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Decaf

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Honduras Ocotopeque WP Decaf

This is a filter water-process decaf from the Ocotopeque area of Honduras. It has been a while since we had a Honduras coffee as a decaf, but it is a great candidate, similar to our Mexico decafs, because of it's mild balance and moderate acidity. I think this lot came through the process very well; an approachable Central America character, classic, quaffable. It jumped out on the cupping table and actually brews (in this case in the Technivorm) even better than it cups. It's not going to break any records for high cupping scores, but it's a coffee you want to drink!

The dry fragrance has that typical decaf aromatic, slightly fruity and a bit like laundry but is also sweetly nutty. It is more sharp in its sweetness when you add the hot water, with a brew scent with both hazelnut and dry-roasted peanut, caramel sauce, almond skins, and perhaps the slightest hint of wet earth. The cup has the same flavors as hinted to in the aroma, nut and caramelized sugar sweetness, a slight dryness to the finish (a la almond skins). It cools to a nice caramel-toned sweetness, with a malic (apple-like) brightness. The body is moderate but suits the overall flavor theme. It's a crowd-pleaser with classic Central America balance between the acidity, body and clean cup characteristics. It's not overly complex, very straightforward really, and a pleasant coffee you don't have to think about too much. For decafs, I think that is a good thing!





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A parrot, that has nothing to do with decaf, but was in Honduras!
Country: Honduras
Grade: SHB
Region: La Encarnacion, Ocotopeque
Processing: Wet-Process, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: May 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 16 -18 Screen
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Nut tones, apple brightness, caramel sweetness
Roast: City+ to Full City.
Compare to: Mild, crisp and classic Central flavors, in a decaf.
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Sumatra FTO Mandheling SWP Decaf

Sumatra coffees can be very interesting when decaffeinated, because the non-decaf lots have so little acidity and so much body that it pairs well with the water process decaf method. They cup more "true to the original" than other origins sent for decaffeination. Here we have a Fair trade and Organic certified lot of Mandheling type coffee with strong Sumatra flavor profile. Remember, Mandheling is a trade name for Sumatra coffees, not a particular region. But this coffee originates in the Lake Tawar-Takengon area of Gayo area, Aceh district. It is from Koperasi Gayo Linge Organic Coffee Cooperative, with over 1,000 smallhomder farmers from villages in Bener Meriah Regency. I cupped quite a few Fair Trade, Organic and FTO lots to pick out this one, which is I feel survived the decaffeination process intact. The results of my roasts from C+ to FC+ are impressive; not so much when the cup is hot (perhaps it loses a step on the non-decaf Sumatra in this respect), but as it cools. It has great espresso use to create low-caf or decaf blends with body and depth. I like it as a straight decaf espresso too when roasted about 20 seconds into 2nd crack. It is very much a Sumatra cup profile but a bit cleaner and less earthy than its non-decaf Mandheling counterpart. 48 hours of rest after roasting is recommended!

The cup has low acidity, but bold foresty and earthy Sumatra flavors. The dry fragrance and wet aroma have an abundance of this earth-toned character, but there is a rustic sweetness too, as well as herbal hints. The cup has a caramelly-earthy sweetness, and thick, dense body. As it cools, a rustic sweetness emerges that reminds one of sorghum syrup, if you have ever tasted that (like a malt syrup with an earthy aspect). There is also a molasses note at Full City roast level. Again, resting after roasting is very important to the cup quality here: 48 hours minimum.





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Red coffee cherry in Sumatra, from my last trip there.
Country: Sumatra
Grade: 1
Region: Bener Meriah, Aceh, North Sumatra
Processing: Semi-washed, then water process decaf
Arrival Date: June 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Typica (Sumatra), Catimor
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Rustic sweetness, low acid, body
Roast: Full City to Full City+.
Compare to: Low acidity, heavy body, good rustic sweetness.
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Mexico Chiapas WP Decaf

This coffee was an impressive decaf on the cupping table, but we don't know a lot about it's origin. While we prefer to know the origin of our coffees, or arrange direct purchasing, we are definitely not above buying a coffee that cups well, even if we don't know everything about it. It's supposed to be about cup quality, in the end. Anyway, this is from the southernmost region of Mexico, Chiapas, but the cup has a nice brightness that has hints of Guatemala coffee. It makes sense since Chiapas borders the Guatemala state of Huehuetenango. This coffee originates from a pooled wet-process lot and is then decaffeinated using the water process method in Mexico.

The dry fragrance and wet aromatics are mildly fruited, with suggestions of toffee and raw honey. There's a bit of that typical "decafy" aroma, but it's rather sweet and pleasant. This was a standout in cupping (on a large table of decafs), with a very clean, crisp, bright note in the cup, hinting at its origin as a very high-grown Chiapas. There is an apple fruit note in the cup at City+ roast level, and some mild nut flavors, with a brown sugar finish. The body is surprisingly thick and syrupy when the coffee is rested 24+ hours after roasting. That's pretty much in line with non-decaf Chiapas coffees. This also does quite well with a Full City + or even a light Vienna roast treatment, turning sweetly pungent at the darker levels. Mild, balanced, drinkable ... it's a nice decaf.





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Ripe coffee cherry on the branch, Mexico
Country: Mexico
Grade: HG
Region: Chiapas
Processing: Wet Process, then WP decaf
Arrival Date: June 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17 screen
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Roast taste, firm acidity, nuanced cup
Roast: I had very good roasts at City+ to Full City; The body is nice at all roast stages; the roast flavors at Vienna are pleasantly carbony and sharp.
Compare to: A crisp, clean Chiapas cup profile in decaf form.
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Colombia Cauca Popayan WP Decaf

This is from a lot of from the highlands of Popayan in the Colombian Department of Cauca. It has no special pedigree, but ended up being a really, really nice cup quality when we evaluated the arrival sample. This was sent for Water Process decaffeination in Mexico and is one of the brighter, more floral arrivals we have had from this source. In recent years we have been buying some remarkable coffees from Cauca, so while we did not source this lot direct, it makes sense that the cup would be so nice as a decaf. What we have here is a verified solid coffee in non-decaf form, that retained good sweetness and balance through the decaf process. (While there is often the strong possibility of a coffee going "flat" at the decaf plant, losing all its origin character, it always helps to start with a great coffee). Traditionally, brokers bought decaf from the plant, coffee supplied from lower grade "stocklots" by the decaffeinator themselves. The results were never very impressive. Now we are able to designate high quality lots, and get these kinds of results.

This coffee has great brightness in the lighter roasts, as much as any decaf Colombia lots I can recall. The aromatics are fairly mild, fruited, and have marked sweetness, nut roast tones, and hints of citrus. There are more toasty nut notes in the wet aromatics, with raisin fruit. This cup is quite lively and bright at City+ roast levels, reminding me of the really nice Ethiopia decafs. In fact, some might want to take this to FC roast to tone down the cup. I found my favorite roast was FC, before 2nd crack, where the cup had the most balance. The aftertaste has a well defined, cleanly-disappearing sweetness. The body is fairly light at C+, which is not at all a negative because it suits the brisk nature of this cup. It rounds out considerably at FC roast.





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A coffee shrub in Colombia.
Country: Colombia
Grade: Excelso
Region: Popayan, Cauca Department
Processing: Wet Processed, then WP decaf.
Arrival Date: June 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity /Brightness at C+. Balance at FC
Roast: City+ to FC if you want to tone down the brightness a bit)
Compare to: This Cauca coffee cups like a Cauca: it seems to have forgotten that it was sent to Mexico and decaffeinated.
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Uganda Bugisu WP Decaf

I was just in Uganda last year, and learned quite a bit about the coffee growing and milling situation there. This decaf is from the area of Mbale, but not a specific lot. It reminded me of last year's nice Uganda offering we had for a bit. In fact, I passed the warehouse and mill this coffee comes from while in Mbale town, which is an ideal place to store coffee. An overview: Mount Elgon lies in the Eastern reaches of the country, straddling the Uganda/Kenya border, within the district of Bugisu peoples. Judging by its enormous base it is thought that Mt Elgon was once the tallest mountain in Africa. The coffee shambas (smallholder farms) extend up and down the cliff faces, making use of natural water gullies and forest cover to extract moisture from the soil. The Sipi Falls is one of the great natural features of the Elgon region, a landmark of where this coffee originates, with smallholder farms between 1,400 and 1,900 meters. It is a steep and difficult terrain to traverse in the rainy seasons; often there are no roads, only dirt tracks that are washed away by the rains. But the Bagisu tribesmen (who inhabit Bugisu district, a sub-group of the Bamasaaba) have become expert coffee farmers.

This decaf cups a bit like an Indonesia coffee, and can take a bit more roast too. Anything from City to FC+ or darker worked quite well. The dry fragrance was a bit odd when I first evaluated it, not very sweet, with a chocolate biscuit quality in the dry grounds and plum-like dark fruit in the wet aroma. It's a fairly burly and substantial aroma character. Lighter roasts had a mild milk chocolate note, and the dense body really jumped out at me. Chocolate notes dominate at FC+ roast, which was actually my favorite here. With hints of dark fruit in the background and a definite rustic hint to the cup, the aftertaste has a very nice, intense bittersweet chocolate character. While not very sweet initially, it improves as it cools. It's a hefty, weighty coffee on the palate, something I don't find often in decafs from Africa. As I mentioned, it belongs more to an Indonesia taste family than other African coffees. This decaf works well for espresso too.





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Farmers in Bududa area near Mbale, from a trip a few years back.
Country: Uganda
Grade: A grade
Region: Mt. Elgon region, Mbale
Processing: Wet-Process, then decaf'ed
Arrival Date: June 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 16-18 screen
Varietal: Mixed
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Works at light or dark roasts, rustic hint, chocolate, good body
Roast: I had good roasts in a wide range, from lighter City+ through Full City and Full City+, or a bit into Vienna roast levels. FC to FC+ is great for espresso.
Compare to: A unique East African decaf coffee, husky yet clean, and interesting as espresso.
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Guatemala San Juan Pixcaya SWP Decaf

This is a Swiss Water Process decaf blend of Guatemala Fincas San Juan Pixcaya, La Florencia, and Capetillo. Pixcaya is the main constituent. This is a lot that was sent to Canada to decaffeinate by our pals over at Four Barrel. We think the results are really nice! The main farm is not one I have visited, but I have been all around the area of Sacatepequez, and it's a coffee we have offered several times as a non-decaf. If we can apply the acronym GIGO to coffee (google it if you must), this is definitely true with decaf. The coffee is never going to come back better than what you send, and a lot of brokers have been sending some pretty mediocre lots. To get control of the process, you need to send a solid coffee, or get your friends to do it, as is the case here. This coffee roasts to a very dark color, so you need to be aware of the smells and sounds of the roast to tip you off, so you can hit the desired degree of roast. For us, it was Full City.

Aromatically, this cup is not so impressive, but the cup flavors are really nice. To be honest I find the dry fragrance to have a Bakers chocolate roast note that is a bit unsweet and dry, and a hint of burlap fiber smell. The wet aroma has a bit of sweetness, but still suggests an agey smell as well. But, especially at Full City roast, this cup is great. There is a syrupy quality to the cup (in terms of flavor ... like Log Cabin syrup!), even though the body is not that "syrupy" in itself. There is a cherry-raspberry bright note, which gives the cup a lively accent (something that can be rare in a decaf). As it cools the cup has a cocoa powder flavor that emerges, along with a slightly herbal sweetness, like Ricola drops. I find this coffee really needs 24+ hours of rest after roasting to achieve some balance and body.





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When I haven't been to a particular farm, I use an image like this!
Country: Guatemala
Grade: SHB
Region: Sacatepequez, Guatemala
Processing: Wet-Processed, then Water Process Decaf
Arrival Date: April 2011 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Bourbon, Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Syrupy sweetness, cherry-raspberry note
Roast: This coffee is best at Full City roast
Compare to: Classic high grown Guatemala, moderately bright, syrupy
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Sweet Maria's El Papuma SWP Decaf Blend

There is no place called El Papuma. I made it up. It's a combined form for El Salvador, Papua New Guinea and Panama, the three coffees that make up the El Papuma blend Swiss Water Decaf. While you cannot know for sure how a decaf will turn out, I had a pretty strong feeling that these would be ideal, and result in a sweet, syrupy, moderately bright coffee. After all, if you send really good coffees for decaffeination, there's a fine chance you will get a great result like this. A few years back there were importers and brokers who sent good coffees for decaf, when the market was low. But the added cost of the decaf toll charge on top of record prices has made the big guys shy to do this. Most decafs sold in the trade are nothing we would consider buying as a non-decaf for our offer sheet. Do decaf drinkers deserve worse quality than the rest? That's why we have started sending our own coffees whenever possible, ones we have proudly offered on our site. This is the first time we have sent a blend though. I would say we opted for a blend, but the idea sprang from necessity; we didn't have enough bags of one coffee to send to Swiss Water to meet the minimum for a decaf batch. We looked for a mix of coffees that would work really well as a regular (non-decaf) blend, and selected based on that. Papua New Guinea from the famous Sigri plantation, El Salvador Finca La Florida, and Panama Finca Camiseta form the makeup for El Papuma.

