Episode 475 on Monday the 18th of December, 2017. El Salvador Finca La Lagunita Washed Bourbon

December 16, 2017
00:0000:00

On top of the Nymph Lagoon (a volcanic crater nested in Apaneca) Finca La Lagunita is located at an altitude of 1,650 metres above sea level. Within its 4.9 hectares, 3.5 ha. are dedicated to coffee and it's mainly Bourbon and Typica that mainly grow, there's a bit of Elephante too. The top of the hill has been kept as a native forest, a sanctuary of trees that are hundreds of years old, and as I'm sure you can imagine an area like that also attracts loads of birds and animals so it serves as a wonderful nature reserve too.

Who grew this coffee? Gloria Mercedes Rodríguez Fontan. She's a fourth generation coffee grower and owns + personally supervises six small farms located in the Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range: San José, Mamatita, El Porvenir, Nejapa, Nueva Granada and La Lagunita.

This piece of land was Gloria's first farm, and she holds it very close to her heart. When her father, José María Rodríguez died in 1975 it was time for her to learn all the responsibilities of coffee farming, he symbolically presented her with his higher altitude farm: La Lagunita. Gloria's father’s plan was to have his only daughter earn her own money to pay for her university and expenses.

I was lucky enough to get to visit the farm on my trip to El Salvador 2 years ago, you can read a little about it if you like...

The secret diary of a green coffee buyer aged 40 and 1/4
A trip around Central America Day 7 Apaneca San Jose

Gloria works under strict specialty coffee standards such as only harvesting fully ripe cherries, careful milling, appreciative pruning, etc., while she is blessed by amazing coffee terroir conditions such as altitude, sandy loam soils and rich in organic matter, among others. Coffee pickers are selected from her staff based on their experience and passion, and their understanding on the requirements to obtain high-quality coffee.

Each year Gloria employs around 35 people during the harvesting season, and all year round she manages a permanent "winter works" team of 15 people. The idea is to have a solid trained and skilled working group that receive better wages and working conditions. Gloria pays during harvest around 90% above legal minimum wage to give workers incentive and assure the best coffee cherries possible. After every production cycle, she gives a proportional bonus according to every week of labour of her “winter workers” that normally derives into a 1.2 months extra of income for them.

La Lagunita had four foliar ​fertilizations and two soil fertilizations, its soil type is predominantly sandy loam, and rainfall is between 2,000 to 2,700mm annually. With the additional income from auctioned coffee, Gloria plans to improve husbandry practices at her farm and keep focus on improving quality at both the farm and mill level.

This coffee is a washed coffee and I get quite a few emails asking me what on earth that means, well my friends...I made a video!

In the cup this is a classic El Salvador with milk chocolate loveliness and a walnut edge to it. However, it gets a little more complex than that, with hints of pear and an icing sugar sweetness that carries on in the aftertaste.

  • Country: El Salvador
  • Department: Ahuachapán
  • Municipality: Apaneca
  • Farm: La Lagunita
  • Farmer: Gloria Mercedes Rodríguez Fontan
  • Farm Size: 7 hectares
  • Coffee growing area: 5 hectares
  • Altitude: 1,650 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Bourbon
  • Processing System: Washed

​Episode 474 on Monday the 11th of December, 2017. Nicaragua Finca Limoncillo Pulped Natural Ethiosar

December 9, 2017
00:0000:00

The story of Has Bean and Finca Limoncillo has been told many many times, but it's one that I really love to share. So much of where we are today has come from this relationship, and I'm super proud of everything that's happened in the past, as well as amazingly excited for where we can go in the future.

My relationship with Finca Limoncillo began in 2007, and back then we were buying their delicious coffee as part of a buying group. I loved it from the very first time I cupped it, and it was a coffee I just had to get. It was only after the auction closed that I discovered it was owned by a family in Nicaragua who were already good friends of mine, and indeed probably the only people I know from the whole country!

The following year I visited the farm with our importers and spent the whole trip begging them to bring the coffee in for us. Eventually, they caved in (possibly just to stop me pestering them!) and kindly did so.

This setup worked well for a time, but we received notice a couple of years ago that the importers were not going to be buying the coffee again (and for reasons other than the cup quality). This led to some frantic phone calls and a thorough search down the back of the sofa for loose change to fund buying twelve months’ worth of coffee all at once. There were many, many obstacles in the way of doing this deal, but we were lucky in that we were able to pull everything together in a very short amount of time.

The upside of all of this is that we now work directly with Finca Limoncillo instead of going via anyone else, and this is a relationship I’m super happy to have. This coffee has gone from a one-off Cup of Excellence buy to a fantastic long-term relationship.

Finca Limoncillo is located in Matagalpa and, at 171 hectares, it. Is. Huge! Situated at an amazing location, it boasts 9 waterfalls within the farm and is owned by the Mierisch family; as I have already said, they’re good friends, and also well-respected producers in Nicaragua. They’re known for their experimental processing, varietal work, and exceptional coffee.

The fact that the family are friends helps us drill down into the details of what they do for the people who work for them, and the information continues to prove to me that good people grow good coffee.

On the farm, the family:

  • Pay their staff 30% more than what is typical minimum wage.
  • Provide free housing for 60 families.
  • Provide free electricity and running water for their workers' homes.
  • Provide free food for all workers.
  • Provide free daycare facilities for families to use.
  • Provide free healthcare facilities.
  • Employ on-site teachers who educate the staff and teach other skills, such as pottery and weaving. The goal is to help staff diversify their skills. The teachers are also paid twice the wages they would receive in the cities.

The coffees we receive from Limoncillo are fantastic and they come from a fantastic relationship. Erwin Mierisch has visited Stafford many times, and it's always a pleasure to have him around. Last time he was over he ended up at a Weird Beard tap takeover in Manchester, talking to two Weird Beards about crazy brewing / coffee farming ideas! A coffee from Finca Limoncillo (the 'Funky Red Pacamara') is used in two of Weird Beard's beers: Black Perle and Double Perle, both of which are mighty delicious beers!

So what's this Ethiosar varietal, I hear you ask? Well, this is the fourth year we've been lucky enough to have some, and it comes from the hard work of the Mierisch family and their cousin Ricardo. He owns a farm near to Limoncillo, but at a much lower altitude of 800 metres above sea level. Ricardo noticed that his yield and his plants were suffering and that they seemed to be becoming more suscep7tible to disease. He put this down to growing issues in Nicaragua, a change in climate, increased rains and his low altitude. But from experiments he was running on the farm, he noticed that this newly-spliced varietal he had put together was thriving. It was fruiting much more than the other plants and was not suffering.

The varietal, Ethiosar, is a stable hybrid plant. It's a cross of an Ethiopian variety (Sudan Rume) with a Sarchimor (a cross of a Villa Sarchi with a Timor variety). The offspring of this plant is then crossed once again with a Villa Sarchi, which is an improved Caturra / Bourbon from Costa Rica.

The Timor variety is the Robusta variety used to produce all the Catimors. In short, it only has a very small percentage of Catimor in it, thus making it very resistant to leaf rust in most parts of the world. The Sudan Rume is a very old variety of Typica from Ethiopia. Both Sudan Rume and Villa Sarchi are known for their great cup characteristics.

What Ethiosar does is increase production by up to 40% whilst only needing 2,800 plants per manzana, whereas with Caturra you would need 4,000 plants. This may not seem important until you begin to think that each plant needs fertiliser. So not only are you getting more yield but it's cheaper to grow because you need less fertiliser and less plants (plants have to be grown or bought), and it's also quicker to pick. On top of all of this, it's super tasty.

In the cup think green apple meets caramel down a dark alley and they mix themselves up. There's also an apple juice like acidity + a dark chocolate finish = leaving you wanting more!

  • Country: Nicaragua
  • Municipality: Yasica Norte
  • 
Region: Matagalpa

  • Farm name: Limoncillo
  • Farmer: Dr Erwin Mierisch
  • Farm size: 171 hectares
  • Coffee growing area: 109 hectares

  • Harvest months: December–February
  • Diurnal temperature cycle: average: high 28° C, low 20° C
  • Altitude: 1,200 m.a.s.l.

  • Varietal: Ethiosar (Ricardo)

  • Processing system: Pulped Natural

Episode 473 on Monday the 4th of December, 2017. Guatemala El Limon Washed Caturra

December 4, 2017
00:0000:00

I first discovered El Limon on my trip to Guatemala in early 2013, at the time we'd never bought coffee directly from Guatemala; but since then this has become one of our strongest and most amazing relationships.

My friend Raul (who you may remember as the World Barista Champion of 2012!) in Guatemala had been buying coffee from these guys for a couple of years and was very keen for me to go and meet them. Located around an hour's drive to the east of Guatemala City in the small town of Palencia, this farm sits at an altitude of between 1,600 and 1,800 metres above sea level. It's owned by Guadalupe Alberto Reyes, who used to be the Mayor of Palencia and helped to build and develop the town.

Palencia is not part of the eight regions of coffee as defined by Anacafé, but you can see a lot of development in the zone, and this farm is a perfect example of that development. I like being in places that are working to be hot and up-and-coming, as well as those that are established players.

One of the main reason I love El Limon is the desire to experiment, it mostly produces Bourbon and Caturra but also plays around with a few other varietals. The experimentation comes from the motivation of 'Beto', who has really focused on the farm in the last three years. He wanted to take more care in every step they take – from picking to processing, to shipping – and also take more care in the agronomy of the farm. This is very much a family affair; his wife and son also work on the farm, along with Beto's siblings. In fact, his son is studying agronomy at the local college for the benefit of the farm.

The dedication and care devoted to each step of production is reflected in the fact that they have built a new wet mill so that they can separate different lots and have control over the quality of the coffee. Previously the mill could process only one lot; now they are able to process many lots, and keep separate days' pickings and varietals in their own parcels. With this wet mill came another opportunity, which was for neighbours and people within the region of Palencia to bring their coffees to the mill where they could get them processed. Again, another sign that this is a hot spot for Guatemalan coffee.

As time moves on Beto doesn't want to stand still and is continuing to invest in the farm, recently he showed me lots of new planting during my visit, as well as a lot of building work around the wet mill. He is also building a QC lab and new accommodation for people working on the farm, it was a real hive of activity.

Beto and his family have always been the perfect hosts when I have visited the farm, they are such welcoming people and take great pride in showing me around their farm. 1 of the kindest things they've done for me is welcome me into their home when I am visiting, and they always prepare the most amazing meals! When you travel as much as I do, mid-trip you find yourself longing for something big, home-cooked and not from a restaurant or roadside pop-up cafe...traditional Guatemalan meals are just the ticket and I always look forwards to the food, but mainly I look forward to the company.

In the cup expect a super hit of lemon and lime, then it pushes blood orange into the citrus party. Hints of milk chocolate can’t hide the beautiful crisp acidic finish.

  • Country: Guatemala
  • Region: Palencia
  • Farm: El Limon
  • Farmer: Guadalupe Alberto Reyes
  • Altitude: 1,600 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Caturra
  • Processing method: Washed

​Episode 472 on Monday the 27th of November, 2017. El Salvador Finca Argentina Washed Bourbon

November 25, 2017
00:0000:00

It brings me great pleasure to start typing this because 2017 marks the seventh year that we're roasting coffee from Finca Argentina and its farmer, the always awesome Alejandro Martinez!

Alejandro and I have actually been working together since 2008, and in that time it's gone from a working relationship to Ale being one of my closest friends. He became involved in coffee in 2008 as he had just relocated to El Salvador from New York, where he'd been working as a city banker. With his first son on the way and the hustle and bustle of New York no place to bring up a family, the draw of home and El Salvador was just far too strong to ignore.

While looking for work in El Salvador, Ale decided to help his father with some of his business interests and investments. His father had inherited several coffee farms from his grandfather and was unsure what to do with them. One of the investments pricked Ale’s interest – a farm called Finca Argentina. The reason it really got Ale's attention was that he saw the farm had once yielded loads of coffee but was now producing a fraction of its old yield. His father gave him permission to see what could be done to make the farm successful again.

Ale found out the farm had been classified for a Q auction back in 2005. Thinking there may be a specialty buyer out there, he and his cousin (who lived in London) went about sending samples to coffee roasters anywhere they could. One of those samples arrived at Has Bean Towers, just like a lot of other samples do, but – unusually – I liked the coffee. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Since then Finca Argentina has gone from strength to strength, but not without bumps in the road. In 2013 the farm suffered the worst harvest on record, with only 70 bags harvested due to a massive issue with leaf rust. But with investment and hard work, the farmers have bought a neighbouring farm; the future is amazingly bright for Ale, his father, his family and Finca Argentina.

This coffee is 100% Bourbon, as 70% of plant stock in El Salvador is. This heirloom varietal is one of the reasons why coffee from this country is right up amongst some of the best in the world. They have the perfect climate and conditions for this low yielding, high maintenance strain.

The farm is based in the Apaneca-Ilamtepec mountain range, and is near the town of Turin in the Ahuachapán department. Sixteen people work on the farm during the non-picking season, maintaining and tending to the plants. This number of workers goes up to 50 people during the picking period. The altitude of the farm is 1,300 m.a.s.l. The coffee is a washed process coffee, and it's sun dried on patios.

In the cup this coffee is super moreish with buckets of milk chocolate and caramel being thrown around everywhere. There's also a sweet whoosh of orange and a green apple acidity.

  • Country: El Salvador
  • District: Ahuachapán
  • Municipality: Ahuachapán
  • Nearest city: Turin
  • Farm: Finca Argentina
  • Owner: Alejandro Martinez
  • Altitude: 1,300 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Bourbon
  • Processing method: Washed
  • Drying method: Patios

​Episode 471 on Monday the 20th of November, 2017. Kenya Kiriga Estate AA Washed

November 18, 2017
00:0000:00

Well hello there everyone, Uncle Steve has a story to tell you! So sit back, relax and enjoy the story of the Kiriga Estate in Kenya :)

The first coffee bush at Kiriga Estate was planted in approximately 1954 by colonial settlers. At about the same time, less than ten kilometres away along the same Kigio road, a young boy (Aloysius Gakunga, son of the chief for the larger Murang'a county) helped his father – Senior Chief Ndungíu Kagori – plant the first coffee seedling in the area. The area was known as Gaitegi village, Muranga Location 1 (Loco One). A love affair with coffee had been born!

Several years went by and the young boy grew up. He was riding his bicycle along Kigio road and, as he rode past the vast – by now well-established – coffee estates, he promised himself that he would one day own one of them.

He realized this dream in 1976.

Sadly the boy, or Mr. A. N. Gakunga, passed away in July 2014. By the time of his death, Mr. Gakunga had passed on the love of coffee, and the mantle of Kiriga coffee estate, to Dr. Brian Ndungíu Gakunga. Brian was his second child, and the eldest son out of his six children. According to Kikuyu cultural naming systems, Brian is named after Mr. Gakungaís' father, who was both his grandfather and his pioneer coffee farmer.

  • Dr. Brian Gakunga is a coffee farmer who is well known in Kenyan coffee circles. He is a founding member and a former long-serving Honorary Secretary of the Kenya Coffee Producers Association, which is a national farmer's organization that works to promote the economic and social interests of the coffee farmers through active participation in the national and international arena.
  • Brian is also a former Board Member and Chairman of Transitional Exchange Committee (operationally, he was the then-Chairman of Nairobi Coffee Exchange), where over 90% of all of Kenya's coffee is currently sold. He's also currently the Founding Chairman of Africa Coffee Farmers' Network.
  • Africa Coffee Farmers' Network represents the interests of coffee farmers, as spelled out in the organisation's core objective of improving the earnings of poor coffee farmers in order to break the vicious cycle of poverty. One way of doing this is by getting direct sales for the farmers.

The Kiriga Estate sits between 1,550 and 1,650 metres above sea level. It is approximately five kilometres from Thika town, which is an industrial town in the central province of Kenya. It's four kilometres from Blue Posts hotel, which has the famous Chania and Thika falls. Thika lies 50 kilometres northeast of Nairobi.

Administratively, Kiriga coffee estate is in the Gatanga constituency of Muranga county, and it's separated from Kiambu county by the Chania river.

Kiriga coffee is Arabica of predominantly SL28 variety (notable for its world-renowned cup quality). The farm has an estimated two hectares of Ruiru 11 variety (which has improved resistance to coffee berry disease and leaf rust); some K7 variety (similar characteristics as SL28, but with better resistance to leaf rust compared to SL28); and a field of the newest Batian variety. About 60% of the coffee that the estate produces is AA/AB.

All coffee activities at Kiriga are carried out from the coffee nursery to all the farm operations (pruning, weed control, nutrition, irrigation, basin digging, disease control, infilling, mulching, and planting). Wet mill operations are also carried out on the factory level. Kiriga delivers both parchment coffee and Mbuni (naturals) to the commercial dry mill for milling and grading, in preparation for sale at the coffee auction and in direct sale.

In addition to growing coffee the estate also has, I was told, shoats (sheep and goats), a dairy, and the potential to keep fish. It's all about diversity, and what's more diverse than a 'shoat'?! The estate is also occasionally visited by two hippos, in addition to some bird-life, while also being the home of a family of monkeys.

Kiriga irrigated all its coffee trees – despite the crippling electricity costs involved – during the dry season that happened earlier this year, in order to ensure their high standards were maintained despite the weather.

By the end of 2015 the estate changed the cycle of its coffee trees by removing the old heads and growing new heads, which in return gave a higher yield of bold beans with the characteristic 'Kiriga coffee characteristics'. Over 40% of the 'old heads' had to go! This is way above the recommended 25%, and as a result we expect to have decreased yield but increased quality.

At Kiriga they talk about having a 'Kiriga Family'; and it's a big family that reaches up to 180 people at the busiest times of year! 30% of the total workforce is made up of resident families who live on the estate, and 50% of those know no other home. The remaining percentage consists of smallholder farmers who commute daily and depend on the estate for survival. There are smallholder farmers who have been part of the family since 1976 and have no desire to work anywhere else, commuting a whopping 10 KM (or more!) daily, past other estates, just to work at Kiriga.

Something really amazing I wanted to tell you about is the Kiriga Welfare Fund. In the past the estate saw its workers get turned away from banks when they tried to acquire loans for dealing with family issues or emergencies. To help his 'Kiriga Family', over the past year Brian has encouraged the workers to set up a welfare group with him as its patron, and Brian has provided money for loaning out to staff according to their most pressing needs.

Brian has also approached a banking institution to see whether they can fund workers to acquire dairy animals on loan and repay from the milk proceeds. Under such an arrangement, 50% of the proceeds would go towards paying for the loan. A market would be readily available and the remaining 50% would be extra income to the workers. This is ongoing and, if successful, it would have the effect of supplementing the workers' wages and greatly improving their quality of life.

Many of the estate farms around Kiriga have been sold off to make housing estates. Whilst this is a challenge for the future, in the immediate period Brian is actually finding this helpful, as there are more skilled pickers available (who were working on the other farms).

During my visit to Kenya in 2015 I was fortunate enough to spend some time chatting with Brian. I even managed to record some of it, too! Make sure to have a listen : )

Has Blog: An Interview with Brian and Peter from Kiriga (Part 1)
Has Blog: An Interview with Brian and Peter from Kiriga (Part 2)

In the cup expect a rush of blackcurrant Ribena alongside a chocolate sweetness that's perfectly balanced with a great body. The finish has a delicate black pepper spiciness that's delicate but adds plenty of interest.

