Finca Tasta returns to our menu this year in spectacular form, in three iterations: this lovely Yellow Caturra, a Red Catuaí, and also a delicious honey process, each available in very limited quantities.
The project hails from Peru’s central forest, and is run by siblings Edith and Ivan. The farm was their late mother’s project, and the two have since taken over operations. In the last handful of years they’ve refined their processing methods and expanded their operations, and hope to become a beacon of specialty coffee and sustainability. This year their harvest is quite a bit smaller than last, but the quality has increased by leaps and bounds.
Edith and her brother Ivan are leading by example, focusing on sustainability and independence by diversifying crops beyond just coffee to include food for themselves and their workers. They harvest three varieties of plantains, yucca, beans, corn, tomatoes, pine trees, sugarcane. This year they are planting raspberries, blackberries, and pumpkins.
They hope to inspire other farmers to move away from monoculture and back towards a model of truly sustainable agriculture. Their commitment to environmental protection is runs so deep that they leave nine of their twenty-three hectares of land completely wild to protect native animals like deer, monkeys, and native birds. They also include a deer and a tree in their logo as a symbol of their dedication to the creatures and ecosystems they are committed to protecting.
The obvious energy behind the project is palpable when speaking with Edith, as our own Mayra Orellana-Powell recently did in an interview (you can read that interview here). Her passion for continuing and improving the work of her mother and engaging with her community is clear. She’s an active member of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, and has set up outreach events locally to engage residents in and around Callhuamayo with events like specialty coffee workshops.
This washed Yellow Caturra from Finca Tasta is somewhat large in screen size (16 and up) with an average density and dry moisture and water activity figures. Expect it to hold its flavor well as green in storage under stable environmental conditions, and for it to behave predictably in the roaster.
Caturra is an older cultivar, a naturally occurring Bourbon single-gene mutation that causes short stature, first described in 1937 in Brazil, and it is well-loved by coffee growers to this day. It retains the excellent flavors of its genetic antecedent, but can be planted more densely resulting in higher average yields per hectare of tree. Its short stature makes it easier to pick and prune as well. It does not, however, resist disease particularly well.
Some producers describe yellow varieties as more difficult to pick; their ripeness isn’t always as obvious as red cherry cultivars, and can sometimes result in mixed pickings. This lovely microlot was received extraordinarily well on cupping its arrival, making the case for high quality—as is often the case—under the right conditions and given the proper care and attention to detail.
This week was quite a busy one for The Crown and we were unable to get access to our other roasting machines so we roasted two profiles on the Ikawa and then proceeded to roast multiple batches of our favorite one. This fully washed Yellow Caturra from Peru showed a lot of bright acidity on the cupping table and a lot of sugar in the cup. This particular coffee has a low water activity reading, low moisture, and is also quite large. I took one of my profiles that I use mostly for smaller screen sizes and shortened the drying stage so that the coffee would have more time for non-enzymatic browning. This alteration lowered my first crack temperature by almost 10 degrees Fahrenheit. This new range of first crack temperatures are more inline with what I might see on my Probatino drum roaster.
I decided to try out two roasts with the same temperature profile, but slightly different fan speed settings. Roast one descends from 80% to 65% at three quarters of the way between yellowing and the end of the roast. Roast two descends from 80% to 65% at the midway point between yellowing and the end of the roast. Roast one used more heat than roast two at the start of the roast and had a much lower rise until after first crack when sugar browning begins and more exothermic reactions start. Roast two had a much lower starting point with heat application and a steeper rise in comparison. At first crack in particular we can see a slight increase in heat resulting in a small spike.
On the cupping table, roast one was very sweet and bright. A lot of the bright citric acidity that we tasted on the arrival table remained, but some of the cuppers did detect a slight vegetal starchiness. I think a little more time in post crack development would have taken care of the starch and added some sweetness. Roast two was very smooth and silky with muted acidity. The sugar browning was really the star with this roast, with flavor descriptors ranging from chocolate, caramel, vanilla, and baking spices.
While I would personally be happy with a blend of these two roasts for more balance between acidity and sugar browning, I do think these roasts showcased the large range of flavors that this coffee is capable of.
I’m a huge fan of this coffee. While trends show young professionals leaving the countryside to work in the cities, Edith and Ivan made the atypical choice to go back to the rainforest and care for the land and the ecosystems in a holistic way. Farms like Finca Tasta give me hope for the future of South American coffee farmers:there is a new generation investing in growing coffee sustainably.
In the cup, this coffee is sweet, clean, and comforting, with notes of praline and honey. In my first brew, a Kalita with a 1:16 ratio, I found mild acidity with orange peel, cranberry, apple and persimmon, but the base notes were heavy with caramel, hot chocolate, and honey. It was good, but I thought I could get a little more acidity and complexity out of this Yellow Caturra if I pushed extraction just a bit.
Tightening the grind a half notch on the EK 43, I brewed the same recipe again. As far as readings, the brew didn’t change much – there was only a 0.03 difference in TDS. But here I detected lychee, white peach, apricot, golden raisin, maple, and pecan pie. This coffee isn’t a fruit bomb, but it does taste sweet, clean, and comforting, and with the right recipe the hint of all the fruits that Edith and Ivan are growing on their farm start to peek through.