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Luis Pedro Zelaya is a force to be reckoned with in Antigua coffees. He’s a fourth-generation coffee professional whose reputation, in part, results from his remarkably clean and efficient beneficio that produces world-class coffees. Among the many impressive features of the mill are the sizable fermentation tanks and guardiolas (a Guatemalan invention), and the parchment greenhouse, where Luis Pedro has stacked raised beds three tiers high and maintains a strict rotation schedule to ensure even drying.
While not all of the coffees processed at Beneficio Bella Vista are grown on his farms, this particular Crown Jewel is exactly that. The Bourbon and Caturra blend comes from a farm called Hacienda Bella Carmona, located within the traditional Antigua growing region. This is the third season we’ve selected a Crown Jewel from Bella Carmona’s harvest; an indication of its consistently exceptional quality.
Located a mere 90 minute drive from Guatemala’s capital city, Antigua was once itself the capital of the Spanish colonial Kingdom of Guatemala which included nearly all of Central America, stretching from Chiapas, Mexico south to Costa Rica. World renowned as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city contains a remarkable concentration of beautiful architecture connected by cobblestone streets. Coffee from the highlands surrounding the city has a protected designation of origin and benefits from the volcanic soil in the region; Guatemala is home to numerous dormant, extinct, and active volcanoes. Antigua rests in the shadows of Volcán de Fuego, from which smoke can be seen rising on a daily basis.
One of the consistently impressive feats Sr. Zelaya accomplishes at his magnificent dry mill in Antigua is absolute precision in drying practices. Year after year, coffees processed at the mill exceed expectation for their longevity and physical specs. This Bella Carmona fits the mold: classic European prep (90% screen sizes 16+) paired with perfect moisture figures and a slightly elevated density make this coffee a sure-fire bet to stay delicious for months to come.
While many of the Antiguan coffee farms have taken up with Catimor and Sarchimor type hybrids, Bella Carmona continues to cultivate heirloom Bourbon and Caturra, classic selections with low yields and disease resistance, but proven high sensory quality. Bourbon trees tend to be round shaped, and their berries are more spherical than oblong, while Caturra is a short-statured mutation of Bourbon, first observed in Brazil in 1937. This allows for dense planting and easier harvesting.
I decided to use a recently developed profile for this weeks analysis, but after looking at the green analysis, I noticed that this coffee not only had a low moisture content, it also had a low water activity as well. A low reading would determine that the vapor barrier pressure would be less resistant to releasing the bound water in the coffee. I decided to reduce the drying stage and increase the length of the Maillard stage to see if I could get a better result.
On the cupping table, Roast (1) my original profile was very sweet with more mature fruit flavors and berries with a deep cocoa powder. Roast (2) the modified version was much more delicate and sweet with nectarine and floral qualities. While there has been some research into high water activity readings and accelerated sugar browning, low water activity coffees have been linked to a longer, stable shelf life. We have yet to discover if there is a strategy for roasting them. Perhaps a shorter drying stage just might be the way to go.
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 coffee roasted pretty much right in line with how I thought. The crack came a bit faster and more consistently than average, but it seemed to need extra heat to develop after first crack. There wasn’t much chaff, and no beans stuck in the screen during the roast cycle for this coffee. I engaged P4 a bit after first crack to allow a little more heat to push this coffee through.
The results were good on the cupping table, with an overall juicy mouthfeel coming through on top of sweet honey and date flavors. This is an undeniably sweet coffee, and playing up the sugars by allowing for a little more development will definitely be rewarding. I only brought this coffee to 11.3% development, but it could definitely handle more (in my humble opinion)!
I started with a 1:17 ratio, wanting to see what a higher extraction might do to this coffee. At 1.35 TDS and 23.57% extraction, this delicious Antigua offered clean juicy notes of limeade, pear, almond, and honey. There was even a hint of clove and caramel that rounded out the cup. Although the coffee could easily have taken more aggressive extraction, I wondered what might might happen to the brew if I compressed the ratio down. The idea of condensing those bright fruit acids intrigued me.
At 1:15, the Luis Pedro’s coffee became jammy and sweet, retaining a lot of the crisp citric notes but balancing them against heaving earthy notes like rye toast and a thick velvet mouthfeel. Although this is the kind of coffee many would call “chuggable”, what I loved most was the incredible complexity that peeked around the edges of my palate. For example, there were hints of Thai basil, spiced orange, and red cherry in the finish of the Bella Carmona that tell me this coffee is ready for some fun. I’m sure this bean would be a lot of fun to explore experimental brewing with; in the meantime, I’ll keep drinking cup after cup of these tasty, if traditional, brews.