  • Country: Kenya
  • Constituency: Gatanga
  • County: Muranga
  • Nearest town: Thika
  • Estate: Kiriga
  • Farmer: Dr. Brian Gakunga
  • Altitude: 1,550–1,650 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietals: SL28 AA & Ruiru 11 AA
  • Processing method: Washed

​Episode 470 on Monday the 13th of November, 2017. ​El Salvador Finca Las Brumas Washed SL 28

November 11, 2017
00:0000:00

Juan Jose Ernesto 'Neto' Menéndez Argüello belongs to the fourth generation of coffee farmers in his family. His father died in 1995. After completing his studies at university, Neto had the opportunity to start working in the coffee industry at J. Hill & Cia, in 2000. He left J. Hill & Cia after five years, and began his second coffee experience at JASAL.

Both companies gave him the opportunity to meet 'Grano de Oro' from another perspective, allowing him to learn the art and passion of cupping. He says those are very important in his life, and that they give him the opportunity to apply his coffee knowledge and experience that he's gained through the years.

During his time in the coffee world, he has participated in various events like the Cup of Excellence (National Jury from 2003 to 2011), Q Auction, Q Grader, and the Star Cupper program organised by SCAA and CQI.

The farm, Las Brumas, is located between 45 to 60 minutes from Santa Ana city. It has a cultivated area of 60 hectares' worth of coffee yield, all of which is at an altitude ranging from 1,450 to 1,700 m.a.s.l. It produces around 600 bags of coffee each year, and has an area of 35 hectares of virgin mountain at an altitude from 1,700 to 2,000 m.a.s.l.

The farm is located in the Sonsonate department near the area known as San Blas. Las Brumas has very rich volcanic soil, deep and very fertile, which has been generated by different Ilamatepec and Izalco volcanic eruptions throughout its history.

One of the most important elements is the micro climate. It's very misty at the farm for most of the year, and that's why Neto decided to name the farm Finca Las Brumas. This amazing micro climate is generated when the warm air from the Pacific ocean collides with the high peaks of the Volcanoes Park (which comprises of the Santa Ana, Cerro Verde and Izalco volcanoes).

Due to its location between these three famous volcanoes in El Salvador, this unique micro climate reduces the amount of daylight that the coffee trees receive. This helps the coffee trees have a very slow photosynthesis, improving the maturation process, and this in turn improves some attributes that are closely related to maturity, like the aroma, sweetness, acidity and flavour.

In the cup this starts of as a regular El Salvadorian coffee. But it’s only as it develops and you get red wine, a big body and an orange juice like acidity that’s fresh and juicy.

  • Country: El Salvador
  • Department: Sonsonate
  • Nearest city: Santa Ana
  • Farm: Finca Las Brumas
  • Farmer: Juan Jose Ernesto 'Neto' Menéndez Argüello
  • Altitude: 1,450–1,700 m.a.s.l. / 1,700–2,000 m.a.s.l.
  • Variety: SL 28
  • Processing system: Washed

Episode 469 on Monday the 6th of November, 2017. Nicaragua Finca La Escondida Washed Catuai

November 4, 2017
00:0000:00

Finca La Escondida is close to Lake Apanas near the city of Jinotega, which is the capital of the department of Jinotega in the north-central region of Nicaragua. The straight translation from Spanish to English of 'escondida' is ‘hidden’. Escondida is called 'Escondida' because the farm is 'hidden' from the road by forest and trees, which makes it appear to blend right into the side of the mountain.

La Escondida is a rather young farm as coffee farms go, because the first trees were planted there only ten years ago – in 2006. La Escondida is planned around identifying the plots with individually different micro-environments resulting from factors such as soil quality, sun exposure and temperature range. This is one of the upsides of starting to plant a new farm.

This is the varietal Catuai, which you don't see so much in specialty coffee. The varietal was selected for this farm as it was thought it would do very well with the identified soil quality, sun exposure, temperature range, and weather conditions in particular, given the farm's quite exposed on the side of the mountain.

Catuai is related to Yellow Caturra and Mundo Novo and is a hybrid that grows best above 800 metres. It is mostly prevalent in Brazil and Central / South America. This is a dwarf variety of plant; it doesn't grow very high, and this is its most obvious distinguishing trait. Selected by the Instituto Agronomico in the 1950s, it now accounts for 50% of the coffee acreage in Brazil and is widely used in Central America. It also benefits from the fruit not falling off the branch easily, which helps when there are strong winds or rain, or where wind breaker coverage is at a minimum, like it is here.

Some of the downsides of starting a brand new farm can be that it may take a while for the quality of the cup profile to build up; it might take time to have the right facilities for processing and picking; and it might take time to train the staff for picking and processing. Not to mention that it might take a while to achieve the yield to go with it all. But this farm, for me, has hit the whole group of requirements running. As a result of their experience in the area, the Mierisch family have built a new mill with a huge investment, and they use some of the people already in place in the neighbouring 'San Jose' to blend together an Escondida team comprising of experienced and new members.

In the cup you can expect a very sweetness-driven coffee with a big juicy citrus acidity – think green Starburst sweets and lemon. If you don't believe me about the Starburst thing, try one with the coffee!

  • Country: Nicaragua
  • Municipality: Lipululo
  • Department: Jinotega
  • Farm: La Escondida
  • Farm manager: Boanerje Martinez Montenegro
  • Coffee growing area: 92 manzanas
  • Elevation: 975–1,230 m.a.s.l.
  • Harvest months: December–March
  • Diurnal temperature cycle: average: high 27C, low 16 C
  • Varietal: Catuai
  • Fermentation: Yes
  • Fermentation method: Dry
  • Processing method: Washed

Episode 468 on Monday the 30th of October, 2017. Ethiopia Ana Sora Guji Natural

October 28, 2017
00:0000:00

This is the second year of us having coffee from Ana Sora and has become something very beautiful. This coffee represents lots of time and energy working at the farmers gate in Ethiopia; not only that, but the coffee is the only private estate from which we have ever bought in Ethiopia. Add to these points the fact that it's one of the most unique coffees I have ever tasted, and you can understand why I’m excited.

This private farm is owned by Israel Degfa, a second generation coffee grower from Ethiopia. The farm covers 250 hectares, only 150 of which are currently producing coffee; however, it is estimated that the remaining 100 hectares will be in full coffee production by 2018.

Situated alongside the river Turo, the farm currently only produces natural process coffee. However, in future the farmers will take advantage of the water source and the planned increased production capacity to begin producing coffee processed by the "washed process" method. Israel plans to build a processing station on his land by 2018.

It's a brand new farm, only formed in 2013, and it's located at a whopping altitude of between 1,900 and 2,350 metres above sea level. It is unusual to find private farms of 250 hectares in Ethiopia, and even more unusual to find them at such high altitude. The high altitude helps with the slower maturation of the coffee cherry, and gives more time for the plant to develop.

Coffee growing is popular in this area, and Israel also sources coffee from the surrounding area populated by smallholder farmers who speak Oromife and are of Oromo ethnicity. Israel believes in helping these farmers through education in husbandry and also through financial assistance.

Cherries are hand-sorted for unripes and overripes before they go into floatation tanks, where the cherries are covered with water. Any cherries that float are removed. Whole, ripe cherries are then dried in the sunshine on raised African drying beds, which are laid out on hessian cloths for about 15–18 days depending on the weather conditions. The cherries are covered with plastic or shade nets during the midday heat and at night.

This is a unique coffee, certainly for its cup profile but also because of the cherries that contribute to the coffee.

In the cup expect an amazing Ethiopian natural that's so very similar to the Parma Violet sweets I loved as a child, while also being one of the cleanest naturals I’ve ever tasted. Blueberry juice! It's so floral that it's bigger than the biggest bouquet of violets I can imagine. This is a truly special and unique cup from a special and unique coffee bean.

  • Country: Ethiopia
  • Area: Guji zone
  • Nearest town: Yirgacheffe
  • Farm: Ana Sora
  • Varietal: Indigenous wild varietals
  • Processing: Natural
  • Owner: Israel Defga
  • Founding year: 2013
  • Altitude: 1,900 – 2,350 m.a.s.l.
  • Producer type: Estate
  • Farm size: 250 hectares, of which 150 hectares are coffee.

Episode 467 on Monday the 23rd of October, 2017. El Salvador Finca Argentina Washed Catimor

October 21, 2017
00:0000:00

I've been working with Alejandro since 2008 and in that time our relationship has gone from strictly professional to Ale being one of my closest friends. He became involved in coffee in 2008 as he had just relocated to El Salvador from New York where he'd been working as a city banker. With his first son on the way and the hustle and bustle of New York no place to bring up a family the draw of home and El Salvador was just far too strong to ignore.

While looking for work in El Salvador, Ale decided to help his father with some of his business interests and investments. His father had inherited several coffee farms from his grandfather and was unsure what to do with them, one of the investments pricked Ale’s intent and this was a farm called Finca Argentina. The reason it really got Ale's attention was that he saw the farm once yielded loads of coffee but was producing a fraction of its old productivity. His father gave him permission to see what could be done to make the farm successful again

Ale found out the farm had been classified for a Q auction back in 2005. Thinking there may be a specialty buyer out there he and his cousin (who lived in London) went about sending samples to coffee roasters anywhere they could. 1 of those samples arrived at Hasbean Towers just like a lot of other samples do, but unusually I liked the coffee and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since then Finca Argentina has gone from strength to strength but not without bumps in the road. In 2013 they suffered the worst harvest on record, with only 70 bags harvested due to a massive issue with leaf rust. But with investment and hard work they have also bought a neighbouring farm and the future is amazingly bright for Ale, his father, his family and Finca Argentina.

The farm is based in the Apaneca-Ilamtepec mountain range, and is near the town of Turin in the Ahuachapán department. Sixteen people work on the farm during the non-picking season, maintaining and tending to the plants. This number of workers goes up to 50 people during the picking period. The altitude of the farm is 1,300 m.a.s.l.

This coffee is a washed process Catimor which I know some of you might raise an eyebrow at as the Catimor varietal can be a little on the controversial side. Catimor is a cross between Timor coffee (resistant to leaf rust – a big problem at the moment in Central America) and Caturra coffee. It was created in Portugal of all places, in 1959.

Catimor grows and produces fruit very quickly and has a very high yield. It's pest resistant and leaf rust resistant, and it will grow well at much lower altitudes – better, in fact, in comparison to many other commercial varietals. Sounds perfect, but problems come in the cup quality. Timor has its feet in the Robusta species (hence all these lovely benefits), but Robusta is not known for being tasty.

Luckily for us, this is one of the finest examples I have seen of this varietal, and it came about because of Alejandro wanting to experiment and try different varietals on different parts of the farm. One of the experiments involved Catimor. It's only a very small lot but it's a great example of tasting a coffee with your taste buds and not with what you think it might taste like. This coffee made me change my opinion of this varietal.

In the cup it starts off as a typical El Salvadorian coffee...sweet milk chocolate, a balanced acidity that reminds me of white grape, and oh so smooth. But then it takes a right turn and develops a black pepper taste that I never find in a coffee from El Salvador, except right here in this delicious Catimor.

  • Country: El Salvador
  • District: Ahuachapán
  • Municipality: Ahuachapán
  • Nearest city: Turin
  • Farm: Finca Argentina
  • Owner: Alejandro Martinez
  • Altitude: 1,300 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Catimor
  • Processing method: Washed
  • Drying method: Patios

​Episode 466 on Monday the 16th of October, 2017. Kenya Karogoto Washed AB

October 14, 2017
00:0000:00

Quite close to Kieni near the town of Karatina in Nyeri is the Karogoto wet mill, it's owned by the Tekangu Coffee Farmers Cooperative Society which got its name from combining the names of their 3 mills: Tegu, Karogoto and Ngunguru. Much like Kieni it has seen success in recent years and has secured high prices for farmers delivering their coffee cherries there.

The mill is split in half by a road, with the sorting shed and fermentation tanks on the lower side and the drying beds on the upper slope of the hill. Both sides are pretty steep, with a great view of the valley and weaver birds making their homes in the trees around the mill.

The mill is managed by Ephraim Maina Muthee, who showed us around and with whom Steve planted a coffee plant on the slope just below the sorting shed.

In the cup this coffee is a classic Kenyan, but not in the blackcurrant way. This has heaps of clean red wine notes with cherry, and coffee blossom with a chocolate like sweetness and finishes with jasmine notes.

  • Country: Kenya
  • County: Nyeri
  • Nearest town: Karatina
  • Mill: Karagoto
  • Owners: Tekangu Coffee Farmers Cooperative Society
  • Contributing farmers: 1,700+
  • Altitude: 1,700 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: SL28 & SL34
  • Processing method: Washed
  • Average rainfall: 1,500 mm
  • Temperature range: 12-27°C
  • Soil type: Well drained red volcanic soil rich in phosphorus

​Episode 465 on Monday the 9th of October, 2017. Tanzania Burka/Selian Estate Natural

October 7, 2017
00:0000:00

The Burka Coffee Estate is located on the outskirts of Arusha national park. It's on the leeward side of Mount Meru, which is just 80 kilometres west of Mount Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest peak.

Selian was established in 1910 and was acquired by Burka in 1991 (thus the Burka/Selian in the coffee's name). The owners of the combined estate can now boast of growing coffee since 1899, which is when Burka was planted – rather impressive, don't you think?! The Selian estate covers 1,210 acres, of which 753 acres produce coffee.

The Burka and Selian estates have about 200 permanent staff as well as 200 daily causal staff; however, in the peak of the harvest season, there can be up to 5,000 staff involved in picking and processing.  All permanent staff are provided with housing on the estates (in four different camps), and the minimum salary is set at 20% above the government minimum requirement. Staff have social security and labour union membership included in their contracts, and an estate credit union also offers loans and advice for education, health, and house construction.

Each estate has its own nursery which educates over 100 children, and two primary schools also cater for over 600 children, who come from the estate workers' families and the neighbouring communities. An on-site health centre with estate nurse and dispensary is available to meet the needs of all staff, and the estate has its own ambulance. It also has shops, sport facilities, churches, and a mosque.

Regular inter-estate and inter-camp football and netball matches occur, along with staff BBQs and other holiday celebrations. Workers are supplied with free firewood from stumped coffee trees, and fruit and nut trees are grown around the staff villages.

The harvest is carried out between the months of May to October through selective hand-picking of red ripe cherries, followed by further hand-sorting to remove any over- or under-ripe cherries. Cherries are then dried slowly on raised African beds for 12–14 days. The cherries are carefully maintained through consistent turning to ensure even drying and avoid over-fermentation. They are covered at night to protect them from excess rain and moisture.

Once the cherries have dried to the optimum moisture content, they are sent to Moshi for hulling, grading by bean size, and careful hand-picking. Finally, the coffee is bagged in GrainPro for export from the port and capital city of Dar Es Salaam.

In the cup this is a totally unique coffee. Expect bruised strawberries covered in rich dark chocolate and sprinkled in white sugar, with a boozy cherry aftertaste.

  • Country: Tanzania
  • Region: Arusha
  • District: Arumeru
  • Estate: Burka/Selian
  • Estate size: 343 hectares
  • Varietals: Kent, N39, Blue Mountain and Catimor
  • Processing method: Natural
  • Drying method: Raised African beds
  • Drying time: 12–14 days
  • Altitude: 1,350 m.a.s.l.
  • Soil: Young alluvial, sandy to clay loam
  • Average annual rainfall: 750 mm

​Episode 464 on Monday the 2nd of October, 2017. Nicaragua Finca Limoncillo Washed Caturra

September 30, 2017
00:0000:00

The story of Hasbean and Finca Limoncillo has been told many many times, but it's one that I really love to share. So much of where we are today has come from this relationship, and I'm super proud of everything that's happened in the past, as well as amazingly excited for where we can go in the future.

My relationship with Finca Limoncillo began in 2007, and back then we were buying their delicious coffee as part of a buying group. I loved it from the very first time I cupped it, and it was a coffee I just had to get. It was only after the auction closed that I discovered it was owned by a family in Nicaragua who were already good friends of mine, and indeed probably the only people I know from the whole country!

The following year I visited the farm with our importers and spent the whole trip begging them to bring the coffee in for us. Eventually, they caved in (possibly just to stop me pestering them!) and kindly did so.

This setup worked well for a time, but we received notice a couple of years ago that the importers were not going to be buying the coffee again (and for reasons other than the cup quality). This led to some frantic phone calls and a thorough search down the back of the sofa for loose change to fund buying twelve months’ worth of coffee all at once. There were many, many obstacles in the way of doing this deal, but we were lucky in that we were able to pull everything together in a very short amount of time.

The upside of all of this is that we now work directly with Finca Limoncillo instead of going via anyone else, and this is a relationship I’m super happy to have. This coffee has gone from a one-off Cup of Excellence buy to a fantastic long-term relationship.

Finca Limoncillo is located in Matagalpa and, at 171 hectares, it. is. huge! Situated at an amazing location, it boasts 9 waterfalls within the farm and is owned by the Mierisch family; as I have already said, they’re good friends, and also well-respected producers in Nicaragua. They’re known for their experimental processing, varietal work, and exceptional coffee.

The fact that the family are friends helps us drill down into the details of what they do for the people who work for them, and the information continues to prove to me that good people grow good coffee.

On the farm, the family:

  • Pay their staff 30% more than what is typical minimum wage.
  • Provide free housing for 60 families.
  • Provide free electricity and running water for their workers' homes.
  • Provide free food for all workers.
  • Provide free daycare facilities for families to use.
  • Provide free healthcare facilities.
  • Employ on-site teachers who educate the staff and teach other skills, such as pottery and weaving. The goal is to help staff diversify their skills. The teachers are also paid twice the wages they would receive in the cities.

The coffees we receive from Limoncillo are fantastic and they come from a fantastic relationship. Erwin Mierisch has visited Stafford many times, and it's always a pleasure to have him around. Last time he was over he ended up at a Weird Beard tap takeover in Manchester, talking to two Weird Beards about crazy brewing / coffee farming ideas! A coffee from Finca Limoncillo (the 'Funky Red Pacamara') is used in two of Weird Beard's beers: Black Perle and Double Perle, both of which are mighty delicious beers!

In the cup this coffee makes me think of a toffee apple. On the front end there’s juicy green apple, which turns into sticky sweet toffee and caramel with a hint of white grape.

  • Country: Nicaragua
  • Municipality: Yasica Norte
  • 
Region: Matagalpa

  • Farm name: Limoncillo
  • Farmer: Dr Erwin Mierisch
  • Farm size: 171 manzanas (hectares)
  • Coffee growing area: 109 hectares

  • Harvest months: December–February
  • Altitude: 1,200 m.a.s.l.

  • Varietal: Caturra
  • Processing method: Washed
  • Diurnal temperature cycle: average high: 28 C; average low: 20 C
  • GPS coordinates: N13 2.9569 W85 49.9756

​Episode 463 on Monday the 25th of September, 2017. Costa Rica Finca Licho Yellow Honey

September 23, 2017
00:0000:00

An old favourite returns, a big favourite returns, one I hope you're as happy as me to see, hello Licho!

