This month, both coffees come from the region of Risaralda in Colombia.
Risaralda, especially the area around regional capital Pereira, makes up part of the old Coffee Triangle.
Producers here made a very good business out of growing coffee in the 70’s and 80’s, growing their lands and bringing a great deal of wealth to the region.
Recently however, these large farms have struggled with falling market prices for coffee, and have had to find new ways to sustain their businesses, with some even aiming for the tourist market, offering almost theme-park like ‘coffee experiences’.
Both the women who have produced this month’s coffees have instead aimed for quality, investing in careful picking, sorting and processing.
Ana Mustafá has produced this returning favourite lot, the wild and rich Crucero, enhanced by innovative processing.
Blanca Montoya has produced a more traditional Colombian lot, focussing more on the health of her plants in the field through her work as a compost manufacturer.
1 x coffee
Montoya (250g / 5.3oz)
2 x coffee
Montoya (250g /
Crucero (250g / 5.3oz)
This month, both coffees come from the region of Risaralda in Colombia. The regional capital
Pereira, along with the nearby cities of Armenia and Manizales, makes up part of the old Coffee
Axis, where producers were able to make a very good business out of growing coffee in the 70’s
and 80’s, growing their lands and bringing a great deal of wealth to the region. Recently
however, these large farms have struggled with falling market prices for coffee, and have had to
find new ways to sustain their businesses, with some even aiming for the tourist market,
offering almost theme-park like ‘coffee experiences’, mainly to tourists from urban regions of
Colombia. However, some producers have aimed instead to increase the quality of their coffee and
to streamline their supply chain, creating a more sustainable business. Through this they are
able to keep coffee production alive in a region where it is so vital to culture and identity.
Nowadays, Risaralda coffees are not seen so often on speciality coffees menus around the world, as the region is dominated by large producers producing lower grade coffees, with many local cooperatives working with large buyers like Nespresso and Starbucks. Our friends at the LaREB collective, now based full time in the regional capital of Pereira, have made it their mission to seek out the small, dedicated and innovative producers that could lead to a return to the spotlight for Risaralda. We feel that both women featured in this month’s subscription are great examples of the work that ourselves and LaREB are passionate about highlighting.
First coffee - Colombia
Innovative fed-batch lot by Ana Mustafá
Raspberry, Cocoa and Licorice
(250g / 8.8oz)
This particular lot is from the farms overseen by LaREB project leader Ana Mustafa, and is known as Crucero. Up until recently, Ana was selling the coffee from her family’s five farms to a pair of local cooperatives in the towns of Pereira and La Celia, at prices based on the commodity market. In Colombia, the coffee grower’s federation, the FNC, is able to demand a premium above the commodity price, but for many producers, the price is still far too low to create a sustainable business. The farms from which this lot is harvested are located outside the town of Pereira, in the Risaralda region. Pereira is approximately a 7 hour drive from Colombia’s capital Bogota, a relatively short distance in Colombian terms, but the landscape here is rather different. Green lush forests drape mountainsides in this grand old area, with a rich coffee producing history. During the ‘Coffee Bonanza’ of the 60’s and 70’s, high prices allowed many producers to make good money and expand their growing lands. One of these was Ana’s grandfather, a Palestinian immigrant to Colombia, who initially worked as a fabric trader when he arrived in the country in 1930’s. The farm lands were split up amongst the younger members of the family upon his death, leaving Ana the five farms across Risaralda she now oversees along with her cousin; two near the town of La Celia and three near Pereira.
