Introduction by Chris Kornman
Las Margaritas is one of a small group of third-generation family-owned farms located about a two hour drive north of Cali in Colombia’s Valle del Cauca department. Brothers Luis and Rigoberto Herrera have worked hard to make their farms models that exemplify the innovation and stewardship undertaken by their father, who first diversified their coffees to include Yellow and Red Bourbon, Caturra, and Typica back in 1945.
Last year we had the opportunity to host Rigoberto and his marketing/sales coordinator Felipe in the Bay Area and then to join them for a whirlwind 2-day tour of Los Angeles to promote their coffees. Rigoberto is a man who exudes humility, passion, and vast knowledge of cultivation, speaking with us in detail about his farms and their coffees.
This particular Crown Jewel is entirely composed of the spectacularly small-seed variety Mokka (sometimes “Mocha”). While the cultivar is likely named for the port city in Yemen, whether or not it specifically owes its provenance to the origin of cultivated coffee trade is more difficult to determine. Its more recent history, at least in the Americas, traces its distribution through Brazil in the middle of the 20th century. While Mokka variety coffee may be found in as far-flung reaches as southern Ethiopia and Tahiti, most commonly it is seen in Maui and Colombia.
Mokka is genetically quite similar to Laurina (sometimes “Bourbon Pointu”), the original Reunion (Bourbon) Island mutation that provides the genetic source material for most Arabica grown throughout Africa and the Americas. Like Laurina, Mokka trees have narrow leaves and tiny fruit, the coffee seeds are lower in caffeine content than standard Arabica, and have a unique flavor profile. Dried in the cherry, as this lot has been, the coffee presents resplendent berry notes, rose and watermelon flavors, and some subtle spice and tamarind. It’s quite complex and truly unique, and we’re thrilled to have a few boxes to share.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
The defining characteristic of this coffee is undeniably the tiny, rounded seed size; nearly 50% of the batch passes through screen 15, the smallest standard screen for most high quality coffees exported in the Americas. Coffees like this Mokka, exceptions to longstanding rules, are particularly instructive, breaking decisively from outdated or misapplied rubrics that can misconstrue an association between bean size and quality.
Uniform seed size, high density, and average looking moisture content should help alleviate some of the challenges that often arise in dealing with coffees of this small nature. Water activity is a little out of range compared to moisture, but not unusually so. Have fun with this odd little coffee!
Ikawa Analysis by Jen Apodaca
The Ikawa roaster is perfect for profiling coffees. The flexibility of the software lets the operator dictate exactly the type of profile they wish to execute. Because Ikawas are air roasters, first crack temperatures will be in the range of 398-402°F, which is much higher than the average drum roaster and the Probatino in my lab. I created four different roast profiles to get a better idea of the range of flavors that this coffee has to offer. They differ by end temperature, post crack development time, and total roast time. I kept the fan speed profile and the cooling time the same on all four roasts.
I’m always a little nervous when I roast the Mokka variety because of its abnormally small screen size. This teeny-tiny coffee is very dense with an average moisture content, which made roasting this natural coffee a little easier to manipulate in the drum. I knew from the Ikawa profile roasts that first crack would happen at a higher than average temperature, which is common in coffees with higher water activities. The roasts with the shortest post crack development times were the most successful with acid expression and the roasts with the longer post crack development times had a more cooked fruit and dark plum character. I preferred a combination of Roast (1) and (3).
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
Now that we chose a preferred roast and flavor profile, it was time to translate the Ikawa to the Probatino. There are several strategies that I could have applied, but since this is my first attempt, I decided to try and apply the same roasting stage ratios. This would allow me to increase the length of the roast on a larger machine and with a larger batch size. I was aiming for an 8:30 minute roast and calculated the times that I would need the Maillard stage to begin and when I would like first crack to happen. Of course, the coffee itself plays a large part and I knew that I would need to make some on-the-fly calculations during the roast.
Translating the Ikawa roast to the Probatino proved to be a bit more challenging than I had expected because of the late first crack. I had an inkling it would be later than normal because of the preview on the Ikawa, but did not expect it to be as late as 399.6 °F. This dramatically increased my Maillard time, which was already long at the start. I was also worried that the temperature of the coffee would plummet after first crack while the coffee released moisture as it usually does with dense coffees on the Probatino. My heat application was already at a low setting and I kept my hand on the dial through the entire last stage. At no time did I need to adjust the heat and the coffee safely coasted to the finish.
The Probatino roast definitely fell off course in regards to matching ratios with the ikawa roast, but many of the flavors in the cup were the same and the table agreed that the Probatino roast had a brighter and more complex acidity.
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.
This week brought three incredibly different coffees to the table, not only in terms of taste but also in terms of screen size. This is about as small as coffee comes, and I made sure to check that none of the green coffee fell through the Behmor’s perforated drum before I placed it in the roaster. None did, so you’re safe with this coffee. But just barely.
The small screen size allows this coffee to take on quite a bit of heat (and quickly) due to more exposed surface area. Immediately at first crack, I engaged P4, and lowered the heat further to P3 after 25 seconds. My total development time came in at 1:05 – quite a short development time in comparison to many coffees I’ve roasted on the Behmor.
I must be getting a hang of this Behmor thing, because I achieved the same roast loss percentage with this coffee as I did with the Sulawesi Toarco Jaya AA, the largest screen size coffee we analyzed this week. My ColorTrack numbers denoted a slightly darker roast, but nothing too crazy. The flavors on the cupping table were intense: huge strawberries, deep purple (the color, not the band), and a flavor that I can only describe as ‘Yemen-like.’
You won’t be disappointed. This is a very unique cultivar and a very delicious coffee. Curiouser and curiouser!
Brew Analysis by Sandra Elisa Loofbourow
I love it when the tasting notes get creative. Getting notes like “explosive grape candy”, “both sharp and smooth!?” “crazy” and “huge!” just makes my day. It is therefore my pleasure to inform you that these are all direct quotes from this week’s brew analysis.
Of course, I can’t take much credit for these exceptional flavors–by now you must have realized this is a truly unique coffee. These tiny beans pack a big punch, and they’re sure to be delicious and interesting in nearly any brew method. The Kalita Wave allowed me to achieve a slightly slower extraction that let the coffee open up, highlighting the crazy sweet complexities it has to offer.
Doing a small brew meant that I had much more control over my pours, adding just 50g of water at a time. This created a super flat brew bed and let me extend brew time a little bit, pulling tons of fantastic flavors out of the coffee.
I was sorely tempted to do something radical with this coffee. There was talk of stovetop siphons, Japanese-style Nel brewing, and flash-iced V60s. In the end, these all seemed to be a disservice to the bean, which had enough funky deliciousness all on its own. As far as analysis goes, it was more important to let this coffee speak for itself. But if you get your hands on a bag of this tiny, delicious, gem of a coffee, I highly recommend playing around with experimental brew methods.
This coffee may be available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.