I first bought coffee from Finca Licho from a Cup of Excellence auction many, many years ago in 2007, where it finished 4th. This year we welcome Licho back for the ninth time and I'm super proud as always to be able to roast it for you lovely lot : )

Licho is a coffee that I feel shows our development as a roaster over the years. First we bought this coffee in the Cup of Excellence program (a great way to meet a grower), then we bought it from an import broker; they helped us bring in this coffee because we are a small coffee buyer. Then we bought directly from them. Then, three years ago, I went out to the farm and did the deal on the farm with the brothers. I love the fact that last year I walked onto the farm after cupping a particular lot in the exporter's office, asked how much they wanted, and there was a short conference. They came back and told me, then we shook hands. Then we got back into the 4x4 and drove away. That year we agreed a European-exclusive deal with them for this coffee, and this year we continue the close work we have been doing with them.

Grown by the Aguilera brothers in the province of Naranjo, in the volcanic Northern Cordiles corridor of the Western Valley, this coffee is cultivated at an altitude of 1,500 metres above sea level. Most of their coffee is of the Villa Sarchi variety, native to the area and excellent in the cup. Villa Sarchi is a Bourbon mutation (similar to Caturra and Pacas) found originally in Naranjo, West Valley. It is a dwarf variety with short internodes and usually higher-yielding production. There is also a little Caturra (around 30%) in this lot.

This coffee is honey processed, which is like the pulped natural method, so the fruit is removed from the seed of the coffee bush and left to dry. The main difference is that there is no water involved when the cherry is removed, so mucilage sticks to the bean. This can be dangerous, but it's necessary in these parts of Costa Rica where water is limited: in this area of Naranjo water is a precious commodity, so this method suits the location very well.

The coffee ends up clustering whilst drying because there is so much mucilage. So the coffee either needs to be turned regularly to stop this happening, or it has to be broken up. Over-fermentation can happen at this stage and you can end up with a not-so-good cup, but the Aguilera brothers are well-versed in this method and are some of the most skilled in Costa Rica.

Want to know a little more about honey processing? Here's a video you might enjoy!

The Aguileras are 12 brothers and sisters, all of whom are involved in coffee as inherited from their parents. The brothers work the mill and farms themselves with basically no hired labor, other than pickers during the harvest. With the help of the third generation, they work the mill and drying patios, prune the coffee fields, fertilize, etc, year-round. The Aguilera Bros understand quality at the farm and mill level, and this is why we are excited about working with them.

Coffee has been cultivated in Costa Rica since 1779. Currently, the regions producing the best quality are Tarrazu, West Valley, and Central Valley. Coffee production has been threatened the past decade due to a real-estate boom converting coffee-lands into prime development properties. San Jose, the capital, is right in the heart of Central Valley, where you will find private houses next to coffee farms. The value of these farms have now skyrocketed.

In the cup this coffee is as delicious as ever and you can see why it's become one of our most popular coffees year after year. On the front-end there's raspberry and golden sugar, then the sweetness kicks in alongside dark chocolate before finishing with cherry on the aftertaste.

  • Country: Costa Rica
  • Region: Western Valley
  • Province: Alajuela
  • Nearest city: Naranjo de Alajuela
  • Farm: Finca Licho
  • Producers: Aguilera Family
  • Farm Size: 28.00 Hectares
  • Coffee growing area: 9.10 Hectares
  • Altitude: 1,500 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: 70% Villa Sarchí & 30% Caturra
  • Processing System: Yellow Honey

​Episode 462 on Monday the 18th of September, 2017. Nicaragua Finca Limoncillo Elegant Natural Red Pacamara

September 16, 2017
00:0000:00

The story of Hasbean and Finca Limoncillo has been told many many times, but it's one that I really love to share. So much of where we are today has come from this relationship, and I'm super proud of everything that's happened in the past, as well as amazingly excited for where we can go in the future.

My relationship with Finca Limoncillo began in 2007, and back then we were buying their delicious coffee as part of a buying group. I loved it from the very first time I cupped it, and it was a coffee I just had to get. It was only after the auction closed that I discovered it was owned by a family in Nicaragua who were already good friends of mine, and indeed probably the only people I know from the whole country!

The following year I visited the farm with our importers and spent the whole trip begging them to bring the coffee in for us. Eventually, they caved in (possibly just to stop me pestering them!) and kindly did so.

This setup worked well for a time, but we received notice a couple of years ago that the importers were not going to be buying the coffee again (and for reasons other than the cup quality). This led to some frantic phone calls and a thorough search down the back of the sofa for loose change to fund buying twelve months’ worth of coffee all at once. There were many, many obstacles in the way of doing this deal, but we were lucky in that we were able to pull everything together in a very short amount of time.

The upside of all of this is that we now work directly with Finca Limoncillo instead of going via anyone else, and this is a relationship I’m super happy to have. This coffee has gone from a one-off Cup of Excellence buy to a fantastic long-term relationship.

Finca Limoncillo is located in Matagalpa and, at 171 hectares, it. is. huge! Situated at an amazing location, it boasts 9 waterfalls within the farm and is owned by the Mierisch family; as I have already said, they’re good friends, and also well-respected producers in Nicaragua. They’re known for their experimental processing, varietal work, and exceptional coffee.

The fact that the family are friends helps us drill down into the details of what they do for the people who work for them, and the information continues to prove to me that good people grow good coffee.

On the farm, the family:

  • Pay their staff 30% more than what is typical minimum wage.
  • Provide free housing for 60 families.
  • Provide free electricity and running water for their workers' homes.
  • Provide free food for all workers.
  • Provide free daycare facilities for families to use.
  • Provide free healthcare facilities.
  • Employ on-site teachers who educate the staff and teach other skills, such as pottery and weaving. The goal is to help staff diversify their skills. The teachers are also paid twice the wages they would receive in the cities.

The coffees we receive from Limoncillo are fantastic and they come from a fantastic relationship. Erwin Mierisch has visited Stafford many times, and it's always a pleasure to have him around. Last time he was over he ended up at a Weird Beard tap takeover in Manchester, talking to two Weird Beards about crazy brewing / coffee farming ideas! A coffee from Finca Limoncillo (the 'Funky Red Pacamara') is used in two of Weird Beard's beers: Black Perle and Double Perle, both of which are mighty delicious beers!

This is a Pacamara varietal coffee.  Pacamaras are a little crazy on the cupping table.  Pacamaras are exciting.  I like Pacamaras!  Could ramble on about Pacamaras for a while, oh wait a minute, I did!  If you'd like to know more about this fantastic varietal make sure to have a look at the article I wrote...

Screen_Shot_2015-06-01_at_15.29.30_large

So why the 'elegant' part of the name? Well, when I visited the farm and Erwin presented the samples, he gave me this coffee...I couldn't get any other word but 'elegant' to describe it, but it's just so different to last year's crazy offering.

They told me that this year they had a policy of turning the coffee more often, apart from one lot (see the other natural 'funky' Red Pacamara we're offering), but this cup was quite different. It's a unique Pacamara and may be the shape of things to come with better and better processing.

This coffee was described by one of our roasters (Gary) as Wimbledon coffee! In the cup it's super clean, full of creamy fresh strawberries alongside a hint of yoghurt.

  • Country: Nicaragua
  • Municipality: Yasica Norte
  • 
Region: Matagalpa

  • Farm Name: Limoncillo
  • Farmer: Dr. Erwin Mierisch
  • Farm Size: 171 Hectares
  • Coffee growing area: 109 Hectares

  • Harvest Months: December - February
  • Diurnal Temperature Cycle: Avg High 28°C, Low 20°C
  • Altitude: 1,200 m.a.s.l.

  • Varietal: Red Pacamara
  • Processing System: Delicate natural process and sun dried

​Episode 461 on Monday the 11th of September, 2017. El Salvador Finca La Fany Washed Bourbon

September 9, 2017
00:0000:00

Finca La Fany has been producing coffee in El Salvador since 1870, and has belonged to the same family from generation to generation. Situated on the Santa Ana volcano, the farm provides work for 24 families in the community. It's in a biological corridor that stretches for 27 hectares from Mexico to Panama, and it's full of 100% Bourbon coffees.

Nearly 70% of El Salvador’s total coffee production is Bourbon, which is one of the most desired coffee varietals. It is harder to grow, is more susceptible to disease and provides a lower yield than some other varietals, but it also produces some of the finest coffee in the world. I love El Salvador for this dedication to producing awesome speciality coffee, and I think this is one of its finest coffees. I think it's fantastic!

I first worked with this farm in 2004 when Hasbean was roasting coffee in the back of my garage at home, and this was one of the first relationship coffees we were able to buy. Since then it's gone from strength to strength.

I was lucky enough to visit Rafael and Carmen, the owners of Finca La Fany, during visits to El Salvador in 2008 (May), 2012, 2013 and 2014 (January). Visiting them has become one of the highlights of my trips, because not only do I get to visit some of my favourite farms in the world, but I get to spend some amazing time with my very special friends who have become very close and dear to me.

This shade-grown coffee gets better and better each year, because Carmen and Rafael keep investing in milling their own coffee and improving the facilities they have. You can really taste this in the cup; this is one of my all-time favourites, and it's one of the coffees that I would be devastated to lose if we were unable to get it.

In the cup you'll find a very clean and sweet coffee. The sweetness reminds me of light syrup mixed up with honeycomb and apricot. On the finish there's a subtle but delicious edge of lime zest.

  • Country: El Salvador
  • Region: Apaneca
  • City: Ahuachapan
  • Farm: La Fany
  • 
Farmer: Carmen and Rafael Da Silva

  • Farm size: 20.30 hectares

  • Coffee growing area: 20.30 hectares

  • Altitude: 1,450 m.a.s.l.

  • Varietal: Bourbon

  • Processing system: Washed

Episode 460 on Monday the 4th of September, 2017. Kenya Kiriga Estate AB Washed

September 2, 2017
00:0000:00

Well hello there everyone, Uncle Steve has a story to tell you! So sit back, relax and enjoy the story of the Kiriga Estate in Kenya :)

The first coffee bush at Kiriga Estate was planted in approximately 1954 by colonial settlers. At about the same time, less than ten kilometres away along the same Kigio road, a young boy (Aloysius Gakunga, son of the chief for the larger Murang'a county) helped his father – Senior Chief Ndungíu Kagori – plant the first coffee seedling in the area. The area was known as Gaitegi village, Muranga Location 1 (Loco One). A love affair with coffee had been born!

Several years went by and the young boy grew up. He was riding his bicycle along Kigio road and, as he rode past the vast – by now well-established – coffee estates, he promised himself that he would one day own one of them.

He realized this dream in 1976.

Sadly the boy, or Mr. A. N. Gakunga, passed away in July 2014. By the time of his death, Mr. Gakunga had passed on the love of coffee, and the mantle of Kiriga coffee estate, to Dr. Brian Ndungíu Gakunga. Brian was his second child, and the eldest son out of his six children. According to Kikuyu cultural naming systems, Brian is named after Mr. Gakungaís' father, who was both his grandfather and his pioneer coffee farmer.

  • Dr. Brian Gakunga is a coffee farmer who is well known in Kenyan coffee circles. He is a founding member and a former long-serving Honorary Secretary of the Kenya Coffee Producers Association, which is a national farmer's organization that works to promote the economic and social interests of the coffee farmers through active participation in the national and international arena.
  • Brian is also a former Board Member and Chairman of Transitional Exchange Committee (operationally, he was the then-Chairman of Nairobi Coffee Exchange), where over 90% of all of Kenya's coffee is currently sold. He's also currently the Founding Chairman of Africa Coffee Farmers' Network.
  • Africa Coffee Farmers' Network represents the interests of coffee farmers, as spelled out in the organisation's core objective of improving the earnings of poor coffee farmers in order to break the vicious cycle of poverty. One way of doing this is by getting direct sales for the farmers.

The Kiriga Estate sits between 1,550 and 1,650 metres above sea level. It is approximately five kilometres from Thika town, which is an industrial town in the central province of Kenya. It's four kilometres from Blue Posts hotel, which has the famous Chania and Thika falls. Thika lies 50 kilometres northeast of Nairobi.

Administratively, Kiriga coffee estate is in the Gatanga constituency of Muranga county, and it's separated from Kiambu county by the Chania river.

Kiriga coffee is Arabica of predominantly SL28 variety (notable for its world-renowned cup quality). The farm has an estimated two hectares of Ruiru 11 variety (which has improved resistance to coffee berry disease and leaf rust); some K7 variety (similar characteristics as SL28, but with better resistance to leaf rust compared to SL28); and a field of the newest Batian variety. About 60% of the coffee that the estate produces is AA/AB.

All coffee activities at Kiriga are carried out from the coffee nursery to all the farm operations (pruning, weed control, nutrition, irrigation, basin digging, disease control, infilling, mulching, and planting). Wet mill operations are also carried out on the factory level. Kiriga delivers both parchment coffee and Mbuni (naturals) to the commercial dry mill for milling and grading, in preparation for sale at the coffee auction and in direct sale.

In addition to growing coffee the estate also has, I was told, shoats (sheep and goats), a dairy, and the potential to keep fish. It's all about diversity, and what's more diverse than a 'shoat'?! The estate is also occasionally visited by two hippos, in addition to some bird-life, while also being the home of a family of monkeys.

Kiriga irrigated all its coffee trees – despite the crippling electricity costs involved – during the dry season that happened earlier this year, in order to ensure their high standards were maintained despite the weather.

By the end of 2015 the estate changed the cycle of its coffee trees by removing the old heads and growing new heads, which in return gave a higher yield of bold beans with the characteristic 'Kiriga coffee characteristics'. Over 40% of the 'old heads' had to go! This is way above the recommended 25%, and as a result we expect to have decreased yield but increased quality.

At Kiriga they talk about having a 'Kiriga Family'; and it's a big family that reaches up to 180 people at the busiest times of year! 30% of the total workforce is made up of resident families who live on the estate, and 50% of those know no other home. The remaining percentage consists of smallholder farmers who commute daily and depend on the estate for survival. There are smallholder farmers who have been part of the family since 1976 and have no desire to work anywhere else, commuting a whopping 10 KM (or more!) daily, past other estates, just to work at Kiriga.

Something really amazing I wanted to tell you about is the Kiriga Welfare Fund. In the past the estate saw its workers get turned away from banks when they tried to acquire loans for dealing with family issues or emergencies. To help his 'Kiriga Family', over the past year Brian has encouraged the workers to set up a welfare group with him as its patron, and Brian has provided money for loaning out to staff according to their most pressing needs.

Brian has also approached a banking institution to see whether they can fund workers to acquire dairy animals on loan and repay from the milk proceeds. Under such an arrangement, 50% of the proceeds would go towards paying for the loan. A market would be readily available and the remaining 50% would be extra income to the workers. This is ongoing and, if successful, it would have the effect of supplementing the workers' wages and greatly improving their quality of life.

Many of the estate farms around Kiriga have been sold off to make housing estates. Whilst this is a challenge for the future, in the immediate period Brian is actually finding this helpful, as there are more skilled pickers available (who were working on the other farms).

During my visit to Kenya in 2015 I was fortunate enough to spend some time chatting with Brian. I even managed to record some of it, too! Make sure to have a listen : )

Has Blog: An Interview with Brian and Peter from Kiriga (Part 1)
Has Blog: An Interview with Brian and Peter from Kiriga (Part 2)

In the cup this kicks off with a tropical fruit like sweetness and acidity, then a creamy base note of dark chocolate that finishes with lemon pithiness.

  • Country: Kenya
  • County: Muranga
  • Constituency: Gatanga
  • Nearest town: Thika
  • Estate: Kiriga
  • Farmer: Dr. Brian Gakunga
  • Altitude: 1,550–1,650 m.a.s.l.
  • Processing method: Washed
  • Varietals: SL28 AB & Ruiru 11 AB

​Episode 459 on Monday the 28th of August, 2017. Costa Rica Vista al Valle Finca La Casa Yellow Honey

August 26, 2017
00:0000:00

From the same region in Costa Rica that gives us the wonder of Finca Licho (i.e. the Western Valley in Lordes de Naranjo, in case you're wondering), I'm so excited to have Finca La Casa Vista al Valle back for 2017 to share with you once more.

Located between 1,500 and 1,600 metres above sea level and owned in partnership by Oldemar Arrieta Lobo and Marlene Brenes Morera, the name 'Vista al Valle' translates as 'view of the valley'. I'm sure you'll understand why if you take a look at some of the pictures on the left of this page.

Oldemar and Marlene are also processing this coffee using a virtually brand new micro mill, which is in only its fourth year of production. They both learnt their skills while working for other people, but now they have a mill of their own. They own three farms: this one surrounds the home where they live, and the other farms are called Zapote and Fidel. Fidel won the Costa Rican Cup of Excellence two years ago!

The varietals on this farm are Villa Sarchi and Caturra. They use the sun-dried processing method in their poly tunnel, and the Yellow Honey process.

In the cup this coffee starts out with both the texture and taste of single cream, and then shifts to sweet segments of mandarin. On the aftertaste the cream returns to round out a very well balanced cup.

  • Country: Costa Rica
  • Region: Western Valley
  • Micro-region: Naranjo, Lourdes
  • City: Naranjo de Alajuela
  • Farm: Finca La Casa
  • Micro mill: Vista al Valle
  • Farmer: Oldemar Arrieta Lobo and Marlene Brenes Morera
  • Farm size: 20 hectares
  • Coffee growing area: 15 hectares
  • Altitude: 1,500–1,600 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietals: Villa Sarchí and Caturra
  • Drying method: Poly tunnel, sun dried
  • Processing system: Yellow honey

​Episode 458 on Monday the 21st of August, 2017. Nicaragua Finca Limoncillo Washed Pacamara Peaberry

August 19, 2017
00:0000:00

The story of Hasbean and Finca Limoncillo has been told many many times, but it's one that I really love to share. So much of where we are today has come from this relationship, and I'm super proud of everything that's happened in the past, as well as amazingly excited for where we can go in the future.

My relationship with Finca Limoncillo began in 2007, and back then we were buying their delicious coffee as part of a buying group. I loved it from the very first time I cupped it, and it was a coffee I just had to get. It was only after the auction closed that I discovered it was owned by a family in Nicaragua who were already good friends of mine, and indeed probably the only people I know from the whole country!

The following year I visited the farm with our importers and spent the whole trip begging them to bring the coffee in for us. Eventually, they caved in (possibly just to stop me pestering them!) and kindly did so.

This setup worked well for a time, but we received notice a couple of years ago that the importers were not going to be buying the coffee again (and for reasons other than the cup quality). This led to some frantic phone calls and a thorough search down the back of the sofa for loose change to fund buying twelve months’ worth of coffee all at once. There were many, many obstacles in the way of doing this deal, but we were lucky in that we were able to pull everything together in a very short amount of time.

The upside of all of this is that we now work directly with Finca Limoncillo instead of going via anyone else, and this is a relationship I’m super happy to have. This coffee has gone from a one-off Cup of Excellence buy to a fantastic long-term relationship.

