Just the other day our morning ritual of having a good cup of joe was thrown for a surprisingly good loop. In preparation for an interview with coffee magnate and adventurer we sampled one of his offerings — the La Colombe medium blend selection call Haiti – Blue Forest.
We’d never heard of a java from Haiti before and for good reason. It take a truly enterprising guy like Todd Carmichael, host of “Dangerous Grounds,” to find it. Best known as the first American explorer to travel solo cross Antarctica to the South Pole, Todd admittedly fell into the coffee business when he got his first job “lugging around coffee bags in a coffee warehouse.” The names of distant locales that were imprinted on those sacks sparked his fantasies of traveling to far off lands. In a recent exclusive interview he told us, “I wanted to go to every one of those places and I made my life out of that.”
He described how that long ago dream led him to the Caribbean. He confessed, “Haiti starts because your heart wants it to be true, so you follow that.” But even the people closest to him told him he was “completely out of my mind to be looking for this in Haiti.”
He followed hints that led him to what many deemed an unlikely spot for quality beans. He explained, “250 years ago a whack-a-do French guy nicked some coffee out of Kaffa. It’s the original heirloom strain of coffee that evolved and he planted it in the mountains of Haiti. Since then it turned into massive slave plantations and, 200 years ago, a coffee plantation industry. And then it was overthrown by the Haitians. What I do know about coffee is, once it’s in the mountains, it doesn’t go away.”
Based on that he did more extensive research. He recalled, “I read reports of someone saying that they loved it. They’d tasted it in the 1950s and the theory was that it’s got to still be up there. It’s got to be there. There wasn’t anything else in the international market. There was nothing I could find and it was based on that hunch.”
With the Haitian discovery under his belt, Todd has more trips in his sights. He noted, “I like to try to continue to see if I can break the rules. There are 80 coffee growing countries and all of them are not countries that we consider first world. Most of the coffee that’s considered specially graded is [produced in] seven different countries. Obviously I work in those seven countries. But what really fascinates me is going in and seeing what I can do to go in and find great coffee that I know exists in those other 60-some-odd countries. And it motivates me.”
One such spot on his list is war-torn Angola. Todd revealed, “That civil war is just ending now, so it’s a re-emerging country that’s back on my charts. So I say, ‘Okay, this is an area where we definitely want to look.’ Or simply within sectors, I’m thinking of Papua New Guinea.”
All we know is that he should keep up the good work. Taste the results of Todd’s good work by visiting the La Colombe Torrefaction website to learn more about his coffee empire. And tune in to “Dangerous Grounds” when it debuts on November 5 at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. Central on Travel Channel.
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