Introduction by Chris Kornman
After a year hiatus, Cup of Excellence returned to Mexico this season, and Royal sent two of our team to join the international jury: VP of Trading Alex Mason and the Crown’s Director of Roasting Jen Apodaca. Both returned from Mexico City in early May beaming with excitement about a ton of coffees that defied the stereotypically mild flavor profile. We even co-hosted a pre-auction cupping over at the offices of our pals at Red Fox Coffee Merchants, just down the street in Berkeley.
While the excitement mounted for the coffee, we learned of an unfortunate hiccup. One of the trucks containing a number of the coffee lots was subjected to a literal highway robbery at gunpoint. The driver was spared, but the coffee never reached its final destination. The Alliance for Coffee Excellence, CoE’s organizing body, released a statement on September 11, 2017 noting that a fundraiser to the tune of over $11k was distributed to the affected farmers, and that insurance and funds from AMSA (the export partner this year) would continue to raise funds to elevate the amount paid for these exceptional coffees to comparable levels to what they would have achieved at the auction.
In the end, we left much of the bidding to the roasters… but one particular lot caught our eye – the 12th place finisher from farmer Francisco Javier Montiel Valencia. Sr. Montiel works his 6-acre farm with his wife, parents, and siblings. The ten or so family members basically take care of everything on the farm, from fertilizing, weeding, and harvesting to pulping, processing, and drying on raised beds. In addition to coffee, the farm also has orange, plantain, and macadamia trees. And check this out: they paint their fingernails the color of ripe coffee cherries to use as a reference when harvesting!
Attention to detail on Francisco’s farm does not end at picking, however. He told us that after harvesting each day, the coffee is sorted by hand and then floated in water to eliminate anything that’s not precisely the ripeness desired. After pulping, the coffee enters a selected yeast strain fermentation in an enclosed tank for about 38-40 hours with a stir every hour. At the end of the fermentation time, the coffee is rinsed multiple times, and washed through the channels to grade by density again. Following the final wash, coffee is collected and dried on raised beds, using low temperatures and partial shade for the first 36 hours. Thereafter the coffee is turned every three hours during the day, extending the total drying time to nearly 25 total days.
Francisco understands the pressing concerns of coffee farming all too well. Keeping leaf rust at bay is one of his largest concerns. The other is the volatility, and currently the exceptionally low prices of the coffee commodities exchange market. The Cup of Excellence competition offered an introduction and new relationships, including what we hope to be a longstanding relationship with Royal. More than that, the CoE provided Francisco and his family and farm, as well as his fellow farmers, with validation of their hard work. We’re offering his coffee in both 10kg Crown Jewel boxes and in larger 30kg packaging.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
As summer slips past the Northern Hemisphere its coffees, it’s not uncommon to begin seeing relatively well-dried coffees exhibit higher than average water activity numbers, as is the case with this Cup of Excellence finalist. Coffee harvested during the winter months of the most recent season that’s been well preserved should continue to taste nice through the end of the calendar year… but nothing lasts forever. Otherwise marked by moderately high density and EP 15+ screen sizing, the coffee is clean and as well sorted as you’d expect for a competition finalist.
The Typica (or Típica) variety is the oldest heirloom subspecies of Arabica, tracing its origins back to Ethiopia via its travels along trade routes to Yemen and thereafter India and Indonesia. Modern Mexican Typica is often referred to as Pluma Hidalgo, named for the region in which it was popularized, which in turn honors revolutionary hero Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. The “plume” refers to a whisp of cloud that frequently appears atop a local mountain. Despite the homage to local geography and history, and despite the cultivar’s near-exclusive distribution in Mexico, it is believed to have naturally mutated specifically in Sumatra before its introduction to the Americas.
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
This is a stunning example of what a high quality Mexican coffee can taste like. The acidity profile is complex and the finish is sweet and lingering. This coffee roasted in an even and predictable manner, not too fast and not too slow. This is the bowl of porridge that Goldilocks would pick, it was just right. So make sure you have enough heat and let the coffee gradually take on more thermal energy as you approach first crack. Because of the high water activity and moderately high moisture content of this coffee, the rate of change slowly reduced through post crack development without needing to turn down the heat.
In roast one, the surface of the coffee looked slightly matte in color and in my personal experience, Mexican coffee usually has a mild acidity and can take on a raw nut flavor if under roasted. I decided to follow the same curve in roast two, but extend the roast just slightly during post crack development by 27 seconds. This roast finished with a longer overall roast time and a higher end temperature.
Both roasts were nice, I enjoyed roast two on the cupping table when it was hot. There were a lot of red apple and floral characters and as it cooled more roast influenced notes surfaced in the cup like fudge and toffee. Roast one was slightly nutty and citric while hot, but really opened up while it cooled into a very clean and complex coffee. I can only imagine that after degassing for a few more days it will taste even sweeter. I hope you enjoy roasting and drinking this brilliant coffee.
Roast one: Cherry, coffee blossom, kiwi, green apple, juicy
Roast two: Blackberry, blood orange, fudge brownie, buttercream icing
Behmor Analysis by Evan Gilman
Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Behmor roasts. Generally, I’ll use the 1lb setting, manual mode (P5), full power, and high drum speed until crack. Read my original post and stats here.
I allowed this roast a fair amount of development post-crack in the Behmor 1600 Plus. This was a fairly dense coffee with middling moisture content and slightly high water activity numbers, and it roasted very predictably. I didn’t experience any racing or slowing down after first crack, so I let this coffee go for slightly longer than usual.
I did achieve higher roast loss percentage than I’m used to (at 14.5%), but the cup didn’t display any overwhelming roasty characteristics. In fact, we tasted juicy apple, honeydew melon, and ripe pear when this coffee was brewed on Kalita. This was a very pleasant coffee to roast, and it was just as easy going in the cup as it was in the roaster.
This coffee is rather distinct as a super clean Mexican offering with ample complexity. It isn’t one to get all up in your face, however. Drink this coffee when you want to relax into a tasty experience. It’s like a coffee hammock. Or maybe a coffee davenport. You choose – just relax.
Brew Analysis by Sandra Loofbourow
The first round of brewing resulted in varying degrees of over-extraction (based both on our palates and on TDS). Up front, coffee presented heavy brown sugars and delicate baking spices. Hidden away behind some aggressive tannins were crisp pears, grapes, baked apples, and mild florals which told me this coffee had more to offer if we allowed it to open up. I decided to re-brew with a coarser grind and faster brew time.
At a 1:17 ratio and brew times under 4 minutes, these coffees began to offer sparkling acidity, fruit sweetness, and a delightfully well rounded cup. Mexico’s signature nuttiness was transformed into creamy sweetness that allowed for some peach nectar to shine through.
Of the three roasts, Jen’s first roast was the most floral and stone fruity, while Evan’s Behmor roast was the most complex, with some tamarind acidity balanced by cocoa and baking spices. The second Probat roast displayed some incredible juiciness and complex fruit sugars like fig, prune, and grape skin. The typical characteristics of this terroir created some lovely sweet nut butter and tootsie roll notes, but there was an elegant hint of black tea and mild starfruit throughout the coffee.
This coffee may be available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.