Colombia might be approaching best-of-both-worlds status as coffee producer. On one hand, standard commodity Colombias continue rolling down to the ports and onward into “100 %Colombian”grocery store cans and jars, whose rather decent contents put to shame the bland, woody, Robusta-laden contents of contending supermarket cans and containers. At the same time, small lots of specialized Colombia coffees, extraordinary and surprising, have actually appeared over the last decade or so. Till recently, these specialized Colombias aimed for an exceptional version of the traditional power and completeness related to the very best standard Colombia coffees. To put it simply, they desired go beyond the standard-issue Colombia cup by doing the exact same thing, just much better. Just recently, increasing numbers of Colombias have appeared on specialized lists that represent the opposite of timeless. These are typically anything-goes, push-it-to-the-limit try outs processing technique of the kind that have actually appeared at the trendy high-end of the coffee market over the past couple of years. In specific, they consist of sweetly fruit-toned coffees dried in the whole fruit (naturals), in addition to coffees processed by a range of hybrid techniques, consisting of variations on the current processing fad, anaerobic fermentation.
From a customer point of view, the best of both worlds could be starting to look like a split coffee character.
63 Single-Farm Colombias
We checked 63 single-farm Colombias for this month’s report. Close to half (45%) were traditionally cleaned or wet-processed in the Colombia custom. About 30% were dried-in-the-fruit or natural-processed (simply put, not in the Colombia tradition). And practically 25% underwent ingenious hybrid variations on anaerobic processing or carbonic maceration, absolutely not in the Colombia custom. Anaerobic, by the method, implies that eventually throughout the process of fruit removal and drying the coffees undergo fermentation in limited oxygen conditions (sealed tanks, sealed bags, tanks filled with CO2). When the oxygen limitation is performed by sealing the coffee fruit in tanks filled with CO2 the procedure might be described carbonic maceration, with maceration in this case used as a rough synonym for fermentation and carbonic referring to the CO2. All such deprivation of oxygen throughout fermentation intends to reduce the action of oxygen-loving yeasts that produce sweet alcohol fermentation while promoting the action of lactic-acid-producing bacteria that do not require oxygen. These last are the sorts of bacteria that influence the taste of yogurt, kefir, sour beers and kimchee, to name a few foods and beverages.
Based upon my own experience tasting these experiments, the very best of them seem to integrate cup qualities I connect with the lush impact of yeast/alcohol fermentation in addition to the tasty tart-sweetness of lactic fermentation. However in either case, these hybrid anaerobic-ferment coffees offer the nearly exact reverse of what we expect from basic washed-process coffees in the Colombia custom: They propose the unexpected instead of the anticipated, the surprising instead of the balanced and naturally suave.
No Matter What the Process, Considerable Success
Despite processing variation, the 63 Colombia single-farm samples we checked for this month’s report were general remarkable. Majority scored 90 or greater, and a noteworthy 17 scored 93 or much better. Of those seventeen 93+ samples, we selected 12 to evaluate this month.
Surprisingly, possibly, these 12 report-topping coffees were divided amongst processing approaches almost precisely in the same portions as the samples were for the cupping as a whole. Nearly half (42%) were washed procedure, 25% were natural-processed, and 25% were variations on anaerobic methods. There was one honey-processed coffee, representing the 8% needed to reach 100%.
If there is any lesson to be learned here concerning processing approach and high ratings at Coffee Review, it would seem to be that it’s not the processing approach that draws in high scores, however rather the care and knowledge the producer brings to performing those processing techniques. Supported, of course, by customers, roasters and importers willing to pay enough to justify that care and knowledge.
Another lesson is that customers using Coffee Review to help with their purchasing decisions may want to purchase coffees based upon checking out the evaluations along with looking at the ratings.
Take the leading three coffees in the report, all rated 95 or 96. One was a natural-processed coffee, the Red Rooster “Trust the Process” (96 ), one a traditional fully washed coffee, the Paradise Finca El Caucho (95 ), and one a hybrid anaerobic, the Kakalove Cafe Colombia 95). Not only the processing techniques, however the particular coffee enjoyments offered by these 3 exceptional coffees, are rather various. Naturally, one could likewise argue that by purchasing any of them, the coffee fan wins, simply in different ways.
Kakalove Cafe’s Natural Carbonic
Maceration coffee, which made 95 points, was grown at Finca La Colombia in Antioquia. Photo Courtesy of Kakalove Cafe. Juan Valdez Contemplates Carbonic Maceration With almost any other origin other than Colombia, such a schitzy split in processing technique and coffee personality might go undetected. However for the last 60 years, Colombia has been effectively selling the world on a uniform, relatively constant coffee experience branded”100 %Colombian.” The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (FNC)’s decades-long, innovative marketing program built around that name and featuring the photogenic farmer Juan Valdez (played by a succession of real coffee farmers throughout the years) stays an amazing, award-winning success story in establishing brand name acknowledgment with North American consumers. At one point in the early 2000s, around 12.5% of all coffee sold in the U.S. was Colombian.
