Finca San Carlos is located in Unión Juárez, a city on the western slope of Volcán Tacaná. The volcano is mostly located in Guatemala, and the city of Unión Juárez could hardly be closer to the Guatemalan border if it tried.
The farm belongs to Alfred Klein, who purchased it from the Hotzen family, the original owners who have owned the land since 1896. Royal Coffee partnered with Klein and provided financing for the transaction. Early results from the certified organic trees were exceptional…
…but the timing of the purchase proved to be ill-fated. The second season of the farm’s harvest while in Klein’s possession was almost entirely obliterated by the rust fungus epidemic that continues to devastate Central American coffee farms. Yields were down 85% for Finca San Carlos, but Alfred Klein’s determination was unabated. Royal doubled down, further financing nurseries and facility improvements. Klein has planted resistant varieties to improve biodiversity of the crop and has installed an incredible water purification system, including pulp and biowaste treatment.
Spring water on the farm runs year round, and enables Klein to “double wash” his coffee, soaking the coffee for 48 hours after its initial 48 hour wet fermentation. The farm is in pursuit of Rainforest Alliance certification, and has made a commitment to the wellbeing of its migrant worker population (mostly Guatemalan) to whom services are provided including on-site housing, meals, health care, and education.
We’re proud to offer this sparkling clean Mexican coffee as an addition to a robust lineup of Crown Jewels. It aligns perfectly with our mission to connect incredible farmers to exceptional roasters, and it’s a lovely coffee besides.
Compared to the average Mexican coffee, Alfred’s coffee is quite dense. Although somewhat widely spread, the size of the coffee is mostly distributed through the medium-to-large 16-18 screens. Average looking moisture figures are paired with slightly higher water activity numbers, giving this coffee some interesting potential for post-crack sugar browning while roasting. Combine these characteristics with the mix of heirloom and rust-resistant varieties grown on Finca San Carlos and you’ve got a coffee with great quality potential and a lot of complexity.
This very sweet coffee was a dream to cup and a master during the Maillard stages. Both roasts produced syrupy cups with well defined sugar browning properties which could be related to the lower density and higher water activity in this coffee. In roast one, the drying stage was just a touch longer than roast two (38 seconds), both the Maillard stage and the the post crack development time was similar in time. Since the overall time of the two roasts differ by nearly a minute, it is important to look at the roast stages as percentages. Roast one is more heavy handed during the drying stage (+4.3%) and roast two was weighted towards the post crack development time (+2.9%). Because of this, Roast one was slightly more vibrant and displayed some tart fruit and citrus qualities which added to the complexity of the cup. However, if you want sweetness and some jammy fruits, I suggest roast two and to shorten your overall drying time and concentrate your efforts on post crack development.
Roast one: cherry, almond, plum, vanilla, syrupy
Roast two: plum, concord grape, juicy, nectarine, complex and smooth
Evan and I brewed up two iterations of each of Jen’s roasts, first in a Kalita Wave and thereafter in a Chemex at a slightly different ratio. We offered samples of each brew to both Jen and Richard, as well as the refractometer, just to make sure we had a good panel. The refractometer seemed disinclined to break any ties, but as it happened its services weren’t necessary. The panel preferred Jen’s first roast in both brew methods, noting plenty of sweetness with notes of stone fruits, vanilla, and some nice floral expression, particularly in the Chemex. The second roast took longer to extract in both brews, much longer in the Chemex, and seemed a little nuttier. Interestingly, TDS readings were inconsistent between brewing types – a good example of a coffee that needs to be dialed in to taste, not just to numbers.