A deeper conversation about process
A deeper conversation about process
This month we are sharing coffees which illustrate the importance of a deeper conversation about process in modern coffee.
Both coffees here have been subject to a pre-fermentation before drying in very different ways.
This pre-fermentation adds a distinct character to each lot, different from what would be expected from more generic terms like ‘natural’ or ‘honey’.
The first coffee is from El Salvador, and multiple Cup of Excellence winner Jorge Raul Rivera. We are sharing a naturally processed Pacamara from his farm Finca Santa Rosa, with soft notes of orange and raisin, and a deep brown sugar sweetness.
The second coffee is a honey-processed Catuai from our long term partners Macho and Herberth at the Santa Rosa 1900 mill in the Tarrazu region of Costa Rica. In the cup we are finding sweet apricot, followed by almond shortbread.
1 x coffee
Finca Santa Rosa (250g)Kr. 169,00
2 x coffee
Finca Santa Rosa (250g) &
Santa Rosa 1900 (250g)
What is happening at
Welcome to a new year of brightness in coffee. We’d like to thank you for your continued support of our subscription service, and look forward to sharing more transparent and expressive coffees with you over the coming year. Here at La Cabra, we’re excited to be back in the roastery and preparing for some new releases over the coming months. Our Burundi lots have nearly arrived in Europe, and we look forward to sharing these coffees from our long term partners at Long Miles soon. We also recently cupped some experimental lots from our friends at Daterra in Brazil, and are looking to secure some small lots to share over the next few months. We are also making our final selections from the Colombian fly crop that finished during our trip in November, preparing for an export with our partners at LaREB and Cafe Granja La Esperanza that will leave port soon. A busy start to the year, but with a plentiful supply of delicious coffee it’s never so hard.
We have long sought to unveil the intricacies of modern coffee, through transparency in both flavour and discussion. One of the more obvious recent focusses in specialty coffee production is fermentation. Whereas cultivating healthy, resistant and productive plant material, capable of producing high quality cherries, can be a task measured in years, experimentation with fermentation is much more instantaneous. Anaerobic, carbonic, fed-batch, double fermented; long-term subscribers will have tried many of these processes, each giving a distinct character to the final cup. But even these words don’t describe the complexity of modern coffee fermentation, and trying to categorise process becomes more and more complicated with each passing harvest season. This month, we have picked two interesting processes, and hope to provide some clarity in how these affect the characteristics you find in each cup.
Both of these coffees have been subject to a degree of pre-fermentation before drying. This method of controlling fermentation is becoming more and more popular in many producing countries, by attempting to encourage certain yeast and bacteria cultures early in the fermentation. These cultures then drive the rest of the fermentation, giving more control over the final cup profile. This is especially useful in honey and natural process coffees, where some degree of fermentation is taking place during the drying process as sugar-rich fruit material is still in contact with the drying seed. In Costa Rica, Macho and Herberth leave their daily haul of ripe cherries sealed in plastic bags overnight before depulping the next day and drying as a honey, with mucilage still attached to the seed. The sealed bag creates an almost anaerobic environment, as the carbon dioxide produced during the fermentation causes the bag to inflate. This anaerobic pre-fermentation encourages the production of lactic acid bacteria, giving a buttery body and a slightly wilder flavour profile than the standard Santa Rosa 1900 honey process. In El Salvador, Jorge Raul Rivera uses a slightly more high-tech method of pre-fermentation, in a stainless steel tank for 24 hours. This tank is not sealed, so encourages a more traditional yeast-driven fermentation, dominated by saccharomyces cultures. This is a way of controlling the fermentation, allowing the temperature to rise in the tank, fermenting some of the sugars out quickly, before transferring to the slightly less controlled environment of the drying tables. As most of the fermentation occurs earlier and is more controlled, we are finding a very clean natural, with round citric notes of orange backed up by the heavier sweetness and body we’d expect from a natural.
