As one of the final events of Slow Food Nation ’08, we attended The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity Coffee Presidia tasting at Coffee Bar.

It is quite a mouthful of nouns. But the key points are that Slow Food is a non-profit, its Foundation for Biodiversity is a countermeasure effort to the dwindling food product diversity in the world (e.g., today the American food supply is dependent on just 7% of the food product diversity that was once available to us in 1900 [thank you, Monsanto]), and Presidia are Slow Food groups that promote different local foods and traditions — such as coffee growing.

Social mingling at Coffee Bar Andrea Amato of Slow Food Foundation addresses the audience

Monday’s event was a an educational and publicity affair among coffee professionals, showcasing some of Slow Food’s efforts to develop, enrich, and promote the coffee markets of the Huehuetenango Highland Coffee Presidium (Guatemala) and the Sierra Cafetalera Coffee Presidium (Dominican Republic). Working with local farmers and cooperatives, the Slow Food Foundation seeks to preserve the heritage of these unique crops — and elevate their quality for consumers and the quality of life for their farming communities.

Slow Food Presidia signage at the event While not a formal coffee cupping, French press samples were prepared to standard while representatives of the various cooperatives from the Dominican Republic and Guatemala spoke about their coffees with the help of a volunteer translator. Seeing and hearing from those who work at origin is a relatively rare experience in S.F. — and stories of life on a Guatemalan or Dominican Republic coffee farm are a humbling contrast to the criticism of “elitist food snobbery” that has often been levied against Slow Food Nation. (Between that and complaints that the $65 entrance fee to the Food Pavilions for this non-profit wasn’t an all-you-can-eat Sizzler proves that stupid people are everywhere.)

But if that doesn’t scream “elitist snob” enough for you, this Huehuetenango coffee is also roasted by prisoners at Torino, Italy’s Vallette prison through a social cooperative called Pausa Cafè. Coincidentally, last year we sampled this very same Pausa Cafè-roasted Huehuetenango coffee at Caffè Carpano in Torino’s Eataly.

Sierra Cafetalera Coffee representative addresses the crowd with a volunteer translator James Freeman tastes the Sierra Cafetalera coffee alongside his Huehuetenango Highland coffee connection

Not only did some 60 coffee professionals get to enjoy conversation, coffee, and wine over a fine organic dinner prepared by chef Eskender Aseged of Radio Africa & Kitchen fame, but we were even supplied with sample greens of Huehuetenango Highland coffee. The green beans were an appropriate touch for this crowd (and fortunately I’m also a home roaster).

Blue Bottle's Huehuetenango Highland Coffee at SFN's farmers' market, Civic Center Plaza Included in a small media kit was a 25-minute DVD-video documentary of the Huehuetenango Highland Coffee Presidium, with its opening scene taking place in none other than Alba, Italy’s Caffè Calissano. The documentary was also set in Venice, Italy’s Caffè del Doge — whose Slow-Food-affiliated Huehuetenango San Pedro Necta single origin espresso we rated quite highly at their Palo Alto location two years ago.

I quickly learned that event chair Andrea Amato, who is in charge of the Latin American Presidia for the Slow Food Foundation, is also a big juventino — so we finished the evening with shots of limoncello and lamentations over Juventus’ last-minute falter in drawing 1-1 at Fiorentina on Sunday. Just the way they do it in Italy.

What happens to the camera if you've had a few samples too many And after dinner -- of course, a Coffee Bar espresso from Mr. Espresso