This summer, escaping the heat of Paris for a few days, I headed down to Vevey, Switzerland to meet with Jean, author of the penultimate guide for Coffee Growers and Producers, “Coffee: Growing, Processing and Sustainable Production”.
Jean and I have had a series of email exchanges over the previous years as I sought his guidance on my “Restore the Bean” project, the goal of which is to help kick-start the once vibrant Robusta coffee growing industry in the Central Equatorial State of South Sudan. I am also a disciple of his book and travel with it around the world as I meet different Coffee Farmer groups from Rwanda to Nepal. Generally I’ll leave a copy wth the farmers for their reference on virtually every aspect of farming and processing – it has been invaluable in helping my farmers follow best industry practices to prevent diseases, reduce bug damage, analyze and choose equipment, and even create better operational business plans.
The last time I was in Switzerland was 1994 on tour as an Artist Manager, at the Day in the Green Concert in Zurich I had the immense pleasure of sitting in a deserted dressing room with my artist Nathan Cavaleri and rock legend Jimmy Page, now, 22 years later, I get to meet another legend in Switzerland, this time a legend in the Coffee world, Agronomist and Author, Jean Nicholas Wintgens.
In a quiet piano lounge perched up high over Lake Geneva, with an uninterrupted view of the Swiss Alps, I quizzed Jean on many of the issues I was dealing with, particularly in South Sudan. His answers, always delivered in his kind, knowing manner, invariably started with, “Well, its in the book”.. which, it always was – but somehow it was even more impactful to hear Jean’s opinions, those opinions honed over an extensive career as Nestle’s Coffee Agronomist, as well as stints in Central America and Congo. As he colorfully re-told stories of consulting visits to China in the 90s, (there was coffee in China then?), and the beauty of Congo prior 1996, Jean lived up to the level of knowledge and detail evident in his book “Coffee”.
The Coffee industry, which has embraced his book, first published in 2008, into the future will revere this publication as the first ‘bible’ for Growers and Producers. I only hope we get to see multiple language versions of the book, as hard as that would be, or, as I requested, digital copies of at least the Farmer relevant chapters translated into Spanish, French and Swahili, as getting this book into the hands of small coffee farmers around the world will help them improve their skills and enhance the quality of their coffee – resulting in more cash return for their efforts and more coffee options for all of us to enjoy.
Wintgens, J. N. (2004) Data on Coffee, in Coffee: Growing, Processing, Sustainable Production: A Guidebook for Growers, Processors, Traders, and Researchers (ed J. N. Wintgens), Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH, Weinheim, Germany. doi: 10.1002/9783527619627.ch35