Colombia’s culture and history is intertwined with the saga of its coffee. The country is among the world’s best-suited for cultivation – gentle Pacific breezes and temperate climate, equatorial forests and lofty elevations all make coffee trees happy. However, to try and summarize Colombian coffee as a whole would be a fool’s errand; the country is vast and its crop is as diverse as the regions and people who grow it.
Take this wonderfully fruity coffee from Santander department, for example. Aratoca is the name of the municipality in Santander where the coffee was grown, on Oscar Daza’s Hacienda La Pradera (“The Prairie”). It’s located nearly as far north from Bogotá as Huila is south, and has a reputation as an older, more traditional growing region with a larger ratio of well-established medium estate farms as compared with the more frequently seen smallholder micro-plots in the South. Santander’s coffee tends to be lower in acidity; its warmer climate and further distance inland combined with fewer remaining Caturra plants tend to create a more mellow flavor profile.
While Sr. Daza’s coffee is a little lower in acidity than coffees we’ve seen from the South this season, it is anything but mellow. The cup is just bursting with ripe fruit flavors – not the citric notes we find from Narino and Cauca – more like ripe plum and sweet strawberries. An atypical flavor profile for the North, for sure!
Oscar and his family work the 60-year-old, 85 hectare farm, which includes banana, citrus, and sugarcane as well as coffee. His is now the third generation, and his two sons are next in line when the time comes to take over operations in the family business. The farm offers housing for temporary workers, a self-contained water purification system for drinking, irrigation, and processing, and a soccer pitch for down time during harvest. The solar exposure is intense in Santander; as such Hacienda La Pradera is equipped with solar dryers to protect the drying parchment from intense radiation, as well as the occasional afternoon rainshower that’s always a possibility.
We’re excited to share this lovely, unique offering with you, available for a limited time as both 70kg bags and 10kg Crown Jewels.
Oscar Daza is growing a very Colombian mix of cultivars, including old-school hybrids Tabi and Colombia, as well as the newer Castillo. Each of these varieties were carefully crafted by Cenicafe, the Colombia Coffee Grower’s Federation research division, to prioritize high yielding, large seeds, and disease resistance. They are occasionally met with sensory criticism, though as is clear from the exceptional quality of this lot, that doesn’t have to be the case. Additionally, Typica has been thrown into the mix for good measure, Arabica’s original heirloom variety plucked from Ethiopia, cultivated in Yemen and transhipped through Indonesia eventually landing in the Americas. It can be differentiated by its longer than usual beans and leaves and upward reaching branches. Oscar Daza’s crop diversity is admirable, and a good strategy to help prevent the spread of pests like Roya.
The green itself is clean and with a light fruity aroma. Its most notable characteristic is its very high density, especially considering how large the average bean size is. It has a slightly higher than average water activity, making it an ideal candidate for a little extra sugar browning. Keep that in mind when you’re roasting.
Lately I have been using the Ikawa roaster to help me profile the coffees before I roast a larger batch on the Probatino. The 50 gram batch size is incredibly convenient for this and I can adjust my profiles as needed. The two profiles presented are the same in time and temperature detail, but differ in airflow. Ikawa Roast (1) has an airflow profile that I have come to call “V” style because it decreases fan speed through the drying stage and then increases as yellowing occurs and Maillard reactions begin.
Ikawa Roast (2) has a reverse shelf approach. The fan speed increases through the drying stage and reaches maximum setting as soon as Maillard begins and remains there through the duration of the roast. Although the fan speed can physically go higher than the setting I use (78%), I have found that staying below this setting helps me keep the coffee in the roasting chamber.
Both Ikawa roasts tasted slightly underdeveloped on the cupping table. The high moisture content and the high density of this coffee required a little extra time in the drum. Ikawa Roast (1) was slightly more successful with the longer Maillard development, but it still tasted underdeveloped. Interestingly, Ikawa Roast (2) with the high fan speed sped up first crack and dramatically lengthened the post crack development time. Unfortunately this created a bell pepper like flavor that dominated the cup. I recommend a longer development for this sweet coffee to eliminate any vegetal flavors.
The high moisture content and high density of this coffee required a longer roast profile to fully develop. I decided to try out two approaches that both extend the post crack development stage. Probatino roast (1) is a traditional roast profile with a slow but slight rise after first crack. Probatino roast (2) is a unique approach that I have found incredibly useful when I want to increase sweetness and development time in a roast, but retain a citrus acidity. Directly after first crack, I shut off the heat and allow the temperature in the drum to plummet for 20-30 seconds before turning the heat back on. This approach is inspired by Ed Leebrick of Lighthouse coffee in Seattle who was a not afraid to try something different.
On the cupping table, Probatino roast (2) was unanimously preferred over Probatino roast (1). It had a bright acidity with a complex sweetness of gingerbread and caramel. Probatino Roast two with a longer roast time was an improvement on the Ikawa profiles with a profound chocolate fudge flavor, but the bell pepper still persisted.
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 Colombia was a tough nut to crack. Since this was my last roast of the day, I felt like the Behmor was warmed up enough to press through the relatively high density and water activity of this coffee. In retrospect, I would have liked to keep the heat on for just a bit longer.
Roasting this coffee to perfection (or ample development at the very least) will take a little more heat than usual, and you might feel like you’re taking this coffee a bit too far. Rest assured that this coffee resists heat application quite readily, and roast on.
My stats below yielded a cup that was clearly underdeveloped. If I had left the coffee to roast just a bit further before engaging P4, I would have been much happier with the roast!
This coffee is a reminder that we shouldn’t underestimate the classics. Santander is known as a more traditional growing region, full of medium estate farms that have been in this business for a while. But Oscar’s coffee has no problem holding it’s own in the third wave, being full of rich brown sugars, cherry juiciness, and clean orange acidity.
True to this more traditional personality, Oscar’s coffee prefers traditional brew ratios as well. Although I tried a variety of brew ratios, it was at 1:16 is that it reached peak deliciousness.
Between Chemex and Clever, the pour over produced more rich fruity flavors like mango and orange, while the Clevers tended more towards fig, raisin, and cherry sweetness. Both were balanced by pleasant cocoa, vanilla, and nougat notes that persisted throughout.
On the Clever dripper I included two stirs, draining at the 4:00 minute mark and halting brewing at 5:00 minutes, even though there was still a small amount of water left in the brew bed. Based on my recent experiments with extraction, I knew that all the good stuff had gone into the beverage very early on in the brew, and that this late in extraction I was mostly diluting the brew with watery, and slightly bitter notes.
This coffee really is a classic: easy to drink, easy to brew, and really delicious. I have a hunch this would taste delicious as an espresso, but it’s performance as a pour over was just scrumptious.