Coffee, or tea, or both? When you wet-process coffee, the skin is difficult to save, and usually becomes part of the compost mix for the farm. But in Arabia and Africa, the skin of the cherry is used to make a very potent tea called Qishr (also spelled Kisher). In fact, making a tea from the dried coffee fruit pre-dates roasting the coffee seed to crush and steep in water, coffee as we know it. And even today, the price of Qishr is higher than the price of coffee in an Arabic market. Cascara is the name used in Central America for these fruit skins, and a perfect name for the tea made from them as well. If you like fruit-blend herbal teas, especially those with fruited flavors like hibiscus, rose-hips, tamarind, orange peel, mango, apple, you should like Cascara tea a lot. It makes amazing iced tea as well, and with a very moderate amount of honey can be very pleasant. The best way to make Cascara tea is in a French Press, or you can use any method you would use for preparing herbal tea. Brewing like filtered coffee does not work well as it benefits from a long steep time (5 - 8 minutes), and you can make it a bit strong, then add water (or pour over ice) to taste. Traditionally, Qishr has additions of cardamom pods and sugar while brewing, and that is another interesting preparation with Cascara as well. Does it have caffeine? Yes, since all parts of the coffee plant do ...but we don't know how much, and it will certainly depend on steep time and the amount used to make each cup. What's interesting about this cascara, is that it is dehydrated - part of a joint effort on the part of the folks at the Helsar micro-mill in Costa Rica, and a research team at the University of Costa Rica. They found that cascara has 50% more antioxidants than cranberries, and are using dehydration for drying the cherry to near 0 moisture, making for a crisp and very edible product. Yes, edible! In addition to tea, try using it in place of dried fruit on cereal, yogurt, or even on it's own. Expect to see the occasional stem too, easily spotted and removed. And while the final produce is not certified organic, they are only using coffee cherry from Helsar's three organic farms.
Cascara has a raisin-prune smell, clean and clearly fruited. It shares many light, and tart smells and flavors with dried hibiscus, the flower used to make jamaica tea in Mexico. As soon as you add water you smell tamarind, accompanied by delicate floral to herbal smells. As mentioned, the flavors of many dried fruits come out in this tea: hibiscus, tamarind, raisin, dried apple, dried passion fruit, and mango. The cascara/qishr we've had in the past benefited from a touch of sweetener, but this one is quite sweet on it's own. We steeped 10 grams in 350 ml of water for about 8 minutes and the brew had a simple syrup quality, very sweet, but free and clear of the unrefined aspects of raw sugar. It has bigger body than most herbal and black teas, on it's way to apple juice in weight. Fool around with steep times, ratios, and additives to find the combination that works best for your taste. As the cup cools in temperature, the silkiness and weight of the liquor becomes more and more apparent, as do sweet to tart fruited flavors like apple, yellow cherry, and ripe cranberry. Possibilities for the use of Cascara tea seem endless; cooking, sauces, baking, beer brewing. It's a tea...but it's coffee...and now also a snack? A unique coffee product, to say the least.
Finca Matalapa is a classic estate coffee, long before there were mini-mills and micro-lots. It has a complete independent mill to service the farm, from the tree through wet-processing, patio drying, hulling, preparation, to loading the coffee in jute bags and packing the shipping container. The mill is filled with fantastic, classic coffee equipment painted in bold colors. And it's the passion of the owner, Vickie Ann Dalton de Diaz, and the mechanical love of the archaic on the part of her Francisco Diaz that keeps the mill running and the coffee tasting so wonderful! Finca Matalapa is in the Libertad area, not far from the capital of San Salvador, on a west-facing slope ranging from 1200 meters up to the ridge top at 1350 meters. It's a 4th generation coffee estate totaling 120 hectrares and was founded in the late 1800's by Fidelia Lima, great grandmother of the Vickie. She maintains 14 acres of virgin tropical forest and keeps her coffee plants shaded with over forty varieties of larger trees. While most of our El Salvadors are Bourbon coffees (or Tekisic a local Bourbon type), because of the strong winds in the area they find the native Salvador Pacas varietal to fare better in this region. Pacas is a natural mutation of the Bourbon varietal. This is from a particular part of the farm called Tablon Calagual.
