NEW COFFEE RELEASES FROM COLOMBIA
Nestled within the Huila region of Colombia outside of the city of Pitalito, along the Magdalena River valley and the central and eastern ranges of the Andes mountains sits Finca Monteblanco, a family-owned coffee farm managed by Rodrigo Sanchez.
Huila is an exciting coffee region. Several regions across Colombia boast microclimates, each one altering the flavor of the coffee grown there. Huila is known for coffee that has rich sweetness and bright citrus flavors.
Huila has received major recognition in the world of specialty coffee due to consistently high-scoring submissions in competitions such as The Cup of Excellence and Coffee Championships. However, none of this is possible without the diligent work of enthusiastic producers, taking great care of the coffee they tend to, and learning and experimenting with each year's production. Rodrigo is one of the leaders in this region who has paved the way for many others.
Rodrigo is a fourth-generation coffee farmer who began his education with his grandfather. His perspective on farming practices evolved after participating in local programs which focused on tasting coffee, growing coffee for quality, rather than focusing solely on yields. Over time, Rodrigo began to change the way he grew the coffee, the varieties he used in specific parts of the farm, and processing techniques in order to shape the flavor of each lot he grew. His coffee improved in overall quality and began to show wildly different profiles from lot to lot.
Monteblanco initially grew several coffee varieties that had been planted by Rodrigo's grandfather in the 1980s. As Rodrigo began to pay closer attention to each tree on the farm, he made a curious discovery: He found a few coffee trees that had different characteristics from the normal varieties - broader leaves and cherries that ripened to a color of blushed pink rather than the typical deep red. For this reason, he called this variety Pink Bourbon.
Rodrigo and his team decided to taste this coffee as a separate lot, and they were surprised with what they tasted: full-bodied, balanced acidity, notes of tropical fruits, jasmine, lemon, and tea. However, there was a mystery behind its origin. Rodrigo’s grandfather had purchased those seedlings out of necessity due to a leaf rust outbreak in the 80s but knew very little about the coffee’s history. Together, they traced the variety back to the 70s or 80s, but the only theory is cross-pollination pollination with a research farm that was also working on developing new varieties during that same time. This happy surprise put Rodrigo on the map of specialty coffee.
Today, Rodrigo processes Pink Bourbon in numerous ways, taking great care in every step. We are incredibly proud to be serving two processing variations of this coffee: Natural and Washed.
Natural Process - Rodrigo and his team selectively harvest coffee which is between 20-22 degrees Brix, a measurement of how much sugar content is within the coffee cherry juice. The cherries are sorted and placed directly on drying beds on days with lots of sunlight. They are left there to dry for three-to-four days, being turned every two hours before moving to shaded drying beds for an additional 45 days. During this time, there is a constant average temperature of 20°C/68°F with constant airflow. The coffee is then dry milled and sorted on the farm before being exported.
Cold Washed Process - The team selectively harvests coffee measured at 22-26 degrees Brix. The coffee is then pulped the same day. The coffee dry-ferments for 37 hours. “Dry fermentation” occurs when the coffee is left in heaps after pulping with the mucilage, or fruity layer still intact, for spontaneous fermentation to bloom on the coffee. This is different in that most fermentation that takes place after pulping is done in a fermentation tank submerged in water.
Rodrigo decided to take the washed process a step further by introducing a new experimental method. After the coffee is pulped, it is placed in bags and refrigerated for 70-76 hours to extend controlled contact time with the seed and mucilage. This extra step is why this process is called “Cold Fermentation,” and the result is often more complex flavors found in the final cup.
Once the coffee hits the desired level of fermentation, it is fully scrubbed in water channels with paddles to remove any remaining mucilage left on the parchment. The coffee is moved to dry in a solar dryer for three days, before finally being moved to shaded raised beds for an additional thirty days of slow drying.
Purple Caturra - Rodrigo Sanchez and the Monteblanco team continue to experiment with varieties and processing. They are always looking to push the boundaries of what coffee can taste like. One such experiment is a co-fermentation coffee that is the Purple Caturra variety.
Purple Caturra is a spontaneous mutation of Caturra, which Rodrigo chose specifically for its higher sugar content. “Spontaneous mutation” refers to a change in a variety that occurs as a happy accident on a farm.
Fermentation can be helped along with additives. The point of fermentation is to create enough amino acids on the mucilage layer of the coffee as a catalyst toward making it soluble in water, thus able to be washed away. Mucilage is made of pectin, a protein, which is not soluble in water. Other catalysts can be used however;
-Sugar, which increased the speed of fermentation.
-Yeast, which inoculates other yeasts and bacteria and can be chosen to produce a more consistent product, or differently flavored product.
-Acid, which is the result of fermentation, skipping ahead in the process and jumping to making the pectin soluble right away.
-Other products that contain sugar, yeast, and/or acid – like fruit, juices, etc.
For this special offering, Rodrigo created a fermentation starter with passion fruit and a “mother culture” (like a scoby used to make kombucha) and let the starter grow for eight days.
Once the ripe coffee cherries are harvested, they are pulped and deposited into a large tank with the fermentation starter culture. The tank is sealed, and the coffee and culture begin to mingle, fermenting together for 150 hours. The coffee is then removed and left to dry for two-three days in direct sunlight and another 15-18 days on shaded beds, until it reaches the desired level of moisture for stable transportation.
The result is a highly sweet, juicy coffee, that has distinct, yet delicate flavors of passionfruit. It is balanced and nuanced, and truly a marvel of experimentation.