The coffee grounds have an interesting sweet-savory scent, with slight plum fruit, Brazil nut, and molasses accents. Adding hot water, the coffee aroma is emphatically molasses like, or dark brown sugar in the lighter roasts, and apple and baked peach as well. Darker roasts have a tarry sweetness in the aroma, the smell of burnt sugar and still quite fruited as well. The cup has a clear sweetness from light to dark roast levels. Apple and melon fruit hints come through in the lighter roast, with a dark cherry note at Full City. I notice that the sweetness and brightness give this coffee a palate-refreshing effect. The cup has a rather bracing brightness at the lightest roasts (City) but more integrated high notes at City+. The mouthfeel has a syrupy quality but the body is not super thick. When the roast is really fresh, it can taste a bit papery, so I recommend 24-48 hours rest after roasting. I really like this coffee as decaf espresso. It might be on the bright side for some (my roasts were in the FC range, no second crack. Darker levels would tone down the high notes a bit). It is very sweet, even if it is a bit tricky to dial in the grind.





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Since I had to choose one of the three coffees in El Papuma, coffee cherry in El Salvador earlier this month.
Country: Blend, Central America and PNG
Grade: Top Grade
Region: El Salvador, PNG and Panama
Processing: Wet-Process, then SWP Decaf
Arrival Date: Late February 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-19 Screen
Varietal: Bourbon, Typica, Others
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity / Sweetness, fruited notes, syrupy mouthfeel, brightness
Roast: Takes a wide range of roast, from City to FC+. As with all decafs, color is difficult to judge during the roast. So attend to the roaster and stop the roast manually if possible to get it just right. Roast preference with espresso is up to you. I like mine brighter, at FC to FC+.
Compare to: Very sweet decaf, origination with 3 single estate coffees from the Sweet Maria's offering sheet.
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Costa Rica West Valley WP Decaf

Sometimes you find a nice quality cup from a coffee lot that, besides the flavor description, does not have much to say ... it lacks a story behind it. Such is the case with this decaf Costa Rica. But while tasting it, I thought that we sell coffee, not stories, and this is a respectable decaf coffee, with balance and brightness. It\'s from one of the mid-sized exporters in Costa Rica, someone we don\'t normally relate to since we buy farm-direct small lots from micro-mills. This is from a macro-mill (joke, sort of) in the West Valley and comes from bulk coffee cherry purchases in the region, not from a specific farm. But for a decaf I really liked this coffee.

The dry fragrance here is nice; sweet, nutty and softly fruited. There\'s a molasses and malt syrup sweetness, mild chocolate, as well as macadamia nut in the wet aroma. The cup has a mild brightness, with \"chocolate fudgesicle\" flavor. I guess you have to remember fudgesicles from back in gradeschool to get that one. It\'s a cocoa-chocolate-milk-malt flavor, unless you eat the stick. There are malt and vanilla flavors in the mid-range. To maximize these qualities, I recommend keeping the roast light. City + is plenty for this coffee, and retains a bright, lively character, and a slight twist-of-lemon accent. It\'s not going to knock down any doors with it\'s power, but after all it is decaf, and isn\'t really intended to. In fact it might open a few doors with its balance and pleasantly restrained cup character.





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The glory and splendor of the West Valley, Costa Rica
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: West Valley
Processing: Wet-Process, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: February 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Various
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity /Clean cup, nuts and a bit of fudgesicle!
Roast: City+ for the cup I describe. I notice more roast oil comes to the surface on this coffee than others.
Compare to: Nice, sweet, clean, balanced and mild decaf.
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Ethiopia Sidama WP Decaf

This lot originated with a dry-processed coffee from the Sidama region, processed for decaf using the Water Process (WP) method. It's not a lot that we sent direct to be decaffeinated but I like the cup so much I had to get some. Sadly, because we didn't send it I don't know much about the origin of the coffee pre-decaf. This is still very much am Ethiopia Sidama and that's the beauty of this decaf lot; the character has been preserved, although somewhat shifted from the fruity dry-process character towards a cleaner, lighter-bodied cup. We have found this to be true in the past too: Sometimes our experience has been that a dry-processed Ethiopia will exit the decaf process with the cup character of a wet-process Ethiopia; lighter body, brighter acidity. In either case, the fruited notes, while delicate, persist in the cup, and it has traces of a wonderful floral aspect as well.

The dry fragrance is a bit "decafy" with malty and bubblegum tones that are a bit uncanny together. Sometimes decaf aroma reminds me of chocolate"ice milk" that we bought when I was a kid. It's basically like non-fat chocolate ice cream; kind of a treat, kind of a bummer. But the dry fragrance isn't the end-all. We do drink coffee, after all. The the fragrance there are hints of what is to come: Adding hot water brings out sweet fruit and floral scents. There are traces of hibiscus and dried mango in the wet aroma. The cup has plum fruit notes, some hints of raisin sweetness, and soft milk chocolate as well. The mouthfeel is rather velvety. The coffee cools really well, and has a sweet finish with plummy fruits, cinnamon, and honey sweetness.





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Coffee cherries, mid-way through the dry-process in Ethiopia.
Country: Ethiopia
Grade: 5
Region: Sidama, Oromia, Southern Ethiopia
Processing: Dry-Processed, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: February 2011 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Heirloom Ethiopia cultivar
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity / Fruited cup, slight hibiscus floral notes, honey, chocolate
Roast: City+ is recommended to preserve fruit sweetness. Full City works well too.
Compare to: A very sweet and aromatic decaf with good Ethiopia origin character
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Sumatra Lintong Nihota KVW Decaf

KVW is the German decaffeinator using the MC process under the strictest guidelines (much more so that US-processed decafs). This is a unique decaf lot because it starts with specific Sumatra Lintong, that already has some interesting defined character of its own. And as a decaf coffee, this Lintong maintains these unique roast flavors, just as in non-decafs the Blue Batak or the Lake Toba have rustic sweetness that is so different from classic Mandheling coffees. I thought this coffee really had pronounced "origin character." The dry fragrance is caramelly, almost like butterscotch, with a interesting chocolate biscotti quality. The wet aroma has a deep-toned sweetness, mollasses and caramel candy notes. The cup is (again) very caramelly, with medium body (I anticipate something thicker, but it does have a certain dense texture to it). The acidity is low, and there's a certain earthy and woody quality, the later reminding me of sandalwood. As it cools the sweetness turns to a medium malt syrup, and just a touch of sweet hay smell. In the lighter roasts, the finish has a lingering toasted grain note, while darker roasts develop some milk chocolate.





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Ateng cultivar coffee shrub in Lintong area
Country: Sumatra
Grade: One
Region: Lintong, Lake Toba Area, North Sumatra
Processing: Wet-Hulled (Giling Basah)
Arrival Date: January 2010Arrival
Appearance: .6 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Ateng, Djember, TimTim
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Caramel sweetness with rustic notes
Roast: Full City to Full City+.
Compare to: A silky, heavy body cup with extremely low acidity. Blend with a Ethiopia Decaf 50-50 to make a balanced Moka Java type blend.
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Guatemala Finca La Maravilla SWP Decaf

This is the Swiss Water Process decaf of our Guatemala Finca La Maravilla lot that we sent to Canada to decaffeinate. We think the results are great! With decaf (and really with all green coffee) we remember the old term GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. If you send mediocre commodity coffee to the decaf plant, what can you reasonably expect to get back? Yet much decaf offered on broker's lists is reject lots, or (most likely) bulk containers sent direct to the plant without even basic cupping quality control. This is a different case; single origin, single estate decaf. Huehuetenango has some extraordinary coffee farms, and we have offered so many in the past: El Injerto, Huixoc, Injertal, and this one, Finca La Maravilla. I remember when we first offered this estate coffee, it's nicely fruited flavors and citrus brightness. So after several years of hiatus, we have it again, and it's every bit as good as the Maravilla of my memory. The farm is located very near El Injerto, in the La Libertad area of the state of Huehuetenango in Guatemala's north. The farm is owned by Mauricio Rosales and ranges from a very high 1500 meters all the way to 1850 meters. It is a bright coffee, a little lighter in body and less balanced perhaps than some of our other Guatemala offerings. But that is what makes it so special as well.

The fragrance from the dry grounds has raisin and fig fruited notes, and a dark-toned sweetness with soft chocolate wafer accents. Adding hot water, the wet aromatics come to life. Caramel apple notes and chocolate raisins are the best analogies. The cup has a very nice balanced brightness, with orange notes in the lighter roast levels, and a dry effect in the finish. There is a nut-toned roast taste, almond-like, and praline as it passes into the aftertaste. And it has a caramel-maple sweetness throughout, from lighter roast levels to Full City. In fact I can't think of a decaf that has such a nice, rounded sweetness in the cup. The body is medium-to-light, which suits the lively nature of this cup well, but at FC or FC+ roast levels has a very nice creamy mouthfeel. Like all decafs it can be a little tricky to target the exact degree of roast due to the darker color shift. But I found the Maravilla has good audible pops at first crack, and colors more predictably than others SWP type coffees. City+ and Full City roasts are ideal, and at least 24 hours post-roast rest helps things along too. La Maravilla decaf makes a fairly interesting decaf espresso blend component, adding aroma, fruit and brightness to the shot.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Mauricio with a handlful of parchment coffee at Finca La Maravilla.
Country: Guatemala
Grade: SHB
Region: La Libertad, Huehuetenango
Processing: Wet-Processed, then Swiss Water Process Decaf
Arrival Date: December 2010 Arrival Grain Pro
Appearance: .8 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Bourbon, Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Bright, fruited, balanced
Roast: City - Full City+: The coffee works at all roast levels. I particularity like City+ for the sweetly fruited notes
Compare to: A very sweet decaf, with good brightness preserved from the original lot.
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Sulawesi Toraja WP Decaf

The cup character of the best Toraja rivals the best Sumatran coffees, and that goes for decaf too. The deep-toned flavors and syrupy body sets it apart, and results in a stunning, clearer taste profile (but less sheer power and earthiness) than a Mandheling. Sulawesi makes a great single-origin espresso too. It has such a solid balance and baritone-weighted flavor profile that, roasted to FC+ or a light Vienna and rested for 5 days post-roast, makes for a great Indonesian decaf espresso. This decaf takes a wide range of roasts (but I think it works best a bit darker, FC+ to Vienna). The aromatics have a lot of chocolate (recurrent theme here is bittersweet balance) and rustic notes. I found City+ roast to be a bit herbal in the dry fragrance, but with hints of anise at Full City+ roast. In the wet aroma, pungent spice notes, pepper and licorice abound, with the omnipresent chocolate scents. This follows through in the cup too. One is struck immediately by extremely low acidity (which might give it an impression of "flatness" to some, but of depth to others). Either way, it allows the full breadth of the body to come through, dense, and oily in texture. I can't use the word chocolate enough here, which is always a roast-dependent term, but pertains more to particular coffees such as this. Lighter roasts have a mild and creamy chocolate, becoming more pungent at FC roast level, and Baker's Chocolate-like at Vienna. Licorice, molasses, anise, and some carbony flavors are present in the dark roast range. It has good potential for decaf espresso, or as a base (as well as bass?) part of a low-caf espresso blend. For a low-tonal range cup, this is a great choice, and I feel it retains much of the rustic feel of its non-decaf counterpart.





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Local coffee trader at Buntu market, from my last Sulawesi trip.
Country: Indonesia, Sulawesi
Grade: One
Region: Toraja, Sulawesi (formerly Kalossi)
Processing: Wet-hulled, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: May 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .8 d/300gr, 17-18 screen
Varietal: Sumatra-based Typica Cultivar
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Bold intensity / Low acidity, good body, chocolate roast notes, rustic
Roast: Full City+ is ideal for the cup I describe. This coffee needs a heavy roast treatment.
Compare to: A rustic, natural, dry-process Indonesian cup profile in a decaf coffee.
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Peru FTO CO2 Decaf

It has been quite a while since we have stocked a CO-2 decaf, an interesting method to remove caffeine from coffee that has not always been my favorite in terms of cup quality. But I was impressed with this Peru lot, a Fair Trade and Organic coffee that, unfortunately, I don't know the coop it originates from, or even the region! It was bought from the decaf plant, not what we usually do with decafs since we send our own lots mostly these days. Anyway, the cup was good and the main story here is the Carbon Dioxide process decaf method (sometimes called the sparkling water method). Here is how it works: Coffee is mixed with water, and the beans expand in size, their pores get opened and the caffeine molecules become mobile. At this point carbon dioxide is added at 100 atmospheres pressure to the pure water. Basically the water and the carbon dioxide are mixed to create the sparkling water. The carbon dioxide acts like a magnet and attracts all the caffeine molecules that became movable. When the caffeine is captured by the carbon dioxide, this is removed. The carbon dioxide is very selective and it doesn't touch the carbohydrates and proteins of the coffee beans, which would damage quality. When the carbon dioxide has finished removing the caffeine, the coffee seeds are dried naturally. Carbon dioxide is then recycled and caffeine is sold for other commercial uses. I was impressed with the brightness in the lighter roasts of this coffee, and it's very clean cup flavors. The dry fragrance has soft caramel notes in the lighter roasts (City to City+), and a cocoa bittersweet at the darker levels. Noteworthy is the absence of fruity scents found in Ethyl Acetate decaf coffees. The wet aroma follows the same trend, only a bit more pungent and aggressive at FC to FC+_ roast level. I find the lighter roast cups to have a very clean, clear cup





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A decaf coffee cherry in Peru. Just kidding. But it is coffee in Peru from my last trip.
Country: Peru
Grade: SHG
Region: Unknown
Processing: Wet-Processed
Arrival Date: May 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 18 Screen
Varietal: Unknown
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Mild brightness, clean cup, soft sweetness.
Roast: City+ to Full City. I prefer the lighter roasts myself.
Compare to: A mild a clean decaf, perhaps even more articulate in the cup than non-decaf Peru coffees.
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Uganda Organic Bugisu WP Decaf

I was just in Uganda for the first time late last year, and learned quite a bit about the coffee growing and milling situation there. This decaf is from the same lot we offer as a non-decaf coffee, a nice Organic lot we happened across. It reminded me of last year's nice Uganda offering we had. In fact, I passed the warehouse and mill this coffee comes from while in Mbale town, which is an ideal place to store coffee. An overview: Mount Elgon lies in the Eastern reaches of the country, straddling the Uganda/Kenya border, within the district of Bugisu peoples. Judging by its enormous base it is thought that Mt Elgon was once the tallest mountain in Africa. The coffee shambas (smallholder farms) extend up and down the cliff faces, making use of natural water gullies and forest cover to extract moisture from the soil. The Sipi Falls is one of the great natural features of the Elgon region, a landmark of where this coffee originates, with smallholder farms between 1,400 and 1,900 meters. It is a steep and difficult terrain to traverse in the rainy seasons; often there are no roads, only dirt tracks that are washed away by the rains. But the Bagisu tribesmen (who inhabit Bugisu district, a sub-group of the Bamasaaba) have become expert coffee farmers. This decaf cups a bit like an Indonesia coffee, and can take a bit more roast too. Anything from City to FC+ or darker worked quite well. The dry fragrance has a chocolate biscuit quality in the dry grounds and plum-like dark fruit in the wet aroma. It's sweet and has a fairly burly and substantial aroma character. Lighter roasts had a mild milk chocolate note, and the dense body really jumped out at me. Chocolate notes dominate at FC+ roast, which was actually my favorite here. With hints of dark fruit in the background and a definite rustic hint to the cup, the aftertaste has a very nice, intense bittersweet chocolate character. It's a hefty, weighty coffee on the palate, something I don't find often in decafs from Africa. As I mentioned, it belongs more to an Indonesia taste family than other African coffees. This decaf works well for espresso!





