In My Mug Audio

Episode 650: Bolivia El Fuerte Anaerobic Washed Bourbon

April 24, 2021

El Fuerte was named in honour 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 a pre-Columbian archaeological site. It's unique in that it represents the legacies of Inca, Spanish, and Chanè cultures, and it's one of Samaipata's main attractions. Situated in the eastern foothills of the Bolivian Andes, in the Santa Cruz department of Florida province, the archaeological site is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

El Fuerte de Samaipata is not a military fortification. It is generally considered to be 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.

El Fuerte was a first experiment in developing coffee in a region with excellent characteristics for producing amazing quality coffee (good soil conditions and high altitude), but with traditionally little coffee production and no specialty coffee. After consulting with a specialised agronomist, the region of Agua Rica at the edge of the Amboró National Park – some 20 KM east of Samaipata was chosen as the ideal location.

Initially, several different varietals were tried, including Red Bourbon and Yellow and Red Caturra (although nowadays Agricafe, which runs the farm, has ventured into growing other varietals). Caturra and Typica are both traditionally grown in Bolivia and are commonly seen, but alongside other, slightly rarer varietals like Java and Geisha. Although there is little need for trees for shade because the altitude keeps the temperature down, trees were planted to protect the coffee trees from the strong winds that are common in the region.

Deciding to go ahead and plant coffee at El Fuerte was something of a risk, but it's one that has undoubtedly paid off. The location has proved to be strategic and the weather is ideal; so much so that a second wet mill has been established at the site, meaning all coffee produced in the Samaipata farms can be processed at El Fuerte.

The team at Agricafe have been carefully experimenting at their wet mill with new ways of processing their coffee. This brought us their wonderful Naturals, but now they've turned their attention to their washed coffees! In particular, they've focused on the stage before the freshly picked coffee cherries are depulped, adding an Anaerobic resting phase.

This basically means putting the coffee cherries into large, sealed barrels along with water. This can create very unique and distinctive flavours, but using the same attention to detail and careful control of the processes that we see in their Naturals, the Agricafe team monitor and manage the process to get the best out of it. They do this by keeping the temperature low, which keeps the flavours crisp and clean, and by carefully judging the right moment to move the process on and remove the pulp.

Juicy pear fills the mouth with the first sip, with a milk chocolate sweetness following on its heels. As it cools, there's a malty but fruity sweetness, rather like malt loaf, before it finishes with a glacé cherry (on top).

  • Country: Bolivia
  • Province: Florida
  • Department: Santa Cruz
  • Farm: El Fuerte
  • Altitude: 1,550–1,700 ;m.a.s.l.
  • Variety: Bourbon
  • Process: Anaerobic Washed
  • Drying: Stationary Dryer (72 hours, 40º temp.)

CUPPING NOTES

Pear, milk chocolate, malt loaf, glacé cherry.

Clean cup (1–8): 6.5
Sweetness (1–8): 6.5
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): 88

Roast Information
Medium-dark - reduce the heat during first crack and let them run through to the end of the gap. Drop just before second crack begins.

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