This micro-lot was produced by Hector Vargas, a Colombian coffee farmer. His farm, El Aguila (the Eagle), is just three hectares containing 13,000 coffee trees, a vegetable garden, some chickens, and a pig. His wife and two children help to manage the daily work of the finca, including the microscale wet milling that happens on-site. Coffee is the family’s primary source of income.
While most coffee farmers are small scale across the globe, Colombia’s smallholder coffee farmers are relatively unique in that they mostly process the coffee themselves, rather than selling cherry to a centralized location like a cooperative or private wet mill. Primarily using Eco-pulpers or micro-scale depulpers, the coffee will subsequently undergo fermentation, often in plastic buckets or metal tubs, prior to patio drying. The dried parchment is then taken to a centralized dry mill for density grading and prep for export.
Hector Vargas is growing exclusively the Caturra variety, quite common for farmers in Colombia who are interested in maintaining a high quality harvest. The cultivar is a natural mutation of Bourbon originating in Brazil in the early part of the 20th century, and is a dwarf tree. It has proliferated extensively throughout the Americas, in part due to its high productivity (despite above average fertilization requirements) and the fact that the trees can be planted more densely than comparably yielding cultivars. In Colombia, there has been a push to replace Caturra wholesale with the more resistant variety Castillo, but this has met resistance from some cuppers who believe Castillo is incapable of achieving the same quality of flavor.
This particular lot is very dense despite possessing a little higher moisture content than usual. Both of these characteristics are hallmarks of micro-milled high elevation Colombian coffees. The screen size is a little spread out, mostly larger beans between the sizes 16-18, meaning that while it’s close to being classified as a Supremo it doesn’t strictly fit into one of the commonly seen Colombian grades.
Such a gorgeous coffee that really popped on the cupping table. When looking at the following roasts, we are really splitting hairs to call one better than the other. There was a slight preference for the second roast, PR-337 with its slightly more aggressive profile. It had a higher charge temperature with an increase in heat well before the Maillard reactions begin. I even increased the heat after first crack to accelerate the roast with a higher end temperature and shorter total time than PR-336. If I were to roast this coffee again, I might choose to eliminate the decrease in gas at minute 6:00 and or add more energy by increasing my charge temperature by 3-5 °F. Either way this coffee is very clean and has a dynamic acidity that is really fun to roast.
Brewing roughly identical batches of Jen’s two roasts in our trusty Chemexes, this Colombia proved to be fairly soluble, offering up high extraction percentages in relatively (for Chemex paper filters, at least) truncated dwell times. While the recipes were very similar, the two roasts offered notable differences when brewed. In PR-0336, we noted more malic acids and red fruits (cherry pie, cranberry, apple, pomegranate, cascara), punctuated with some cola-like sweetness and a bit of an herbal finish. Generally, the group seemed to prefer the brew of PR-0337, which offered more tropical fruits (pineapple, mango, peach, lime, cantaloupe) and a cleaner finish despite a slight grassy note on first sip.