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Farmers in Bududa area near Mbale, from my last trip.
Country: Uganda
Grade: A
Region: Mt. Elgon region, Mbale
Processing: Wet-Process, then decaf'ed
Arrival Date: May 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 16-18 screen
Varietal: Mixed
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Works at light or dark roasts, rustic hint, chocolate, good body
Roast: I had very good roasts in a huge range, from lighter City+ through Full City and Full City+, or a bit into Vienna roast levels. FC to FC+ is great for espresso.
Compare to: A unique East African coffee, husky yet clean, and interesting as espresso.
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Sumatra Sidikalang WP Decaf

Sidikalang is a city and district immediately to the west of Lake Toba, the massive crater lake in North Sumatra. While it is near Lintong, Dolok Sanggul and other growing areas we source lots from, Sidikalang coffees have a different flavor profile, more like a classic Mandheling. Part of this is due to micro-climates and influences from the Lake, part is due to the cultivar. Sidikalang is in the Dairi district, and the altitude for coffee ranges from 1200 meters to 1500 meters in altitude. The area has it's own special long bean type, a form of Typica. Sidikalang is found less and less frequently in Sumatra and other parts of Indonesia. Much of the Typica was lost in the late 1880s, when Coffee Leaf Rust swept through Indonesia. However, both the Bergendal and Sidikalang varieties of Typica can still be found, especially at higher altitudes and in remote areas. The area around Sidikalang is still partly planted in it's eponymous cultivar, as well as the newer Ateng type. I can't say exactly how much is this old Typica type but a good portion certainly is. Anyway, we bought this for the nice cup character and sent it for custom decaffeination. I am really, really happy with the post-decaf results, and it just shows that if you start with better quality green coffee, the decaf results are markedly better. The dry fragrance has a spicy sweet quality, milky caramel, and some woody tones. Like many decafs the dry fragrance, where caramel sauce sweet scents dominate. It reminds me of Cajeta, a really delicious Mexican caramel sauce. There is also a mango and papaya fruited tone to the aroma, which also comes out in the cup flavors. The cup is a culmination of the aromatics; that same Cajeta sweetness, scented wood, mulling spice mix, ans slight fruit (papaya-mango) in the light roast. As it cools there's a banana bread flavor that comes out in the City + roast level. But it is the FC to FC+ that has that classic Mandheling cup; low acid, milk chocolate, body. And while the cup balances out towards body, and has low acidity, there is still a moderate brightness though the long finish. It's not your typical Toba area coffee, which can be herbal to an excessive degree. It has a slight banana peel dryness in the finish, and enough rustic funk to remind you it is a true Sumatra cup. In fact, the FC roast I did is better than 95% of the non-decaf Sumatras Grade One lots I have cupped this year!





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Rad comic books I found at the open market in Sidikalang.
Country: Indonesia (Sumatra)
Grade: One
Region: Sidikalang, Diari District, Sumatra
Processing: Wet Hulled, then Water Process Decaf
Arrival Date: Late March 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .6 d/300gr, 17 - 18+ screen
Varietal: Sidikalang, Ateng
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity / Low acid, caramel sweetness, milk chocolate, slight fruit
Roast: Full City to Full City+ is ideal for the more typical chocolate-inflected roast tone, but lighter roasts had more caramel and fruit.
Compare to: A striking resemblance to the non-decaf lot we sent down for custom decaffeination; perhaps the main shifts are in the aroma but cup flavor is quite consistent.
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Ethiopia FTO Shoye Sidamo WP Decaf

This is the decaf version of our Shoye Union Sidamo coffee. We sent it for custom decaffeination and it came back great! Let's decode the name first of all: "Shoye Union" is the specific cooperative mill where this coffee originates. A Union = a cooperative. FTO = Fair Trade and Organic certified. Most importantly under current Ethiopia laws, this means the lot can be exported with the name of the mill intact. WP is Water Process Decaf, a non-chemical method using water filtration. Originally this is a Dry Process, DP special selection involves harvesting ripe cherry, promptly screen-drying on raised beds, and extra steps in sorting the coffee after it is hulled. This differs from other dry-process Ethiopia coffees, which are often sometimes assembled at the tail-ends of the crop, indiscriminately picked, and consolidated later (mixing good coffee with bad). The result is that this coffee has less distraction in terms of earthy, hidey or musty flavors, common in average DP Sidamo coffees. On the contrary, this lot from Shoye is a wonderful cup that we enjoyed immensely as a non-decaf selection and thought it would be very interesting as a decaf as well. We weren't expecting it to come back the same exactly, and there is a flavor shift for sure. If anything it cups a bit more like a wet-process Ethiopia, with cleaner bright fruit notes. The dry fragrance is very sweet, with strawberry and caramel aspects, and in the wet aroma a decaf savory scent comes out. It's a fantastic decaf cup, very sweet, caramel with melted milk chocolate notes, butter-rich body, mildly fruited layers of flavor. I found the creamy mouthfeel to be one of the most outstanding features, although it might not be the first thing you think of. It sets this part from other decafs and other non-decaf Ethiopia coffees as well. I can't write caramel and milk chocolate with enough emphasis. I get these sweet notes all through the roast range. Full City works especially well here, whereas my lightest City roast (barely through first crack) was a little mineral tasting. City+ roasts have more of a fruit-citrus accent, like a twist of bergamot and Earl Grey tea. There's a chocolate/alkaloid-like dryness in the long aftertaste initially, but as the cup cools the finish seems to be fade out with grace. Note that there is a lot of bean size variation and this coffee requires the Small Grid drum to attempt roasting it in a Behmor roaster. I made some very unusual SO espresso with this coffee, but I don't think it had rested enough after roasting. I will try again in a few days.





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Raised drying beds at Shoye Union, from my last trip there.
Country: Ethiopia
Grade: 3
Region: Shoye, Sidamo
Processing: Dry Process, then Water Process Decaf
Arrival Date: Late March 2010 Arrival Grain Pro
Appearance: 1 d/300gr, 14-17 Screen
Varietal: Local Heirloom Types
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Chocolate, caramel, fruit, excellent body.
Roast: City+ roast to Full City +. I had the best results between City+ and FC, but nearly everything I tried with this coffee came out well.
Compare to: While different from the non-decaf Shoye lot we have, this has a wonderful character all it's own; chocolate and caramel sweetness, silky-creamy body.
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Brazil Joao de Campos WP Decaf

This is a custom decaf lot we sent of the Fazenda Joao de Campos we offer as a regular (non-decaf) lot. The farm is in a region called Alto Paranaíba near Serra do Salitre. It is a high plain in Cerrado Miniero, Minas Gerais state. At 1200 meters, the Serra do Salitre has better altitude than most of Cerrado proper, which averages 800-900 meters for coffee production. This is from a larger farm, no Micro Lot coffee this one. But it is much smaller than the neighboring Fazenda Aurea. Brazil coffee like this should be less expensive than other origins, because these coffees from Cerrado are mechanically harvested, and prepared for export en masse. Done well, mechanical harvesting is brilliant. But how many areas have the flat topography for this technique? Very few. This decaf lot is quite consistent with the non-decaf lot: We like this coffee for it's consistency and as a blend base or as a straight Single Origin farm level offering. It works very well for decaf or low-caf espresso. The decaf is a little different from the non decaf, perhaps a little more fruit accent in the cup. It can be roasted lighter (City+) for straight brewed coffee, but I like it best at FC to FC+ for brewed use, blend, and espresso. The dry fragrance has a lot of roast notes to it; both sweet-savory aspects and an interesting fruit-nut-chocolate compound scent. At City roast the aromas are malty sweet and lightly fruited, with a hazelnut note, but at FC+ they are much more aggressive and potent, with bittersweet chocolate tangy scents. Full City has the best cup, a nice balance between caramel and chocolate roast notes. The acidity is very muted, and the body thick, buttery, dense. Darker roasts are a natural for espresso base, and it would blend well with both brighter coffees, or fruity Decaf dry-process types from Ethiopia. It's a very versatile lot...





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Late evening light at Fazenda Joao de Campos
Country: Brazil
Grade: Estate
Region: Alto Paranaíba, Minas Gerais, Cerrado Mineiro
Processing: Pulp Natural Process
Arrival Date: Late March 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Yellow Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Balance, body, low acidity, nut-to-chocolate roast taste
Roast: City+ to Full City+ is recommended; very nutty in the light roast and chocolate in the dark roasts
Compare to: A very nice decaf that cups like a non-decaf Brazil. Buttery thick body, nut-chocolate roast notes.
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Ethiopia Dry-Process Sidamo MC Decaf

It seems inevitable that a name we put on a coffee is going to be this complicated; why not just make up fanciful names like Abyssinia Delight or African Trader or ... well, I would rather just stick to the facts, and in this case the facts are: Dry-processed coffee from the Sidamo region, processed for decaf using the MC Decaf method. Now that's confusing. This is still very much a Sidamo and that's the beauty of this coffee. MC decaf is the traditional decaf process, and at one time there was only that and Swiss Water available for specialty grade coffees. The MC process has improved (done best by KVW as well as Coffein, both in Germany). The secret is the coffee sent to the decaffeination plant is really, really good lots of green coffee, and not whatever doesn't sell or whatever the plant has lying around. That's the old way of thinking in decafs: they have usually been the lowest priced green lots, or the overstock. So here we started with an exceptional lot of Ogsaddey Dry-process Sidamo, a bright, fruited cup, highly aromatic. And we end up with something that can be described exactly the same way. This decaf Sidamo has all the top-end bright notes and floral-fruit flavors endemic to a really good Sidamo. It has medium body, nice aromatics of fruit, wild-honeyed roast tastes, with a long finish. There are orangey citric notes, and a bit of syrup in the finish. If I cupped this blind I would not suspect it was decaffeinated. Please be aware that this decaf has very different coloring than most and is lighter, but it is one of the best decaf lots we've had.





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A few coffee cherries, and kids trying to get in the photo! From my last trip to Ethiopia.
Country: Ethiopia
Grade: 4-5
Region: Sidamo
Processing: Dry-Processed, then MC Decaf
Arrival Date: January 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Shortberry types
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Great aromatics, fruited notes
Roast: City+ to Full City+: works best as a lighter roast for brewed coffee. Note that this coffee seems to roast rather quickly, and seems to pass from 1st to 2nd crack more rapidly than other decaf lots. Why? I dunno. It's great decaf, period
Compare to: Highly aromatic, fruited decaf cup. For more info on the MC process, see my article: http://www.sweetmarias.com/health.eco.html
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Sumatra Lintong Nihota KVW Deca

KVW is the German decaffeinator using the MC process under the strictest guidelines (much more so that US-processed decafs). This is a unique decaf lot because it starts with specific Sumatra Lintong, that already has some interesting defined character of its own. And as a decaf coffee, this Lintong maintains these unique roast flavors, just as in non-decafs the Blue Batak or the Lake Toba have rustic sweetness that is so different from classic Mandheling coffees. I thought this coffee really had pronounced "origin character." The dry fragrance is caramelly, almost like butterscotch, with a interesting chocolate biscotti quality. The wet aroma has a deep-toned sweetness, mollasses and caramel candy notes. The cup is (again) very caramelly, with medium body (I anticipate something thicker, but it does have a certain dense texture to it). The acidity is low, and there's a certain earthy and woody quality, the later reminding me of sandalwood. As it cools the sweetness turns to a medium malt syrup, and just a touch of sweet hay smell. In the lighter roasts, the finish has a lingering toasted grain note, while darker roasts develop some milk chocolate.