This Matalapa lot is an approachable cup, balanced core coffee flavors, and infinitely drinkable. The dry fragrance from the ground coffee has hazelnuts and honey granola scents, while the wet aromatics give a more volatile aromatic emphasis to the dry fragrance, praline, almonds and a hint of dried fruit. The cup flavors add to this a unique green tea accent at City+ roast, with the cup dominated by layered caramel and nutty roast tones, and a twist of orange rind in the finish. Body is moderate at this level, and at Full City seems much more dense and opaque, as do the accompanying bittersweet cocoa roast tones. It has mild acidity, and at City+ finds balance between brightness, flavor and body. Finca Matalapa makes for a classic-toned SO espresso at Full City roast, heavy cocoa roast flavor is accented by an orange zest note, and followed by creamy macadamia nut in the aftertaste.
The Malacara Estate goes back over 125 years, when the Alvarez family planted the first shrubs to populate the farm on the slopes of the Santa Ana volcano. Now four generations deep, the Alvarez family continue to manage Malacara, which has expanded throughout the decades into three different plots: Malacara A, B, and C. This coffee is from plot C, which is located on the north side of the volcano at roughly 1500 meters above sea level. The farms are 90% planted with Bourbon and Typica types, and are wet milled onsite at Malacara. This is a fully washed coffee, meaning that the whole cherry is removed with a depulping machine, then the mucilage-covered seeds are fermented in order to remove the sticky layer that remains. The coffee is then dried on patios before being milled by Beneficio El Borbollón, who prepare the coffee for export by removing the layer of parchment, separating screen sizes, and sorting out physical defects. A comfortable coffee to roast, Malacara takes on a uniform color as you move through the stages of roast, and is therefore fairly easy to judge roast level by the changes in physical color.
The dry fragrance has an oat and malt sugar smell, subtle nut accents, which together have a sweet cereal appeal. The wet aroma has a similar malty smell to it, and also honey sweetness, and a pistachio scent comes up in the steam when breaking through the crust. The sweet smells leading up to the cup offer a fairly accurate representation of the cup that follows. City+ is a great starting point roast-wise, a sweetness defined by notes of brown sugar, malt syrup, and a honey graham accent as the coffee cools. Malacara has an understated tea-like perceived acidity, which affords a layer of clarity in a coffee that might otherwise be fairly two dimensional. Full City roasts are chocolatey, and with a sweet wheat flavor bears a likeness to a chocolate muffin, and bittersweet chocolate roast tones last in the aftertaste.
Lot #209 is the first of a series of individual Gesha lots we purchased from a coffee estate in the Acatenango region. We buy this Gesha every year, and this year we decided to offer seperated lots instead of blending into one final coffee. We found that all of the coffee lots share similar cup characteristics. Afterall, they are the same cultivar pulled from the the same farm. But flavor profiles did vary slightly, as did our scores, and so we think it's only fair to offer them as unique offerings to highlight their differences, and to keep things fresh. If you don't know the story of the Gesha cultivar, it is an old coffee type from Ethiopia that was brought to an experimental coffee garden in Costa Rica years ago as a specimen sample. It was distributed to a few farms for testing on small plots, but not much was thought of it until one of these, Esmeralda in Panama, separated it from the other cultivars and entered it in the national competition. It was so outrageously different, with fruited and floral character like a Yirga Cheffe coffee from half a world away. Now that the word is out, other farms that received some of the seed have tried to separate their Gesha coffee as well, as is the case here. The results are always a bit different: the cultivar "expresses" itself differently in terms of cup flavors at each location, influenced by weather, soil, altitude and the like. And with this coffee from the region of Acatenango, we have a Gesha cup that expresses much of that floral intensity that's become synonymous with the "Gesha" name. Harvest was quite productive this year again as the owner of the farm has dedicated even more of his farm to this varietal, which after putting it to the cup test we've decided is a very good thing.
