Introduction by Chris Kornman
The Serranía de Perijá mountain range splits the Eastern border of Colombia with its neighbor Venezuela north to the Caribbean Sea, and along this mountainous frontier a community of coffee growers are organized near the town of Manuare, commonly known as Balcón del Cesar – literally “Caesar’s Balcony,” an evocative name for a storied region.
While coffee has been grown in and around Balcón del Cesar since the 18th century, civil war in the 1950s brought refugees from elsewhere in Colombia who resettled in Cesar and today make up the predominant farmer population in the region. Recent years have seen efforts to replace coca production with coffee, and the lots we’ve purchased this year, Royal’s first ever coffee from the Cesar Department, are from an association of women producers, founded in 1998. Their membership includes 53 farming families, of which 33 have achieved organic certification, and the program includes a coffee roasting educational pathway to encourage the community’s children to engage in the coffee industry.
Most farms average about 11 hectares in total size and nearly all of the producers are processing on site at their own micro-mills. The women and their families are also harvesting a diverse range of crops including plantains, bananas, squash, cassava, beans, corn, and yams.
The coffee is marked by exceptional cleanliness and balanced fruit flavors like orange and melon, complimented by a silky-smooth body, and vanilla and pecan-pie sweetness. The coffee is available in both 70kg GrainPro lined bags and 10kg Crown Jewel boxes, and a companion lot from the same women’s association is also spot.amara”]
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Directly sourced coffees like this coffee from Mujeres Cafeteras in Cesar don’t have to adhere to Colombia’s standardized grades like Supremo or Excelso, and generally get a pass on anything above size 15. As you’ll see, the coffee splits most of its time in the 16-18 size range, slightly but not excessively large in size. The coffee is of pretty high density as well, a fact Jen noted in her roasting and which might make a difference in the way it enters and exits first crack. As has been the case with most of our recently landing coffee, the water activity is reading a little higher than expected for normal looking moisture contents, but given a week or two of cooler fall temperatures we should start to see most everything dip back below the 0.60 mark.
Colombia’s coffee cultivar story often centers around the Caturra vs. Castillo debate – one a dwarf tree descended from naturally occurring mutations to heirloom Bourbon, the other a human-manufactured hybrid. Rust fungus resistant and heavily pushed by the FNC, Castillo is part of the new wave of Colombian coffees. It’s encouraging with this coffee to see the addition of heirloom Typica, offering some additional genetic diversity. Monoculture can be an easy way to lose your farm in an outbreak, so keeping a few different types of plants in the mix is never a bad idea.
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
A very interesting coffee to roast because of its high density and high water activity. With roast one, I relied on the high water activity to help accelerate through the Maillard stage and as I approached first crack I backed off the heat prematurely. I was watching the rate of rise closely during this time and the roast started to dip and recover, which is perfectly normal, so I lowered the heat and then the roast dipped again. My end temperature essentially flatlined or stalled as you can see by the wavering line at the end of the roast curve. The roasted coffee also did not expand much and appeared tight and compact in the cooling tray.
Roast two started with a slightly higher charge temperature and I added more heat just before the coffee yellowed hoping this would increase my momentum through Maillard and first crack. At first crack I increased the heat by just a quarter turn and waited almost a full minute before I turned the heat back down to 3 gas and finished the roast. I successfully bypassed the potential double hazard that I encountered with my first roast. In the cooling tray the coffee had definitely expanded and looked brown and puffy. On the cupping table, roast one tasted mild compared to the enigmatic and juicy roast two with it’s increased acidity and sweetness.
Roast one: Apple, baked lemon, butter cookie, pecan pie
Roast two: Blackberry juice, green apple, honey, vanilla, buttery texture
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.
Jen noted that this coffee needed extra attention, so I focused singlemindedly on roasting this coffee. With very high density and moisture content, this coffee needed more of a push than most, so I took a completely different approach than the one noted in my first Behmor article (conveniently linked above).
In particular, Jen suggested that I add extra heat just before or immediately after first crack. Since I generally use manual full power (P5) from the beginning of every Behmor roast, I needed to take a different approach to ramp *up* at the end of the roast. I started with P5, but then switched to P4 at 12 minutes (-6:00 on the clock). As soon as I felt crack was beginning, I engaged P5 once more and continued to develop the coffee until 15:15, my longest roast yet!
However, far from dark or baked, this was a very tasty coffee on the table and in the cup. As you can see from Sandra’s brew notes below, we did indeed enjoy this coffee. I achieved 13.5% loss, and couldn’t be happier.
Brew Analysis by Sandra Elisa Loofbourow
This was a comforting and clean coffee, what those of us who gather around a cupping table multiple times daily like to call “chuggable”. It was chocolatey, creamy, simple yet delicious. However, there were hints of orange, dried mango and vanilla that peeked their noses around the corner every so often. I really didn’t want to change too much about this coffee–I loved it’s comforting chocolate and the hint of spices. However, I wondered if with a slightly higher extraction and slower brew time I could bring forth more of those mild tropical fruit notes.
Kalita brewers offer the cleanliness of a V60 without requiring as delicate a brew technique. I think of V60s as a way to really see what the coffee has to offer. They brew a window directly into a bean’s innate flavors, providing nothing for the coffee to hind behind. If you want a high brew ratio and a cup full of bright acidity, V60 is the way to go. However, that’s not quite what I wanted with this Colombia; instead my goal was to maintain the yummy chocolate base while eliciting just a few more fruit notes. The Kalita’s flat brew bed allows for slightly longer brew times and therefore more contact between water and coffee grounds.
Sure enough, the brews presented lovely florals, sweet honey, and fresh fruits like pear, grape, honeydew and baked apple. Being able to manipulate coffees to bring out certain extra delicious flavors is such a fun game, especially with coffees like this one. Under the wrong brewing parameters, this could be a fine, but relatively simple cup; by giving it the attention it deserves we were able to pull out some really dynamic fun and sweet flavors.
This coffee may be available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.