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Ateng cultivar coffee shrub in Lintong area
Country: Sumatra
Grade: One
Region: Lintong, Lake Toba Area, North Sumatra
Processing: Wet-Hulled (Giling Basah)
Arrival Date: January 2010Arrival
Appearance: .6 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Ateng, Djember, TimTim
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Caramel sweetness with rustic notes
Roast: Full City to Full City+.
Compare to: A silky, heavy body cup with extremely low acidity. Blend with a Ethiopia Decaf 50-50 to make a balanced Moka Java type blend.
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Brazil Cerrado WP Decaf

Decaf Brazil is a mild cup, and one of its best uses is for decaf blends (espresso, or to add body to darker roast drip-brewed decaf mix). But it can offer an interesting straight roast if you target the right roast level. It adds body and is a good "backdrop" in terms of roast taste. A backdrop coffee fills out the background of the cup and does not interfere with your "highlight" coffees, the ones that are going to be the exclamation point of your cup character. If you want earthiness in the cup, a Sumatra or Sulawesi can do this for you and provide body. But if you are not trying to develop an earthy "wild" blend, but want a cleaner espresso cup, then Brazil is very useful. It has great espresso use to create low-CAF or decaf blends with body and depth. If you like a very soft espresso cup, you will enjoy this Brazil as a straight decaf espresso (its a bit too mild for me). This Cerrado-region coffee is a traditional Brazilian dry-process coffee. What's that mean? Dry-process means that the ripe coffee cherry is picked by hand, laid out on patios to dry and then the outer pod and inner parchment layers are removed in one milling process to reveal the green coffee seed. But the old traditional Brazilian dry-process was dried on the tree, not on a patio! When a coffee is 100% tree-dried it can be too wild and have unpleasant off flavors. So before decaffeinating this coffee originates with a good lot of coffee, and the new water processor in Mexico that is producing decafs with more origin character than the previous SWP sources. Although the aromatics are low, this is an excellent "special purpose" coffee, great for a lo-caf blend base, and it's a nice low acid brewed cup at C+ roast. The flavor has a nutty tone in the lighter roasts, and creamy body, with mild chocolate biscuit roast taste emerging at FC level. There is a slightly fruity, caramelly sweetness. For espresso, it produces adequate crema, and works as a backdrop for your caffeinated grace note coffees in the blend (Yemeni, Harar, Etc). The shots I have pulled with 100% Brazil WP decaf were very nice too, but would not cut through milk in cappuccino etc very well. Of course, if you make your cap correctly (1.5 oz espresso and a maximum of 3 oz milk) it will do fine. If you need an all-decaf espresso I would recommend 60% Brazil decaf, 20% of an Indonesian decaf like Sumatra, and 20% of a Central American decaf or Ethiopia decaf.





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Cupping in the Cerrado area of Brazil, a couple seasons ago ...
Country: Brazil
Grade: 2/3s SS FC
Region: Cerrado Region, Minas Gerais
Processing: Dry-Processed, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: Late February 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Unknown
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Full Body, low acidity
Roast: Full City to Full City+: works best as a lighter roast for brewed coffee.
Compare to: Mild, full body, low acid cup profile
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Mexico Oaxaca Pluma WP Decaf

Along with the really good, small-farm coffees from Chiapas, Oaxaca coffees are my right up there. Too bad we have had such trouble finding them, at least ones of decent quality from small coop or estate producers. This coffee originates from Beneficio Calvo lot from Pochutla are of the Oaxaca state. It was then decaffeinated using the water process method in Mexico. And I was excited when I cupped this coffee … even if a big decaf cupping is not always my favorite table of samples to evaluate. It was the best coffee on the table at light roast levels, City to City+. This was a real standout, with a very balanced, clean cup, mild milk chocolate notes, and a modicum of brightness. The dry fragrance is nutty and malty-sweet, while the wet aroma had a slight lemon and vanilla scent. It was the nuances in the cup that I rarely find in decafs, and especially a suggestion of citrus brightness in the finish at C+ roast .... The roast taste at a City+ roast is excellent; vanilla with a bit of almond nuttiness, and the brightness in the cup is there too, hinting at its origin as a true high-grown Oaxaca Pluma. This also does quite well with a Full City + or light Vienna roast treatment, turning sweetly pungent at the darker levels, but I will stick to light roasts here. Mild, balanced, drinkable, not a coffee you need to think about a whole lot. I kinda like that!





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A meeting we had with Mexican producers a while back. They are voting who should go out to pick up the pizza...
Country: Mexico
Grade: HG
Region: Oaxaca
Processing: Wet Process, then Wp decaf
Arrival Date: Late Feb 2010 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17 screen
Varietal: Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Roast taste, firm acidity, nuanced cup
Roast: I had very good roasts at City to City+. The body is light at all roast stages.
Compare to: A balanced Oaxaca cup profile in decaf form.
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Peru FTO Norte WP Decaf

This lot of Water Process decaf originates in the Northern coffee growing area of Peru, centered around San Ignacio in the Cajamarca district. As opposed to the decaf lots that used to be sourced directly from the decaffeinating plant, this was imported as a good specialty grade lot, cupped, approved, then sent to Mexico for decaffeination. It's a Fair Trade and Organic Certified coffee as well, from the Perunor cooperative. I don't know much about it beyond that, and did not get to cup it before it was decaffeinated, yet others did. The results from this method of pre-approving the green coffee has great results, since you can't make good decaf from mediocre green coffee. It's a very nice cup ... the dry fragrance is very appealing, with strong nutty tones, molasses syrup sweetness, and apple-like fruited hints. The wet aromatics are bright and clean, as are the cup flavors. It's really an outstanding decaf. Apple fruit notes (with a bit of apple skin tightness in the finish), brown sugar sweetness, and elevated, crisp acidity are the main characteristics here. The body is fairly light. The finish has tea-infusion character, lemon herbal flavors. A lot like this proves that good green coffee undergoing the decaf process is critical to a fine cup in the end...





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Bronze-tipped Typica cultivar in Peru.
Country: Peru
Grade: SHG
Region: Norte
Processing: Wet Processed, then WP decaf.
Arrival Date: December 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild Intensity /Bright and lively at C+ roast
Roast: City+ is ideal for the bright cup I describe.
Compare to: This decaf has the bright character of Typica Peru coffees, with good clarity and sweetness.
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Mexico Organic Santa Cruz WP Decaf

This is a very nice lot from the Sierra Madre range in south Mexico. Union Ramal Santa Cruz is a cooperative in the Chiapas state, near the cities of Tuxtla and Chiapa de Corzo. Along with Oaxaca coffees, Chiapas are my favorite. They feature a more dynamic brightness in the cup, a lively coffee. It makes sense since Chiapas borders the Guatemala state of Huehuetenango. This coffee originates from a cooperative lot and is then decaffeinated using the water process method in Mexico. And I was pleased when I cupped this coffee … even if a big decaf cupping is not always my favorite table of samples to evaluate. The dry fragrance and wet aromatics are mildly fruited, with suggestions of toffee and raw honey. This was a real standout in cupping (on a large table of decafs), with a very clean, crisp, bright note in the cup, hinting at its origin as a true high-grown Chiapas. There is an apple fruit note in the cup at City+ roast level, and some mild nut flavors, with a brown sugar finish. The body is moderate, not thin, but also not heavy on the palate. That's pretty much in line with non-decaf Chiapas coffees. This also does quite well with a Full City + or even a light Vienna roast treatment, turning sweetly pungent at the darker levels. Mild, balanced, drinkable ...and certified Organic to boot.





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Ripe coffee cherry on the branch, Mexico
Country: Mexico
Grade: HG
Region: Santa Cruz, Chiapas
Processing: Wet Process, then WP decaf
Arrival Date: November 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17 screen
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Roast taste, firm acidity, nuanced cup
Roast: I had very good roasts at City+ to Full City; The body is light at all roast stages; the roast flavors at Vienna are pleasantly carbony and sharp.
Compare to: A crisp, bright Chiapas cup profile in decaf form.
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Guatemala Palo Blanco WP Decaf

The Palo Blanco tree is used to shade coffee plantings, and is also the name of this farm in San Jose Pinula area near Fraijanes, Guatemala. This is a water process decaf that was sent directly to the decaffeination plant in Mexico from Guatemala. It retains the distinctive character of this coffee, and is very much a highland Guatemala in aromatics and cup flavors. I think it's a sweet cup, but has interesting spice notes and good acidic snap to it. The dry fragrance has apple ester notes and tons of roasted hazelnut. Sometimes this fruitiness is the result of the decaf process, and shouldn't be there in the aromatics, but in this case it is from the coffee. Fruited sweetness comes through in the wet aromatics too, malic and with some floral aspects too. In addition, the aroma is very sweet, and in the cup flavors the theme is continued ... classic Guat. character tinted with fruit and nut accents. I get a slight raspberry note in the City+ roast, and overall the character is bright, lively and high-toned. The aftertaste is brief, clean and pleasant, while the body is, as with most nice Guatemala coffees, light-to-medium. Overall, this cup echoes perfectly it's non-decaf counterpart; it has good Guatemala origin character.





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New coffee leaves under Palo Blanco shade trees, Fraijanes.
Country: Guatemala
Grade: SHB
Region: San Jose Pinula
Processing: Wet-Process, then water process decaf
Arrival Date: November 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Catuai, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity/ Good brightness, fruit and nut notes
Roast: City+ is the most lively, Full City and darker have good tangy chocolate notes.
Compare to: Mild Guatemala coffees of the non-decaf ilk.
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Kenya Nyeri Ndiaini-Kiagundo WP Decaf

I am starting to get pretty excited about decafs. Yes, it is true, and there's a good reason. We have been able to send our own coffees to the decaffeination plant lately, something we could not do before because the minimum lot size is so large. But by teaming up with another roaster, we are able to have total control of the green coffee selected for the decaffeination process, and the results have been stunning. We have out Guatemala La Maravilla and Ethiopia Moredocofe Sidamo from Swiss Water Process in Canada. And now we have what amounts to the crown jewel of the pack, a mix of two Kenya AA auction lots from Nyeri area, fantastic coffees in their own right, that we sent to the water process decaf plant in Mexico, and the result is the best decaf coffee I have tasted in recent memory. It is brilliant! I needed to use 2 lots to form the minimum bag amount, but this worked out well. The Kiagundo was a bright and citrusy coffee, the Ndia-ini had fruit, body, depth. Together they were better than their parts, and the decaf cup I have before me speaks to that. The dry fragrance is intensely sweet, caramelly, and delightfully fruited with red apple, peach and plum. The wet aromatics bring out different fruits and berries: pineapple, dry plum, strawberry. The cup coalesces the aromatic qualities. It's very sweet, bright, fruited, light-bodied, and vibrant. Plum and strawberry are the dominant fruits initially, with ripe, sweet pineapple in the finish. There is a cinnamon accent, turning to clove at Full City roast. The light body rather suits the effervescent nature of the cup. The finish has a nice apple-like tartness, and caramel-molasses lingering flavors, the later being the only hint I get from this coffee that it is a decaf at all. A 90 point decaf? Some may think it's a stretch, but put this on the table next to a really nice, clean, balanced decaf you give 85 points, and tell me this is not a 90! Aromatically, and in terms of sweetness and clean fruited notes, it's an amazing cup. Unless, of course, you don't like Kenya coffees at all ...because this cups so well side by side with it's non-decaf Kenya counterparts.





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Ripening coffee cherry and blue skies, in Karatina, Nyeri.
Country: Kenya
Grade: AA Auction Lots, Main Crop
Region: Nyeri, Karatina and Mukurweini
Processing: Wet-Processed, then Water Process Decaf
Arrival Date: November 2009 Arrival (Grain Pro)
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: SL-28, SL-34
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Bold intensity / Extraordinary sweetness, fruited notes, vivid brightness.
Roast: City to Full City+. I was amazed at how well the sweetness and fruit flavors are present throughout the medium roast range. Of course, like all decafs, judging roast by color is difficult, so listen and watch the roast carefully.
Compare to: The best of the best decafs. This lot has preserved the brightness and fruit
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Guatemala La Maravilla SWP Decaf

This is the Swiss Water Process decaf of our Guatemala Finca La Maravilla lot that we sent to Canada to decaffeinate. We think the results are great! Huehuetenango has some extraordinary coffee farms, and we have offered so many in the past: El Injerto, Huixoc, Injertal, and this one, Finca La Maravilla. I remember when we first offered this estate coffee, it's nicely fruited flavors and citrus brightness. So after several years of hiatus, we have it again, and it's every bit as good as the Maravilla of my memory. The farm is located very near El Injerto, in the La Libertad area of the state of Huehuetenango in Guatemala's north. The farm is owned by Mauricio Rosales and ranges from a very high 1500 meters all the way to 1850 meters. It is a bright coffee, a little lighter in body and less balanced perhaps than some of our other Guatemala offerings. But that is what makes it so special as well. The fragrance from the dry grounds has raisin and fig fruited notes, and a dark-toned sweetness with soft chocolate wafer accents. Adding hot water, the wet aromatics leap to life; caramel apple notes and chocolate raisins. The cup has a very nice balanced brightness, with orange notes in the lighter roast levels, and a dry effect in the finish. There is a nut-toned roast taste, almond-like, and praline as it passes into the aftertaste. And it has a caramel-maple sweetness throughout, from lighter roast levels to Full City. The body is medium-to-light, which suits the lively nature of this cup well, but at FC or FC+ roast levels has a very nice creamy mouthfeel. The La Maravilla decaf makes a fairly interesting decaf espresso blend component, adding aroma, fruit and brightness to the shot.





