processing, I was trying to do naturals and the first ever natural I did, I did it on the patio and didn't move the cherries enough because I was worried about depulping them, so I got a very pulpy, heavy cup that disappointed me. So I changed a few things for Juana's Kenya which was my second ever attempt at making a natural.

I put it on raised beds and this lady named Candy, I put her in charge of drying and asked her to massage the cherries gently, move them around a lot.
 
I had been searching for the highest elevation coffee on the Santa Ana volcano and found Juana Salvadora's farm at the top of one of the roads near the crater and she had this exotic variety that locals called Kenya, after some rich farmer had brought the seeds from Africa.
 
We did an accidental maceration (some people call this anaerobic) by leaving the cherries in the bag for 1 day, this transmits more fruit aromas to the cup. The coffee came into our family mill late at night, we put it on the raised beds and the next day Candy started drying it. Rubens Gardelli chose this coffee for his Italian Brewers Cup and won! He then took it to the World Finals in Rimini and won 2nd Place in the World.

The barista from the sponsor roastery won 1st, they supplied the compulsory coffee, so they got to choose 2 coffees, everyone else 1, which is a bit strange that the sponsor can compete, but in any case, for me Rubens was our champion. It was great to be in Italy and have an Italian barista reach such a high spot in a filter competition, it was great to be a part of something new. And that coffee was so juicy, I loved just holding it in the vessel and smelling it.

It was definitely a beautiful experience for me. Before this, I had been selling coffee to importers, who did not want to tell me which roasters ended up buying my coffee. So, the first year making naturals, giving it to a barista who gets 2nd Place in the World, it made the coffee taste beautiful and motivated me to start my importing company.
 
El Salvador Coffee Plantation
7- Is there a country of origin that you tend to favor coffee from? Why?
 
Well, I'm a coffee producer from El Salvador, so what can I say?
 
8- Suggest us a roastery to check (not the one you working at/you use at work).

Hard question because roasters are my clients! I think I'm a good sample roaster, so I would invite you to come cup with me, some samples that I've roasted. It's pretty special to cup in the producing country, roasting all these different samples, same variety, same process, different days, such subtle differences.
9- What’s the most important things you’ve learnt while working in the business?
 
You don't need to be everything for everyone, it's better to find a small group of people who believe in you and support you and be the best you can be for them.
 
10- How your work and the specialty coffee world are coping with Covid and the new
challenges for hospitality?
 
People are addicted to coffee so Covid didn't stop that. In Europe, it seems cafes got goverment support and that helped them cope, so that's good. In El Sal, unfortunately, some cafes did not survive, so we lost a bit of the local scene. Now things seem to be getting back to normal, people will still keep drinking coffee and as this economy turns more freelancer focused, it seems the coffee shop has become the center of the world.
 
11- How do you see the specialty coffee scene in 10 years?
 
Climate change and rising costs are making it very difficult to be a coffee farmer. I am not sure I will still be farming coffee by then. I want to, but it's very hard with rising costs and all the challenges from climate change. I accept the challenge, but I see some very difficult years coming.
 
12- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
 
There's a joke I heard...want to make God laugh? Tell God your plans. Who knows where life will take me. Hopefully, I'll have a family but who knows. Concerning coffee, I will try to keep producing coffee and hopefully develop some extra ways of selling my coffee, for example gelato.
 
13- Any last word? Any tip or suggestion you wanna share with someone that want to
start this path?
 
We only have so many days on this Earth, so really listen to yourself and figure out what you'd like to do with your time and pursue that. There will be difficult days for sure but being in coffee surely beats sitting in an office all day. That's one of the things that's great about specialty coffee, you meet all these special people who didn't fit into the usual corporate job life.

 Productor Coffee


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