This coffee was selected from one of the producers who harvested top lots during the Mejor de Nariño cupping competition and auction co-sponsored by Royal Coffee and Inconexus. In total, the Inconexus team evaluated 300 samples to find 30 of the best for the international buyers to evaluate. Back in August, we rolled deep into Nariño, bringing roasters in our posse to champion the spectacular coffees from the region – check out Founder Bob Fulmer’s summary of the event here.
Elvia Irene Burbano produced this lot on her farm called El Chimbo, located in the community of Medina Espejo in the municipality of Buesaco within the department of Nariño, Colombia. Elvia uses her own micro-mill to process harvested cherries, which allows for meticulous care in depulping, fermenting, and drying the coffee.
The department of Nariño has about 40,000 coffee farms, two-thirds of which, average around 3 acres in size. Nariño’s proximity to the equator delivers intense exposure to the sun (relatively constant and powerful year-round), which influences the cherry maturation rate. In Buesaco, warm air rises from the deep canyons at night and acts like a protective blanket for the coffee plants perched on the mountain tops. These combined attributes cause coffee plants to passively absorb the sun’s energy during the day and then come alive at night when the conditions are less harsh. This translates into concentrated flowering and long cherry maturation periods.
Elvia’s coffee is 100% Caturra, a naturally occurring mutation of the heirloom Bourbon variety. First identified in Brazil in the early part of the 20th century, Caturra is a dwarf tree with resistance to windy conditions. 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. It continues to be a popular choice in Colombia, however there has been a push to replace it wholesale with the heartier variety Castillo. This has met resistance from some cuppers who believe Castillo is incapable of achieving the same quality of flavor.
Falling about 75% between sizes 15 – 17, Elvia’s coffee is not particularly remarkable in size. It’s moisture content and density are pretty normal looking, as well. All signs point to a friendly green coffee both for good shelf life and easy handling in the roaster.
I took two very different approaches to this coffee and I am very pleased with the results of both. Our first roast, PR-461, is very much in line with how I typically roast a nice high altitude Colombian coffee. Cupping notes leaned on the brighter side with lemon, cherry and nasturtium accompanied by honey and almond butter. Our second roast, PR-462, is a roasting style that I have yet to master on the Probatino, which is to turn off the gas after first crack and let the coffee “rest” before turning the heat back on and finishing the roast. For the second roast, I started with a drum charged a few degrees higher than my first roast to make up for the momentum I would lose when I turn the heat off after first crack. First crack came 21 seconds sooner in the second roast, and at a higher temperature by over 5 degrees. While the RoR plummeted when I turned off the gas, there was only a slight change in my bean probe temperature. After 34 seconds I turned the heat up to three gas, but I quickly determined that 3 gas was overkill. This small roasting machine recovered quicker than I had surmised and I turned the heat down to 2 gas so I did not race to the end of the roast.
There are many similarities between these very different looking roast curves. The total roast time and the end temperature are different, which manifested in the external roast color on the coffee. Our first roast, PR-461, roasted longer (+24 seconds) and +1.4 °F higher than our second roast PR-462. It makes perfect sense that our whole bean Colortrack reading would be 0.59 higher (darker). Amazingly, we hit the same internal temperature with only a minor difference of 0.08 on the Colortrack. On the cupping table, PR-462 was complex on many levels, but most notably it had a very tactile mouthfeel and the orange, floral, and plum notes really popped. This was a very unique look at how different roasting techniques can change the flavor profile of a coffee.
This was a reasonably enjoyable coffee. Who am I kidding, it was lovely.
Though we didn’t agree by consensus on which roast was our favorite, both were very soluble and flavorful when brewed with the Bonavita. We were rewarded with sweetness, depth, and complexity throughout our experience of Elvia Irene Burbano’s coffee.
PR-461 seemed to be the more complex of the two roasts, with a distinct peachy goodness noted by a few of us. This particular roast had texture working in its favor; smooth and creamy mouthfeel swayed the group towards this sample as the chosen roast.
PR-462 had a very classic bent, and chocolatey goodness was the clear modus operandi of this coffee. Fudge with roasted almonds came to mind on my very first sip, but a tart tamarind note instilled a bit more complexity. Vanilla aromatics were also present, with a dry floral finish that I personally preferred.
Either way you go, this is bound to be a winner. Both classic and distinctive enough to hold its own as a single origin, this very special Nariño lot is a satisfying one.