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The skin of the coffee cherry, carefully peeled, in my hand.
Country: Guatemala
Grade: SHB
Region: La Libertad, Huehuetenango
Processing: Wet-Processed, then Water Process Decaf
Arrival Date: October 2009 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Bourbon, Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Bright, fruited, balanced
Roast: City - Full City+: The coffee works at all roast levels. I particularity like City+ for the sweetly fruited notes
Compare to: Classic high grown Guatemala, bright and fruited yet balanced.
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Ethiopia Organic Guji Sidamo SWP Decaf

This originated with a really balanced, sweet, wet-processed lot of coffee from the Moredocofe farm in the Guji region. We cupped the green coffee and thought it was really nice, and knew it would be a very flavorful decaf. And the results turned out to be great. One note: This coffee is a bit hard to judge in the roast process, because of the way decafs brown in the roast process (and Swiss Water decafs are maybe the darkest, and most difficult to judge by surface color). The dry fragrance has floral hints, nutty roast tone, and is quite sweet. The wet aroma from the light roast is very sweet, dripping in honey, with a touch of citrus. Darker roasts have a deep caramel sweet scent. The cup has a rounded sweet tone ...again with the honey descriptor. The light roast has a graham cracker note, lemon cookie brightness, and a touch of jasmine. I am really impressed with the body here. It seems to have even more body than the green sample before we sent it to Swiss Water ... is that possible? The finish is mild and cleanly disappearing on the palate. It has really charming character of a clean, wet-process Ethiopia coffee, exactly like it should. I cupped it on a table of non-decaf, wet-process Ethiopia Sidamos and Yirga Cheffe coffees and it held it's own, mark for mark, against the rest (and surpassed a few samples as well!) I think it is at it's zenith in terms of brightness, sweetness, and has maximum "origin character" at City + roast level. So listen carefully to the roast, track the smell, target City+ roast level, and remember that surface color on a SWP decaf can fool you! This is definitely one of the most delicate and sweet decafs we have, but because it is such a spendy coffee before decaffeination, and the SWP method is expensive too, it ends up being a higher-priced decaf. I feel it is really worth it, based on the results here at the cupping table.



This coffee is part of our direct trade Farm Gate pricing transparency program.

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Cupping at Moredocofe lots at Oromia Union in Addis Ababa, a season ago.
Country: Ethiopia
Grade: 2
Region: Guji, Sidamo
Processing: Wet Process, then Water Process Decaf'ed
Arrival Date: October 2009 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Heirloom Ethiopia cultivar
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Sweet honey notes, mild citrus and floral elements
Roast: City+ roast is ideal, and results in the most bright and sweet cup. See the notes above about judging roast of an SWP decaf.
Compare to: Great Ethiopia character for a decaf! Try to maintain a lighter roast level, City+ or so. Makes a compelling espresso component at FC-FC+ as well.
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Honduras FTO Ocotopeque WP Decaf

This is a filter water-process decaf from Coprocael cooperative in Ocotopeque area of Honduras. Coprocael is another unpronounceable coop name which stands for Cooperativa De Productores De Café La Encarnación Limitada. I honestly can't remember the last time I had a Honduras coffee as a decaf, but it is a great candidate, similar to our Mexico decafs, because of it's mild balance and moderate acidity. I think this lot came through the process very well; an approachable Central America character, classic, quaffable. The dry fragrance has that typcial decaf aromatic, slightly fruity and a bit like laundry, but is also sweetly nutty. It is more sharp in it's sweetness when you add the hot water, with a brew scent with both hazelnut and dry-roasted peanut, caramel sauce, almond skins, and perhaps the slightest hint of wet earth. The cup has the same flavors as hinted to in the aroma, nut and caramelized sugar sweetness, a slight dryness to the finish (a la almond skins). It cools to a nice caramel-toned sweetness, with a malic (apple-like) brightness. The body is moderate but suits the overall flavor theme. It's a crowd-pleaser with classic Central America balance between the acidity, body and clean cup characteristics. It's not overly complex, very straightforward really, and a pleasant coffee you don't have to think about too much. For decafs, I think that is a good thing! Fair trade and organic certified.





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Harvesting coffee, Honduras.
Country: Honduras
Grade: SHB
Region: La Encarnacion, Ocotopeque
Processing: Wet-Process, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: August 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 PB Screen
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Nut tones, apple brightness, caramel sweetness
Roast: City+ to Full City.
Compare to: Mild, crisp and classic Central flavors, in a decaf.
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Mexico FTO Santa Cruz WP Decaf

This is a very nice lot from the Sierra Madre range in south Mexico. Union Ramal Santa Cruz is a cooperative in the Chiapas state, near the cities of Tuxtla and Chiapa de Corzo. Along with Oaxaca coffees, Chiapas are my favorite. They feature a more dynamic brightness in the cup, a lively coffee. It makes sense since Chiapas borders the Guatemala state of Huehuetenango. This coffee originates from a cooperative lot and is then decaffeinated using the water process method in Mexico. And I was pleased when I cupped this coffee … even if a big decaf cupping is not always my favorite table of samples to evaluate. The dry fragrance and wet aromatics are mildly fruited, with suggestions of toffee and raw honey. This was a real standout in cupping (on a large table of decafs), with a very clean, crisp, bright note in the cup, hinting at its origin as a true high-grown Chiapas. There is an apple fruit note in the cup at City+ roast level, and some mild nut flavors, with a brown sugar finish. The body is moderate, not thin, but also not heavy on the palate. That's pretty much in line with non-decaf Chiapas coffees. This also does quite well with a Full City + or even a light Vienna roast treatment, turning sweetly pungent at the darker levels. Mild, balanced, drinkable ...and certified Organic and Fair Trade to boot.





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Ripe coffee cherry on the branch, Mexico
Country: Mexico
Grade: HG
Region: Santa Cruz, Chiapas
Processing: Wet Process, then WP decaf
Arrival Date: August 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17 screen
Varietal: Catuai, Caturra, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Roast taste, firm acidity, nuanced cup
Roast: I had very good roasts at City+ to Full City; The body is light at all roast stages; the roast flavors at Vienna are pleasantly carbony and sharp.
Compare to: A crisp, bright Chiapas cup profile in decaf form.
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Ethiopia Dry-Process Sidamo MC Decaf

It seems inevitable that a name we put on a coffee is going to be this complicated; why not just make up fanciful names like Abyssinia Delight or African Trader or ... well, I would rather just stick to the facts, and in this case the facts are: Dry-processed coffee from the Sidamo region, processed for decaf using the MC Decaf method. Now that's confusing. This is still very much a Sidamo and that's the beauty of this coffee. MC decaf is the traditional decaf process, and at one time there was only that and Swiss Water available for specialty grade coffees. The MC process has improved (done best by KVW as well as Coffein, both in Germany). But the secret is the coffee sent to the decaffeination plant is really, really good lots of green coffee, and not whatever doesn't sell, or whatever the plant has laying around. That's the old way of thinking in decafs: they have usually been the lowest priced green lots, or the overstock. So here we started with an exceptional lot of Ogsaddey Dry-process Sidamo, a bright, fruited cup, highly aromatic. And we end up with something that can be described exactly the same way. This decaf Sidamo has all the top-end bright notes and floral-fruit flavors endemic to a really good Sidamo. I has medium body, nice aromatics of fruit, wild-honeyed roast tastes, with a long finish. There are orangey citric notes, and a bit of syrup in the finish. If I cupped this blind I would not suspect it was decaffeinated. Please be aware that this decaf has very different coloring than most and is lighter, but it is one of the best decaf lots we've had.





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A few coffee cherries, and kinds trying to get in the photo! From my last trip to Ethiopia.
Country: Ethiopia
Grade: 4-5
Region: Sidamo
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Shortberry types
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Great aromatics, fruited notes
Roast: City+ to Full City+: works best as a lighter roast for brewed coffee. Note that this coffee seems to roast rather quickly, and seems to pass from 1st to 2nd crack more rapidly than other decaf lots. Why? I dunno. It's great decaf, period
Compare to: Highly aromatic, fruited decaf cup. For more info on the MC process, see my article: http://www.sweetmarias.com/health.eco.html
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Nicaragua Jinotega SHG WP Decaf

This lot of coffee is from the Jinotega region, a coffee-rich area near Matagalpa and Nueva Segovia growing regions. This is a cooperative coffee from Associacion Aldea Global, an organization that has a strong social mission for education, health and quality of life improvements for the small farmers of the area, and helps with all crops as well as sustenance farming. But coffee is the core of the program, as it is the main cash crop of Jinotega and Nicaragua in general. It's a good SHG (Strictly High Grown) specialty quality coffee, mild and clean, and a higher level than those typically available in decaf form. This it is sent for WP Decaf (Water Process) decaffeination in Mexico for the water filtration decaf method. (See links in the page introduction to explain the differences and similarities in processes). You can send great coffee for decaffeination, and it comes back terrible, and the reverse rarely happens (to my knowledge). What you hope for is a coffee with 80% of the original character ... and we have definitely achieved it here. This cups like a good, solid specialty coffee from Nicaragua with light body and clearly defined brightness. The fragrance and aroma are nutty at C+ roast level, with toasty bread hints, and lightly malted notes. I get a wisp of a pleasant smoked woody note in the cup flavors, body is fairly light. There is enough brightness to give the cup a nice acidity "sparkle," and I like the lively, mild cup it produces at a very light City roast. But it's more balanced and FC roast, where mild chocolate, malt and nice roast bittersweet notes take over.





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Coffee bags in the warehouse near Matagalpa.
Country: Nicaragua
Grade: SHG
Region: Jinotega
Processing: Wet Process, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: Late July 2009 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17 screen
Varietal: Typica, Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Toasty notes, light body, malt, chocolate
Roast: City to Full City+, ranging from bright, clean and mild at the lighter roast to chocolate bittersweet at FC to FC+
Compare to: Good Nicaragua character for a decaf, balance
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Costa Rica La Magnolia SWP Decaf

La Magnolia is a trade name with a long history, and was consistently one of my favorite Costa Rica coffees for many years. Well, that was before I started dealing exclusively with the small farm micro-mills. But the fact is, La Magnolia is still a nice, clean cup, and this Swiss Water Decaf lot really impressed me for it's attractive sweetness. This coffee was formerly from Tres Rios area, but Tres Rios is now largely a shopping mall and subdivision in a booming suburb of San Jose, the Costa Rica capital. I am skeptical about how much coffee is truly grown in Tres Rios. Nonetheless, the La Magnolia mark goes on, and this Swiss Water cup was really nice. I noticed right away in the dry fragrance cup, a caramel and malty sweet note, with just a hint of molasses and fruit. This continues through the wet aroma, and into the cup, where sweetness, mild cherry-like fruit, and a nice velvety body. There's a very mild cocoa-laced chocolate note - it actually reminds me of a fudgecicle! I feel like this coffee sends another message, at least to me as a coffee buyer: Swiss Water has been working on their process and the results are improving. There was a time when everything from Swiss Water decaf plant tasted so flat and cardboard-like. But this coffee has a crystal clear brightness and sweetness, and a very smooth texture.





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Tom doing a few hours work harvesting coffee in Costa Rica, a couple years back.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Tres Rios, Central Valley
Processing: Wet-Process, then SWP Decaf
Arrival Date: June 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Mixed -Mostly Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Sweet and clean, velvety body
Roast: City Roast to FC roast: I had nice, dark fruit in the FC roast, and it still had the brightness of the lighter roast
Compare to: A nice, sweet, clean, mild decaf. Remember, Swiss Water decafs are very dark color, so roasting visually is difficult. Rely more on smells, sound and temperatures here ...
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Mexico Oaxaca Pluma WP Decaf

Along with the really good, small-farm coffees from Chiapas, Oaxaca coffees are my favorite. Too bad we have had such trouble finding them, at least ones of decent quality from small coop or estate producers. This coffee originates from Beneficio Calvo lot from Pochutla are of the Oaxaca state. It was then decaffeinated using the water process method in Mexico. And I was excited when I cupped this coffee … even if a big decaf cupping is not always my favorite table of samples to evaluate. It was the best coffee on the table at light roast levels, City to City+. This was a real standout, with a very balanced, clean cup, mild milk chocolate notes, and a modicum of brightness. The dry fragrance is nutty and malty-sweet, while the wet aroma had a slight lemon and vanilla scent. It was the nuances in the cup that I rarely find in decafs, and especially a suggestion of citrus brightness in the finish at C+ roast .... The roast taste at a City+ roast is excellent; vanilla with a bit of almond nuttiness, and the brightness in the cup is there too, hinting at its origin as a true high-grown Oaxaca Pluma. This also does quite well with a Full City + or light Vienna roast treatment, turning sweetly pungent at the darker levels, but I will stick to light roasts here. Mild, balanced, drinkable.