Finca Limoncillo is located in Matagalpa and, at 171 hectares, it. is. huge! Situated at an amazing location, it boasts 9 waterfalls within the farm and is owned by the Mierisch family; as I have already said, they’re good friends, and also well-respected producers in Nicaragua. They’re known for their experimental processing, varietal work, and exceptional coffee.

The fact that the family are friends helps us drill down into the details of what they do for the people who work for them, and the information continues to prove to me that good people grow good coffee.

On the farm, the family:

  • Pay their staff 30% more than what is typical minimum wage.
  • Provide free housing for 60 families.
  • Provide free electricity and running water for their workers' homes.
  • Provide free food for all workers.
  • Provide free daycare facilities for families to use.
  • Provide free healthcare facilities.
  • Employ on-site teachers who educate the staff and teach other skills, such as pottery and weaving. The goal is to help staff diversify their skills. The teachers are also paid twice the wages they would receive in the cities.

The coffees we receive from Limoncillo are fantastic and they come from a fantastic relationship. Erwin Mierisch has visited Stafford many times, and it's always a pleasure to have him around. Last time he was over he ended up at a Weird Beard tap takeover in Manchester, talking to two Weird Beards about crazy brewing / coffee farming ideas! A coffee from Finca Limoncillo (the 'Funky Red Pacamara') is used in two of Weird Beard's beers: Black Perle and Double Perle, both of which are mighty delicious beers!

This is a Pacamara varietal coffee, but a Pacamara with a bit of a twist (more on that in a mo). Pacamaras are a little crazy on the cupping table. Pacamaras are exciting. I like Pacamaras! I could ramble on about Pacamaras for a while ... oh, wait a minute, I did! If you'd like to know more about this fantastic varietal, make sure to have a look at the article I wrote...

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As well as being a big ol' Pacamara this is also a lil' ol' Peaberry, a thing that's normally big is a little smaller than you might expect. An interesting mix of unusual sizing that I hope you'll enjoy.

Normally the seed of the coffee fruit grows into the green bean we all know and love from 2 fertilised seeds inside each fruit, but sometimes things are a little different a Peaberry is born. When only 1 of the 2 seeds is fertilised it produces a smaller bean that looks like a shrunken version of what we'd normally know as a coffee bean because only 1 seed has grown instead of 2.

Some say Peaberrys are sweeter and more delicious than their regular cousins, some people even come to us specifically looking for them because they crave them so much! I'll let you be the judge.

In the cup orange and cinnamon meet in a wonderful way. There’s orange acidity with hints of grapefruit and a blackberry hit whilst being thick and gloopy with a spicy aftertaste.

  • Country: Nicaragua
  • Municipality: Yasica Norte
  • 
Region: Matagalpa

  • Farm name: Limoncillo
  • Farmer: Dr. Erwin Mierisch
  • Farm size: 171 hectares
  • Coffee growing area: 109 hectares

  • Diurnal temperature cycle (average): High 28°C, low 20°C
  • Altitude: 1,200 m.a.s.l.

  • Varietal: Pacamara Peaberry
  • Processing method: Washed

​Episode 457 on Monday the 14th of August, 2017. Kenya Othaya Chinga Natural

August 12, 2017
00:0000:00

Back in 2014 I took my very first trip to Kenya, my aim was not to meet producers but rather to get an insight into how the market works, and into how we can improve the quality of the coffee we buy from Kenya.

Much of Kenyan coffee comes from cooperatives, which means it's tough to go to visit a person or build a long-term relationship. That said, it is possible to get something interesting going and to work on projects together by speaking with the leaders of the co-ops and washing stations.

Othaya Farmer's Cooperative is based at the Gatuyaini Wet Mill, where they have a cupping room (and talented QC person) as well as their latest addition - a small roastery (where they hope to develop a market for their coffee inside Kenya). Othaya owns a number of wet mills, but we get our lots from the Chinga mill.

Chinga wet mill is managed by the rather tall Gary John, who we have asked to process a Natural lot for us. This was particularly difficult to get this year as the mill expected to be 75% down on cherries compared to the previous year (a problem all over Kenya this year, but particularly tough here). The Chinga mill is located near to the town of Othaya just east of the Chinga Dam. It's approximately 5 KM southwest of the town, and is in the Nyeri county part of Kenya.

The mill has some 783 members and each member only owns a small piece of land of an average 0.3 acres. They harvest the coffee themselves and then sell it to the mill, where it is processed and sent to the government auction.

The 'project' part of this coffee was that back in 2014 we asked the growers if they would naturally process a batch for us. They kindly agreed to do so, as long as we promised to buy it regardless of the final cup.

As you might have guessed that coffee was a big success and so here it is back for another year! They thought I was crazy because only the poor quality coffee in Kenya gets naturally processed, and they couldn't understand why I wanted only the best-quality coffee processed in this way. But they did it, you're welcome! ; )

In the cup this natural just keeps getting cleaner and cleaner year after year. Think alcoholic ribena with a rum and raisin finish (rumbena!) and a creamysilky body.

  • Country: Kenya
  • Province: Nyeri
  • District: Othaya
  • Affiliated to: Othaya Farmer's Cooperative
  • Farm: Chinga
  • Processing: Natural
  • Varietals: SL28 & SL34
  • Average rainfall: 1,200–1,500mm
  • Altitude: 1,795 m.a.s.l.
  • Drying method: Sun dried
  • Harvest method: Hand picked
  • Coordinates: 0°34'45.4"S 36°55'35.2"E
  • Soil: Rich volcanic loam

​Episode 456 on Monday the 7th of August, 2017. Costa Rica Sumava Finca Monte Llano Bonito Yellow Honey Villa Sarchi

August 6, 2017
00:0000:00

This coffee comes from a farm that's actually two farms, but the two farms exist as one farm. They do produce coffee independently, though. Exciting, huh?

Overall the farm is called Finca 'Sumava de Lourdes' Lourdes de Naranjo and is located in Lourdes de Naranjo in the western valley of Costa Rica between 1,670 and 1,790 metres above sea level. The farm is made up of two farms called Finca 'Monte Llano Bonito', which has nine plots of land, and Finca 'Monte Lourdes', which has six plots of land and this coffee comes from Finca 'Monte Llano Bonito'.

There are ten permanent workers who live on the farm in a custom built workers' camp. All of them receive accommodation as part of their employment.

Finca 'Sumava de Lourdes' Lourdes de Naranjo adheres to strict agronomic practices and ensure the minimum use of herbicides and pesticides. They use MMs (Mountain Microorganisms) and minerals from natural origins as much as they can for their farming.

It's a farm where the owners enjoy growing many different varietals. If you wandered around the farm, you'd see Pacamara, Mokka, SL 28, Geisha, Caturra and Villa Sarchi all growing around the farm.

In the cup this coffee starts out with carameldark chocolate and a creamy body, but it finishes on a crisp white grape acidity with a deliciously refreshing apple aftertaste.

  • Country: Costa Rica
  • Location: Lourdes de Naranjo, western valley
  • Farm: Finca Sumava de Lourdes
  • Sub farms: Finca Monte Llano Bonito and Finca Monte Lourdes
  • Altitude: 1,670–1,790 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Villa Sarchi
  • Processing system: Yellow honey

​Episode 455 on Monday the 31st of July, 2017. Kenya Kieni Washed AA

July 30, 2017
00:0000:00

The Kieni wet mill is located in Nyeri in the central highlands of Kenya, at an altitude of 1,700 metres above sea level. It's run by the Mugaga Farmers' Cooperative Society.

Nyeri county has cool temperatures and fertile central highlands; it lies between the eastern base of the Aberdare (Nyandarua) mountain range, which forms part of the eastern end of the Great Rift valley and the western slopes of Mt. Kenya. Nyeri town (county headquarters) acts as a destination for those visiting Aberdare National Park and Mt. Kenya. It is in Nyeri county, at the Treetops hotel, (a rustic treehouse hotel) where the young Elizabeth went upstairs a princess and came down in the morning as Queen of England. Her father, King George VI, died on 5 February 1952, the night she spent at Treetops while on honeymoon.

Most of the coffee beans from Nyeri develop and mature slowly, producing extra hard beans. This quality is also evident in the cup. As a result, Nyeri is traditionally known as the heart of Kenya’s black gold coffee.

The coffee is mainly grown on the slopes and the upper plateau where most of the farmers' homes are located. The farms are demarcated into small family plots where each individual family looks after their own coffee.

The mill has recently installed an electronic weighing system, that not only weighs the farmer's cherries when they deliver them - it also prints out a receipt for them, including a running total of how much they have delivered so far.

Kieni is one of a number of mills owned by the Mugaga Farmers' Cooperative, and currently has around 1,000 members, although this constantly varies and not all members will always deliver their cherry to Kieni.

This coffee is wet processed. It's pulped, fermented (soaked for 8-16 hours (with fresh water at 8 hours) and then fermented for 8 - 16 hours) before being washed and then dried slowly over 2–3 weeks, while the moisture content is reduced to 10–12%. Random interesting fact, the depulper at Kieni can manage up to 5,000kg per hour.

In the cup this has a totally tropical taste of Lilt (regional reference there for you) in both its sweetness and acidity. It also has an effervescence to add to this descriptor. In the aftertaste it turns a little more orangey (Tango) with a delicate caramel hint. 

  • Country: Kenya
  • County: Nyeri
  • Mill: Kieni
  • Society: Mugaga Farmers’ Cooperative Society Limited
  • Farmers: 905
  • Acreage farmed: 202 acres 
  • Altitude: 1,700 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: SL28
  • Coffee grade: AA
  • Flowering period: March
  • Harvest season: October–December
  • Average annual rainfall: 1,680mm
  • Average annual temperature: 12–27°C
  • Soil type: red volcanic soils that are rich in phosphorus, and which are drained well
  • Processing method: Wet processing (Washed)
  • Drying process: Dry, milling after the parchment has dried

​Episode 454 on Monday the 24th of July, 2017. Costa Rica ARBAR El Oasis Yellow Honey Caturra

July 23, 2017
00:0000:00

We had very little information about this farm when we first found it in 2013 – so little information that the coffee didn’t even have a name! Back then all we knew was that the coffee was grown by Carlos Arrieta and it was delicious, but since then I've been lucky enough to visit the farm on trips to Costa Rica and, over the past few years, have found out lots more. Let me tell you what I know so far ...

I first got to meet Carlos at the exporter's office on the last day of my visit to Costa Rica in 2013. He arrived around ten minutes after I had cupped the first table of coffees, where I had found one lot that was making me sing. It just had to be his coffee.

Here ensued the worst negotiation to ever take place in the history of coffee buying ...

"How much do you want?" I asked.
He replies, "How much do you like it?"
"A lot,” I say.
"I'd like a lot then, please," Carlos says.
"OK ... "

Luckily at this point a grown-up from the exporter's office stepped in and made sure I didn't give Carlos my house, car and pension plan. We agreed a price that rewarded Carlos with more than he had ever got before and left me with a home to return to in Stafford.

Back in 2015 last I got to spend some time with Carlos and his family. I stopped for some lunch, hung out and asked lots of questions. First of all there's the mill, which is called Arbar and is very close to the house. It has drying tables and a small nursery, but it didn't have a deplulper (more about this later). The mill was brand new, and before it existed they would just sell their coffee to the local coop and so have no interaction with the coffee.

Then from chatting to Carlos I found out that he actually owns two small farms; one of them was El Oasis, which provided the coffee we bought back in 2013. The farm is located in the Western Valley region near to the town of Lourdes de Naranjo, and is 1,600 metres above sea level. It grows mostly Caturra and a tiny bit of Villa Sarchi, with plans to plant some small micro lots in the future. The farm produces between 700–1,400 KG of coffee a year.

Carlos runs the farm with his wife and children, Maria Isabel, Yesica, Karen, Stephen and Jose Ignacio. He has owned this farm for sixteen years but only started processing the coffee himself in 2014 (while still paying someone else to pulp it for him). He hadn't been able to present his coffee to a single buyer previously, so he would send it to the exporter we use in Costa Rica and, thankfully, that's how we found him!

You may remember that a few years ago the coffee was priced a little differently; our normal, nicely rounded-down price was not there. The coffee should have been sold for £7.50 (we negotiated a small price drop from the previous year because we bought everything from both farms, and this worked out that there were some economies of scale compared to the £10.00 of 2013), but we charged £7.88. Well, this was so that we (by “we” I mean “you”) could buy Carlos and his family a depulper for his next harvest. This meant he didn’t have to pay someone else to pulp his coffee, and he could gain more control of his amazing coffee.

I lent the money to Carlos, because I promised you would pay it back (and you did!). You can go and see what your generosity bought at the blog post here.

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Last year one of my roasting team, Roland (of 'Roland's Daft Fact' fame), travelled to Costa Rica to be on the jury for their Cup of Excellence competition. If you ever wondered what a coffee roaster from the UK would get up to if let loose in Costa Rica, you should have a read about his trip in Roland Glew's Costa Rican Adventure.

In the cup it's like someone has slipped in a big glug of 5 Alive Tropical Hit fruit juice! This coffee is all peaches, pineapples and oranges, with a really complex but delicious fruit sweetness.

  • Country: Costa Rica
  • Region: Western Valley
  • City: Lourdes de Naranjo
  • Farm: El Oasis
  • Farmer: Carlos Arrieta
  • Micro mill: ARBAR
  • Altitude: 1,600 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Caturra
  • Processing system: Yellow Honey

​Episode 453 on Monday the 17th of July, 2017. ​Bolivia Bebeto Mamani

July 16, 2017
00:0000:00

The name of this coffee producer may sound a little familiar. Bebeto (Beto for short) is the son of the legend that is Teodocio Mamani. Teodocio owns Finca Canton Uyunense, which is a farm we have worked with since 2012.

His farm is located in 18 de mayo, which is a municipality of Caranavi (and part of Canton Uyunense). Lots of farms can be called a variation on these names because the land traditionally tends not to have a name.

This year is the second year that Bebeto has grown his own coffee under his own guardianship, and it's the first year that he has processed it himself (dad letting go). Just like last year, the results are amazing!

This coffee is a mixture of red and yellow Typica, Caturra and Catuai. Bebeto used a depulper that removes the cherry, then left the coffee to go through a dry fermentation process for 16–18 hours, and then ran it through the scrubber section of the pulper to remove the final remains of the mucilage. Bebeto then transferred the coffee to raised African beds, where it dried in around 7–9 days.

The picking method Bebeto uses is called 'Ayne', just like his dad uses on Canton Uyunense. This method involves selective picking (not stripping the tree like their neighbours), and demands much more labour and incurs much higher costs. But because of this Bebeto gets more coffee he can sell as specialty, and the cup profile is improving year after year.

In the cup there's green apple and malted milk biscuit with a hint of gooseberry, and a whole load of caramel on the finish.

  • Country: Bolivia
  • Department: La Paz
  • Region: Yungas
  • Province: Caranavi
  • Municipality: 18 de mayo
  • Farm: Bebeto Mamani
  • Owner: Bebeto Mamani
  • Varietals: Typica, Caturra and Catuai
  • Ripe cherry colour: Red and Yellow
  • Altitude: 1,500–1,700 m.a.s.l.
  • Processing: Washed
  • Fermentation: 16–18 hours
  • Drying method: Raised beds
  • Other crops grown: citrus, papaya, banana, wild forest

Episode 452 on Monday the 10th of July, 2017. Ethiopia Mokanisa Bulega Washed

July 9, 2017
00:0000:00

The region of Bulega has around 3,000 people living in the surrounding area. The area is so lush and green with super high altitudes going up to nearly 2,200 metres above sea level, surrounded by small holders and unique protected forest area

So why is this coffee called Mokanissa Bulega?

Bulega Is the name of the washing station, and the larger region where it is (if you want to get complicated Nenesbo, micro region).

Mokanissa because the washing station belongs to the sister company of Kerchensa, the company that Israel Defga (of Ana Sora fame from last year) owns, and he also privately owns the mill, unsurprisingly he's a popular fella in these parts! Israel built the washing station just over three years ago, before this the farmers delivered to the Sidamo area which is over 100km away! But now 2,000 committed farmers are delivering cherry to Bulega.

The Bulega washing station works for five months in the year and only processes washed coffee. compared to most washing stations that work for around 10 months of the year.

In the cup this is a classic Ethiopian, with black tea notes and lovely bright lemon peel. What makes this coffee extra special are its other components of cherry blossom, bright acidity and its finish of pomegranate. A very special washed Ethiopian coffee.

  • Country: Ethiopia
  • Region: Bulega
  • Zone: Bulja
  • Area: Nenesbo
  • Washing station: Bulega
  • Owner: Israel Defga
  • Owning company: Mokanissa
  • Varietal: Indigenous wild varietals
  • 
Processing method: Washed
  • Fermentation: 24-36 hours
  • Fermentation time: 36 Hours
  • Drying method: African beds
  • Drying time: 9-14 days
  • Altitude: 1,800 masl to 2,300 masl

CUPPING NOTES

Black tea, lemon peel, cherry blossom, pomegranate.

Clean cup: (1–8): 7.5
Sweetness: (1–8): 6.5
Acidity: (1–8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6
Flavour: (1–8): 7
Aftertaste: (1–8): 7
Balance: (1–8): 6
Overall: (1–8): 7
Correction:(+36): +36

Total: (max. 100): 90

Episode 451 on Monday the 3rd of July, 2017. Bolivia Pañuni Family

July 3, 2017
00:0000:00

This coffee comes from the family of a producer we know from previous years, Estanislao Pañuni. Whereas Estanislao is in charge of the main lot of coffee, this coffee is his family's project (but Estanislao does look after the processing for them).

The coffee's grown at an altitude of between 1,800 and 1,850 metres above sea level near the town of Irupana in the Sud Yungas province of Bolivia, and it's a mechanically washed and dry fermented mixture of Typica, Caturra and Catuai.

Estanislao is young, enthusiastic and a self-confessed coffee lover. (Just like me!) He started out in coffee with the job of controlling the fermentation process at the Coaraca Cooperative in Bolivia, and it was there that he really developed his skills as a coffee producer. Two years ago he decided he wanted to help his father, so he moved away from his day job to take on a role producing coffee with his dad. This coffee is the product of all that hard work, learning and family love.

In the cup this coffee is very sweet. I want you to think of a big bag of pic n' mix sweets that have been sprinkled with white sugar. That sweetness sits alongside a gentle citrus acidity in a very clean and silky cup.

  • Country: Bolivia
  • Department: La Paz
  • Region: Yungas
  • Province: Caranavi
  • Town: Irupana town
  • Producer: The Pañuni Family
  • Altitude: 1,550–1,800 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Typica, Caturra and Catuai
  • Ripe cherry colour: Red and Yellow
  • Processing method: Washed
  • Washing: Mechanical
  • Fermentation: Yes, dry
  • Fermentation time: 16–18 hours
  • Drying method: Raised African beds
  • Coordinates: 16°27′58″S / 67°27′17″O

CUPPING NOTES

Pic n' mix sweets, white sugar, citrus, clean, silky.