At the producing end, the FNC relentlessly pursued its goal of turning all of its grower members into one combined coffee expression, as near as possible providing the same “100% Colombian” cup no matter where in Colombia the green coffee came from or which of its 513,000 farmer-members grew it.
Keep It Washed
Devoted was Colombia to accomplishing a constant across the country coffee profile that, for decades, Colombian authorities just enabled coffees to be exported that quite much fit the “100% Colombian” model: standard clean-profiled, wet-processed coffees that satisfied particular grading expectations. The goal was to prevent off-tasting or lower-quality coffees from reaching the marketplace and sullying the 100% Colombia brand name. But these guidelines also prevented export of quality coffees processed utilizing alternative processing techniques.
In 2015, Colombia authorities lastly relaxed those guidelines. When the rust epidemic and other aspects significantly minimized total Colombia coffee production, the primary motorist obviously was a need to export somewhat lower-quality coffees to meet demand during a time. However certainly, an extra inspiration should have been the desire of some producers and their importer and roaster allies to see Colombia sign up with the growing motion to produce brand-new and amazing cup profiles through experimentation with processing.
At any rate, the change in Colombian export regulations five years ago opened the door to the rather striking contrast amongst this month’s 12 evaluated coffees, a contrast in between what we may call the Similar-But-Better method and the Different-But-Exciting approach to specialized distinction.
The Similar-But-Better Successes
The top-rated among this month’s Similar-But-Better collection is the 95-point Paradise Colombia Finca El Caucho Pink Bourbon, with its natural sweet taste, high-toned brightness, and intricate floral, honey and citrus notes. True, although its lovely honey-sweet yet citrusy structure might have been encouraged by a traditional washed procedure, its juicy intricacy probably can be attributed to a tree range that local Colombian growers in the Huila area call Pink Bourbon.
Roberto Achicue of Finca El Caucho grew the Paradise Roasters Pink Bourbon we rated at 95 points. Image thanks to Paradise Roasters. In regards to truth and science, there seem more questions than responses about Pink Bourbon and its origins and genetics. Both yellow-fruited and red-fruited Bourbons are commonly grown in the coffee world, and local Colombian manufacturers have made the rational presumption that their Pink Bourbon is a spontaneous cross in between Red and Yellow. Hereditary fingerprinting suggests that the Huila version is more most likely a range not straight related to Bourbon. One thing appears clear: Pink Bourbon as grown in the Huila area of Colombia can produce an impressive cup.
Sadly, the 95-point Paradise Finca El Caucho Pink Bourbon is already sold out on the roaster’s website, however I think readers will not be stepping really far back with either the 93-rated Badbeard’s Special Project Colombia Pink Bourbon or the 93-rated JBC Aces La Juntas, also from trees of the Pink Bourbon. Both are washed procedure, and both are sweetly and carefully tart and juicy in structure with a citrusy edge. The Badbeard variation is more flower and the JBC more chocolaty and nut-toned. I confess that I brought the leftover Badbeard’s home and consumed it with the best satisfaction over two days running.
2 more 93-rated washed-process Colombias fill out this month’s Similar-But-Better contingent: the Greater Goods Bright Minds and the modcup Colombia Finca Potosi. Both are produced from a choice of standard Colombia ranges: Caturra, Colombia, Castillo. Both show substantial distinction, presumably owing to careful work at the farm and mill: spice and flower notes with a great dry chocolate in the case of the Bright Minds; sweet lilac-like flowers and orangy citrus and caramel with the modcup Finca Potosi.
Finca Potosi, in Colombia’s Valle de Cauca, grew a special lot for modcup coffee, which made 93 points. Photo courtesy of modcup coffee. Three Impressive Naturals It was just about 15 years ago that manufacturers in Ethiopia and Central America began to seriously explore natural processing great coffee. Until then, drying coffee in the whole fruit was a practice associated nearly solely with poor-quality, mass-produced coffees. Peripheral fermentation during drying in the entire fruit tends to impart taste characteristics to the cup that can vary from unpleasantly rotten, through seductively brandy-like, to gloriously sweet and complex. Specialized coffee producers all over the world are now learning how to manage drying to produce coffees in the positive variety of that spectrum, and based on this month’s samples, some Colombia producers are now well into that video game.
