Pasto (formally, San Juan de Pasto) is the capital of Colombia’s southwesternmost department, Nariño. It’s about an hour south of Buesaco, and just two hours by car north of the Ecuadorian border. Pasto rests along the rift straddled by two of Colombia’s three major Andean mountain ranges. The valley runs like a fertile trough through Colombia, down from Medellín through Cali and then Popayán, hitting Buesaco and then Pasto, and before you know it you’ve traced the gorge all the way to Quito, Ecuador.
Just outside the city limits of Pasto, Diela López is cultivating coffee and mandarins on a 15 hectare plot she calls El Mirador. The farm is large enough that in addition to the help from her husband and their two children, she must hire eight of her neighbors to help during the harvest season with picking and processing. Like most small scale farmers in Colombia, her coffee is pulped, fermented, and dried on site at the farm’s micromill, which Diela personally oversees.
This small lot nearly slipped by us when it arrived. We cupped it, of course, but the coffee is a quiet hero, not prone to blaring its own horn. It wasn’t until Colleen King brewed a batch – and set the entire office abuzz with how tasty it was – that we realized we had another delightful Colombian Crown Jewel on our hands. Colleen has some brew notes below you should definitely scope to help make the most of this coffee.
Like so many great Colombian coffees from this season and years past, Diela López is cultivating the dwarf Caturra variety, a naturally occurring mutation of Bourbon. Popular throughout the Americas, particularly in Colombia, the trees can be planted densely and are resistant to wind, but not to leaf rust – which has led to many farmers uprooting their Caturras and replacing them wholesale with more resilient strains of Castillo or Colombia.
Not so for Diela, however. Her Caturra harvest is of quite high density, nicely dried to right around 11% and a cozy looking 0.55 aW reading with a slightly wide screen size distribution skewing towards the smaller end of the spectrum. These physical markers are all pretty standard looking for the region, which seems to struggle to produce the large Supremo sizes but still matches and in many cases outpaces other Colombian regions in terms of cup quality. Viva Nariño!
These two roast curves look similar, but produced different flavor profiles and created some disagreement on the table. My first roast, PR-491, was more aggressive with the heat and therefore had a shorter overall roast time and coincidentally a lower end temperature. Cupping notes were vibrant and intense with florals, apple, and grape with a cola and fernet branca base. The overall flavor was somewhat pinched and slightly bitter to me.
The second roast, PR-492, was a bit more stretched out with a more gentle application of heat, longer roast time, and slightly higher end temperature by 2 degrees. I preferred this roast because the acid structure was softer and sweeter with cupping notes including orange, tangerine, cherry, red grape and a candied pecan sweetness.
I use the trier often after first crack to monitor the quality and development of the aromatic character. Pulling a coffee too soon can create a “pinched” flavor that can taint what would otherwise be a positive flavor descriptor. Take the flavor note of orange. A pinched orange flavor is similar to an orange perfume with a lingering alcohol bitterness, while an open and sweet orange flavor would be that of orange zest or orange juice. This coffee is rather small in screen size and has a high density. I suggest allowing it some time to open up during the roast and going with a slightly longer, but not necessarily darker roast profile.
Our newest sales team member, Colleen King, joined me to brew this coffee. She put the two roasts through a number of small-dose Kalita brews, finding in general that the coffee tended to brew fairly quickly and at low strength even at remarkably fine grinds. We’ve published the numbers below, highlighting our favorite. Here’s what she had to say:
El Mirador Colombia yielded the best results with longer dwell times, some agitation, and higher extraction and TDS. The result was a very approachable, balanced cup, with notes of black cherry, vanilla, cocoa powder and raw almond. We suggest this coffee for a high strength filtered drip or single origin espresso.