Clean cup: (1–8): 7
Sweetness: (1–8): 7
Acidity: (1–8): 6.5
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6.5
Flavour: (1–8): 6
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 6.5
Overall: (1–8): 7
Correction:(+36): +36

Total (max. 100): 88.5

​Episode 450 on Monday the 26th of June, 2017. El Salvador Finca Argentina San Jorge Washed Bourbon

June 26, 2017
00:0000:00

I've been working with Alejandro since 2008 and in that time our relationship has gone from strictly professional to Ale being one of my closest friends. He became involved in coffee in 2008 as he had just relocated to El Salvador from New York where he'd been working as a city banker. With his first son on the way and the hustle and bustle of New York no place to bring up a family the draw of home and El Salvador was just far too strong to ignore.

While looking for work in El Salvador, Ale decided to help his father with some of his business interests and investments. His father had inherited several coffee farms from his grandfather and was unsure what to do with them, one of the investments pricked Ale’s intent and this was a farm called Finca Argentina. The reason it really got Ale's attention was that he saw the farm once yielded loads of coffee but was producing a fraction of its old productivity. His father gave him permission to see what could be done to make the farm successful again

Ale found out the farm had been classified for a Q auction back in 2005. Thinking there may be a specialty buyer out there he and his cousin (who lived in London) went about sending samples to coffee roasters anywhere they could. 1 of those samples arrived at Hasbean Towers just like a lot of other samples do, but unusually I liked the coffee and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since then Finca Argentina has gone from strength to strength but not without bumps in the road. In 2013 they suffered the worst harvest on record, with only 70 bags harvested due to a massive issue with leaf rust. But with investment and hard work they have also bought a neighbouring farm and the future is amazingly bright for Ale, his father, his family and Finca Argentina.

The farm is based in the Apaneca-Ilamtepec mountain range, and is near the town of Turin in the Ahuachapán department. Sixteen people work on the farm during the non-picking season, maintaining and tending to the plants. This number of workers goes up to 50 people during the picking period. The altitude of the farm is 1,300 m.a.s.l.

This coffee comes from the highest part of the farm called San Jorge, which is about three manzanas in size and ranges from 1,300 to 1,350 metres above sea level. It's a very hilly part of the farm, so it's difficult to pick the coffee there.

Historically, the Owner's Selection coffee came from San Jorge; Alejandro told me his grandfather used to reserve some coffee for his personal enjoyment. I find it interesting that, from all the farms his grandfather used to own (over 250 manzanas' worth of farm), he picked San Jorge to provide the coffee he wanted to drink himself.

The coffee is 100% Bourbon, as 70% of plant stock in El Salvador is. This heirloom varietal is one of the reasons why coffee from this country is right up amongst some of the best in the world. They have the perfect climate and conditions for this low yielding, high maintenance strain.

In the cup expect masses of milk chocolate mixed with sweet caramel, and a green apple acidity that’s like biting into a Granny Smith apple.

  • Country: El Salvador
  • District: Ahuachapán
  • Municipality: Ahuachapán
  • Nearest city: Turin
  • Farm: Finca Argentina
  • Owner: Alejandro Martinez
  • Tablon: San Jorge
  • Altitude: 1,350 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Bourbon
  • Processing method: Washed

CUPPING NOTES

Milk chocolate, sweet, caramel, green apple, Granny Smith.

Clean cup: (1–8): 7
Sweetness: (1–8): 7
Acidity: (1–8): 6
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 7
Flavour: (1–8): 7
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 7
Overall: (1–8): 7
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max. 100): 90

Episode 449 on Monday the 19th of June, 2017. Costa Rica Zarcero Finca La Casa Yellow Honey Caturra

June 19, 2017
00:0000:00

This is a coffee grown by the amazing Gillio Francesa Ferraro, a mature guy whom I met on my trip to Costa Rica a couple of years ago. We have a rule at Hasbean that if you're over 40 you can be a character (under 40 and "being a character" just makes you weird). Well, Gillio is the perfect example of a character. The first thing he said to me was that my belly looked as if I ate too much, and that I should lose some weight. I was in the midst of exercising and dieting; his brutal honesty was refreshing, if not a little quirky.

The thing that made me smile was that he was driving an old Jeep that was falling apart (he told me it was from the '60s). The best part was that the engine was a Dorman engine built in Stafford, UK. My father-in-law and two brothers-in-law all work at the factory, and it was amazing to be in a foreign location and yet see something so linked to home.

The name for this coffee in previous years has been a bit of a long one and you might have looked at it and thought, 'oof! Steve that's a bit of a long one!' but I've shortened it a little this year, but let me explain what the different parts mean...

'Costa Rica', I'm sure you can guess, is the country, and then 'Zarcero' is the micro-region/canton of Costa Rica that the coffee comes from.

'Finca La Casa' is the name of the farm that the coffee is grown on.

'Yellow honey' is the processing method, which is a variant of the pulped natural process, and then – finally – 'Caturra' is the varietal of the coffee.

This is not your typical Costa Rican coffee by the way, forget all that has come before; this is a unique cup. It's a Caturra coffee, and is grown at an altitude of 1,700 metres above sea level.

Gillio has two farms in Costa Rica. This one is called Finca La Casa (which just means 'farm at home'), and it can be found in the western valley area of Zarcero. The land around his house is rugged and difficult to farm. Gillio manages to get the very best out of it by working the land every day, even at the age of 83. I hope I'm half as active as he is when I get to that age!

In the cup expect a lovely sweetness, think white sugar with a spoon of extra sugar added. The complexity comes from it’s floral tones, think jasmine and coffee blossom. But the finish is what really makes this coffee, caramelised sugar with a creamy finish, think Creme Brûlée with a lovely toffee note.

  • Country: Costa Rica
  • Region: Western Valley
  • Province: Alajuela
  • Micro-region: Zarcero
  • Farm: Finca La Casa
  • Producer: Gillio Francesa Ferraro
  • Farm size: 2 hectares
  • Altitude: 1,700 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Caturra
  • Workers: 20 harvest pickers, 4-5 farm workers, and 2 mill workers
  • Pulping: 'Penagos' technology from Colombia – fully washed mechanical elimination of mucilage
  • Processing method: Yellow honey
  • Drying method: Raised African beds

CUPPING NOTES

White sugar, floral, jasmine, coffee blossom, caramelised sugar, Creme Brûlée, toffee.

Clean cup: (1–8): 6
Sweetness: (1–8): 8
Acidity: (1–8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6.5
Flavour: (1–8): 6.5
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 6
Overall: (1–8): 7
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max. 100): 89

Episode 44​8​ on Monday the ​12​th of June, 2017. Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Wenago Washed

June 12, 2017
00:0000:00

Wenago woreda is located in Yirgacheffe district, Gedeo Zone in the ‘Southern Nations, Nationalities & Peoples’ (SNNP) region of Ethiopia. Over a number of years the region has developed a distinguished reputation for fine coffees, producing some of the most sought-after microlots in world.

The combination of high altitude (up to 2,200m in some areas), fertile soil, consistent & plentiful rains, and an abundance of local knowledge are all contributing factors to the high status of Yirgacheffe coffees.

The indigenous ‘heirloom’ or 'wild' varietals - which grow wild in Ethiopia - are responsible for the unique flavour notes which make for an unusual but beautifully refined cup, usually characterised by strong citric acidity, sweet chocolate and floral/herbal notes of lavender, jasmine, bergamot & thyme.

Ripe cherries are delivered to the Wenago wetmill for careful sorting and pulping, before fermentation for 36-48 hours, depending on the climactic conditions. After this point the parchment coffee is thoroughly washed and graded by bean density before being dried in the sun on raised African beds for 12-15 days (until the ideal moisture level has been reached).

In the daytime the parchment needs to be raked and turned periodically to ensure a consistent drying process. The coffee is also covered between 12pm and 3pm to protect it from the hot sun, and at night time to protect it from rainfall and moisture. Once the coffee has dried to the right level it is transported to Addis Ababa for dry-milling, grading, sorting and handpicking, before being bagged in GrainPro for export.

In the cup there's white sugar and lemon juice, if only there was a shoulder of pancake too! This coffee has a really delicate body with a tiny edge of spice on the finish.

  • Country: Ethiopia
  • Region: Yirgacheffe
  • Zone: Gedeo
  • Area: Chirecha Kebele
  • Mill: Wenago
  • Varietal: Indigenous wild varietals
  • 
Processing method: Washed
  • Fermentation: Yes
  • Fermentation time: 36-48 hours
  • Drying method: Raised African beds
  • Drying time: 12-15 days
  • Altitude: 1,750–1,850 m.a.s.l.

  • Rainfall: 1,800 - 2,000 mm avg per annum
  • Soil: Fertile, red-brown, well drained.
  • Producers: 650 farmers with an average of 2 hectares of land each

CUPPING NOTES

White sugar, lemon juice, delicate, spice.

Clean cup: (1–8): 7
Sweetness: (1–8): 6.5
Acidity: (1–8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6.5
Flavour: (1–8): 7
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 6.5
Overall: (1–8): 6.5
Correction:(+36): +36

Total: (max. 100): 89

Episode 447 on Monday the 5th of June, 2017. Bolivia Jeivert Estanislao Pañuni

June 4, 2017
00:0000:00

This coffee comes from the town of Irupana in the Yungas region of Bolivia. It's grown at an altitude of between 1,500 and 1,750 metres above sea level, and is a mechanically washed and dry fermented mixture of Red and Yellow Typica, Caturra and Catuai.

Estanislao Pañuni is young, enthusiastic and a self-confessed coffee lover. (Just like me!) He started out in coffee with the job of controlling the fermentation process at the Coaraca Cooperative in Bolivia, and it was there that he really developed his skills as a coffee producer. Two years ago he decided he wanted to help his father, and so he moved away from his day job to take on a role producing coffee with his dad. This coffee is the product of all that hard work, learning and family love.

In the cup I immediately get loads of caramel followed up by sweet yellow fruits, think peaches and plums. The cup finishes with nectarine and an aftertaste of dark chocolate.

  • Country: Bolivia
  • Department: La Paz
  • Region: Yungas
  • Province: Caranavi
  • Town: Irupana town
  • Farm name: Jeivert
  • Producer: Estanislao Pañuni
  • Altitude: 1,500-1,750 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Typica, Caturra and Catuai
  • Ripe cherry colour: Red and Yellow
  • Processing method: Washed
  • Washing: Mechanical
  • Fermentation: Dry fermentation for 16-18 hours
  • Drying: African beds for 7–8 days
  • Coordinates: 16°27′58″S 67°27′17″O

​Episode 446 on Monday the 29th of May, 2017. Malawi Msese AAA + AA Washed

May 28, 2017
00:0000:00

Msese wetmill is part of South East Mzima Cooperative Society and is one of a few washing stations that form the coop in the Msese zone in North-central Malawi. The mill processes an average of 15,000kg of coffee cherries per year sourced from 60 farmers of the Ngoni & Tonga tribes. These producers are subsistence farmers for whom coffee represents an important part of the local economy. They also grow maize, beans and soya - though premium specialty coffee remains a vital cash crop allowing these farmers to provide for their families.

The Mzuzu Co-operative Union’s aim is that all small-holder farmers are guaranteed...

  • Accommodation which is iron-roofed, cement-floored, plastered and well-ventilated
  • Food security (three decent meals a day)
  • Adequate clothing and bedding for their families
  • Education for their children

The coffee is wet processed, where the fully ripe cherries are...

  • Pulped
  • Fermented for 12-48 hours (depending on climatic conditions)
  • Washed
  • Dried slowly over 2-3 weeks on raised African beds

The coffee is then delivered to the dry mill where it is rested in parchment before being hulled, cleaned, graded by bean size and handpicked before being bagged in GrainPro for export.

Msese is located on the Southern tip of the South Viphya Plateau, between the Kahingina Forest Reserve & the Viphya Complex Forest Reserve. The altitude generally ranges between 1,200 & 1,300 metres above sea level with some areas rising up to 1,700m. To the east is Lake Malawi, one of the ‘African Great Lakes’ constituting the Great Rift Valley which runs through the east of the continent.

Malawi is one of the world’s least developed countries. In many places the roads are poor, making the area very difficult to reach in the rainy season. Electricity is scarce and access to drinking water and medical facilities still presents a challenge to the local population.

In the cup this starts off very floral with a delicate fruit sweetness, this shifts towards kiwi fruit before finishing with a big glug of chocolate milk.

  • Country: Malawi
  • Region: Northern
  • Zone: Msese
  • Mill: Msese
  • Coop: South East Mzima
  • Contributing farmers: 60
  • Altitude: 1,453 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietals: Geisha, Catimor & Nyika
  • Grade: AAA + AA
  • Processing method: Washed
  • Drying method: Raised African beds
  • Drying time: 2-3 weeks
  • Average rainfall: 1,200 - 2,000mm average per year
  • Soil: Acidic sandy loam & clay

CUPPING NOTES

Floral, sweet, kiwi, chocolate milk.

Clean Cup: (1-8): 7.5
Sweetness: (1-8): 6.5
Acidity: (1-8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1-8): 6.5
Flavour: (1-8): 7
Aftertaste: (1-8): 6
Balance: (1-8): 7
Overall: (1-8): 7.5
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max 100): 91

Episode 445 on Monday the 22nd of May, 2017. Bolivia David Vilca Washed

May 22, 2017
00:0000:00

A big big Bolivian favourite here at Hasbean, I am so pleased to see this coffee back for an amazing SIXTH year! It’s a big favourite for me, and I know this is also true for many of you too.

The farm is located in the colony of Bolinda in the North Yungas region of Bolivia, near to the town of Caranavi. The farm doesn't actually have a proper name and so is named after the gentleman that runs it, David Vilca. This is quite common in Bolivia: farms are often named after an individual or the family running them.

David migrated from La Paz to the farm fifteen years ago, after a career in mining left him with damaged hearing. He bought this twelve hectare farm as security for himself and his family, to make sure that they could support themselves. When he took over, he only had one acre planted with coffee (it was of the Criolla varietal). After two years, David was comfortable with coffee farming. He was becoming increasingly interested in it, and so he decided to extend the coffee plantation. He now has five acres of coffee (and we have bought the coffee from all five acres). He has very little outside help with the farm, except from direct family: his wife helps him greatly.

The varietals on the farm are Caturra, Catuai, Typica and Criolla. The farm is under constant improvement. David is now removing much of the Criolla and focusing on Typica and Catuai, for cup quality reasons. This coffee comes from the Caturra and Typica parts of the farm.

I have a really good relationship with David and you might remember 2 years ago we did something a little different with the coffee's price. I've visited David a couple of times now and when I was there I thought he was being rude to me by ignoring me, or not responding when I spoke to him. Last time I visited, though, I found out that David's hearing had become damaged whilst he was working as a miner before he made the move into coffee.

In the past the exporter had given David some money to get hearing aids, but he spent the money on satellite TV (for his wife – who hasn’t been in that situation!) so the year before last we paid for two hearing aids while we were there, so that he could hear properly again and enjoy my smooth and soothing English voice ; )

We thought that would be the last of it. But when I last visited David didn’t have his hearing aids in. He told us that they were not good while he was picking what to wear, but also that he couldn’t afford the batteries. So we left him with cash for a microphone hearing-device for around his neck, and $200.00 USD for batteries. This worked out at 7p per bag for all the coffee we buy from him, and I didn't pick up the tab – you lovely people did! So a big THANK YOU from me, and also, of course, from David!

http://www.hasblog.co.uk/the-cost-of-hearing

David's farm is between 1,550 and 1,650 metres above sea level, this is a mechanically washed coffee that underwent full wet fermentation for 16 hours before being dried in a mechanical dryer for 48 hours.

In the cup this a very sweet, creamy, well structured and chuggable coffee...think about a liquid chocolate covered papaya that you can just drink and drink and drink. This is 1 of those coffees where you finish the mug without noticing, go to take another sip and then just have to brew more.

  • Country: Bolivia
  • Region: Illimani
  • Farmer: David Vilca
  • Altitude: 1,550 - 1,650 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietals: Caturra and Typica
  • Total farm size: 7 hectares
  • Coffee growing area: 5 hectares
  • Processing method: Washed
  • Washing method: Mechanical
  • Fermentation: Full wet
  • Fermentation time: 16 hours
  • Drying method: Mechanical dryer
  • Drying time: 48 hours
  • Rainfall period: Nov–February
  • Average temperature: 8°C ≤ 19°≥ 30°C
  • Soil type: Clay and shale-y
  • Other crops grown: Citrus fruits (orange and tangerine), and avocado

CUPPING NOTES

Chocolate, papaya, creamy.

Clean Cup: (1-8): 6
Sweetness: (1-8): 8
Acidity: (1-8): 6
Mouthfeel: (1-8): 6.5
Flavour: (1-8): 7
Aftertaste: (1-8): 6.5
Balance: (1-8): 6.5
Overall: (1-8): 6.5
Correction:(+36): +36

Total (max 100): 89

Episode 444 on Monday the 15th of May, 2017. Rwanda But Nyarasiza Washed red Bourbon

May 14, 2017
00:0000:00

This 100% Red Bourbon was processed at Buf Café’s Nyarusiza washing station, at 1,743 metres above sea level in the south of Rwanda.

Buf Café was founded in 2003 by Epiphanie Mukashyaka, a dynamic businesswoman and a source of inspiration to countless other female entrepreneurs in Rwanda’s coffee sector and beyond. Buf is now managed by Epiphanie and her son, Samuel Muhirwa, who is taking an increasingly active role in running and expanding the business. The title ‘Buf’ derives from ‘Bufundu’, the former name of the region in which its washing stations are located.

Epiphanie, who was born in 1959, was widowed during the 1994 genocide - which claimed over 800,000 lives in just 3 months - but chose not to leave her family’s small coffee farm. Instead she set about rebuilding and developing her business and with it the local community. She started Buf Café in 2003, when she established Remera washing station with a loan from the Rwandan Development Bank and the assistance of the USAID-financed PEARL project.

This transformational programme was aimed at switching the focus in the Rwandan coffee sector from an historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality - and so opening up Rwanda to the far higher-earning specialty coffee market. The programme and its successor, SPREAD, have been invaluable in helping Rwanda’s small-scale coffee farmers to rebuild their production in the wake of the devastating 1994 genocide and the 1990s world coffee crash.

Buf Café now owns two coffee washing stations - Remera and Nyarusiza - as well as its own coffee trees, and buys coffee cherries from as many as 264 surrounding smallholder farmers, as well as three different local cooperatives! At Buf’s Nyarusiza washing station in 2014 there was a total of 798,685kg of cherry delivered throughout the season, approximately 5% of which was delivered by trees owned by Epiphane and her family. The remaining quantity of delivered cherry comes from farmers within the community surrounding the washing station.

Buf has very strong links with the local communities that supply it, providing jobs for 116 at Nyarusiza during peak harvest (May - June/July) and 9 permanent positions. A further 127 people are employed at Remera during harvest, with 10 permanent positions. (2014 figures) At the end of each season Buf will share any surplus profits with both the cooperatives that it works with and its washing station managers.

The majority of the small farmers in the area have an average of only 300 coffee trees (less than a quarter of a hectare) and use some of their land to cultivate other crops such as maize and beans to feed themselves and their families. Most of their income from the sale of coffee is used to take their children to school, pay for medical care and for investment in livestock such as a cow for milk, both for use in the home and for sale locally.

The level of care that all Buf washing stations take over their processing is impressive. Cherries are hand-picked only when fully ripe and then pulped that same evening using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades by weight.

