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Violet, Papaya and Honey
We have been excited to share this incredible lot of the Sidra varietal since we tasted it on our visit to Café Granja La Esperanza in November last year. The team at Fincas Potosí and Las Margaritas, both of which lie just outside the town of Caicedonia in northern Valle del Cauca, are constant innovators, incessantly searching for incremental gains in quality through new processes, varietals and farming techniques. This new plot of Sidra is a great example of this, inspired by founder Rigoberto’s trip to Northern Ecuador in 2016. Here he observed Sidra, a varietal gaining popularity on quality-focussed farms in the relatively wealthy northern regions of Ecuador, surrounding the capital of Quito. Originally created on a large Ecuadorian research farm funded by Nestlé, Sidra, or Bourbon Sidra as it is often known, was created by manually crossing Red Bourbon and Typica plants. Unlike many modern hybrids, it was created with the sole aim of creating a high quality cup profile, with both the heavy sweet character of Bourbon, and the florals that Typica is well known for. Nestlé offered this varietal for free to farmers in the region in exchange for feedback, causing a surge in popularity within Ecuador initially, but soon also in neighbouring Colombia. Rigoberto sourced Sidra seeds and oversaw the planting of a nursery in October 2016. These plants were taken to the fields of Potosí in April 2017, and now number almost 4000, spread across a 1.5 hectare plot high on the Potosí ridge. The plant has physical characteristics very similar to Sudan Rume, and produces well in the warm and humid climate of northern Valle del Cauca.
Over the past few years, the quality team at Granja have been building their expectations, experimenting with post-harvest treatments for Sidra, acutely aware of the huge potential of this varietal in their capable hands. As the production is still rather small, for this first harvest they could only choose one process for the main export. This lot, consisting of only 24 kg of green coffee, was processed using a natural method with Granja’s trademark level of attention to detail. Carefully hand-picked cherries are first fermented in stainless steel fermentation tanks for around 48 hours, with the temperature controlled so it never exceeds 30°C. This allows time for complexity and wild flavour characteristics to build within the coffee before it is sent to mechanical driers for 48 hours, removing much of the moisture from the cherries and almost completely halting fermentation. The cherries are then dried slowly and evenly in solar driers over approximately 2 weeks, until they reach a moisture content of around 11%. This is followed by a resting of at least a month in climate controlled warehouses, allowing moisture content to stabilise and flavours to increase in intensity. During our visit in November 2019 we witnessed the wet mill at Las Margaritas in action, and were very impressed by the systems, control and cleanliness we saw. Heading back to the cupping lab in Caicedonia afterward, we were stunned by the clear violet aromas and juicy papaya flavours of this Sidra, and just knew we had to bring some home to Denmark. We’ve been thinking about this coffee ever since, and hope you’ll agree it’s been worth the wait.
The Herrera family purchased Finca Potosí in 1945 and planted several varieties that were unusual for Colombia at the time, including yellow and red Bourbon. This started the Granja tradition of experimentation, leading to recognition from other farmers in the Cauca Valley. The years that followed were very productive, and though each of the 14 children took their share of the farm work, two brothers took particular interest in coffee production, and in the late 1990’s, Rigoberto and Luis took over the family business. They purchased more small farms to add to their portfolio, and began the process of converting all of their coffee growing to use organic practices. They also looked outside Colombia for further insight, and jumped at the opportunity to lease a small farm in Panama. Rigoberto moved, and his years of producing experience were all too obvious, their lot of Geisha won the Best of Panama within 2 years. When Rigoberto returned to Granja, he brought back not only experience, but Panamanian Geisha seeds. These seeds were the foundation for the next stage of growth, beginning to chase extraordinary flavour profiles and the super high end specialty market.
The experience of bringing a Panamanian varietal to Colombia was pivotal to Granja in their endeavour to adapt more exotic varietals to the Colombian soil, showcasing a wide view of the Cauca Valley terroir. They have also begun to experiment with unique processing, using tank fermentation to create incredible control over initial in-cherry fermentations, for both their washed and natural coffees. They also use mechanical drying extensively, allowing very tight control over length and degree of drying. This type of fermentation results in very low water usage, compared especially to traditional washed processing. This is another of Granja’s core values, focussing on sustainability. They have also worked very hard on maintaining local floral and fauna, using waste products from the farm to fire their mechanical driers, and switching to organic farming methods.
If we don’t feel that a coffee suits our style or what we like to present, we simply won’t buy it. Sometimes this leads to issues in green buying; we have to pay very close attention, to a level of green quality that will support this approach, and to how this will develop over the life of a coffee. We are required to focus heavily on the freshness of coffee, both green and roasted, to avoid introducing taints into our cups. We always use clean and fresh water, of an ideal mineral content to present the coffee in its best possible light. Once we have the correct roasting profile, water, and coffee age, the act of brewing is much more simple. A wide variance in brewing parameters can still produce delicious and transparent cups. It is also important to note that this is not always the most consistent approach. The coffee is laid completely bare, so any flaw with the raw material is clearly on show. We could often develop some coffees slightly more, to make them more approachable or easy to work with, but wavering from our philosophy like this would compromise our commitment to complete transparency in coffee.Read more
|Producer||Cafe Granja La Esperanza|
|Region||Valle de Cauca|
The natural, or dry process, is the traditional process, going back generations. When accomplished in a controlled and careful manner, dry processed coffees can produce flavour experiences not found in wet processed coffees, deep fruits and florals, normally with heavier mouthfeel and lower acidity. The cherries are first sorted, and then laid out on in thin layers (2-6 cm) on raised drying beds. These are almost always used for high quality naturals, as they aid airflow around the coffee as it dries, enabling more even drying. It is very important that coffees are sorted very carefully early on in the drying process, as all of the cherries quickly turn dark brown, making it impossible to separate under and overripe cherries. The cherries are turned frequently to avoid mold formation or over-fermentation, until they reach a moisture content of below 20%, and the outer cherry layer shrinks and blackens. This process takes between 2 and 4 weeks, depending on weather conditions.