Introduction by Chris Kornman
Mario Jordan Duarte has produced an exceptional and unusual coffee. His farm, Finca Alotepeque, is located in the La Canadá community of Concepción Las Minas, a town in the Chiquimula department of Guatemala. While most roasters are aware of growing regions like Huehuetenango and Antigua, it’s surprisingly common to find excellent Guatemalan coffee from farms in unfamiliar stretches, such as this.
Alotepeque is a 200 acre farm just minutes from the Eastern border of Guatemala, close to both neighbors Honduras and El Salvador. Cultivating coffee there since 1990, Mario and his family – his wife and their five children – also harvest bananas, avocados, and citrus fruits including mandarin oranges and lemons. Nearly a fifth of the farm is preserved natural forest.
Given the farm’s proximity to the Salvadoran border, perhaps it’s not so surprising to find that Mario Duarte is growing the Pacamara variety, a fascinating and heavily researched cultivar first developed in El Salvador at the Genetic Department of the Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research (ISIC) over the course of nearly 30 years beginning in 1958. Despite only accounting for about 0.22% of El Salvador’s coffee plants, Pacamara has developed a cult following among specialty roasters noted for its herbal and savory cup character and its exceptionally large and long bean size.
We really appreciated this fully washed Guatemalan Pacamara for its seamless integration of unique flavors. All of its talking points are present – sweet herbs like sage and basil, clean citric acidity, a slight savory fresh onion note, and raw sugar cane sweetness. It’s really the harmony and balance of these elements, however, that wowed us.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Pacamara descends from two naturally occurring variations, called Pacas and Maragogype, branching off Arabica’s two most common heirloom cultivars, Bourbon and Typica. Pacas has Bourbon heritage and was discovered by the Pacas family in the Santa Ana volcanic region within El Salvador, while Maragogype is a Typica mutation, first discovered in Brazil’s mountainous Bahia region. The large size of the beans, for which Pacamara is famous, is also a genetic trait of Maragogype.
This Guatemalan Pacamara is pretty by-the-books in terms of what you’d expect from a green coffee analysis perspective of a standard washed Pacamara. About three-quarters of the coffee didn’t even pass through the first screen in my set, and the density is about as low as we’ve seen in awhile. Moisture is just a tick above average, as is the water activity. You should expect this to be a challenging, but rewarding coffee to roast.
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
Pacamaras are the giant beasts of the coffee cultivars and you can never underestimate how much time these large lovely beans need to roast. This particular coffee from Guatemala is no different and my first roast was low and slow. I roasted this profile for maximum sweetness and hoped to calm the herbal nature of this coffee a bit and bring it into balance with the rest of the cup. Some folks really enjoy the complex herbal and fruit flavors that pacamaras are known for and so I attempted to maximize that potential by shortening the roast and the post crack development time.
On the cupping table both roasts displayed flavor characteristics typical of a pacamara, but differed wildly when it came to the intensity of the acidity. I preferred the fudge sweetness of roast one with just a hint of bay leaf and cherry for added complexity. Roast two had an incredible juicy grape and spicy jalepeno that demanded attention. This coffee is sweet and vibrant with a wide range of flavor possibilities. If I was to attempt a third roast, I would repeat my first profile, but reduce the post crack development time by 20 seconds or so to retain more fruit character.
Roast one: Cherry, lemon, caramel, milk chocolate, bay leaf
Roast two: Grape jam, herbal, bell pepper, chamomile
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.
Pacamara coffees can be notoriously difficult to roast, and have a very strong cult following due to the wildly herbal characteristics this cultivar can display in the cup. This wasn’t an insanely herbal beast, however, so funky coffee lovers take note: this coffee brings the sweet side of Pacamara into play.
It was still a difficult coffee to crack, however. This coffee needed a bit more heat in the roaster due to the large bean size, and cracked fairly late into the game (14:00) and I gave it 1:45 of development time afterwards. I achieved 14.4% roast loss, but only a 61.72 ColorTrack score, quite close to Jen’s two roasts.
While I’m not generally super enamored with Pacamara coffees, I am known around the office to be a bit of a funk fan. Whether that’s Ohio Players or a deeply sweet Sumatra from Bener Meriah, I’m on board. There wasn’t a ton of funk to this Pacamara, but just enough for me to get my Hardcore Jollies. Enjoy this coffee, it’s a sweet rarity.
Brew Analysis by Sandra Elisa Loofbourow
This coffee was a surprise from beginning to end. Because of it’s versatility, I spent a lot of time trying to understand what it had to offer and how to bring out its best attributes. The brews proved to be much more pleasant than the cupping table, where vegetal notes tended to creep in. I don’t think I can take too much credit for the successful brews–this is just a lovely coffee.
This Pacamara has a lot of dynamic sweetness to offer, but I wanted to avoid the herby bell pepper notes that it presented on the table. By brewing on a Chemex I was able to bring out the best of its clean acidity; doing a pour over method rather than a full immersion brew prevented over-extraction and the swampy notes that might come with it.
All three brews offered sweet fruit notes like mango, peach and grape. There was barely a whisper of the vegetal taste I feared, and in its place was a hint of crisp romaine. Body and mouthfeel varied from roast to roast but was always pleasant and clean. This was a really fun coffee to play with and get to know – it offers a lot of possibility and will not disappoint.
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