After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight (for around 12-18 hours) and then graded again using flotation channels that sort the coffee by weight (the heaviest – or A1 – usually being the best). The wet parchment is then soaked in water for around 24 hours to stabilise moisture content.

As at most washing stations in Rwanda, women do the majority of the hand sorting. This takes place in two stages - on the covered pre-drying tables and on the drying tables. Washed beans are moved from the wet fermentation tanks onto the pre-drying tables, where they are intensively sorted under shade for around six hours. The idea is that greens (unripes) are still visible when the beans are damp, while the roofs over the tables protect the beans from the direct sunlight. Next, the beans are moved onto the washing station’s extensive drying tables for around 14 days (depending on the weather), where they are sorted again for defects, turned regularly and protected from rain and the midday sun by covers, ensuring both even drying and the removal of any damaged or ‘funny looking’ beans. After reaching 11% humidity, the coffee is then stored in parchment in Nyarusiza’s purpose-built warehouse prior to final dry-milling and hand-sorting at the dry mill in Kigali. Each coffee that arrives is also cupped by the Q-graders of Buf’s exporting partner, Rwashocco.

Lots are first separated by collection point (farmers usually hail from around 3 km distance from each collection point) and are also separated out by days. Upon delivery as cherry, the coffee receives a paper ‘ticket’ that follows the lot through all its processing. This ticket bears the date of harvest, the collection point name, and the grade (A1, A2 etc) of the coffee – for instance, if a coffee lot is called ‘Lot 1- 06/04 - A1’, this means it was the first lot processed on April 4 and the grade is A1. This simple but effective practice is a crucial tool in controlling quality and ensuring the traceability of lots.

In the cup this coffee has a big red wine richness but it’s accompanied by lime acidity, a really unique combo! There’s also a shoulder of black tea and some cola on the finish.

  • Country: Rwanda
  • Province: Southern
  • District: Nyamagabe
  • Sector: Kamegeri
  • Nearest town: Between Butare and Cyangugu
  • Washing station: Buf Nyarusiza
  • Varietal: Red Bourbon
  • Processing method: Fully washed
  • Drying method: Sun dried on raised beds
  • Altitude: Farms 1,700-1,900 m.a.s.l. Washing Station 1,743 m.a.s.l.
  • Owner: Epiphanie Mukashyaka
  • Average size of farms: .25 hectares

Episode 443 on Monday the 8th of May, 2017. Peru La Flor del Cafe Washed

May 7, 2017
00:0000:00

Coffee came to Peru in the mid 1700s and was most likely introduced by Dutch immigrants. The Dutch brought the Typica variety which still dominates especially amongst the older farms and micro-farms. The first coffee plantings were in Chinchao, Huanuco in Selva Central and disseminated from there to the Northern (Cajamarca) and Southern (Cusco and Puno) regions of the country. Peru had its first coffee shop in 1771 in Lima and started exporting coffee in 1887.

Peru is a country which has great potential but for particular reasons it is extremely hard to find 87+ coffee landed in consuming countries. The potential is there: the country is the 8th largest producer of coffee in the world, has plenty of farms at and above 1600 and 1800 meters, and has predominantly Typica and Bourbon varieties.

But sadly this is not the case, high-end coffee out of Peru is very scarce due to the challenges they face. Most farmers own a couple of hectares only and are in remote areas. Many times their farms are 4 hours by foot from the nearest town and the town could be 8 hours by truck from the nearest port. This means coffee can sit at the farm unnecessarily for extended periods of time after it is dried. During the drying season climate conditions tend to be very humid with precipitation. Without proper storage, such as GrainPro, coffee will gain moisture and destabilize cup-quality

But this is (of course) not the case here, deliciousness! This coffee comes from the San José de Lourdes district in the Cajamarca region of Peru. The capital city of Cajamarca is Cajamarca (love it when that happens) and sits in Peru's northern highlands, in the Andes Mountains.

La Flor del Cafe is 1 of 3 farms owned by Apolinar Arevalo where he grows Caturra and Pache at 1,800 metres above sea level.

In the cup dark chocolate is up front riding shotgun with cinder toffee, some Brazil nuts are sat in the back along with their good friend Mr walnut, and there's a little pear as it cools.

  • Country: Peru
  • Region: Cajamarca
  • Province: San Ignacio
  • District: San José de Lourdes
  • Farm: La Flor del Cafe
  • Farmer: Apolinar Arevalo
  • Altitude: 1,800 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietals: Caturra & Pache
  • Processing System: Washed

Episode 442 on Monday the 1st of May, 2017. Bolivia Taypiplaya Neri’s Lot

May 1, 2017
00:0000:00

Neri and her husband Juan live in Caranavi town, they are a young couple that have only just married and every day they drive to Taypiplaya to source their cherries as at the moment they are saving money to buy their own land.

Juan is the son of Carmelia Aduviri who we've enjoyed coffee from in the past (archive) and Juan grew up helping her on the farm, delicious coffee production certainly runs in this family!

When Neri visits Taypiplaya she basically sources the best cherries that she can, that's what makes this Neri's Lot. She visits various producers who are selling their crop and selects the ones she thinks are best, Taypiplaya is a region where producers are used to delivering cherry to cooperatives because they belong to a cooperative, but here Neri fulfils that role.

Many cooperatives in Taypiplaya have closed because of bad management or through failure due to not paying their producers, it's thanks to people like Neri that we still get to enjoy the delicious coffees that this area produces.

The producers of Taypiplaya live around on the top of the mountains that surround the town and deliver their cherries to locations in the town every night. The colony is located in the municipality of Caranavi to the north east of La Paz, coffee is grown between altitudes of 1,600 and 1,850 metres above sea level and is a mix of red and yellow Caturra and Catuai.

In the cup this starts out with sweet and juicy lime before shifting towards a Cadbury’s Fudge bar, smooth milk chocolate and buttery fudge. On the finish a little bit of pineapple is doing a boogie with some flowers.

  • Country: Bolivia
  • Municipality: Caranavi
  • Colony: Taypiplaya
  • Altitude: 1,600 - 1,850 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietals: Caturra and Catuai
  • Processing method: Washed
  • Washing method: Mechanical
  • Fermentation: Full wet
  • Fermentation time: In cherry for 8 hours
  • Drying method: Mechanical
  • Drying time: 43 hours

Episode 441 on Monday the 24th of April, 2017. Bolivia El Fuerte Pulped Natural Caturra

April 23, 2017
00:0000:00

Finca El Fuerte was named in honor of the 'Fort of Samaipata', which is a unique ruin in Bolivia. El Fuerte de Samaipata (Fort Samaipata), also known simply as 'El Fuerte', is an archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Santa Cruz department of Florida province. It is situated in the eastern foothills of the Bolivian Andes, and it's a popular tourist destination for Bolivians and foreigners alike. It is served by the nearby town of Samaipata.

It is not actually a military fortification, but it is generally considered a pre-Columbian religious site, built by the Chané people, who were a pre-Inca culture of Arawak origin. There are also ruins of an Inca city built near the temple; the city was built during the Inca expansion to the southeast. Both Incas and Chanés suffered several raids from Guarani warriors, who invaded the region from time to time. Eventually, the Guarani warriors conquered the plains and valleys of Santa Cruz, and destroyed Samaipata. The Guaranis dominated the region well into the Spanish colonial period.

The Spaniards also built a settlement near the temple, and there are remains of buildings of typical Andalusi Arabic architecture. The Spaniards abandoned the settlement and moved to the nearby valley, where the town of Samaipata is currently located. The archaeological site at El Fuerte is unique, and it encompasses buildings of three different cultures: Chanés, Incas and Spaniards.

AgriCafe Buena Vista has been sourcing coffee from small coffee producers for three decades. However, the steady decline of coffee production has put at risk the sustainability of the business and the future of coffee production in Bolivia; it's at risk of disappearing completely. Faced with these circumstances and crises, AgriCafe assumes the challenge of boosting the production and supporting the Bolivian coffee growing. AgriCafe has undertaken the development of 'Fincas Buena Vista', which is home to new coffee plantations with a sustainable model based on three pillars: economical, social and environmental.

Besides Caturra and Typica (both of which are traditional varieties in Bolivia), Agricafe has ventured into new exotic varieties to plant on its farms, and is also implementing new processes post-harvest. Finca El Fuerte is the first coffee farm in the Samaipata region that's focusing on producing specialty coffees.

Finca El Fuerte is a bet to develop coffee agriculture in this new region which has all the conditions to produce spectacular high quality coffees, and it's a new opportunity for many farmers to start producing specialty coffee. Through a lot of effort in the new plantations, and a lot of effort in caring for the harvest and the beans' processing, it has managed to produce coffees like Geisha. AgriCafe has utilised a careful and delicate process, and it has achieved a coffee that highlights the attributes of sweetness, complexity and quality in the cup.

In the cup expect mushed up yellow fruit (but in a good way). Think apricot and peach puree sweetness, flavour and texture that ends with a white grape finish.

  • Country: Bolivia
  • Province: Florida
  • Department: Santa Cruz
  • Farm: El Fuerte
  • Altitude: 1,450–1,700 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Caturra
  • Process: Pulped Natural
  • Total hectares of the farm: 35 hectares
  • Latitude: S 18°11’57’’ W 63°45’31’

Episode 4​40​ on Monday the 1​7​th of April, 2017. Brazil Fazenda Cachoeira da Grama Natural Canario

April 16, 2017
00:0000:00

This farm and its coffee sparked a massive change in what I thought I knew about coffee. I remember the first time I ever cupped this coffee: time stood still as the cup opened my mind to what great coffee is and can be. Gabriel, the farmer, continues to produce great coffee year on year. We have access to the best of the crop this year – and have had for the last three years – on a European exclusive. This is due to the special relationship we, and our importers, enjoy with Gabriel.

Fazenda Cachoeira da Grama has been in the Carvalho Dias family since 1890 and recently celebrated its 109th crop. It is located in the São Paolo state, just three miles from the border with the Minas Gerais state. It enjoys the typical characteristics of the mountainous Mogiana and Sul de Minas regions, and it's located at an altitude of 1,100–1,250 metres above sea level.

Gabriel de Carvalho Dias is one of Brazil’s leading agronomists. His family owns several farms, and they border each other in this area. With a total area of 417 hectares, Fazenda Cachoeira da Grama has a coffee plantation area of 165 hectares. Everything is done manually on this farm since its topography does not allow any kind of mechanisation. The mill is located close to the spa town of Poços de Caldas, which is 45 minutes away from the farm.

The Carvalho Dias family consider social and environmental sustainability to be very important. The farm has a programme of planting native species of trees to maintain a better ecological balance. There is also a school, a club and an official-size soccer field for the employees and workers. There are 47 houses, all with modern facilities. The wastewater is treated in order to avoid polluting the stream that runs across the farm. The farm has a small hydroelectric plant and only buys energy during the peak harvest. Some of the original Bourbon varietal trees are as much as 108 years old.

The beans are harvested on a sheet and prepared by the ‘natural’ process, where cherries are taken and dried in the sun.

This comes from the rare Canario varietal, which is a Bourbon mutation that originated in Brazil. You can find out more about it here, but what you will notice in the cup is that it adds complexity and acidity compared to Bourbon.

In the cup this is a really creamy coffee. It has a digestive biscuit sweetness and gentle orange acidity on the finish.

  • Country: Brazil
  • Region: Mogiana (São Paolo)
  • City: São Sebastião da Grama
  • Farm: Fazenda Cachoeira da Grama
  • Processing: Natural
  • Varietal: Canario
  • Altitude: 1,100–1,250 m.a.s.l.
  • Owner: Lidolpho de Carvalho Dias and family

CUPPING NOTES

Creamy, digestive biscuit, orange.

Clean cup: (1–8): 6.5
Sweetness: (1–8): 6
Acidity: (1–8): 6.5
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 7
Flavour: (1–8): 6
Aftertaste: (1–8): 7
Balance: (1–8): 6
Overall: (1–8): 7
Correction (+36): +36

Total (max. 100): 88

Episode 439 on Monday the 10th of April, 2017. El Salvador Finca San Cayetano Red Honey Bourbon

April 9, 2017
00:0000:00

In the early 1920s Arturo Silva bought land located in Apaneca, Ahuachapán, and planted coffee trees on one of the highest summits of the Apaneca-Ilamatepec Mountain Range. He named the farm San Cayetano. Years later it was inherited by Luis Arturo Silva, father of Rafael Silva, the current owner.

San Cayetano is a 15 hectare, 100% Bourbon, farm that sits at 1,500 meters above sea level in Ahuachapán. The Bourbon plants were planted fifty years ago and are a traditional varietal for El Salvador: one I am always pleased to see. Among its attributes are the vigour and strength of its branches and the volume of the foliage, but most of all it just grows really really well in that region.

The name Rafael Silva might be a familiar one to lovers of El Salvadorian coffee. Rafael and Carmen are the owners of one of my favourite coffees, La Fany. They also own the Siberia farm, and we have bought from them for many years.

I first came across coffee from San Cayetano on a visit to El Salvador a few years ago, Rafael and Carmen very kindly gave me a day of their time and took me to see their lovely new mill and to cup some coffees. This was one of the coffees that jumped off the table at me and is an outstanding example of what Carmen and Rafael can do and so I knew I had to have it.

In the cup expect a really silky coffee that’s full of redcurrants and brown sugar, with cherry and chocolate on the finish.

  • Country: El Salvador
  • Department: Ahuachapán
  • Municipality: Apaneca
  • Farm: San Cayetano
  • Farmer: Rafael and Carmen Silva Hoff
  • Farm Size: 15 Hectares
  • Coffee growing area: 15 Hectares
  • Annual Production: 17,000 kg
  • Workers: 50 during the peak harvest
  • Average Temperature: 18 degrees centigrade
  • Average Annual Rainfall: 2300mm
  • Altitude: 1,500 m.a.s.l.
  • Processing Method: Red Honey
  • Varietal: Bourbon

CUPPING NOTES

Redcurrant, brown sugar, cherry, chocolate.

Clean Cup: (1-8): 6.5
Sweetness: (1-8): 6
Acidity: (1-8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1-8): 6.5
Flavour: (1-8): 6.5
Aftertaste: (1-8): 6.5
Balance: (1-8): 6
Overall: (1-8): 6
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max 100): 87

Roasting Information
Medium dark - just into the start of second crack.

"Quick Look" Guide
Redcurrant, brown sugar, cherry, chocolate.

Episode 438 on Monday the 3rd of April, 2017. Rwanda Musasa Dukunde Kawa Nkara Washed Red Bourbon.

April 2, 2017
00:0000:00

The Musasa Dukunde Kawa cooperative has three washing stations lying high in Rwanda’s rugged northwest. Nkara –the cooperative’s third washing station -was built by the co-op in 2007with profits earned from their first two washing stations, Ruli & Mblima, and a bank loan. The washing station lies at 1,800 metres above sea level and serves farmers within the Ruli Sector of Rwanda’s Northern Province.

Much of the success of Musasa Dukunde Kawa can be attributed to the transformational PEARL programme of which it was a part. The project switched the focus in the Rwandan coffee sector from an historic emphasis on quantity to one of quality, thus opening Rwanda up to the much more highly-valued specialty coffee market. The programme and its successor, SPREAD, have been invaluable in helping Rwanda’s small-scale coffee farmers to rebuild their production in the wake of the devastating 1994 genocide and the 1990s world coffee crash.

Most of the small scale producers with whom Musasa Dukunde Kawa works own less than a quarter of a hectare of land, where they cultivate an average of only 250-300 coffee trees each as well as other subsistence food crops such as maize and beans. The cooperative gives these small farmers the chance to combine their harvests and process cherries centrally. Before the proliferation of washing stations such as Nkara, the norm in Rwanda was for small farmers to sell semi-processed cherries on to a middleman, and the market was dominated by a single exporter. This commodity-focused system -coupled with declining world prices in the 1990s - brought severe hardship to farmers, some of whom abandoned coffee entirely

Today, it’s a different picture. Farmers who work with Musasa Dukunde Kawa have seen their income at least double, and the co-op produces some outstanding lots for the specialty market year after year. ‘Musasa’ means ‘a place to make a bed’ and ‘Dukunde Kawa’ means ‘let’s love coffee’ in Kinyarwanda - a reference to the power of coffee to improve the lives of those in rural communities.

Musasa Dukunde Kawa now owns three washing stations and is one of Rwanda’s larger cooperatives, with 2,148 members as of the 2014/15 crop year. Nkara washing station began serving local farmers in 2007-8 and today buys and processes cherries from between 15-20%of the cooperative’s membership. The numbers and paperwork involved are substantial!With the help of the Wet Mill manager, 4 permanent employees and around 53 seasonal workers, Nkara has grown to process 2 containers of exportable coffee lots.

The level of care that Musasa Dukunde Kawa Nkara takes over the processing is impressive. Cherries are hand-picked only when fully ripe and then pulped that same evening using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades by weight.

After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight (for around 12 hours) and then graded again using flotation channels that sort the coffee by weight (the heaviest – or A1 – usually being the best). The wet parchment is then soaked in water for between 18 and 24 hours to stabilise moisture content.

As at most washing stations in Rwanda, women do the majority of the hand sorting. This takes place in two stages - on the covered pre-drying tables and on the drying tables. Washed beans are moved from the wet fermentation tanks onto the pre-drying tables, where they are intensively sorted under shade for around six hours. The idea is that greens (unripes) are still visible when the beans are damp, while the roofs over the tables protect the beans from the direct sunlight. Next, the beans are moved onto the washing station’s extensive drying tables for around 14 days (depending on the weather), where they are sorted again for defects, turned regularly and protected from rain and the midday sun by covers, ensuring both even drying and the removal of any damaged or ‘funny looking’ beans. After reaching 11% humidity, the coffee is then stored in parchment in Nkara’s purpose-built warehouse prior to final dry-milling and hand-sorting at the Cooperative’s brand new dry mill in Kigali. Each coffee that arrives is also cupped by Musasa’s team of expert cuppers along with the Q-graders of their exporting partner, Rwashocco.

Lots are usually separated out by days. Upon delivery as cherry, the coffee receives a paper ‘ticket’ that follows the lot through all its processing. This ticket bears the date of harvest and the grade (A1, A2 etc) of the coffee – for instance, if a coffee lot is called ‘Lot 1-06/04 -A1’, this means it was the first lot processed on April 4 and the grade is A1. This simple but effective practice is a crucial tool in controlling quality and ensuring the traceability of lots.

In addition to the great work that the cooperative does with quality improvement and assurance, they also have various social programs that greatly contribute to the livelihoods of their members. School fees and medical insurance are provided along with training in quality and productivity in cultivation of coffee. The cooperative also gives cows as bonus payment for quality cherry. These cows not only produce milk for cheese, which helps improve diets and provides supplementary income for farmers, they also provide fertiliser for coffee! The cooperative has also invested in a fleet of tailor-made bikes that help smallholders deliver their cherry to the cooperative's washing stations.This not only reduces the labour required for producers but also means that it is easier to deliver cherry on the same day as picking, which helps ensure greater quality.

In the cup expect something bright and shiny, lime and white sugar with a light but very clean body. On the finish there’s lime zest and a shoulder of white tea.

