In the earlier September edition the Royal News, we told you about a cupping event in Tolima, Colombia being hosted by Inconexus Coffee. The results are in, and we can say with a great deal of certainty that Tolima is loaded with outstanding coffees. Cradled to its south and east by Huila and Cauca, and abutted on the western and northern flanks by an area known as the Zona Cafetera (or Colombian Coffee Belt if you’re a gringo like me), Tolima is somewhat hidden in plain sight. Long an area of conflict between the government and separatist groups, and home to quite a bit of coca leaf production even today, Tolima is quietly gaining recognition in the Colombia coffee pantheon.

The Mejor de Tolima event began with 200 coffees gleaned from the best deliveries of the recently completed harvest at cupping and buying stations located throughout Tolima. These were cupped by the Inconexus team and whittled down to the 20 highest scores, all single farm lots ranging in size from 10 to 17 bags of green. A panel of international judges including roasters from Extracto, Batdorf and Bronson, Verve and Intelligentsia along with cuppers from the FNC (Colombian Coffee Federation), the Coffee Collective in Denmark and Royal Coffee then arrived for the final evaluation. After a day of cupping, the winners were announced with the 20 farmers in attendance, and many got to shake hands and shoot selfies with the very roaster buying their coffee. Please watch the video from some of the producers participating in The Mejor de Tolima here.

It certainly would not be a Colombia cupping event in 2015 if there weren’t at least a cursory mention of the ongoing Caturra-Castillo cultivar debate. All of the tastings were blind (without knowing any of the terroir or varietal information), and the final standings point to some interesting implications. While there were certainly some fine Castillo coffees on offer, all the top five and the lion’s share of the top 20 were Caturra, or a blend of Caturra and other old-growth types like Tipica and Bourbon. This is merely anecdotal evidence, and studies such as the Coffeelands trials or our own evaluations last month, which compare different varietals grown on the same farm, are possibly more instructive. Still, as a long-time Caturra advocate, I admit to being unsurprised by this outcome.

Royal will be bringing in the top 15 lots from the Mejor de Tolima competition to our Seattle position. Caramel, toffee, butterscotch and crème fraiche are the cupping notes to look for here. If exceptional balance, clarity, and sweetness do it for you, these will make excellent additions to your holiday roast menu. Coffees will arrive in early November to the Green Room in Seattle and are now available.