- John Gibson
This month we are excited to present two delicious coffees, both produced under very different regimes. Here at La Cabra we value high quality coffees experiences, but also our connections with dedicated producers around the world. These producers share an ability to distill their passion and hard work into their coffee, but often they work under very different conditions, with very different resources. This month, we are presenting a coffee from Daterra (Jaci Natural), the high-tech 5800 hectare super farm in the Cerrado Mineiro region of Brazil, and a coffee from Ana Ramirez’s 0.4 hectares in the remote Huehuetenango region of Guatemala. The conditions these coffees are produced under almost couldn’t be more different. Daterra sits on the flat desert plains of Cerrado Mineiro at around 1150 masl, not far from larger cities. Ana Ramirez farms coffee at 1750 masl in the remote mountains of Huehuetenango, more than a day’s drive from the capital Guatemala City.
The amount of technology involved in the production of these coffees is also very different. The desert climate in Daterra slows down cherry maturation to a point that quality can be controlled during harvest. Every day during harvest small lots of coffee are picked and cupped from each small plot, while soil samples and moisture levels are taken. When a professional cupper decides that that plot is ready to be picked, the pickers return and harvest the whole plot. This allows very tight control of ripeness of cherries, and therefore sweetness in the final cup, across all the small plots of the larger Daterra system. Recently they have also been experimenting with new varietals and processing methods in order to create extraordinary flavour experiences, while still maintaining their incredible level of consistency and quality control, including a four stage light sorting system, where physical defects and fungal and chemical infections can be removed from batches. It is one of these more experimental coffees that we are sharing with you this month. The Aramosa varietal is a cross between two separate species of coffee, the well known Arabica, and the incredibly rare Racemosa. Racemosa is a wild growing coffee species, native only to a small stretch of the East African coast around Mozambique. There are no known commercial plantations of Racemosa, as it has a very low yield and and very small beans, about six Racemosa trees would produce the same as a single Arabica tree. However, the species is also very hardy, having great disease and drought resistance, and vitally has a caffeine content of only 0.38%, compared to 1.2-1.8% in Arabica, meaning it qualifies as caffeine free. It was these technical qualities that led Daterra to create this cross between the two species, but actually found wild and exciting cup characteristics, with floral aromatics and incredible sweetness alongside the low caffeine content. The coffee in your pack this month is a naturally processed Aramosa, accomplished using Daterra’s famed levels of precision. The cherries are dried directly on raised beds, kept in very thin layers and turned often, minimising the chance of over-fermentation and leading to a very even level of drying across the lot. The drying is finished in mechanical driers, allowing a consistent moisture content and maintaining the clean Aramosa signature in the cup. The cup here is heavy and sweet like we’d expect from a naturally processed Brazilian coffee, but there are layers of complexity, with the signature Aramosa florals softening to more of a rooibos tea.
Ana Ramirez grows coffee in the north of the Huehuetenango region, in the far north-west of Guatemala, close to the border with Mexico. Huehuetenango is home to the highest altitudes in all of Central America, due to the presence of the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes mountain range, which peaks at 3837 masl. This creates lots of high altitude land to grow high-quality coffee, an important crop in an area where agriculture is the largest industry. A dry hot wind also blows in from the Tehuantepec plain in Mexico to the north, which protects crops from frost, allowing coffee to grow even higher up the slopes, often above 2000 masl. These high altitudes also lead to very beautiful scenery, something the area is known for, but also to a remoteness not found elsewhere in Guatemala. 9 different ancient Mayan dialects are still spoken here, and the region is home to some of the best preserved examples of Mayan architecture. The remoteness also makes sourcing coffee a challenge here, the journey to farms often takes days over unforgiving terrain, and would-be coffee buyers require knowledge of the local dialects, or an experienced guide. Of course, this remoteness also creates challenges as a coffee producer. Ana Ramirez’s farm is located just outside the town of San Marcos Huista, and produces just 1800 kg of coffee per year. In a region where the average coffee farmer is both male and in their mid-50’s, Ana, at only 29, is bucking the trend by running her own farm together with her two younger sisters. Being from such a remote rural area has been a challenge for the Ramirez sisters, they previously were only able to sell their coffee to the local ‘coyote,’ who drives around farms in a pick up truck, buying parchment coffee at a very low market price. However, the Ramirez sisters have been working with Primavera’s female coffee grower program since 2017, and in that time have seen the price they receive at their farm gate rise. Joining the program was the first time they were able to taste their coffee without being blended with many others at the local dry mill. They have also been involved in workshops highlighting the importance of careful harvesting and fermentation. The farm has a microclimate with high rainfall and slightly above average humidity, perfect conditions for the mix of varietals Ana grows, Bourbon, Caturra, and popular Guatemalan varietal Pache. Due to lack of resources at the farm, Ana and her sisters cannot pick and ferment coffee on the same day, so the coffee slowly begins to ferment in-cherry overnight before it can move to their small wet mill. In the morning, the coffee is depulped mechanically before moving to the fermentation tanks for a very long wet fermentation. Due to the cool temperatures around harvest time, the mucilage surrounding the coffee seeds takes a long time to ferment and break down, often around 40 hours. The in-cherry pre-fermentation and long wet fermentation lead to the beautiful soft fruit notes and slight liqueur character present in this stunningly well-produced coffee. This is our second year working with Ana and her sisters’ coffee, and we have been excitedly awaiting the arrival of their new crop.
We feel these two producers show that great coffees can be created under a wide range of conditions, magnitudes of production, and levels of resources. Ana has only been growing specialty coffee for a few years, and the consistency and quality of her crop has continued to increase, partly due to the input of our export partners at Primavera. A few small changes and best practice guidelines can make big changes very quickly, and we’re excited to see what Ana and her sisters are able to produce in the future. On the other hand, Daterra jumped into the quality coffee industry ahead of the curve in 1976, and were the first farm in Brazil to receive a Rainforest Alliance certification. They have now been refining their quality control program and experimenting with varietals and processing for over 40 years, and continue to produce some of the most exciting coffees to come out of Brazil. Two contrasting producers, but creating similarly delicious experiences in the final cup.
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