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Coffee nursery in Mexico with cloth strips to scare birds off.
Country: Mexico
Grade: HG
Region: Oaxaca
Processing: Wet Process, then Wp decaf
Arrival Date: June 2009 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17 screen
Varietal: Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Roast taste, firm acidity, nuanced cup
Roast: I had very good roasts at City to City+. The body is light at all roast stages.
Compare to: A balanced Oaxaca cup profile in decaf form.
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Colombia WP Decaf -Huila Excelso

This is from a lot of from the area of Huila, in south Colombia. It has no special pedigree, but ended up being a really, really nice cup quality when we evaluated the arrival sample. This was sent for Water Process decaffeination in Mexico and is one of the brighter, more floral arrivals we have had from this source. In recent years we have been buying some remarkable coffees from this region of South Huila department, and in fact our most recent Cup of Excellence coffee is from the same area. So what we have here is a verified solid coffee in non -decaf form, that retained great sweetness and balance through the decaf process. (While there is often the strong possibility of a coffee going "flat" at the decaf plant, losing all its origin character, it always helps to start with a great coffee. Traditionally, brokers bought decaf from the plant, coffee supplied from lower grade "stocklots" by the decaffeinator themselves. The results were never very impressive. Now we are able to designate high quality lots, and get these kinds of results). This coffee has great brightness in the lighter roasts, as much as any decaf Colombia lots we have ever had. The aromatics are fairly mild, floral, and have marked sweetness, nutty roast tones, and hints of citrus. There are more toasty nut notes in the wet aromatics, with vanilla and sweet raisin. This cup is quite lively and bright at C+ roast levels, reminding me of the really nice Ethiopia decafs. In fact, some might want to take this to FC roast to tone down the cup. I found my favorite roast was FC, before 2nd crack, where the cup had the most balance. The aftertaste has a well defined, cleanly-disappearing sweetness. The body is fairly light at C+, which is not at all a negative because it suits the brisk nature of this cup. It rounds out considerably at FC roast.





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Huila coffee shrub, photographed from early this season
Country: Colombia
Grade: Excelso
Region: South Huila
Processing: Wet Processed, then WP decaf.
Arrival Date: June 2009 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity /Brightness at C+. Balance at FC
Roast: City+ to FC if you want to tone down the brightness a bit)
Compare to: This Huila cups like a Huila: it seems to have forgotten that it was sent to Mexico and decaffeinated.
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Ethiopia Dry-Process Sidamo WP Decaf

It seems inevitable that a name we put on a coffee is going to be this complicated; why not just make up fanciful names like Abyssinia Delight or African Trader or ... well, I would rather just stick to the facts, and in this case the facts are: Dry-processed coffee from the Sidamo region, processed for decaf using the Water Process (WP) method. Now that's confusing. This is still very much a Sidamo and that's the beauty of this coffee. It's bright, aromatic, spicey, fruited. We started with an exceptional lot of MAO Horse Dry-process Sidamo, which is a bright, fruited cup, highly aromatic, and we end up with something that can be described exactly the same way. In fact, I am really impressed by the strong fruited and floral aromatics, the syrupy body, and the slight rustic sweetness in this coffee. Sometimes our experience has been that a dry-processed Ethiopia will exit the decaf process with the cup character of a wet-process Ethiopia; lighter body, brighter acidity. It's not quite the case with this lot. If I cupped this blind I would not suspect it was decaffeinated. This decaf Sidamo has all the top-end, bright aromatic notes and floral-fruit character native to a really good Sidamo. I has medium-to-heavy body with the syrupy mouthfeel I already mentioned. In the cup, the flavors are remarkably floral: Jasmine! There's a great honeyed roast taste, with a long floral finish with tangerine citric sweetness. As it cools the jasmine becomes more tea-like. This is an amazing decaf, really.





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Country: Ethiopia
Grade: 4
Region: Sidamo
Processing: Dry-Processed, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: May 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Heirloom Ethiopia cultivar
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity / Body, sweetness and origin character
Roast: City+ is recommended to preserve fruit sweetness.
Compare to: One of the most aromatic decafs with good Ethiopia origin character
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Sumatra Mandheling WP Decaf

This is another coffee that originated with a really nice Sumatra lot brought into the U.S., and then was sent to water-process decaffeinator in Mexico. The difference here is important to note. In the past many decaf lots of Sumatra were bought by the plant itself, then sold to coffee brokers, without regard for the original quality of the green coffee. The result was very flat coffee with little "origin character". Here we have a Mandheling type coffee with strongly Sumatra flavor profile (Remember, Mandheling is a trade name for Sumatra coffees, not a particular region. But this coffee originates in the Lake Tawar-Takengon area of Aceh district). I cupped quite a few Fair Trade, Organic and FTO lots to pick out this one, which is a standard Grade One Mandheling that survived the decaffeination process intact. The results of my roasts from C+ to FC+ are impressive; not so much when the cup is hot (perhaps it loses a step on the non-decaf Sumatra in this respect), but as it cools. It has great espresso use to create low-caf or decaf blends with body and depth. I like it as a straight decaf espresso too when roasted about 20 seconds into 2nd crack. It is very much a Sumatra cup profile but a bit cleaner and less earthy than its non-decaf Mandheling counterpart. There are foresty tones in the aromatics and the cup, dense body, low acidity, and a rustic sweetness that reminds one of sorghum syrup, if you have ever tasted that (like a malt syrup with an earthy aspect).





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Meeting with small producers in Aceh, Sumatra, during my last trip.
Country: Sumatra
Grade: 1
Region: Mandheling
Processing: Wet-hulled, then water process decaf
Arrival Date: November 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Typica (Sumatra), Catimor
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Rustic sweetness, low acid, body
Roast: Full City to Full City+.
Compare to: Low acidity, heavy body, good rustic sweetness. Most like the Brazil decaf, if you need a comparison
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Colombia MC Decaf - Huila Tolima

This is a lot from the Tolima district, Huila department. In recent years we have been buying some remarkable coffees from this region of South Huila department, and in fact our most recent Cup of Excellence coffee is from the same area. So what we have here is a great coffee, sent direct to the German decaffeination plant KVW for their Methyl Chloride (MC) process and then returned to us. While there is often the strong possibility of a coffee going "flat" at the decaf plant, losing all its origin character, it always helps to start with a great coffee. Traditionally, brokers bought decaf from the plant, coffee supplied from lower grade "stocklots" by the decaffeinator themselves. The results were never very impressive. Now we are able to designate high quality lots, and get these kinds of results. In fact, this is one of the brightest, most lively decaf Colombia lots we have ever had, and I dare say it keeps pace with fine quality non-decaf Colombia offerings. The fragrance of the dry grounds is noticeably sweet and bright. The wet aroma has a bit of citrus and floral component. The cup has sweet orange, and is very lively, especially when you consider it is a decaf. Some of my tests roasts were too light for this type of brightness; City roast tasted too sour. At City + and darker the fruited notes were in much better balance. The body is light, and this suits the crisp character of this coffee. It rates well among other quality non-decaf Huila lots, and that's impressive in itself!





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Country: Colombia
Grade: Excelso
Region: Tolima Region, Huila
Processing: Wet Processed, then MC decaf.
Arrival Date: March 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity / Crisp citrus notes, clean sweet cup.
Roast: City+ for the cup I describe, FC if you want to tone down the brightness a bit
Compare to: This Huila Tolima cups like a fine Huila: it seems to have forgotten that it was sent to Germany and decaffeinated.
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Costa Rica Tarrazu KVW Decaf

This is a lot that was cupped, then sent direct to the German decaffeination plant KVW for their Methyl Chloride (MC) process and then returned to us. While there is often the strong possibility of a coffee going "flat" at the decaf plant, losing all its origin character, it always helps to start with a great coffee. Traditionally, brokers bought decaf from the plant, coffee supplied from lower grade "stocklots" by the decaffeinator themselves. The results were never very impressive. Now we are able to designate high quality lots, and get these kinds of results. The dry fragrance is bright and fruited. I get a bit of jackfruit, and in the wet aroma there is light molasses sweetness and chicory root, as well as macademia nut. The cup is sweet and bright; slight lemony acidity offers a little sparkle to the cup, while there are nut and vanilla flavors in the mid-range. It's quite amazing a coffee can survive the rigors of the decaf process with such a sweet, clean and bright cup. The body is quite light, as is the non-decaf, wet-process Costa Rica Tarrazu of tradition. To maximize these qualities, I recommend keeping the roast light. City + is plenty for this coffee, and retains all the bright, lively character, and that twist-of-lemon accent. I added a small cupper's correction based on ths excellent bright note.





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Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Tarrazu Valley
Processing: Wet-Process, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: July 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Mixed
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Incredibly clean and bright for a decaf.
Roast: City+ for the bright, intense cup I describe.
Compare to: Quite comparable to a non-decaf Tarrazu, with some shifts in the sweetness.
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Kenya AA Auction Lot WP Decaf

Water process decafs have really performed amazingly well, and some of the brightest coffees, Ethiopia Yirgacheffes and Kenyas, have been among my favorites. Here is an Auction lot Kenya that has retained it's punctuated, bright character, which would be considered something of a miracle with the older water decaf methods. Normally, a Kenya decaf would come from a bulk lot, but in this case it is from top tier Auction Lot coffees, and I think it shows in the cup. But Kenya Auction coffees come in small lots, so to have enough to send to the decaf plant, 5 had to be combined. We initially had this as a peaberry lot - now it is just the regular beans - same coffee, same farms. They are: Tassia Coop from the Ruiru district, Giogio from Thika region , Fairview Farm from Kiambu area, Chania Coop from Thika, and Ndumberi from Kiambu. The dry fragrance is a bit odd (as are many decafs; they can be a bit incongruous with the cup flavors); it has a "canned fruit" aspect, but has nice orangey notes with strong caramel sweetness. The cup has a key lime brightness at City to City + roast, turning to a more ripe citrus sweetness at FC roast. And with a little more roast, the cup has a better balance between the bright notes and caramel sweetness. But C+ is where it's Kenya character is at it's best; unrepentantly bright! In both roast levels, there is a good malty note, and a complimentary spice; corriander and mild anise hints. When I recupped I felt the fruity citrus note was much more of a sweet Meyer Lemon than the more aggressive Key Lime I found initially, but this pretty much describes the range of brightness you can expect here. Mouthfeel is light and refreshing, appropriate for this bright cup, and there is a sweet floral aspect that is suggested in the wet aroma, and reappears as the cup cools.





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Country: Kenya
Grade: Auction Lots
Region: 4 growing districts (see description)
Processing: Wet-Processed, then Water Process Decaf
Arrival Date: February 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Selection 28, 34
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-to-bold intensity / Extraordinary aromatics, sweetness, complexity.
Roast: City - City+: The coffee works at all roast levels, but with proper rest the complexity is at it's acme a bit lighter. At this lighter level, the coffee won't look as pretty as it does at FC+, more surface texture and patchy coloration.
Compare to: Classsic super-high grown Guatemala. It reminds me of the El Injerto pure Bourbon.
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Nicaragua FTO Dipilto WP Decaf

This lot of coffee is from the Dipilto region in Nueva Segovia, northern Nicaragua. Dipilto is the region where some of the best, brightest and sweetest Nicaraguas have been coming from, and many top 10 Cup of Excellence lots are Dipilto-region coffees. This was a lot sourced from Proodecoop cooperative in Esteli, then decaffeinated using the water process method, and since I cupped it as non-decaf I know this originated with a good, verified specialty coffee here. Then it is sent off to the decaffeinator in Mexico for the water filtration decaf method. (See links in the header to explain the differences and similarities in processes). You can send great coffee for decaffeination, and it comes back terrible, and the reverse rarely happens (to my knowledge). What you hope for is a coffee with 80% of the original character ... and we have definitely acheived it here. This cups like a good, solid specialty coffee from Nicaragua with light body and clearly defined brightness. The fragrance and aroma are nutty at C+ roast level, with fruit hints, and lightly malted notes. I get a wisp of a pleasant woody note in the cup flavors, and the finish has a kinda oaky quality. It finishes with a sweetness typical of Dipilto coffees, and the light body compliments the overall mildness of this lot. This is a Fair Trade, Organic certified lot.





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Country: Nicaragua
Grade: SHG
Region: Dipilto
Processing: Wet Process, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: Late July 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17 screen
Varietal: Typica, Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Sweetness, brightness
Roast: City+ has the best cup here.
Compare to: Good Nicaragua Dipilto character for a decaf, with nice body.
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Sumatra Lintong Nihuta KVW Decaf

KVW is the German decaffeinator using the MC process under the strictest guidelines (much more so that US-processed decafs). This is a unique decaf lot because it starts with specific Sumatra Lintong, that already has some interesting defined character of its own. And as a decaf coffee, this Lintong maintains these unique roast flavors, just as in non-decafs the Blue Batak or the Lake Tawar have rustic sweetness that is so different from classic Mandheling coffees. The dry fragrance is caramelly, almost like butterscotch, with a interesting chocolate biscotti quality. The wet aroma has a deep-toned sweetness, molasses and caramel candy notes. The cup is (again) very carame lly, with medium body (I anticipate something thicker, but it does have a certain dense texture to it). The acidity is low, and there's a certain earthy and woody quality, the later reminding me of sandalwood. As it cools the sweetness turns to a medium malt syrup, and just a touch of sweet hay smell. In the lighter roasts, the finish has a lingering toasted grain note, while darker roasts develop some milk chocolate.





