This month we are presenting two very different coffees, but with some interesting parallels. The first is another surprising and characterful find from our travels in Brazil last year, and the second, a prize-winning Colombian lot from the 2018 CCS Acevedo cup.
Anderson Minamihara grows coffee in the region of Espirito Santo, which we’ve been featuring quite heavily in our offering recently. We visited Espirito Santo in October 2017, and were stunned, not only by its natural beaut but also by the characterful and transparent coffees we found there. This region is distinct from most Brazilian coffee production, being home to many small family-run farms, and much more mountainous terrain than most of Brazil. It has a unique climate, that sits close to the coast, awash with cool peaks.
The farms here are sized between 5-20 hectares, and are located on steep mountainsides, so everything must be hand-picked. This means a wider variety of techniques used in farming, and a variety of microclimates across the region, leading to a great variance in character in the cup across the region. Slightly higher humidity and slightly lower temperature than the rest of Brazil means that harvest can begin a month later than is normal, so coffee cherries have longer maturation times, longer to build sweetness and intensity of flavour. Because the trees are hand-picked, the cherries are picked at optimal ripeness, so like any other fruit, this further adds to the sweetness in the cup.
The Minamihara family, proud descendants of Japanese immigrants to Brazil, grow coffee with a biodynamic approach. This is a holistic approach to farming, with environmental sustainability, and minimal impact at its core. Complementary eco-systems are set up, in place of external inputs, like pesticides or fertilisers, in an attempt to create an almost self-sustaining farm. This reduces reliance on petrochemical-derived farming supplements, and in the case of Minimahara, leads quite simply too delicious coffee.
We’ll be sharing more coffees from the Minimahara family this season, so look out for more on our collaboration with this project soon.
The second coffee in your pack this month is from the region of Huila in Colombia. Coffees grown in Huila are highly prized in our industry, for several reasons. Similar to Espirito Santo, the mountainous terrain provides high altitudes and varying microclimates, leading to a diverse flavour spectrum throughout the area. Also similar to Espirito Santo, a large number of small farms, averaging between 1 and 3 hectares, produce much of the coffee in the region.
The small farms here mainly have their own processing facilities, both wet mills, where the coffee is pulped, fermented and washed, and space for drying the coffees. Huila is particularly exciting for speciality coffee due to it’s plentiful high altitude. The Colombian Andes split into 3 distinct ranges here, the eastern, western and central ‘cordilleras’. The Acevedo district sits just at the split between the central and eastern cordilleras, in the far south-east of Huila. This high altitude leads to large day-night swings in temperature. The cool nights lead to a slower cherry maturation, much like at Minimahara. Just north of Acevedo, further down the mountain, lies a large area of jungle. Weather systems carry cool, moist air from the jungle up into the coffee growing lands, further lengthening the cherry maturation. All this leads to very intense, sweet and complex cups, but also to one of the main challenges of producing coffee in this region. The cool temperatures and high level of humidity mean that drying coffee can be a very difficult prospect here.
When coffee arrives at our roastery we like it to sit between 10 and 11% moisture, but lower quality coffee in Huila is often sold at around 12% moisture content, which will lead to much faster ageing and the onset of woody and faded flavours. To combat this, many producers use parabolic driers, essentially large plastic greenhouses, to shield their drying coffee from the elements, and raise the temperature enough to lower the coffee’s moisture content below 11%. However, when these are not used correctly, they can create very high temperatures, and dry coffee much too quickly. This reduces the integrity of the coffee’s cell walls, and will also lead to very fast ageing of the green coffee. Carefully controlling the use of parabolic driers to reach the magical 11% in 12-18 days is the ideal, and leads to long-lasting sweetness and character in the green coffee. Without this level of attention, the coffee can start to age before it even reaches the roastery.
This coffee is a great example of when processing goes right. Carmelo is the name of a collaboration between two sets of brothers, all with small farms in Acevedo, Jaime and Dionar Useche Gonzalez, and Oscar and William Ferney Cruz. Together, they created a collaborative lot using their best quality cherries and entered it into the CCS Acevedo Cup, finishing fourth in the region. This competition aims to highlight the quality being produced in Acevedo, and provide small farms with a route to high-end buyers, willing to pay a premium for well produced coffees. This coffee scored 88 points in the competition, and we are excited to share its intense, sweet interpretation of Colombian terroir with you this month.