by Chris Kornman

Royal Coffee’s The Crown: Royal Coffee Lab & Tasting Room may not yet be open, but that hasn’t stopped the crew from undertaking a number of projects that are increasingly becoming available to the coffee industry. We opened the use of our space recently for an event that engaged a number of Bay Area roasters in a cupping and discussion on some really special microlots from Southern Colombia.

After vetting a number of coffees through the cupping and trading team at Royal, we settled on six final selections from the Nariño and Huila departments in Southern Colombia. As explained by VP Max Nicholas-Fulmer, the region’s coffees offer unmatched quality resulting from farmers who have increasingly been incentivized to produce high quality coffees in near-ideal environments and very high elevations. With little exception, each of these coffees were micro-milled on site at their respective farms, meaning each producer had total control over the quality of their process up until the dry mill.

Royal Coffee’s Director of Roasting, Jen Apodaca crafted two roast profiles for each microlot and our Creative Director Evan Gilman whipped up informational placards for the selections and prepared multiple roasts both as drip coffee and espresso service prior to and after the cupping event. Incidentally, these informational sheets are available (with Cropster roast profiles) upon request. Together, the group cupped through light roasts of each of the six selections with a lively discussion afterwards that tackled flavors and favorites from the cupping table, as well as headier concepts like the distinctions between common Colombian cultivars like Caturra and Castillo.

Royal President and Founder Bob Fulmer enthusiastically introduced the cupping, and the Crown team had the opportunity to introduce themselves and afterwards discussions in small groups centered around the concept and upcoming plans for the space. We were thrilled at the opportunity to showcase these lovely coffees and thankful for each of the attendees whose input and inclusion are invaluable to our ongoing work.

For those unable to attend, there are a few bags left of the lots we tasted. Below you can find a brief summary of the cupping. At The Crown we plan to host many cuppings like these to give you the opportunity to taste and source some of our favorite offerings alongside us.

  • 35241 Colombia Huila Teruel GrainPro – Eider Leguizamo and Simón Guzmán grew and processed this Castillo / Caturra blend near the municipality of Teruel at elevations between 1440 and 1650 masl. We tasted sweet fruits like clementine orange and starfruit complemented by deep flavors of chocolate and red wine. (bags available, spot)
  • 35242 Colombia Huila Palermo GrainPro – The second Huila on display, this coffee was grown by farmers Luis and Daimer Polanía at elevations exceeding 2000 masl. The multi-variety blend offered a more delicate and nuanced cup than the Teruel, and we tasted dried fruits like tamarind and raisin alongside more dominant flavors of hot chocolate and cinnamon. (bags available, spot)
  • 35475 Colombia Nariño Buesaco El Manzano (“The Apple”) Luis Gómez Caturra GrainPro – Luis Gómez’ farm, El Manzano, located near the town of Buesaco in the department of Nariño, produced a coffee that expressed itself in the cupping as the fullest bodied selection. A darker roast of this 100% Caturra, which was grown at a staggering 2150 masl, was offered to attendees as espresso; many felt it tasted as good if not better than on the cupping table, showing flavors like dark chocolate and orange with hints of pecan and a subtle but pleasant earthiness. (bags available, spot)
  • 35555 Colombia Nariño Buesaco Altamira Pedro Cordoba GrainPro– Another single-farmer selection from the municipality of Buesaco, this Castillo / Caturra blend was much lighter bodied on the cupping table. We enjoyed its classic sweetness and citric acidity, expressed by flavors like lime, passionfruit, and caramel. (41 bags available, spot in Oakland & Madison)
  • 35730 Colombia Nariño Aponte Inga Community Caturra GrainPro – This community lot from indigenous farmers in the municipality of Tablón de Gómez was a crowd-pleaser. Offered as both dark and light roast brewed on the Chemex, the coffee showed that its sweetness was not diminished by roasting style, and on the cupping table a complex blend of flavors ranging from red apple, orange, guava, white grape, and black tea made it an easy coffee to appreciate. (bags available, spot in Oakland & Shanghai)
  • 35731 Colombia San Antonio Nilson Lopez Caturra GrainPro – Last, but decidedly not least, this lovely coffee was a favorite amongst the cuppers, and was also offered as both light and dark roast as drip before and after the cupping. Nilson Lopez’ 100% Caturra lot has a pedigree of excellence, having placed prominently in national competitions including a 1st place Cup of Excellence honor in 2012. Unsurprisingly, the attention to detail continues to this day, and cuppers noted deep complex fruits. Plum, black cherry, and blackberry notes seamlessly integrated with more nuanced flavors of peach and orange marmalade, held together by an effortless sugarcane sweetness. A thorough physical and sensory analysis and roast profile is available upon request. (bags available, spot)