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Country: Sumatra
Grade: 1
Region: Lintong
Processing: Wet Process
Arrival Date: May 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Typica (Sumatra), Catimor
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Caramel sweetness with rustic notes.
Roast: Full City to Full City+.
Compare to: A silky, heavy body cup with extremely low acidity. Blend with a Ethiopia Decaf 50-50 to make a balanced Moka Java type blend.
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Panama WP Decaf -Maunier Estate

It used to be that water decafs were generic coffees; you really couldn't verify that the source coffee was a good cup, or even specialty coffee at all! It was possible for large roasters to send their own lots to Swiss Water for decaffeination, but that was impossible for everyone else. Now we have been able to buy coffees that we cup as regular coffees and verify the quality, then re-cup after decaffeination to see the effect of the process. Maunier is a really nice estate in Boquete that has placed in the Panama Coffee Competition in years past. As a Water Process decaf, it really preserves the primary cup character, the acidity and brightness of the cup. It has good sweetness, with some hint that it is decaf in the dry fragrance, but plenty of sweetness intrinsic to high grown Boquete coffees as well. My City + roast has lemony accents in the wet aroma and in the cup as well, with some very clean floral jasmine character too. The roast tone is praline almond. In the finish, that slightly malty decaf hint is there (not a bad thing), and it ends with good lemony brightness as well. It's a remarkably clean flavor profile and right in line with it's non-decaf Maunier estate counterpart.





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Shade-grown coffee plot in Panama
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Boquete
Processing: Wet-processed, Water-process decaf
Arrival Date: Dec 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Bright lemon and floral
Roast: City+ is ideal to keep in the strong suit of this cup profile: sweet and bright.
Compare to: Floral and citric decaf Central with medium body.
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Mexico Organic Oaxaca WP Decaf

Along with the really good, small-farm coffees from Chiapas, Oaxaca coffees are my favorite. This coffee originates from a cooperative lot from Mexico's Oaxacan state, and is then decaffeinated using the water process method in Mexico. And I was excited when I cupped this coffee … even if a big decaf cupping is not always my favorite table of samples to evaluate. This was a real standout, with a very balanced, clean cup, mild milk chocolate notes, and a modicum of brightness. It was the nuances in the cup that I rarely find in decafs, and especially a suggestion of citrus brightness in the finish at C+ roast .... The roast taste at a City+ roast is excellent; vanilla with a bit of almond nuttiness, and the brightness in the cup is there too, hinting at its origin as a true high-grown Chiapas. This also does quite well with a Full City + or light Vienna roast treatment, turning sweetly pungent at the darker levels. Mild, balanced, drinkable. And certified Organic to boot.





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Country: Mexico
Grade: HG
Region: Oaxaca
Processing: Wet Process, then Wp decaf
Arrival Date: August 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17 screen
Varietal: 100% Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Roast taste, firm acidity, nuanced cup
Roast: I had very good roasts at City+ to Full City; The body is light at all roast stages; the roast flavors at Vienna are pleasantly carbony and sharp.
Compare to: A balanced Oaxaca cup profile in decaf form.
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Sumatra Mandheling WP Decaf

This is another coffee that originated with an excellent Sumatra lot brought into the U.S., and then was sent to water-process decaffeinator in Mexico. I cupped quite a few Fair Trade, Organic and FTO lots to pick out this one, which is a standard Grade One Mandheling that survived the decaffeination process with a lot of good origin flavor intact. The results are impressive; not so much when the cup is hot (perhaps it loses a step on the non-decaf Sumatra in this respect), but as it cools. It has great espresso use to create low-caf or decaf blends with body and depth. I like it as a straight decaf espresso too when roasted about 20 seconds into 2nd crack. It is very much a Sumatra cup profile but a bit cleaner and less earthy than its non-decaf Mandheling counterpart. It certainly beats than pants off any SWP Sumatra I have cupped this year.





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green coffee bean
Country: Sumatra
Grade: 1
Region: Mandheling
Processing: Semi-washed, then water process decaf
Arrival Date: August 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Typica (Sumatra), Catimor
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Rustic sweetness, low acid, body
Roast: Full City to Full City+.
Compare to: Low acidity, heavy body, good rustic sweetness. Most like the Brazil decaf, if you need a comparison
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Ethiopia Organic Natural Djimma WP Decaf

Inevitably, if we try to name this coffee accurately it is going to end up as a tongue twister; why not just make up fanciful names like Abyssinia Delight or African Trader or ... well, I would rather just stick to the facts, and in this case the facts are: certified Organic Dry-processed (aka Natural) coffee from the Djimma region, processed for decaf using the Water Process (WP) method. Now that's not so confusing, is it. To make it more difficult, we use the term Natural to mean Dry-Process, as many do in the coffee world. Why? Because the name was too long! Unlike other uses of the term Natural (i.e. empty claims on food labels), it DOES man something specific in coffee; drying whole cherry without removing the skin. This is a very fruited, Ethiopia coffee. It's bright, aromatic, somewhat spicy, fruited. The body is fairly light, but suits the tea-like qualities of the cup. This decaf Djimma has all the top-end bright notes and floral-fruit flavors intrinsic to a really good Sidamo. I has medium body, nice aromatics of fruit, wild-honeyed roast tastes, with a long finish. There are orange-marmalade citric notes, and a bit of syrup in the finish. There is a unique spiciness in this cup, similar to the blend of mulling spices used for hot apple cider. If I cupped this blind I would not suspect it was decaffeinated but form some slightly odd aromatic hints. But in the cup, it's an amazing decaf coffee.





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Winnowing stages of dry-process coffee in Ethiopia
Country: Ethiopia
Grade: 4
Region: Djimma (Djimmah)
Processing: Dry-Processed, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: August 2008 arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Shortberry types
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Great aromatics, a "fruit bomb" coffee.
Roast: City+ to Full City+: works best as a lighter roast for brewed coffee. Note that this coffee seems to roast rather quickly, and seems to pass from 1st to 2nd crack more rapidly than other decaf lots. Why? I dunno. It's great decaf, period
Compare to: Highly aromatic, fruited decaf cup. For more info on the Water process and other decaf methods, see my article: http://www.sweetmarias.com/health.eco.html
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Brazil Cerrado WP Decaf

Decaf Brazil is a fairly neutral cup, and its best use is for decaf blends (espresso, or to add body to darker roast decaf blends). But it can offer an interesting straight roast if you target the right roast level. It adds body and is a good "backdrop" in terms of roast taste. A backdrop coffee fills out the background of the cup and does not interfere with your "highlight" coffees, the ones that are going to be the exclamation point of your cup character. If you want earthiness in the cup, a Sumatra or Sulawesi can do this for you and provide body. But if you are not trying to develop an earthy "wild" blend, but want a cleaner espresso cup, then Brazil is very useful. It has great espresso use to create low-CAF or decaf blends with body and depth. If you like a very soft espresso cup, you will enjoy this Brazil as a straight decaf espresso (its a bit too mild for me). This Cerrado-region coffee is a traditional Brazilian dry-process coffee. What's that mean? Dry-process means that the ripe coffee cherry is picked by hand, laid out on patios to dry and then the outer pod and inner parchment layers are removed in one milling process to reveal the green coffee seed. But the old traditional Brazilian dry-process was dried on the tree, not on a patio! When a coffee is 100% tree-dried it can be too wild and have unpleasant off flavors. So before decaffeinating this coffee originates with a good lot of coffee, and the new water processor in Mexico that is producing decafs with more origin character than the previous SWP sources. Although the aromatics are low, this is an excellent "special purpose" coffee, great for a lo-caf blend base, and it's a nice low acid brewed cup at C+ roast. For espresso, it produces adequate crema, and works as a backdrop for your caffeinated grace note coffees in the blend (Yemeni, Harar, Etc). The shots I have pulled with 100% Brazil WP decaf were very nice too, but would not cut through milk in cappuccino etc very well. Of course, if you make your cap correctly (1.5 oz espresso and a maximum of 4 oz milk) it will do fine. If you need an all-decaf espresso I would recommend 60% Brazil decaf, 20% of an Indonesian decaf like Sumatra, and 20% of a Central American decaf or Ethiopia decaf.





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Cupping in the Cerrado area of Brazil, a couple seasons ago ...
Country: Brazil
Grade: 2/3s SS FC
Region: Cerrado Region, Minas Gerais
Processing: Dry-Processed, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: January 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Unknown
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Full Body, low acidity
Roast: Full City to Full City+: works best as a lighter roast for brewed coffee.
Compare to: Mild, full body, low acid cup profile
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Ethiopia Dry-Process Sidamo WP Decaf

It seems inevitable that a name we put on a coffee is going to be this complicated; why not just make up fanciful names like Abyssinia Delight or African Trader or ... well, I would rather just stick to the facts, and in this case the facts are: Dry-processed coffee from the Sidamo region, processed for decaf using the Water Process (WP) method. Now that's confusing. This is still very much a Sidamo and that's the beauty of this coffee. It's bright, aromatic, spicey, fruited. We started with an exceptional lot of Ogsaddey Dry-process Sidamo, which is a bright, fruited cup, highly aromatic, and we end up with something that can be described exactly the same way. This decaf Sidamo has all the top-end bright notes and floral-fruit flavors endemic to a really good Sidamo. I has medium body, nice aromatics of fruit, wild-honeyed roast tastes, with a long finish. There are orangey citric notes, and a bit of syrup in the finish. There is a unique spiciness in this cup, similar to the blend of mulling spices used for hot apple cider. If I cupped this blind I would not suspect it was decaffeinated!





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Country: Ethiopia
Grade: 4
Region: Sidamo
Processing: Dry-Processed, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: January 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Shortberry and Longberry types
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild-Medium intensity / Great aromatics, fruited notes
Roast: City+ to Full City+: works best as a lighter roast for brewed coffee. Note that this coffee seems to roast rather quickly, and seems to pass from 1st to 2nd crack more rapidly than other decaf lots. Why? I dunno. It's great decaf, period
Compare to: Highly aromatic, fruited decaf cup. For more info on the Water process and other decaf methods, see my article: http://www.sweetmarias.com/health.eco.html
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Peru FTO Norte WP Decaf

This lot of Water Process decaf originates in the Northern coffee growing area of Peru, centered around San Ignacio in the Cajamarca district. As opposed the decaf lots that used to be sourced directly from the decaffeinating plant, this was imported as a good specialty grade lot, cupped, approved, then sent to Mexico to for decaffeination. The results from this method of pre-approving the green coffee has great results, since you can't make good decaf from mediocre green coffee. It's a very nice cup ... the dry fragrance is very appealing, with strong nutty tones, molasses syrup sweetness, and apple-like fruited hints. The wet aromatics are bright and clean, as are the cup flavors. It's really an outstanding decaf. Apple fruit notes (with a bit of apple skin tightness in the finish), brown sugar sweetness, and elevated, crisp acidity are the main characteristics here. The body is fairly light. The finish has tea-infusion character, lemon herbal flavors. A lot like this proves that good green coffee undergoing the decaf process is critical to a fine cup in the end...





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Bronze-tipped Typica cultivar in Peru.
Country: Peru
Grade: SHG
Region: Norte
Processing: Wet Processed, then WP decaf.
Arrival Date: January 2009 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild Intensity /Bright and lively at C+ roast
Roast: City+ is ideal for the bright cup I describe.
Compare to: This decaf has the bright character of Typica Peru coffees, with good clarity and sweetness.
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Brazil Cerrado WP Decaf 2008

Decaf Brazil is a fairly neutral cup, and its main use is for decaf espresso blends, but can offer an interesting straight roast if you target the right roast level. It adds body and is a good "backdrop" in terms of roast taste. A backdrop coffee fills out the background of the cup and does not interfere with your "highlight" coffees, the ones that are going to be the exclamation point of your cup character. If you want earthiness in the cup, a Sumatra or Sulawesi can do this for you and provide body. But if you are not trying to develop an earthy "wild" blend, but want a cleaner espresso cup, then Brazil is very useful. It has great espresso use to create low-CAF or decaf blends with body and depth. If you like a very soft espresso cup, you will enjoy this Brazil as a straight decaf espresso (its a bit too mild for me). This Cerrado-region coffee is a traditional Brazilian dry-process coffee. What's that mean? Dry-process means that the rip coffee cherry is picked by hand, laid out on patios to dry and then the outer pod and inner parchment layers are removed in one milling process to reveal the green coffee seed. But the old traditional Brazilian dry-process was dried on the tree, not on a patio! When a coffee is 100% tree-dried it can be too wild and have unpleasant off flavors. So before decaffeinating this coffee originates with a good lot of coffee, and the new water processor in Mexico that is producing decafs with more origin character than the previous SWP sources. Although the aromatics are low, this is an excellent "special purpose" coffee, great for a lo-caf blend base, and it's a nice low acid brewed cup at C+ roast. For espresso, it produces adequate crema, and works as a backdrop for your caffeinated grace note coffees in the blend (Yemeni, Harar, Etc). The shots I have pulled with 100% Brazil WP decaf were very nice too, but would not cut through milk in cappuccino etc very well. Of course, if you make your cap correctly (1.5 oz espresso and a maximum of 4 oz milk) it will do fine. If you need an all-decaf espresso I would recommend 60% Brazil decaf, 20% of an Indonesian decaf like Sumatra, and 20% of a Central American decaf or Ethiopia decaf.





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Country: Brazil
Grade: 2/3s SS FC
Region: Cerrado Region, Minas Gerais
Processing: Dry-Processed, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: June 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Unknown
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Full Body, low acidity
Roast: Full City to Full City+: works best as a lighter roast for brewed coffee.
Compare to: Mild, full body, low acid cup profile
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Rwanda Butare Bourbon WP Decaf

This is a Butare-region coffee from western Rwanda, and the coffee is nearly pure Bourbon varietal from a range of 1500-1800 meters. My flavortite Rwanda lots in the past years have been this area (Buramera in particular), and the fact that it is from such high altitude, and that is traditional Bourbon culitivar ... well those are the perks of Rwanda coffee. The country was planted extensively in Bourbon and was not an innovative coffee-producer in the years when all the new hybrids were being pushed ... a blessing in disguise that they missed this trend. There was extra selection done to prepare this lot for export. This lot was specifically hand-prepared at a milling factory that has a UV cleaning (color sorting) and grading facility. UV also detects any potato-taste in coffee, a problem that can sometimes occur in Rwanda lots. Then it was sent for decaffeination using the non-chemical water process method, and survived with great Rwanda cup character. The cup is very balanced, like it's non-decaf counterpart, with pastry-like sweetness in the dry fragrance and floral aromatics when wet. The cup is, again, balanced, well-structured. At a City+ roast it has lively acidity, tangerine citrus notes, a delicate floral component, and finishes with a hint of pancake syrup (you know, the fake stuff). At FC roast, I made one of the absolute best Single Origin decaf espressos I have had with this coffee! I highly recommend it for espresso uses, or as part of a low-caf espresso.