Floral sweetness is part of what's unique about the Gesha cultivar - perfume-like, sweet, complex, and 'fresh' - a set of aromatics we've come to associate with Spring and Summer, the time when this Gesha arrives. The dry fragrance of lot 1 is a bit more subdued than what we expect from this coffee. Jasmine notes do accent raw sugar sweetness, but I wouldn't say it "bowled us over" as it has in the past. (That said, put it next to another coffee from the region and I think we'd all say otherwise!). The wet aromatics, however, are where fresh florals and clean sugary sweet smells reach their apex, a perfumed gardenia-like scent, and cooked stone fruit, pectin sweetness underneath. Jasmine and rose water florals are apparent at a fairly wide roast range, however I would caution against taking anywhere near Full City+ as the roast tones will dominate much of the top note complexity. We do get customer feedback from time to time asking what all the fuss is about with Gesha, and I would say 9 times out of 10, they roast the coffee too dark to find out. I love drinking light and even closer to middle roasts of this coffee (City to City+), where citrus flavors of lemon water and mandarin orange highlight the cup, and vibrant acidity threads together the complex accent notes that hang way out in the aroma: lemon and limade, pearl jasmine and sencha teas, bubble gum, and peach hard candy. This Gesha has surprisingly juicy body when taken into City+, which sets it apart from many other Geshas we've tasted, a weight that supports the intense cup characteristics and sweetness. The finish is filled out with notes of cardamom spice and even a light dusting of cocoa powder in roasts beyond City+. Full City roasts are enjoyable, but I personally wouldn't compromise this complex cup character with darker roasting. As usual, these Gesha beans iare dense and large, and I found that the coffee benefited from a handful of seconds beyond the completion of 1st crack, ensuring roast evenness.
This lot from the La Libertad region is a custom blend we put together from the coffees of small producers in the various coffee communities within the municipality. The farms making up this lot start at about 1700 meters, and are planted in a mix of Bourbon, Caturra, and many older Typica types sprinkled in. The coffee is processed at small wet mills at farmer's homes, or the home of a neighbor, depulping the coffee cherry from the day's harvest directly into fermentation tanks, washed the following day, and then moved to the drying patios. The dry parchment is transported down to be cleaned and sorted at a local dry mill in Huehuetenango town where it is prepared for maritime transit. We spent many hours at the cupping table sorting through small producer lots from the area in order to put this single regional blend of coffee from neighboring "cafeteros" of the Libertad municipality.
This lot from La Libertad has a nice fragrance in the dry grounds, with golden raisin and toffee nut in lighter roasts, and molasses sugar in our Full City roast. Aromatically speaking, there's a solid brown sugar smell that comes up from the wetted crust that reminds me of a caramelized brown sugar crumble. This aromatic profile transfers to the cup as well, the lighter roasts having layers of unrefined sugar flavors, along with tea top notes, and a tea-like tannic quality in the finish. City+ roasts show well when brewed, but I think I prefer this lot of La Libertad at Full City myself, a foundation of deep cocoa bittering notes paired with dark dried fruit flavors like plum, and black fig. Full City works great for espresso, shots characterized by viscous body, a chocolatey note ala semi-sweet chocolate chips, and a tart dark stone fruit accent.
Yes, this Gesha comes from the same Acatenango farm we buy our other Gesha lots from. But the flavor profile was unique enough compared to the others and so we tagged it "Longberry" as to differentiate it from the rest. It has a fruited side that is as overt as the jasmine floral notes we expect from Gesha, and that adds a tanginess that's obvious in light roasts. This Longberry lot's moisture content reads a bit higher than the others too (%12.3 as opposed to %11.5), which could mean a little longer time in the fermentation tank, or perhaps on the drying patios, and may contribute to the slightly more fruited cup. If you don't know the story of the Gesha cultivar, it is an old coffee type from Ethiopia that was brought to an experimental coffee garden in Costa Rica years ago as a specimen sample. It was distributed to a few farms for testing on small plots, but not much was thought of it until one of these, Esmeralda in Panama, separated it from the other cultivars and entered it in the national competition. It was so outrageously different, with fruited and floral character like a Yirga Cheffe coffee from half a world away. Now that the word is out, other farms that received some of the seed have tried to separate their Gesha coffee as well, as is the case here. The results are always a bit different: the cultivar "expresses" itself differently in terms of cup flavors at each location, influenced by weather, soil, altitude and the like. And with this coffee from the region of Acatenango, we have a Gesha cup that expresses much of that floral intensity that's become synonymous with the "Gesha" name.