This month’s premier coffee, the 96-point Red Rooster “Trust the Process” Full Natural seems a victory of well-managed natural processing, considered that the tree varieties that were subject to that processing are the generally plain-tasting, uncomplicated Caturra and Colombia. The Red Rooster natural is deeply resonant with sustained, shifting complexity, supported by a structure that reviewer Kim Westerman calls “lyrically sweet, mysteriously tasty, invitingly tart.”
Like the Red Rooster, this month’s other two premier naturals, the Blues Brew Finca La Maria Geisha Natural (94 ) and the Plat Colombia Diofanor Ruiz (94 ) are what we may call clean naturals (or maybe sober naturals). Neither display much alcohol-related subtlety, though both are rather distinctive in their processing-driven expression. The Blues Brew is deeply chocolaty, sweet-savory and pungent. The Plat is higher-toned, tangy however fruit-forward and tart, with some pleasant yogurty dairy ideas.
The Current Wrinkle: Anaerobic Fermented Naturals
With this month’s three samples involving variations on anaerobic ferment or carbonic maceration, we take a trip farthest from the traditional Colombia cup. These 3 coffees are not extreme examples of the anaerobic design. All seem to keep the familiar lushly sweet tendencies of yeast fermentation combined with only moderate impact of the appetizing bacterial ferment associated with anaerobic or carbonic approaches.
All three generally build on the natural method. The 95-rated Kakalove Colombia Antioquia Natural Carbonic Maceration Caturra was essentially kept in the entire fruit during comprehensive fermentation in sealed tanks injected with CO2 and afterwards dried in the whole fruit. The outcome is a jammy, sweet, chocolaty cup with elaborate flavor subtlety and tasty depth: dessert-like however complex. The 94-rated Brioso Colombia Java El Edén is also basically a natural coffee fermented in low-oxygen conditions and dried in the entire fruit, netting a profile both sweetly rich and tangily lactic, not to discuss elaborate and original in aromatics. The 93-rated Dory Colombia Finca El Paraiso reveals the most specific anaerobic influence. It likewise went through the most complicated procedure: very first 24 hours in the whole fruit in sealed tanks, then skinned or pulped and put back in the tanks for another 36 hours of anaerobic/limited oxygen ferment. It is, frankly, a not-for-everyone success: savory-sweet and chocolaty and complexly herby– think sweet chocolate sauce with ginger and herbs.
Jason Yu of Dory Coffee Roasters, based in Taipei, Tawian, whose double-anaerobic coffee scored 93 points.
Picture courtesy of Jason Yu. And a Honey with Variations
It’s good to conclude with a timeless cup, albeit one produced through still more processing experiment. Evie’s Café La Gallera Estate (94 ) is technically a honey-processed coffee, because it was dried enclosed in the fruit flesh after being pulped. However along the way to the drying tables, it was fermented twice, albeit briefly, once in the whole fruit and again after pulping. Obviously, however, neither of these ferment episodes involved limited oxygen or other anaerobic hijinks. You may call the Evie Café’s honey a discreet experiment producing an inconspicuously great coffee, total but well balanced: gently brilliant with notes of raspberry, chocolate, flowers, nut.
A Quick Return to the Big Picture
Returning to the best of both worlds style I opened with, the Colombia coffee authorities have handled to turn the corner on the devastations of environment change and the fantastic rust disease pandemic starting in 2009. Mainly driven by an effective program of planting disease-resistant coffee ranges, total Colombia coffee exports have climbed up gradually over the past a number of years.
In the huge photo, we have to hope that the 100% Colombia program will continue to roll on successfully, supported by greater and fairer costs for this strong, reputable, essential coffee type. The 100% Colombia program still offers North American consumers with the only strong budget plan coffee experience offered in grocery store cans and immediates while supplying a vital income for Colombia’s numerous thousands of smallholding producers.
Luis Samper, identified coffee author, researcher and proponent of the Colombia industry, mentions that the sorts of microlot coffees produced by processing innovations like those explained here (natural, anaerobic, honey) remain the smallest drop in the pail in the big financial photo for Colombia coffee. Price quotes he has actually seen puts exports of such alternative-processed Colombia coffees at around 15,000 70-kilo bags annually. Colombia’s overall exports in 2020 concerned around 10.7 million 70-kilo bags of Arabica coffee of numerous qualities.
For Coffee Review and its readers, and ideally for the producers passionately engaged in refining traditional processes or diving headlong into brand-new options, this small drop of specialized Colombias is a glistening gem deep with creative possibility and day-to-day pleasure.
Coffee Review would like to thank guest cupper Lily Logan, Operations Manager at Bay Area CoRoasters (CoRo), who made important contributions to this month’s reviews.
This post was inspired by the article at Coffee Review, a website specializing in coffee reviews, espresso ratings, informative articles, and coffee blogs written by coffee experts.