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Ripe red Bourbon coffee cherry in Rwanda. This tree is outside the cupping station we held the Rwanda CoE competition at in late
Country: Rwanda
Grade: Estate Grade
Region: Butare, Western Rwanda
Processing: Wet-Processed
Arrival Date: October 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .2 d/300gr, 16-17 Screen
Varietal: Bourbon Cultivar
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity /Classic balanced cup with citrus accents
Roast: City+ to FC. I prefer the medium City+ for brewing, and FC to FC+ for espresso.
Compare to: Balanced brightness, and doubles as a great decaf espresso coffee. For more info on the Water process and other decaf methods, see my article:
http://www.sweetmarias.com/health.eco.html
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Tanzania Ruvuma Peaberry WP Decaf

Coffees from South Tanzania have a few advantages that result often in better cup quality. It might not be romantic to list "transportation" alongside "terroir" as major factors in cup quality, but indeed it is. With coffee, it matters little loamy the soild was, not high the elevation of the farm, how ripe the cherry was when harvested, how carefully it was wet-milled, if it gets packed in a container that gets steamed for a couple weeks in a humid port city. Typically, Tanzania pebearry lots were from the northern districts near Kenya actually have a shorter trip to port in Dar Es Salaam, but somehow suffer so much more in the process. Southern district coffees from Ruvuma province, collected and milled in cities of Songea and Nyamtimbo face a longer trip but miraculously survive it better. The key might be logistics, or the fact the coffees are better treated in drying, and in particular the rest period when coffee remains in it's parchment shell for 30-60 days before being hulled, sorted, measured for density, and bagged for export. This period is crucial to allow moisture to be distributed evenly in the coffee, to achieve physical stability in the green seed. For this decaf lot, surviving the trip is just the first challenge. Once here, it is sent down to the water process plant in Mexico to remove the caffeine using the non-chemical, water filtration method. While this (and all) decaf methods are traumatic to the coffee, and to the final cup quality, a few survive it like champs. This Tanzania PB Nyamtimbo Ruvuma is one of them. The acidity (the bright, effervescent, lively quality in the cup) comes through as if it had never been decaffeinated, even more so than some of our recent excellent Kenya decafs. The dry grounds has a lightly fruited cherry scent, while the wet aroma has a light molasses and caramel sweetness. (Molasses sweetness is often a product of the decaf method). The cup has a fruited, flame grape sweet flavor, turning to gingerbread in the aftertaste. It has fairly light body overall, and quite a sustained aftertaste.





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Harvesting near Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Country: Tanzania
Grade: Peaberry
Region: Ruvuma, South Tanzania
Processing: Wet Processed
Arrival Date: October 2008 Arrival
Appearance: ..2 d/300gr, 16-17 PB Screen
Varietal: Arusha, Bourbon
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity / Excellent sweet fruited brightness.
Roast: City+ to FC
Compare to: East African brightness (Kenya-like) in a decaf coffee. For more info on decaf methods, see my article:
http://www.sweetmarias.com/health.eco.html
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Costa Rica Monte Crisol WP Decaf

Monte Crisol has never been a coffee that I loved as a regular non-decaf offering. It's a basic coffee, and you will see it offered at some ho-hum sources. So I wasn't jumping up and down at the offer of a decaf version, but somehow I think this is actually a better cup that any non decaf lot I have tasted. Is it possible that decaffeination can improve a coffee? Naw. But this cup does offer some support to that argument, if I ever cared to make it. It's a coffee from the Macro Mill (joke) called Coop Palmeras in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, who produce about 50,000 bags a year of coffee. Compare it to our Micro Mill sources, some of whom produce 100 bags, some 200, some 50. It's a whole different world. But the dry fragrance here is nice: nutty and fruited. There's a little molasses sweetness and mild chocolate as well as macademia nut in the wet aroma. The cup is moderately bright, with soft "chocolate fudgesicle" flavor, while there are malt and vanilla flavors in the mid-range. To maximize these qualities, I recommend keeping the roast light. City + is plenty for this coffee, and retains a bright, lively character, and that twist-of-lemon accent.





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Tom doing a few hours work harvesting coffee in Costa Rica, a couple years back.
Country: Costa Rica
Grade: SHB
Region: Central Valley
Processing: Wet-Process, then WP Decaf
Arrival Date: October 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Mixed
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity /Clean cup, nuts and a bit of fudgesicle!
Roast: City+ for the cup I describe. I notice more roast oil comes to the surface on this coffee than others.
Compare to: A nice, sweet, clean, mild decaf.
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Kenya AB Auction Lot WP Decaf

Water process decafs have really performed amazingly well, and some of the brightest coffees, Ethiopia Sidamo, Yirga Cheffe and Kenyas, have been among my favorites. Here is an Auction lot Kenya that has retained it's punctuated, bright character, which would be considered something of a miracle with the older water decaf methods. Normally, a Kenya decaf would come from a bulk lot, but in this case it is from top tier Auction Lot coffees, and I think it shows in the cup. But Kenya Auction coffees come in small lots, so to have enough to send to the decaf plant, 2 had to be combined. They are from Muranga and Neri districts, and are AB lots, meaning slightly smaller bean size than AA. The AA or AB grade has nothing to do with cup quality, and oftentimes an AB can be much better than an AA. The dry fragrance is unsually sweet, and has mild citrus (orange and kumquat) influences. Water process decafs often have an unusual syrupy sweetness, like a light cane sugar or molasses, and I get that in the fragrance here. The cup has a blend of citrus juices. Initially, it seems quite muted and mild, but it really intensifies a lot as it cools. There is bright and lively lemon (turning toward lime as it cools), and it has a hint of red grapefruit too. The mouthfeel is medium in thickness, and a bit doughy. This is an ideal coffee for drip brew, but might be a bit sour in decaf espresso, and even in the AeroPress. (I will need to test that, which I haven't as of yet). It finishes with a candy-like sweetness, and overall it is one of my favorite decaf arrivals in the books at this point!





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Kikuyu house in the coffee area, Kenya
Country: Kenya
Grade: Auction Lots
Region: 2 growing districts (see description)
Processing: Wet-Processed, then Water Process Decaf
Arrival Date: October 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Selection 28, 34
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium-to-bold intensity / Extraordinary aromatics, sweetness, complexity.
Roast: City - City+: The coffee works at all roast levels, but with proper rest the complexity is at it's acme a bit lighter. At this lighter level, the coffee won't look as pretty as it does at FC+, more surface texture and patchy coloration.
Compare to: Milder non-decaf Kenya auction lots.
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Colombia WP Decaf - Huila Pitalito

This is from a special lot of from the Pitalito area of Huila, that was basically overstock. There was too much, and it seemed wise to send a portion of it for Water Process decaffeination in Mexico than try to sell it all non-decaf. In recent years we have been buying some remarkable coffees from this region of South Huila department, and in fact our most recent Cup of Excellence coffee is from the same area. So what we have here is a verified solid coffee in non -decaf form, that retained great sweetness and balance through the decaf process. (While there is often the strong possibility of a coffee going "flat" at the decaf plant, losing all its origin character, it always helps to start with a great coffee. Traditionally, brokers bought decaf from the plant, coffee supplied from lower grade "stocklots" by the decaffeinator themselves. The results were never very impressive. Now we are able to designate high quality lots, and get these kinds of results). This Pitalito coffee has great brightness in the lighter roasts, as much as any decaf Colombia lots we have ever had, and I dare say it keeps pace with some fine quality non-decaf Colombia offerings. The aromatics are fairly mild, but have marked sweetness, nutty roast tones, and hints of citrus. There are more toasty nut notes in the wet aromatics, with vanilla and sweet apricot. This cup is quite lively and bright at C+ roast levels, reminding me of the really nice Ethiopia decafs. In fact, some might want to take this to FC roast to tone down the cup. I found my favorite roast was FC, before 2nd crack, where the cup had the most balance. The aftertaste has a well defined, cleanly-disappearing sweetness. The body is fairly light at C+, which is not at all a negative because it suits the brisk nature of this cup. It rounds out considerably at FC roast.





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Huila coffee shrub, photographed from early this season
Country: Colombia
Grade: Excelso
Region: Pitalito Region, South Huila
Processing: Wet Processed, then WP decaf.
Arrival Date: December 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 16-18 Screen
Varietal: Caturra
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium Intensity /Brightness at C+. Balance at FC
Roast: City+ to FC if you want to tone down the brightness a bit
Compare to: This Huila cups like a Huila: it seems to have forgotten that it was sent to Mexico and decaffeinated.
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Guatemala Huehuetenango WP Decaf

This is a water process decaf that was sent directly to the decaffeination plant in Mexico from the highlands of Huehuetenango department. It's not an estate lot, but a mix of farms. Yet it retains typical Huehue character, and tastes like a good, non-decaf Huehue lot. The dry fragrance has apple ester notes and hazelnut. Sometimes this fruitiness is the result of the decaf process, and shouldn't be there in the aromatics, but in this case it is from the coffee: it comes through in the wet aromatics too. In addition, the aroma is very sweet, and in the cup flavors the theme is continued ... classic cup character tinted with fruit and nut accents. I get a slight raspberry note in the City+ roast, and overall the character is bright, lively and high-toned. The aftertaste is brief, clean and pleasant, while the body is,as with most nice Guatemala coffees, light-to-medium. Overall, this cup echoes perfectly it's non-decaf counterpart, and has good Huehuetenango origin character.





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View of the coffee area, under shade tree canopy, in Huehue.
Country: Guatemala
Grade: SHB
Region: Huehuetenango
Processing: Wet-Process, then water process decaf
Arrival Date: August 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Catuai, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Medium intensity/ Good brightness, fruit and nut notes
Roast: City+ is the most lively, Full City and darker have good tangy chocolate notes.
Compare to: Non-decaf Huehuetenango lots.
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Papua New Guinea Peaberry WP Decaf

Papua New Guinea occupies the Eastern half of the island it shares with the Indonesian province of Irian (no organized coffee production originates from Irian) There can be a huge range of cups from Papua New Guinea, and the so-called Plantation coffees represent the cleaner character of the coffee produced on the island... more like a good Central American than part of the Indonesian profile. The Organic PNG coffees have the more natural, rustic cup character. The plantations are larger farms that have their own coffee processing wet mills, so they are able to control all the variables of production better than the small farm "coffee gardens." Kimel is offered broadly in the US now via the brokerage Royal, and is a solid coffee. But some lots have cupped very "green" and underdeveloped in character, others can be flat and uninteresting. This is the second time the coffee has been available as a water-process decaf lot, and the results are quite favorable. It's a very balanced cup, with good dense body, but also bright floral and fruit hints in the cup. There's a touch of cedar, brown sugar sweet notes, root beer, anise, and a lingering finish that has sweet basil qualities. It's actually quite nuanced for a decaf, and the aftertaste is outstanding.





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Older coffee trees with interplanted ground cover, Papua New Guinea (Picture by Wendy DeJong)
Country: New Guinea
Grade: PB
Region: Eastern Highlands
Processing: Wet Processed
Arrival Date: August 2008 Arrival
Appearance: .4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity /Sweet cup with balance, interesting nuances
Roast: City to City+ achieves the sweetness and bright notes.
Compare to: A bright, sweet and clean PNG, unique and not much like its Indonesian cousins (Sulawesi, Sumatra, Java).
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Panama Boquete WP Decaf "Panamaria"

It used to be that water decafs were generic coffees; you really couldn't verify that the source coffee was a good cup, or even specialty coffee at all! It was possible for large roasters to send their own lots to Swiss Water for decaffeination, but that was impossible for everyone else. Now we have been able to buy coffees that we cup as regular coffees and verify the quality, then re-cup after decaffeination to see the effect of the process. Panamaria is a really nice mix of Boquete Estate coffees that has placed in the Panama Coffee Competition in years past. As a Water Process decaf, it really preserves the primary cup character, the acidity and brightness of the cup. This is a sweet little cup, delicate, floral, a little simple but really nice! It's just amazing how much of the delicate brightness of the excellent Panamaria coffee is preserved after the decaffeination process. The fragrance and aroma have both citrus and floral elements. The cup has a light body, and great zesty brightness. Lemon and jasmine blossom come through. The aftertaste is crisp and brief, which suits this bright, refreshing cup character quite well.





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Shade-grown coffee plot in Panama
Country: Panama
Grade: SHB
Region: Boquete
Processing: Wet-processed, Water-process decaf
Arrival Date: August 2008 Arrival
Appearance: 0 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
Varietal: Red Catuai, Typica
Intensity/Prime Attribute: Mild intensity / Bright, crisp
Roast: City+ is ideal to keep in the strong suit of this cup profile: crisp and bright.
Compare to: Floral and citric Central with light body.
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