The dry fragrance has smells of lime peel zest with floral and spice notes that are much more than subtle. The floral aspects are definitely of the star jasmine variety - typical for Gesha coffee - and spiced sweetness that smells a bit like cinnamon-spiced honey. The wetted crust of City and City+ roasts pack hefty sweetness, like warm butterscotch syrup, only to be eclipsed by a resonant floral aroma that's released on the break. The cup has much of the aforementioned qualities, a delicious base brown sugar-to-butterscotch sweetness that lasts long into the aftertaste, and that is marked by delicate top notes often thought to be reserved for coffees of East Africa. A floral pearl jasmine tea note is easily recognized, and cinnamon and cardamom spice come through to a lesser extent. As the cup cools, citrus flavor and vibrance moves closer to pole position, taking on a flavor lime, replete with a tangy citric brightness that pairs well with black tea notes in the short finish. A toasted sesame note crops up as the cup cools adding a grain-like sweetness that comes off like honey-sesame candies. I roasted one batch to Full City, and while it had juicy bittersweetness, there wasn't much left signifying the coveted varietal.
This lot comes from the community of Bojonalito in the municipality of La Libertad, Huehuetenango. Altitude in this area spans a range of roughly 1500 meters in town, on up to about 1800 meters in the surrounding hillsides. Like most of the coffee communities in the area, farmers of Bojonalito plant Bourbon and Caturra types for the most part, with the occasional Typica mixed in. Coffee processing is handled at the farmer's home or the home of a neighbor, and then the coffee is patio dried. The dry parchment is transported down to "Huehue" town where it is dry milled and prepared for final transport to the US. We spent many hours at the cupping table sorting through small producer lots from the region in order to put this 16 bag lot together. This is part of our "Proyecto Xinabajul" in Huehuetenango, which you can read an in-depth and detailed description of the HERE.
Dried fruit and cocoa smells are released in the dry fragrance, raisins rolled in bittering baking cocoa comes to mind, along with a developed burned sugar bitterweetness. The sweetness in the wet aroma has elements of bran muffins with honey, like sweet baked goods, and breaking through the crust releases a sweet/savory hint that reminds me of sweet yam baked with brown sugar. Along with layers of raw sugar, Bojonalito promises an unfolding of complex fruited accents as the cup temperature dips. A demurara-like sweetness at City and City+ roasts gives way to subtle top notes of apple juice, and dried apricot, and a taste of cane juice comes into view in the finish. At Full City expect to sense darker fruited notes like fig and dark berry in a mouth temperature cup (even grape to some extent), though bittersweet chocolate is the dominant characteristic.
Proyecto Xinabajul, and we're pleased to offer these newest members.Each year we find new folks in Huehuetenango to buy coffee from, and sometimes we're lucky enough to find a whole family of coffee producers. The Castillos are such a family, and this lot is made up by Edwin, Arcenio, and Cornelio in the Hoja Blanca area of Cuilco - neighbors, family members, "Familia Castillo" (that's Edwin, and Arcenio along with other brother Felino in the first picture). Hoja Blanca is rife with coffee farmers, like many of these highland regions, and it's an area we've been buying coffee from now for some time, with Finca Regalito/Famila Villatoro being one of our longest interests. These farms are situated right around 1700 meters, and Caturra and Bourbon make up the lion's share of the coffee grown in the area, but some Typica trees are also in the mix at a much lower volume. Processing is handled at home, and the coffee is patio dried, then trucked down to a dry-mill in Huehuetenango town where it is prepared for transit. We're going on 8 years for our Proyecto Xinabajul, and we're pleased to offer these newest members.