  • Country: Rwanda
  • Province: Northern
  • District: Gakenke
  • Sector: Ruli
  • Washing station: Musasa Nkara
  • Owner: Musasa Dukunde Kawa Cooperative (2,100+ smallholder farmers)
  • Varietal: Red Bourbon
  • Processing method: Fully washed & sun dried on raised beds
  • Washing station altitude: 1,800 m.a.s.l.
  • Altitude of farms: 1,800 to 2,000 m.a.s.l.
  • Average size of farm: 0.25 hectares

CUPPING NOTES

Lime, white sugar, lime zest, white tea.

Clean Cup: (1-8): 6.5
Sweetness: (1-8): 6.5
Acidity: (1-8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1-8): 6
Flavour: (1-8): 6
Aftertaste: (1-8): 6
Balance: (1-8): 6
Overall: (1-8): 7
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max 100) : 87

Episode 437 on Monday the 27th of March, 2017. Guatemala Los Jocotales Natural Yellow Caturra.

March 26, 2017
00:0000:00

This coffee's farm is located in a region that is well known for some of the most interesting coffees, as well as some of the most renowned coffees, in Guatemala, Antigua.

It is produced by Alex Illescas, and he grows it on his grandfather's farm. His grandfather has owned the farm for just over 50 years, working the land and selling the cherry along as a commodity coffee because they have no mill with which to process their own coffee. The farm is located at 1,400 metres above sea level in Ciudad Vieja.

Alex had an idea that he wanted to produce amazing, interesting and challenging coffee for the specialty market. So, with the blessing of his grandfather and with help from his uncle, he used the farm to experiment with varietals and processing methods to see what might improve cup quality. This coffee is the result of those experiments. It's dangerous to do something like this, so the lots are small – but they're large enough that this could have caused financial hardship if something had gone wrong. The lucky thing is that, in the cup, this gamble has really paid off.

When I visited Alex you could see how excited he was, and you could see how proud he was about the coffee. All the time I was there I was praying the coffee would be as good as the story, and I'm pleased to report that it's even better.

In the cup expect a boozy body that's like sherry mixed with cream, a candied lemon and white sugar sweetness that finishes off with blueberry muffin.

  • Country: Guatemala
  • Region: Antigua
  • City: Cuidad Vieja
  • Farm: Los Jocotales
  • Farmer: Alex Illescas
  • Altitude: 1,400 m.a.s.l.
  • Variety: Yellow Caturra
  • Processing System: Natural

CUPPING NOTES

Creamy, sherry, candied lemon, white sugar, blueberry muffin.

Clean Cup: (1-8): 6.5
Sweetness: (1-8): 7
Acidity: (1-8): 6.5
Mouthfeel: (1-8): 6.5
Flavour: (1-8): 7
Aftertaste: (1-8): 7
Balance: (1-8): 6.5
Overall: (1-8): 7
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max 100): 89

Roasting Information
Medium Dark - drop just as you reach second crack.

"Quick Look" Guide
Creamy, sherry, candied lemon, white sugar, blueberry muffin.

Episode 436 on Monday the 20th of March, 2017. Brazil Fazenda Passeio Pulped Natural Arara.

March 19, 2017
00:0000:00

The Vieira Ferreira family has specialised in coffee production for three generations and is now headed by Adolfo Vieira Ferreira, whose attention to detail and commitment to producing top-class specialty coffee is second to none.

The farm employs a high number of skilled workers to carry out most of the production process by hand, in order to guarantee quality. They do everything, from soil preparation for planting to hand-picking the ripe cherries. In return, the farm looks after its workers. Permanent workers and their families live on-site and are provided with schooling for their children, professional training and environmental education.

The farm also takes environmental sustainability seriously and abides by all Brazilian environmental protection laws. Its native forests are set aside as protected reserves and are often visited by tourists, school children and ecologists. The farm also regularly plants new trees, particularly around its water sources, in order to maintain the local ecosystem.

Passeio’s coffee is picked by hand only when the cherries reach an advanced stage of ripeness, to avoid processing green beans.

Every now and again a coffee varietal comes along and I know nothing about it, every time it happens I'm reminded why I love coffee varietals and their complexity so much. It’s always kinda been my thing; I went through a spell of writing lots of them up (see here).

This varietal of this coffee is Arara and it originates from the crossing between Yellow Catuai and Obatã (Hybrid of Timor) varieties. It was developed on an experimental farm of the Procafé Foundation in Varginha, Brazil.

The experiment has been part of an on going project in Brazil where many new varietals are being discovered – Procafé found that Arara is one of the most successful to date in both yield and in cup quality – so much so that the Arara seeds are the most requested at Procafé for new seedlings! It’s excelled so much even at this early experiment phase.

The next stage of the experiment is to see how it performs on farms and on a larger scale in the planting dissemination.

Arara is a yellow fruiting coffee, with a high resistance to leaf rust, good productivity and high quality potential.

In the cup dark chocolate is dominant in a big big way, like high % cocoa dark chocolate. There's also brown sugar, hazelnut, walnut and dark chocolate is back on the finish but this time it's very Cadbury's Bournville.

  • Country: Brazil
  • Region: Minas Gerais
  • City: Alfenas
  • Farm: Fazenda Passeio
  • Owner: Adolfo Henrique Vieira Ferreira
  • Varietal: Arara
  • Processing: Pulped Natural
  • Altitude: 1,100–1,200 metres above sea level

CUPPING NOTES

Dark chocolate, brown sugar, hazelnut, walnut, Bournville.

Clean cup: (1–8): 6
Sweetness: (1–8): 7
Acidity: (1–8): 6
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 7
Flavour: (1–8): 6
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 6
Overall: (1–8): 6
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max. 100): 86

Roasting Information
Medium dark - just before second crack starts.

Quick Look Guide
Dark chocolate, brown sugar, hazelnut, walnut, Bournville.

Episode 435 on Monday the 13th of March, 2017. Bolivia Don Carlos Washed Yellow Catuai.

March 12, 2017
00:0000:00

Due to the complications within the Bolivian coffee industry, many of the smaller Bolivian farms we have worked with in the past are no longer producing coffee. Whilst this has created some challenges for us, it has had a much more significant impact on our exporting partners AgriCafe, who have been working with these growers for many years. As a result AgriCafe have decided to begin farming for themselves, in an effort to demonstrate what can be achieved with the application of more modern techniques and a scientific farming approach.

AgriCafe now manage seven farms, and these are collectively known as the Buena Vista Project. Finca Don Carlos is the second farm of the project, and it was planted in Caranavi in 2014.

The farm is named in honour of Don Carlos, the oldest and most unconditionally awesome employee of AgriCafe. He was there at the start of the specialty coffee trend and, together with Pedro, helped to build the wet mill in Caranavi. To show their gratitude for all his good work, the company decided to give him partnership of the farm.

Finca Don Carlos is a very unique farm planted with all the care and dedication of Don Carlos himself. The farm sits at an altitude of between 1,546 and 1,650 metres above sea level, and it is located in Caranavi, which is the capital of the Caranavi province in the Yungas region of Bolivia.

In the cup this is super clean and transparent, think white grape juice with extra spoons of sugar mixed in. In the aftertaste there are delicate apricots and summer fruits. Super long aftertaste.

  • Country: Bolivia
  • Region: Yungas
  • Municipality: Caranavi
  • Colony: Bolinda
  • Farm: Finca Don Carlos
  • Producer: Don Carlos
  • Altitude: 1,546 - 1,650 m.a.s.l.
  • Farm size: 18.6 hectares, 6.63 hectares that grow coffee
  • Processing method: Washed
  • Varietal: Yellow Catuai
  • Washing: Mechanical
  • Fermentation: Full wet
  • Fermentation time: approx. 15 hours
  • Drying: Mechanical
  • Drying time: 40 hours

CUPPING NOTES

White grape, white sugar, apricot, summer fruits.

Clean cup: (1–8): 7
Sweetness: (1–8): 7
Acidity: (1–8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6
Flavour: (1–8): 7
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 7
Overall: (1–8): 6
Correction: (+36): +36

Total (max. 100): 89

Roasting Information
Medium dark – just up to the first pops of second crack.

"Quick Look" Guide
White grape, white sugar, apricot, summer fruits.

Episode 434 on Monday the 6th of March, 2017. Guatemala Los Jocotales Red Honey Red Bourbon.

March 5, 2017
00:0000:00

This coffee's farm is located in a region that is well known for some of the most interesting coffees, as well as some of the most renowned coffees, in Guatemala, Antigua.

It is produced by Alex Illescas, and he grows it on his grandfather's farm. His grandfather has owned the farm for just over 50 years, working the land and selling the cherry along as a commodity coffee because they have no mill with which to process their own coffee. The farm is located at 1,400 metres above sea level in Ciudad Vieja.

Alex had an idea that he wanted to produce amazing, interesting and challenging coffee for the specialty market. So, with the blessing of his grandfather and with help from his uncle, he used the farm to experiment with varietals and processing methods to see what might improve cup quality. This coffee is the result of those experiments. It's dangerous to do something like this, so the lots are small – but they're large enough that this could have caused financial hardship if something had gone wrong. The lucky thing is that, in the cup, this gamble has really paid off.

They chose the honeying process, because all they needed for that was a pulper and some space to dry the coffee. Alex used his uncle's roof on his home in town as the drying patio, and they took it in turns to keep the coffee turning and moving.

When I visited Alex you could see how excited he was, and you could see how proud he was about the coffee. All the time I was there I was praying the coffee would be as good as the story, and I'm pleased to report that it's even better.

In the cup you're going to find a fruity and sweet coffee, at the start there's cherry and a little bit of mixed berry tied up with a brown sugar sweetness and malty finish.

  • Country: Guatemala
  • Region: Antigua
  • City: Cuidad Vieja
  • Farm: Los Jocotales
  • Farmer: Alex Illescas
  • Altitude: 1,400 m.a.s.l.
  • Variety: Red Catuai
  • Processing System: Honey

CUPPING NOTES

Cherry, mixed berry, brown sugar, malt.

Clean Cup: (1-8): 6
Sweetness: (1-8): 7
Acidity: (1-8): 6
Mouthfeel: (1-8): 6
Flavour: (1-8): 7
Aftertaste: (1-8): 7
Balance: (1-8): 6
Overall: (1-8): 6
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max 100): 87

Roasting Information
Medium Dark - just to the start of second crack as you drop.

"Quick Look" Guide
Cherry, mixed berry, brown sugar, malt.

Episode 433 on Monday the 27th of February, 2017. El Salvador Finca San José Washed Red Bourbon.

February 26, 2017
00:0000:00

Finca San José is the pride and joy of the Rodríguez family, and is now in the hands of a fourth and fifth generation of coffee producers. The story begins in 1815, when José María Rodriguez and Josefina Rodriguez (great-grandparents) planted the first coffee trees with their own hands.

Through the generations, the farm has passed through the hands of many committed farmers like José's son Israel Rodriguez. He was then followed by Jose Maria Rodriguez, who took care of the farm until it came to Gloria Mercedes Rodriguez Fontán, the most recent owner.

Ever the strong woman, Gloria has overcome gender barriers in an industry that has historically been the province of men and personally supervises every step at the farm level. Gloria not only takes care of San José but, together with her siblings' support, she manages five other small farms which collectively add up to 38 hectares.

The mountain slopes of Finca San José are fully shaded by trees that help to maintain and preserve the crop and the surrounding environment. In addition to the trees' diversity, the farm is home to a variety of wild animals and birds, which can be seen in their natural habitat. San José is nested in the north-western slope of an extinct volcanic crater that holds inside it a small lagoon. The lagoon is named Nymph Lagoon, due to the abundance of water lilies.

San José has seventeen full-time workers performing several activities, such as shade tree and coffee pruning, vegetative tissue renewing, and weed control. All of this work is done skillfully by hand. Approximately 60 more seasonal workers assist in the harvest process, earning their livelihood from picking and selecting coffee cherries only at the peak of ripeness. The people who harvest coffee have extensive experience and share a commitment of growing a superior quality coffee.

Gloria believes in maintaining highly motivated staff; the farm's permanent workers are receiving almost 10% above the legal wage, while the seasonal workers received almost 50% more during harvest due to the importance of this specific task for the coffee's end quality.

One of Gloria’s major blessings is to have Antonio Avelino as her farm manager or 'mandador'. His level of commitment, knowledge and shared philosophy of quality makes him an integral part of this effort.

At Finca San José, coffee goes through extensive quality control in addition to being grown under standards that support specialty coffee production. The unique micro-climate conditions include an average altitude of 1,500 metres above sea level, an average temperature of 17°C, and rich and loamy clay soil; and the coffee is grown mainly to Bourbon variety.

Some other works done to the farm this past year included three foliar fertilizations and two soil fertilizations, including one of organic fertilizer named 'Huisil', which is based on soil studies to ensure specific requirements. Where possible, workers ply the farm with stem bending or 'agobio', and they perform coffee shade pruning to balance sunlight and shade requirements under sustainable levels. They also perform weed control, mainly manually.

One of Gloria’s commitments is to reinvest an important share of the economic benefits from this activity into the farms, impacting the people who toil the fields and maintaining the quality of the production chain from seed to cup.

In the cup this coffee hits you with Cherry Cola, both acidity and sweetness wise. It's so dominant that unless you look you will miss the cherry and chocolate finish, a delicious espresso.

  • Country: El Salvador
  • Department: Ahuachapán
  • Municipality: Apaneca
  • Nearest City: El Saitillal
  • Farm: Finca San José
  • Owner: Gloria Mercedes Rodriguez Fontán
  • Farm Manager: Antonio Avelino
  • Type of Shade: Pepeto, inga sp, and other native trees
  • Processing Method: Washed
  • Varietal: Red Bourbon
  • Average Annual Rainfall: 2,100 mm
  • Altitude: 1,500 m.a.s.l.
  • Average Temperature: 17ºC
  • Type of Soil: Clay loam
  • Mill & company where lot was processed: Beneficio El Carmen, Agrícola San Agustín, S.A. de C.V.
  • Fauna: Armadillo, gray fox, small wildcats, agouti paca, hawks, pocket gopher, magpie, turquoise-browed Motmot, among others.
  • GPS Coordinates: Latitude: N 13º 52 52.3 / Longitude: W 89º 48 24.5

CUPPING NOTES

Cherry, chocolate, Cherry Cola.

Clean Cup: (1-8): 6
Sweetness: (1-8): 7
Acidity: (1-8): 6.5
Mouthfeel: (1-8): 6
Flavour: (1-8): 7
Aftertaste: (1-8): 6
Balance: (1-8): 7
Overall: (1-8): 6.5
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max 100): 88

Roasting Information
Medium dark - just up to the first pops of second.

"Quick Look" Guide
Cherry, chocolate, Cherry Cola.

Episode 432 on Monday the 20th of February, 2017. Costa Rica Finca La Pira Red Honey Caturra.

February 19, 2017
00:0000:00

La Pira is located in the high altitude Dota Valley of the Tarrazu region: an area that was known for producing great coffees. This relatively young estate is only 50 years old and is owned by the founder’s son, Carlos Urena Ceciliano. He has worked the farm for 18 years; however, he has worked in coffee all his life.

We first found this coffee in the Cup of Excellence in 2009, and we were pleased to be reunited with it only recently after a lot of effort and hard work. Last year year it proved tricky to secure, stretching both my pocket and patience, but it was well worth it, thankfully this year things were a little less stretchy!

After inheriting the family farm Carlos worked for many years as a certified organic coffee producer, but he realised doing so was just not possible on this farm. Organic coffee is good, but not possible for everyone. The yield was very very affected. So Carlos looked for alternatives, while still holding the organic principles very close to his heart. For instance, instead of using chemicals to control the weeds, sheep roam freely amongst the coffee plants and eat the weeds (and strangely leave the coffee plants alone). They work as automatic and mobile "fertilisation units" (nature’s a wonderful thing). This has eliminated the need for herbicides. This is the kind of thinking Carlos has about coffee.

When I visit the farm Carlos often tells me about how he wakes up in the middle of the night with an idea of how he can improve production, change the way the coffee is harvested and processed, and how systems can be improved upon. I too suffer from this type of sleep deprivation, relating to ideas popping into the head, so I can empathise about this.

During one of these late night bursts of inspiration, Carlos thought that using the coldest water he could would be the best way of processing the cherry. During the night the Dota Valley gets a really sharp, cold breeze, and it runs through the whole farm. He had noticed the way the water on the mill roof, which sprinkled from processing, was almost frosting up. So he created a sprinkling system and a zinc ramp that the water runs across before hitting the cherries in the fermentation tank.

I am convinced that these little details are what makes this coffee so very very special, and you can taste it in the cup. I don't think it’s the processing so much, but Carlos' care and attention to the very smallest detail.

We have chased this coffee ever since we first had it many years ago from the Cup of Excellence program. Due to its low yield it's been tough to get our hands on it, but I pestered the exporter we partner with in Costa Rica so much that I got my wonderful and wicked way! In every Skype call and every email I begged them to sort this one out. Even after visiting it wasn't easy, and what is here is a really small lot, but I think you will love it.

In the cup expect green apple like acidity, with delicate florals, mixed with caramel and toffee sweetness, a very special coffee.

  • Country: Costa Rica
  • Region: Tarrazú
  • City: Santa María de Dota
  • Farm: Finca La Pira
  • Farmer: Carlos Ureña Ceciliano
  • Farm size: 7.00 hectares
  • Altitude: 1,650 m.a.s.l.
  • Variety: Caturra
  • Processing system: Red Honey

CUPPING NOTES

Green apple, floral, caramel, toffee.

Clean Cup: (1-8): 8
Sweetness: (1-8): 6.5
Acidity: (1-8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1-8): 6
Flavour: (1-8): 7
Aftertaste: (1-8): 6
Balance: (1-8): 6
Overall: (1-8): 7.5
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max 100): 90

Roasting Information
Medium - just between cracks.

"Quick Look" Guide
Green apple, floral, caramel, toffee.

Episode 431 on Monday the 13th of February, 2017. Uganda Rwenzori Natural.

February 12, 2017
00:0000:00

The Rwenzoris are famously known as the ‘Mountains of the Moon’. They stretch for 120 km along the Western Ugandan border with the D.R. Congo. The snow capped peaks reach 5,109m asl with glaciers forming rivers which feed the valleys below. The area is home to the Bakonzo tribe, a proud and strong people that have farmed the foothills of the Rwenzori for generations. While Uganda produces large volumes of low-grown robusta coffee, the high altitude, fertile soils and plentiful rainfall of the Rwenzoris provides perfect growing conditions for fine Arabica coffee. Coffee offers the Bakonzo farmers a stable income that allows them to support their families and develop their homes with many farms also produce cassava, maize, beans and groundnuts for local consumption and additional income.

The Bakonzo Farmers are located in the West of Kasese District. The Bukonzo county is divided into many sub-counties including Kisinga, Kyondo, Kyarumba, Munkunyu, Mahango, Nyakatonzi and Isango. The area has many small towns situated on the lowlands, which are joined by good road networks. These towns provide ideal locations for coffee processing and are home to many farmer groups and processing facilities including Kisinga station which focusses on specialty Arabica production. Farms are, on average, 2 acres in size with families working by hand before collaborating with other groups in the community to process and market the coffee, an approach known as ‘share farming’.

