Sometimes, despite 40 years trading coffee, the unexpected happens. Spectacular coffee lets itself in your front door, turns on the tv, and waits for you to come home to give you a big hug.
That’s not to say that a ton of work didn’t go into producing and exporting this coffee. Because it certainly did… it’s just that Royal’s role in its journey is pretty minimal.
Rosalba Cifuentes Tovia, by contrast, has poured quite a lot of energy into this coffee, grown on four small farms in Bella Vista Chiapas, México. The town of Bella Vista Chiapas is nestled into the foothills on the northern ridge of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range, a few miles away from the Guatemalan border. The farms are owned by her family members, uncles and cousins: Eugenio Roblero, Froilan Roblero Cifuentes, Otoniel Roblero Cifuentes, and Omar Roblero Cifuentes.
Doña Rosalba was born and raised in the Bella Vista community, and is now dedicated to the export and promotion of the coffee from her community. She introduced us to this lovely coffee, and we’re pleased to be offering this small family lot as both full size 69kg bags and 10kg Crown Jewel Boxes. More coffee from her region is on our menu, too. You can check out all the Mayan Harvest offerings here.
This coffee, grown by the Roblero and Cifuentes clan in Bella Vista, is a pretty standard looking Mexican Chiapas coffee by the physical specs. A standard looking size at 90% at or above screen 16 is augmented by fairly average density and slightly high moisture content. The water activity is also a little elevated for this lot, so keep an eye on your sugar browning and store in a cool, dry place.
One thing I was a little surprised to see was the exclusion of the commonly grown Pluma Hidalgo aka Mexican Typica common in the region. Rather, the varieties here are a mix of Bourbon, Caturra, and Catimor. Bourbon is, of course, one of Arabica’s o.g. varieties, evolving from Javanese Typica on an Indian Ocean island known now as Réunion. Caturra is a single-gene mutation of Bourbon first observed in Brazil in 1937; its short stature and ability to be densely planted make it a favorite of coffee growers in the Americas. Lastly, Catimor describes a family of cultivars bred with the Timor Hybrid – an unlikely spontaneous crossing of Arabica and Robusta from the Island of Timor in the Pacific. The most popular Timor-Arabica crosses tend to involve Caturra, hence the “Cat” in Catimor. They are genetically about ¼ Robusta, thereby exhibiting high cherry yields and excellent resistance to diseases like Coffee Rust. Not a bad idea to keep a few of these trees around, in my opinion.
One thing that has really changed with the Ikawa roaster is my idea of recipe making and what I can learn about the coffees in this very small roaster. When roasting on a drum roaster, I can watch how the coffee reacts to applying heat or adjusting airflow, but the Ikawa will try its hardest to make sure that my original plan is executed regardless of what I am roasting. This week I explored charge temperature. Ikawa Roast (1) dropped 36 degrees and Ikawa Roast (2) with a much lower start only dropped 21 degrees. The Ikawa Roaster then takes over and applies heat as needed to reach your temperature goals.
This very small difference did have some effect in the flavor of the coffee. More dried fruit characters were expressed and First Crack time was also pushed back by 12 seconds. Ikawa Roast (1) was very bright and had a wide range of fruit flavors with 13.3% post crack development time, while Ikawa Roast (2) seemed a little muted.
Mexican coffee holds a very dear place in my heart and I am always thrilled to see new coffees make their way into our Crown Jewel program. Using the Ikawa roasts as a guide, I knew that this coffee had a dynamic citric and malic acidity that I wanted to bring forward and showcase alongside the sweet chocolate notes that many of us are familiar with in Mexican coffees. Probatino Roast (1) had a low charge temperature and a long drying stage which proved to be a benefit with this coffees high moisture content and high water activity. This gentle approach allowed for a slow and even heat application through the Maillard stages.
Probatino Roast (2) was a bit more aggressive with a higher charge temperature and more heat applied before Maillard began. I decided to extend Maillard time, keeping my total post crack development time the same to see how it would impact flavor. Extending Maillard time really pronounced the sugar browning flavors and nearly covered up some of the vibrant acidity that we had tasted earlier. Probatino Roast (1) was the clear favorite on the table with bright notes like mango and lemonade and deeper fruit flavors like blackcurrant and grape. If I was to roast this coffee again for more developed or mature fruit flavors I would keep the same short Maillard time as in Probatino Roast (1) and choose to extend the post crack development time instead.
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 Mexican coffee was perfectly predictable and delicious. A solid beginning to first crack made this coffee easier to roast than the two previous selections (CJ1192 and Cj1193). This coffee should be quite intuitive to roast for most of you experienced Behmor operators out there. I engaged P4 at first crack, and went with 1:15 of development time for a roast loss of 14.5% – a bit more loss than usual, but this was most likely due to the higher moisture content of this coffee. Plenty of sugary sweetness came out on the cupping table, in the espresso, and as a filter drip.
You’ll notice that my ColorTrack numbers are fairly far apart from one another. This suggests that the internal development of the coffee was not consistent with the external development. I would suggest approaching this coffee with a light touch, and battening down the hatches for a slightly longer roast cycle for more even development.
There were a few beans stuck in the drum after my roast, so that may account for my higher than average roast loss percentage, along with the aforementioned moisture content. Make sure to check your drum before your next roast, and I’m sure you’ll be sweetly rewarded.
I’ve been looking forward to brewing the Bella Vista since I met Rosalba in Oakland this past April. After several cuppings, I had a good sense of the flavor profile of this coffee: I knew that it was a dynamic and sweet coffee, more nuanced than most of the Mexicos that cross our table. Although it had the nougatty chocolate that’s a hallmark of this region, it also offered notes of cherry, fig, honey, and florals.
Using a Kalita, I started with a 1:16 ratio at my standard grind size for this brewer, 8 on the EK43. My cupping panel really enjoyed this brew, noting that complex brown sugars like almond, maple and fudge met with the clean sweetness of cherry, pear, and strawberry. I felt that this brew tasted over extracted too, with a tannic finish that dried out the tongue. I wondered what lightening up extraction would do to the brew, so I dialed my grinder a half notch coarser to see if the sweet notes could get turned up while turning the bitterness down.
Despite coarsening the grind, by brew time went up slightly. This cup tasted sweeter, smoother, and more well rounded, but TDS was nearly the same as the previous cup and extraction percentage was higher. There was a division of preference between the group, some preferring brew one and others preferring brew two. Despite their remarkably similar TDS and extraction readings, the two cups differed significantly – a good reminder that the refractometer can’t tell how delicious the coffee tastes.
On espresso, this coffee was simply a dream. Rather than having to dial down any unpleasant flavors, I was able to choose which flavors I wanted to maximize. They were all delicious. It was also super consistent from shot to shot, with lovely tiger stripes on my bottomless portafilter and a gorgeous crema. In the demitasse there was dried cherry, creamy nutella, fig and banana sweetness and a hint of white florals in the finish. It’s the kind of espresso that’s easy to knock back in a big gulp, but when I took a moment to examine its subtle flavors it was full of rich complexity.