This coffee boasts a dark sugar sweetness in middle to deeper roasting, baking spice top notes, and a pleasant nuttiness that make for a great daily cup. The dry fragrance has a honey covered almond scent, with hints of baked apple and cinnamon. The wetted crust smells a bit like baked goods, sweet pastry smells of brown sugar, and darker chocolate roast tones at Full City. The acidity does well to structure cup flavors, tying together a base comprised of dark brown sugar sweetness and cocoa bittersweetness. At City+, there are notes of pistachio and black walnut that fill out the finish along with a faint dry fruit accent, and a flavor of cinnamon-spiced cocoa powder in the long aftertaste. Full City roasting builds out the layers of cocoa bittersweetness, as well as hint at dark stone fruit, an understated prune note in the middle and finish. A versatile Guatemala in terms of both roasting and brew methods. Espresso shots of Full City roasts are teeming with dark cocoa notes that will pair well with steamed milk .
"Pequeñas de Peña" refers to the small farmers we are buying from in the area of Peña Blanca. This sub-municipality of La Libertad, is perched high in the mountainous region of Huehuetenango, many farms reaching as high as 2000 meters above sea level. This coffee comes to us through a joint-effort of a local micro-mill owner who is able to process and separate the micro-lots we approve, and a highly sophisticated dry-mill who handle the finishing touches and export the coffees for us. It helps us greatly to enlist local support, folks who not only know the land but also the local farmers. We put in quite a bit of work ourselves, tasting many rounds of samples in order to identify the premium-level coffees, as well as make several trips to the area each year meeting with farmers and collecting information. This coffee represents the harvest of a single-producer, and a whopping 900 LBS in total. This is part of our "Proyecto Xinabajul" in Huehuetenango, which you can read an in-depth and detailed description of the HERE.
This sweet smelling coffee shows prized characteristics in the aromatic profile. The dry fragrance at City+ produces raw sugar and cinnamon stick suggestions, with an overlay of caramel crumble. The wet grounds are rife with caramelized sugar smells, the pungency that comes with burning sugar in a pan, and a butterscotch top note lets off in the steam when breaking through the crust. At City+ the brewed coffee has weighty body like warm milk, flavors of roasted almond drizzled with buttery caramel, and baking spice flecks as well as a corn syrup flavor highlight the finish. A dried apple note accents the sweet cup, a nice counterpoint to base bittersweet flavors as the coffee temperature cools. I don't characterize this coffee as 'bright', but was impressed with a subtle impression of fruited brightness in my City+ roasts. Full City roasts are much more bittersweet, base flavors a cross between caramel candies and high % dark chocolate bar, and make an excellent espresso, as well as present a nice option for those who enjoy coffee milk drinks (would make an excellent café au lait).
The micro region of Peña Roja is located in the sub-municipality of La Libertad, Huehuetenango. This coffee comes to us through a joint-effort of a local micro-mill owner who is able to process and separate the micro-lots we approve, and a highly sophisticated dry-mill who handle the finishing touches and export the coffees for us. It helps us greatly to enlist local support, folks who not only know the land but also the local farmers. We put in quite a bit of work ourselves, tasting many rounds of samples in order to identify the premium-level coffees, as well as make several trips to the area each year meeting with farmers and collecting information. This coffee represents the harvest of about a dozen different producers from the community, equaling 26 x 69 kg bags in total. This is part of our "Proyecto Xinabajul" in Huehuetenango, which you can read an in-depth and detailed description of the HERE.
The dry fragrance has a sweet overlay of caramel crumble at City+, subtle bittering undertones, and a roasted almond accent. The wet grounds have a rich bittersweetness at Full City, layered roast tones released on the break, and strong waft of cacao nib in the steam. At City+ the brewed coffee has juicy body, a nice weighty mouthfeel like apple juice. An apple-y fruit flavor is a surprise in City+ roasts, not something I sensed in smells at all, and lends to the apple-like acidity (especially in my City+ roast, but not as present at Full City). Both my City+ and Full City roasts made for a lovely brewed coffee, showing balanced bittersweetness that tastes like caramel accented dark cacao bar. Caramelized sugar and silky chocolate flavors hang on long in the aftertaste accompanied by a slight tannic aspect you find in stone-fruit skins. Peña Blanca doubles well as single origin espresso too.