1st coffee - El Salvador
Finca Santa Rosa - Natural Pacamara
Orange, Raisin and Brown Sugar
(250g / 8.8oz)
This is our second year buying coffee from Jorge Raul Rivera. Jorge Raul is a second generation coffee producer, based just outside the town of La Palma, in the far north-west of El Salvador, close to the border with Honduras. His farm, Finca Santa Rosa, is located not far from La Palma, around 1550 masl, on the slopes of El Pital, El Salvador’s highest point. The farm is planted mainly with the famed Salvadoran varietal Pacamara, and has produced some of the country’s highest quality and most innovative coffees in recent years. Jorge Raul Rivera Sr. began growing coffee, mainly of low quality, in the region around La Palma in 1979. This was the very beginning of El Salvador’s brutal civil war, so many were abandoning their land, selling cheap and fleeing into neighbouring Honduras. Jorge Raul capitalised on this and bought some plots cheaply and began to grow coffee. He was one of the first to grow coffee in the area, and one of the few that stayed during the war. As El Salvador began to settle again after the war, the Riveras bought the land that would become Finca Santa Rosa, and began to grow timber, due to government subsidies aiming to help the post-war rebuilding effort. However, in 2003, the Cup of Excellence came to El Salvador, and the Riveras saw an opportunity to enter the high quality coffee market, and the conditions at Finca Santa Rosa were perfect. The family knew that if they could produce micro-lots of high enough quality, they could fetch high prices at the Cup of Excellence auctions, making their farm highly profitable. They therefore planted their farm with Pacamara, famed for high quality cups, and set off in pursuit of the Cup of Excellence crown. Years of work have resulted in three wins, in 2014, 2017 and 2019, all with with their honey-processed Pacamara. The pine from the old timber plantations has been retained as shade for the coffee, always reminding us of a Danish pine forest during our visits. This year, as well as the honey lot we have purchased previously, we have also purchased a full natural Pacamara from Jorge Raul, which brings soft orange notes backed up by a deep dried fruit and brown sugar sweetness.
2nd coffee - Costa Rica
Santa Rosa 1900 - Catuai Reposado
Apricot, Almond and Vanilla
(250g / 8.8oz)
This is the fourth time we have bought coffee from the Santa Rosa 1900 micro-mill, named for its location at 1900 masl in the mountainous Tarrazu region of Costa Rica. The mill is located only around 10 km from Altos del Abejonal, where we have worked with Mauricio Vindas for over 5 years. The mill processes coffee from several small farms owned by Naranjo family, mainly tended to by Efrain ‘Macho’ and his son Herberth. As we mentioned, this lot of Red Catuai is processed using a slightly strange method when compared to most of Costa Rica. You may recognise the idea from some of the Guatemalan lots we have shared over the past few years. In Guatemala often small producers don’t have the resources to pick and process coffee on the same day, so coffee begins to ferment in cherry overnight. At Santa Rosa, they use this fermentation method by choice, and call it ‘reposado’, which literally translates as ‘dammed’, like damming a river. Alongside this focus on processing, Macho is always keen to point out on our visits that coffee quality starts on the tree, so he places great focus on soil health and maintaining a population of bees to pollinate his plants. You can see our first visit to Macho at the Santa Rosa mill in 2015 in our ‘Brightness’ film. This lot has the nutty notes we’d expect from this region, but when combined with the reposado process, the coffee rounds out with a buttery body and some soft apricot notes, overall feeling like an almond shortbread biscuit with apricot jam.
A deeper conversation about process
With these two coffees, we hope to illustrate the lengths that quality focussed producers are going to to enhance the quality of their coffees, and create ever greater diversity in flavour profile from their farms. The creation of micro-lots also increases exclusivity and allows us to buy more coffees from a single farm. Innovation in fermentation allows this separation, but also makes it ever more difficult for the industry to categorise and explain process simply. Hopefully through this longer format, we can communicate the control that skilled producers now exert over the final cup profile of their coffees.
Stay bright and curious - John Gibson
Two Unique Coffees Every Month
La Cabra is a modern coffee roastery based out of Aarhus and Copenhagen, Denmark. Every month we ship out two unique coffee experiences and provide insight into how these coffees were grown and processed by talented producers.Subscribe Learn More coffee line-up