The farmers harvest their coffee by hand, carefully selecting the ripe cherries. The cherries are then pre-sorted, before being floated in a tank of water. The high quality cherries sink to the bottom, while the less dense cherries float on the surface. The floaters are removed leaving only the best cherries for processing. These are then sun-dried on raised tables for the first week, after which they are transferred to tarpaulins for the remainder of the drying period. Farmers carefully turn the cherries throughout the day ensuring uniform drying. Once dried to the required moisture content, the coffee is hulled at primary processing facility in Kisinga Town. After hulling, the coffee beans undergo a final sorting, removing any black beans or defects. The coffee is then bagged and transported to Kyagalanyi’s new dry mill in Namanve on the outskirts of Kampala. Here it is prepared for export through Mombasa.

In the cup you get punched full on by blueberry and blackcurrant, mixed in with a dark chocolate bitterness and sweetness. This coffee really shows its colours in the espresso and milk drinks where it takes on more red berry notes with some blueberry pie.

  • Country: Uganda
  • Region: Bakonzo County, Rwenzori mountains
  • Producers: Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd. - Bakonzo Farmers
  • Farmers: 1,500 (approx)
  • Mill: Kisinga Station
  • Varietals: Nyasaland, Bugisu, SL18 & SL28
  • Processing: Natural
  • Altitude: 1,200m - 2,200 m.a.s.l.
  • Rainfall: 1,200mm avg per annum
  • Harvest: October - December

CUPPING NOTES

Blueberry, blackcurrant, dark chocolate.

Clean Cup: (1-8): 6
Sweetness: (1-8): 6.5
Acidity: (1-8): 6.5
Mouthfeel: (1-8): 7
Flavour: (1-8): 7
Aftertaste: (1-8): 6
Balance: (1-8): 6
Overall: (1-8): 7
Correction: (+36): +36
 

Total: (max 100): 88

Episode 430 on Monday the 6th of February, 2017. El Salvador Finca La Ilusion Washed Bourbon.

February 5, 2017
00:0000:00

One of my all-time favourite farms returns! We welcome it back with the widest of arms, it's so, so special. I often get asked what my favourite coffee of all time is but I will never say exactly (although my friends know the true answer). However, I do narrow it to three coffees, and this is one of them.

I went to El Salvador in 2008 on a buying trip, and I was visiting some of the farms that we buy from. I actually arrived the evening of the Cup of Excellence awards, and after the ceremony I was walking around when this guy who seemed very popular came over to me and introduced himself. He was Ernesto or, as I would come to know him, Neto. He'd just won the Cup of Excellence competition with his 'La Ilusión' farm, the sister farm of 'Alaska'. Alaska is a farm we had bought from via the Cup of Excellence the year before. Ernesto invited me to visit La Ilusión the next day, and it was so great to finally meet someone I had communicated with so many times via email!

Neto bought La Ilusión nine years ago. The farm has coffee trees averaging nineteen years of age and is growing 95% Bourbon (70% is red Bourbon and 25% is Orange Bourbon). The remaining 5% is a combination of other varietals, and it is possible to spot some Typica and Kenya trees.

The farm is run using environmentally friendly practices because they are trying to maintain a balance with the surrounding ecosystem, which is part of a natural fauna corridor crucial to migratory and native birds. This is very important for Ernesto because La Ilusión neighbours one of the most important national parks in El Salvador, known as 'Los Andes'. It is nestled on the Santa Ana volcano and delineates his farm with dense pine and cypress forest, which itself provides a special micro-climate for La Ilusión.

The naturally processed version of this coffee was used by the 2011 World Barista champion, Alejandro Mendez. He caused a bit of a stir in the world of barista competition by using the naturally processed lot in his milk drinks and his signature drink, and then using the washed version (this coffee) as his espresso. He caused such a stir that he won! That year I had roasted the coffee for Alejandro, and it had been grown by Neto. There was a magical moment backstage in which I was stood, polishing glass, with Alejandro and Neto; the grower, roaster and barista all stood together, preparing for the presentation. It's not too often you get such wonderful things happening! Aah, the wonders of barista competition. :)

In the cup I get Fruit Salad sweets, a lot of white sugar, and candied lemon. A very clean, sweet and delicious coffee.

  • Country: El Salvador
  • Region: Apaneca-Ilamatepec mountain range
  • City: Santa Ana
  • Farm: La Ilusión
  • Farmer: Juan Jose Ernesto Menéndez Argüello
  • Altitude: 1,750–1,850 m.a.s.l.
  • Variety: Bourbon
  • Processing system: Washed

CUPPING NOTES

Fruit salad sweets, white sugar, candied lemon.

Clean cup: (1–8): 8
Sweetness: (1–8): 7
Acidity: (1–8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6
Flavour: (1–8): 7.5
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6.5
Balance: (1–8): 8
Overall: (1–8): 8
Correction:(+36): +36

Total: (max. 100): 94

Roasting Information
Medium – just before second crack starts.

"Quick Look" Guide
Fruit salad sweets, white sugar, candied lemon.

Episode 429 on Monday the 30th of January, 2017. Costa Rica Arbar El Manantial Red Honey Caturra.

January 29, 2017
00:0000:00

We had very little information about this farm when we first found it in 21013 – so little information that the coffee didn’t even have a name! Back then all we knew was that the coffee was grown by Carlos Arrieta and it was delicious, but since then I've been lucky enough to visit the farm on trips to Costa Rica and, over the past few years, have found out lots more. Let me tell you what I know so far ...

I first got to meet Carlos at the exporter's office on the last day of my visit to Costa Rica in 2013. He arrived around ten minutes after I had cupped the first table of coffees, where I had found one lot that was making me sing. It just had to be his coffee.

Here ensued the worst negotiation to ever take place in the history of coffee buying ...

"How much do you want?" I asked.
He replies, "How much do you like it?"
"A lot,” I say.
"I'd like a lot then, please," Carlos says.
"OK ... "

Luckily at this point a grown-up from the exporter's office stepped in and made sure I didn't give Carlos my house, car and pension plan. We agreed a price that rewarded Carlos with more than he had ever got before and left me with a home to return to in Stafford.

The year before last I got to spend some time with Carlos and his family. I stopped for some lunch, hung out and asked lots of questions. First of all there's the mill, which is called Arbar and is very close to the house. It has drying tables and a small nursery, but it didn't have a deplulper (more about this later). The mill was brand new, and before it existed they would just sell their coffee to the local coop and so have no interaction with the coffee.

Then I found out that they own two small farms; this coffee is from the farm El Manatial, which was a new farm to us in 2014 but is now back for yet another year after being a massive favourite over the past few years. The farm is located in the Western Valley region near to the town of Lourdes de Naranjo. It's located at 1,600 meters above sea level and contains mostly Caturra, Catuai + a tiny bit of Villa Sarchi, there are also plans to plant some small micro lots too in the future. The farm produces between 700 - 1,400kg a year.

Carlos runs the farm with his wife and children, Maria Isabel, Yesica, Karen, Stephen and Jose Ignacio. He has owned this farm for sixteen years but only started processing the coffee himself in 2014 (while still paying someone else to pulp it for him). He hadn't been able to present his coffee to a single buyer previously, so he would send it to the exporter we use in Costa Rica and, thankfully, that's how we found him!

You may remember that two years ago the coffee was priced a little differently; our normal, nicely rounded-down price was not there. The coffee should have been sold for £7.50 (we negotiated a small price drop from the previous year because we bought everything from both farms, and this worked out that there were some economies of scale compared to the £10.00 of 2013), but we charged £7.88. Well, this was so that we (by “we” I mean “you”) could buy Carlos and his family a depulper for his next harvest. This meant he didn’t have to pay someone else to pulp his coffee, and he could gain more control of his amazing coffee.

I lent the money to Carlos, because I promised you would pay it back (and you did!). You can go and see what your generosity bought at the blog post here.

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Last year one of my roasting team, Roland (of 'Roland's Daft Fact' fame), travelled to Costa Rica to be on the jury for their Cup of Excellence competition. If you ever wondered what a coffee roaster from the UK would get up to if let loose in Costa Rica, you should have a read about his trip in Roland Glew's Costa Rican Adventure.

In the cup you can expect the traditional amazing Costa Rican milk chocolate and caramel sweetness but here it's doing a dance partnered with a delicate apricot and peach acidity. In the finish there's also a super clean hit of pineapple.

  • Country: Costa Rica
  • Region: Western Valley
  • Town: Lourdes de Naranjo
  • Farm: El Manantial
  • Farmer: Carlos Arrieta
  • Micro mill: Arbar
  • Altitude: 1,600 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietals grown: Catuai, Caturra and a small amount of Villa Sarchi
  • Processing system: Red Honey

CUPPING NOTES

Milk chocolate, caramel, apricot, peach, pineapple.

Clean cup: (1–8): 7
Sweetness: (1–8): 8
Acidity: (1–8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6
Flavour: (1–8): 7
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 7
Overall: (1–8): 7
Correction:(+36): +36

Total: (max. 100): 91

Episode 428 on Monday the 23rd of January, 2017. Rwanda Maraba Washed Red Bourbon.

January 23, 2017
00:0000:00

This coffee comes from the Abahuzamugambi ba kawa Maraba Cooperative (what a name!!) in the Huye district of the southern province of Rwanda.

Abahuzamugambi ba kawa Maraba is one of Rwanda’s first coffee cooperatives that today manages four washing stations: Sovu, Kibingo; Kabuye and Cyarumbu. Now counting with 1,372 members, the cooperative has grown to encompass various sectors of the Huye district, providing not only services associated with the milling and marketing of coffee but also improvement of local livelihoods through providing health care and other social programming.

Maraba itself was created in 2001 – one of the first coffee cooperatives (if not the very first) to arise in the wake of in of the devastating 1994 genocide and the 1990s world coffee crash. Sovu washing station began operating in 2005: currently around 500 producers deliver their cherry here and the washing station produces about 18 metric tonnes of exportable green coffee annually.

Most of the small scale producers with whom Maraba works own less than a quarter of a hectare of land, where they cultivate an average of only 250 – 300 coffee trees each as well as other subsistence food crops such as maize and beans. The cooperative gives these small farmers the chance to combine their harvests and process cherries centrally.

Before the proliferation of washing stations such as Sovu, the norm in Rwanda was for small farmers to sell semi-processed cherries on to a middleman, and the market was dominated by a single exporter. This commodity focused system – coupled with declining world prices in the 1990s – brought severe hardship to farmers, some of whom abandoned coffee entirely. Today, it’s a different picture. Farmers who work with Maraba have seen their income increase substantially and for the last 6 years, Maraba has won at least one lot to the Cup of Excellence competition.

The level of care that Maraba takes over the processing is impressive. Cherries are hand-picked only when fully ripe and then pulped that same evening using a mechanical pulper that divides the beans into three grades by weight. After pulping, the coffee is fermented overnight (for around 12 hours) and then graded again using flotation channels that sort the coffee by weight (the heaviest – or A1 – usually being the best). The wet parchment is then soaked in water for between 18 and 24 hours to stabilise moisture content.

As at most washing stations in Rwanda, women do the majority of the hand sorting. This takes place in two stages – on the covered pre-drying tables and on the drying tables. Washed beans are moved from the wet fermentation tanks onto the pre- drying tables, where they are intensively sorted under shade for around six hours. The idea is that greens (unripes) are still visible when the beans are damp, while the roofs over the tables protect the beans from the direct sunlight. Next, the beans are moved onto the washing station’s extensive drying tables for around 14 days (depending on the weather), where they are sorted again for defects, turned regularly and protected from rain and the midday sun by covers, ensuring both even drying and the removal of any damaged or ‘funny looking’ beans. After reaching 11% humidity, the coffee is then stored in parchment in CWS purpose-built warehouse prior to final dry-milling and hand-sorting at the Cooperative’s brand new dry mill in Kigali. Each coffee that arrives is also cupped by the Q-graders of Maraba’s exporting partner, Rwashocco.

Lots are usually separated out by days. Upon delivery as cherry, the coffee receives a paper ‘ticket’ that follows the lot through all its processing. This ticket bears the date of harvest and the grade (A1, A2 etc) of the. This simple but effective practice is a crucial tool in controlling quality and ensuring the traceability of lots. In addition to the great work that the cooperative does with quality improvement and assurance, they also have various social programs that greatly contribute to the livelihoods of their members. School fees and medical insurance are provided along with training in quality and productivity in cultivation of coffee.

Rwanda is a country that has a troubled past. In the early 1990s, coffee was Rwanda’s most lucrative export with the country exporting 45,000 tonnes of it in 1990. Events in the 1990s, however, decimated Rwanda’s coffee industry. Most importantly, the 1994 genocide claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans, destroying Rwanda’s economy and erasing much of the specialised knowledge needed to export coffee profitably. Simultaneously, world coffee prices plummeted in the 1990s due to increased worldwide production and consolidation of purchasing by multinational corporations.

In the cup this starts off very sweet with a typical Bourbon sweetness, makes me think of Dolly Mixtures, a really sugary sweet coffee. This is followed up by creamy lychee and milk chocolate on the finish.

  • Country: Rwanda
  • Region: Southern Province
  • District: Huye
  • Town: Maraba
  • Cooperative: Abahuzamugambi ba kawa Maraba
  • Washing Stations: Sovu, Kibingo, Kabuye and Cyarumbu
  • Altitude: 1,700-2,200 m.a.s.l.
  • Varietal: Red Bourbon
  • Processing Method: Fully Washed

CUPPING NOTES

Dolly Mixtures, lychee, milk chocolate, sweet, creamy.

Clean Cup: (1-8): 7
Sweetness: (1-8): 7
Acidity: (1-8): 7
Mouthfeel: (1-8): 6
Flavour: (1-8): 6
Aftertaste: (1-8): 7
Balance: (1-8): 6
Overall: (1-8): 6
Correction: (+36): +36

Total: (max 100) : 88

Episode 427 on Monday the 16th of January, 2017. Nicaragua Finca San Jose Pulped Natural Longberry.

January 16, 2017
00:0000:00

We first discovered this farm through the Mierisch auction 'Los Favorties', which is an auction of their finest lots from their nine farms. They sifted through each one of their lots from every farm; all the lots come from various plots on the farms, different harvest days, cultivars, microclimates and, in some cases, different processing methods.

These coffees are truly the best of their production and the best representation in their class. The lot sizes were kept small to make the coffees unique and exclusive.

The San Jose farm was acquired in November 2003. At the time it was completely abandoned, and due to its inaccessibility it's been a work in progress for many, many years. It's up in the chain of mountains that marks the border of Jinotega and surrounds the skirts of Apanas lake at 1,300-1,400 metres above sea level. San Jose overlooks the long-time favourite farm 'Escondida', and that farm can be seen from the very top of San Jose.

It's an incredibly beautiful farm with amazing views that are well worth the off-road trek up the mountain to gain access (even if we did get stuck two times). Dr. Mierisch said that he may build himself a small house on the farm to retire to one day: "overlooking the coffee plants and Lake Apanas in the background sounds like a dream come true".

In the cup there's tea! White tea, with juicy peach and a satisfyingly viscous mouthfeel that makes me think of cocoa butter.

  • Country: Nicaragua
  • Community: Lipululo
  • Departament: Jinotega
  • Farm: San Jose
  • Farm manager: Jesus Antonio Cruz
  • Coffee area: 66 manzanas (hectares)
  • Elevation: 1,250–1,400 m.a.s.l.
  • Harvest months: December–March
  • Diurnal temperature cycle: average: high 27° C, low 15° C
  • Varietal: Longberry
  • Processing type: Pulped Natural

CUPPING NOTES

White tea, peach, cocoa butter.

Clean cup: (1–8): 7
Sweetness: (1–8): 7
Acidity: (1–8): 6
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6
Flavour: (1–8): 7
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 7
Overall: (1–8): 7
Correction: (+36): +36

Total (max. 100): 89

Episode 426 on Monday the 9th of January, 2017. Brazil Fazenda Cachoeira da Grama Pulped Natural Yellow Bourbon.

January 9, 2017
00:0000:00

This coffee is a staple, a big favourite and a stunning example of what a very fine coffee from Brazil should be. Brazil Fazenda Cachoeira Pulped Natural Yellow Bourbon from the Minas Gerais area is one of my all-time great cups. This coffee has always been fantastic, and it has such amazing memories for me.

This farm and its coffee sparked a massive change in what I thought I knew about coffee. I remember the first time I ever cupped this coffee: time stood still as the cup opened my mind to what great coffee is and can be. Gabriel, the farmer, continues to produce great coffee year on year. We have access to the best of the crop this year – and have had for the last three years – on a European exclusive. This is due to the special relationship we, and our importers, enjoy with Gabriel.

Fazenda Cachoeira da Grama has been in the Carvalho Dias family since 1890 and recently celebrated its 109th crop. It is located in São Paolo state, just three miles from the border with Minas Gerais state. It enjoys the typical characteristics of the mountainous Mogiana and Sul de Minas regions, and it's located at an altitude of 1,100–1,250 metres above sea level.

Gabriel de Carvalho Dias is one of Brazil’s leading agronomists. His family owns several farms, and they border each other in this area. With a total area of 417 hectares, Fazenda Cachoeira da Grama has a coffee plantation area of 165 hectares. Everything is done manually on this farm since its topography does not allow any kind of mechanisation. The mill is located close to the spa town of Poços de Caldas, which is 45 minutes away from the farm.

The Carvalho Dias family consider social and environmental sustainability to be very important. The farm has a programme of planting native species of trees to maintain a better ecological balance. There is also a school, a club and an official-size soccer field for the employees and workers. There are 47 houses, all with modern facilities. The waste water is treated in order to avoid polluting the stream that runs across the farm. The farm has a small hydroelectric plant and only buys energy during the peak harvest. Some of the original Bourbon varietal trees are as much as 108 years old.

The beans are harvested on a sheet and prepared by the ‘pulped natural’ process, which separates the greens. The beans receive the maximum possible attention after harvest so that they don't lose any of the body and cup qualities for which this region is famed.

In the cup what really hits you is the outstanding sweetness. There is chocolate, hazelnut and caramel. It's super creamy, with just a little hint of chocolate coated raisin on the finish.

  • Country: Brazil
  • Region: Mogiana (São Paolo)
  • City: São Sebastião da Grama
  • Farm: Fazenda Cachoeira da Grama
  • Processing: Pulped Natural
  • Varietal: Yellow Bourbon
  • Altitude: 1,100 – 1,250 m.a.s.l.
  • Owner: Lidolpho de Carvalho Dias and family

CUPPING NOTES

Chocolate, hazelnut, caramel, creamy, chocolate coated raisin, sweet.

Clean Cup: (1-8): 6
Sweetness: (1-8): 7
Acidity: (1-8): 6
Mouthfeel: (1-8): 7
Flavour: (1-8): 7
Aftertaste: (1-8): 6
Balance: (1-8): 8
Overall: (1-8): 7
Correction: (+36): +36

Total (max 100): 90

Roasting Information
Medium dark - just before 2nd crack starts.

"Quick Look" Guide
Chocolate, hazelnut, caramel, creamy, chocolate coated raisin, sweet.

Good filter?
Yes

Good espresso?
Yes yes yes!