One of the main ways that Ana has added value to her coffees is through novel fermentation methods. This lot of Castillo is named Crucero after a crossroads near the Pereira farms, and is processed using a method LaREB have dubbed ‘fed-batch semi-washed’. The aim is to create further complexity in the cup, while maintaining a high level of control over the fermentation process. Using this method, a first day’s picking is added to the fermentation tank, but then the next day’s picking is simply added and mixed in, adding new fuel for the fermentation through new sugars, but holding onto the yeast and bacteria cultures from the existing fermentation. For anyone familiar with making sourdough bread from a starter culture, the same rules apply here. This year the process has been refined, creating a cleaner cup and hopefully a longer shelf life. Each addition to the larger fermentation tank is now pre-fermented in cherry beforehand, adding to the juicy feel in the cup and a little more body and sweetness. This time water was added to the fermentation 12 hours after the second addition of depulped coffee. Normally in a large batch open air fermentation like this one, the fermentation reactions will cause the temperature to rise quite rapidly at this stage, leading to a runaway reaction and making the fermentation difficult to control. Adding water slows down this rise in temperature, allowing the coffee to finish fermenting cool and slow. Again sourdough bread bakers will recognise this technique from cold proving, allowing more complexity of flavour to build in the coffee. After 20 hours of this slow fermentation, the coffee is removed from the fermentation tanks and semi-washed, leaving some of the sticky mucilage on the coffee. This adds a funky edge to the cup, with some ferment-driven soft fruit notes. Finally, the mechanical drying was tweaked for this batch, first dried down to a moisture content of between 14 and 15%, then rested for three weeks before finishing the drying. This allows the moisture content to equalise throughout the coffee before the second run in the driers, allowing for a more even and gentle drying. As this faster initial drying drops the moisture content quickly, the fermentation is also stopped, creating a greater degree of control over the process. This should help with both the clarity and the shelf life of the final coffee. This careful fermentation results in a complex fresh fruit filled cup, with waves of ripe fruit character, alongside a heavy confected sweetness and a finish with a pleasant cocoa dryness.
Second coffee - Colombia
Crisp and clear lot from Blanca Montoya
Lemon, Redcurrant and Black Tea
(250g / 8.8oz)
Blanca Montoya grows coffee just outside the town of La Celia, high in the mountains of Risaralda about a 2 hour drive from Pereira. Ana’s family also own two farms in the area, and there is a strong network of local coffee growers, especially among the small proportion who are aiming to produce high quality lots. Blanca works with the local cooperative, located in La Celia itself, the same cooperative where LaREB initially made contact with Gustavo Acevedo, whose coffee we have bought in the past. The raw material at Blanca’s farm is of high quality, as Blanca is a particular expert in soil health through her secondary business as a compost manufacturer. It was initially as customers of this business that Ana and the rest of the LaREB team met Blanca. Blanca produces a fermented organic compost product known as Super Magro, which is popular in Brazil. The quality potential in this region generally is high, with high altitude and cool temperatures due to the effect of the Pacific Ocean from the other side of the ridge. However, even this close to Pereira, the knowledge of and access to the high-end speciality coffee market is limited, so this quality is often not fully realised. For instance, many coffees are fermented with a focus on efficient production rather than flavour, resulting in under-ferment flavours; sharp and lime-like, lacking integrated sweetness. This lot in particular was a collaboration between Blanca and LaREB, with a 24 hour pre-fermentation in cherry followed by a 36 hour fermentation in tank after depulping. This has resulted in a much more round and integrated cup, while holding onto the fresh and citrus character the area around La Celia seems to exhibit.
Although both are in rather different fields, and producing rather different coffees, these two entrepreneurial women are a great example of the quality possible in Risaralda and the resolve shown in order to create a sustainable business in a rather difficult period for the industry in the region. We hope you enjoy both of their coffees this month.
Our Discovery Subscription allows us the opportunity to share new experiences with you every month, taking you with us on our journey through the changing seasons of coffee. This allows you the opportunity to taste new lots from across the coffee landscape as they arrive at our roastery, when they’re fresh and in season. We strive to find the most delicious and thought-provoking coffees we can get our hands on, working together with a group of innovative and dedicated partners we have met over our years in the industry. We are inspired not only by sharing their painstakingly created raw material, but by conveying how each step of its journey has led to what you find in your cup, be it terroir, varietal, post-harvest processing, or something else entirely.
One of the best ways to appreciate the effect of these factors is to taste coffees side by side.
Our most popular option allows you to experience two coffees every month, maybe different
varietals or processes from the same farm or region, or maybe two parallel lots from producers
at opposite ends of the coffee belt. We always aim to tell a story with our coffee choice,
focusing on a different aspect of what we’re finding exciting in coffee right now. Sharing these
experiences each month allows us to expand our coffee horizons together, and develop a shared
vocabulary within both taste and preference in coffee.
We’re always happy to continue our conversation with you through our webshop portal, whether it be purely practical, or discussions about this month’s coffees. We see our role as simply a middleman between you and some of the best coffees in the world, and the people who produce them. These people inspire us, and we do our utmost to share both their coffees and their stories with the people who appreciate them most.