We’ve featured a number of remarkable examples of small single-farmer lots from the Catracha Project this season. Royal’s investment and dedication to the project runs deep, and we’re very proud to be a partner with Mayra, Lowell, and the rest of the team who make the remarkable success and innovation of the work taking place in Santa Elena a reality.
This particular lot is a community effort. Six farms contributed coffee to the blend, and while it might seem less glamorous than an individual farm lot, this is what Catracha is all about. It represents engagement and education that extend beyond a cherry-picked farmer here and there, and becoming interweaved in the fabric of a locality. It showcases the energy and commitment to quality embraced by a collective effort. And it offers concrete evidence that the Catracha Project is a rising tide, lifting all the boats. The names of the farmers who produced this lot are Mario Dionel Vásquez, Alexis Vásquez, Pilar Gonzalez, Santiago López Vásquez, Maria Lourdes Hernandez, and Idalia Ventura.
The Catracha Coffee Company was founded by Mayra Orellana-Powell in 2010, and is dedicated to improving the life quality of its members by increasing quality and yield, providing educational seminars, and directing transparent financial transactions that return 100% of the profits from sold, exported green coffee to the farmers. Mayra is a native of Santa Elena, and just recently returned to the area after a stint in California’s Bay Area. She also works as Royal’s Marketing and Outreach Director, and while she’ll be missed around the office here in Emeryville, we’re excited to see her continue the incredible work she’s doing in Honduras. This coffee is an excellent example of the exemplary work undertaken by the Catracha Coffee Company and the dedicated farming community of Santa Elena.
This mixed-producer lot resembles the single-farmer Catracha lots we’ve recently featured in its high density and slightly higher than average water activity. The lot is a Bourbon & Catuaí blend. Bourbon is one of Arabica’s two commonly grown heirloom varieties (the other is Typica), and it traces its history back to the island that was once its namesake, now a French department known as Réunion. The high quality of the Bourbon cultivar is frequently identified by its citric acidity. While still fairly common, it has been outpaced en masse with higher-yielding, more disease resistant trees… such as Catuaí, a dwarf variety with copious proliferation throughout the Americas. Originating from a hybridization of Caturra and Mundo Novo in Brazil, the coffee is resistant to wind and rain, relatively high yielding, can be planted more closely together than larger cultivars, and requires some precision in fertilization.
This dense Bourbon with relatively high moisture was easy to roast and manipulate in the drum. The first roast, PR-344 started with a very high charge temperature and finished relatively quickly with an overall roast time of 8:57. I could tell by the aromatics at first crack that this coffee had a mild acidity and wondered what it would taste like if I concentrated on building more sugar browning complexity. I decided that I would extend the roast with the goal of first crack starting later. This would increase the Maillard stage and hopefully add depth and sweetness on the cupping table. I easily accomplished my goal on PR-345 and was able to extend the roast by nearly a minute to 9:47. Both roasts were clean and sweet, but PR-345 had a bigger body with some bitter florals like lavender that you find in a nice dark chocolate, while PR-344 tasted like a marshmallow and caramel swirl candy with a hint of orange. This sweet and clean coffee is easy to roast and would make an excellent single origin espresso.
Based on our experience on the cupping table, and with some previous Honduran offerings, particularly Catracha coffees, we tightened our coffee-to-water ratio down to 1-to-15 in a 40g Chemex. For both roasts, this helped to improve the sweetness, body, and fruity acidity that all seemed a little muted on the cupping table. Jen and I preferred the brew of the second roast, PR-0345, but Richard enjoyed the first, noting citrus, caramel, and maple. PR-0345 was a little brighter and had a balanced medley of mild fruit flavors like cherry, green grape, and apple. Brown sugar sweetness and a hint of lavender were also present. There were only minimal solubility differences between the two roasts, though PR-0345 took about 30 seconds longer to brew.