This week we’re releasing three unique and delightful microlots from the Vides family in Guatemala, each from a different farm the family owns and operates. The Vides family’s story in coffee began 3 generations ago in 1958, when Jorge Vides Molina, a prominent doctor, founded Finca la Bolsa as a passion project. His daughter and grandson now manage the network of farms in Huehuetenango and the accompanying export business.
While Don Jorge passed away in 1995, his daughter María Elena and her son Renardo Ovalle took over management. In 2002 they submitted coffee from their farm to the Cup of Excellence, its first year in Guatemala, and took home the prize for second place. With the potential to produce super-specialty microlots suddenly exposed, the farms underwent an overhaul in terms of production style, cupping day lots and individual varieties to separate quality and cultivating direct relationships with roasters and coffee buyers.
Finca Bromelias is the smallest of the three farms we chose, just about 6 hectares of land established in 2014, producing about 60 bags of coffee annually. The farm is planted with an interesting mix of cultivars, including Caturra, SL-28, and an heirloom Ethiopian variety.
Sustainability and traceability are among the family’s stated priorities, and the work shows in the attention to detail they’ve taken in harvesting, processing, and exporting. The results are clear in the cup – this is a delicious coffee, offering a bright citric acidity with a great complexity to its flavor profile, including lemongrass, apricot, peach tea, and subtle floral notes.
This clean Huehuetenango has pretty nice physical specs. Large screen size and high density are its hallmarks. The coffee also has a slightly higher than average water activity compared to its moisture content, but nothing that’ll raise eyebrows.
The Vides family have opted to grow a unique selection of cultivars on this small farm, including an unspecified Ethiopian selection and SL-28, Kenya’s specialty coffee darling variety known for its bright citrusy acidity. SL-28 was developed by Kenya’s Scott Laboratories in the 1930s from a drought-resistant Bourbon selection originally cultivated in Tanganyika, a territory that makes up part of modern day Tanzania; it’s generally considered to be of the highest quality but is not very productive compared to other commercial Arabica varieties. Caturra, a far more commonly seen American cultivar, is a short-stature mutation of Bourbon, first observed in Brazil in 1937.
I modified my most trustworthy profile a touch by lengthening the overall roast time by 15 seconds. This 15 seconds was on the tail end of the roast and increased the post crack development time compared to my 5:15 roast with the same temperature and fan speed profile. With a 20% post crack development ratio, I was concerned that I might have pushed most of the acidity into the background. On the cupping table my fears were assuaged, the profile modification produced a more balanced cup with more sugar browning notes to compliment the crisp and tart malic acidity of this coffee. Even with a 20% post crack development time, it only adds up to 1:08 in this very small and efficient roaster.
I started this roast with a modest charge temperature of 361F and applied 3 gas, my maximum for this small batch size just one minute after turnaround, which is pretty normal for me. After a few minutes of monitoring the profile, I could see the momentum sinking and I knew there was still a long way to go so I turned up the heat by a quarter tick. This quick thinking gave me enough energy to push the roast forward and reach first crack just before the 7 minute mark. I reduced the heat to 2 ¾ just after first crack which was at 395F, a very common temperature for the Probatino.
Guatemalan coffees like this one have a tremendously complex acidity and sweetness, I knew that I would want to make sure that I developed this coffee a little longer post first crack to round the acidity ever so gently. On the cupping table I was rewarded with a juicy mouthfeel and a complex and balanced fruit acidity of dried cherries, poached pear, and sweet orange.
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.
Of all the Guatemalan coffees this week, the Finca Las Bromelias was my favorite because of (you guessed it) my big ol’ sweet tooth. Juicy black cherry and tropical fruit came through on the initial arrival cupping of this coffee – I was excited to roast this coffee. My goal here was to gently develop this coffee, trying my best to preserve some of the more delicate notes we got on the initial cupping. To that effect, I attempted to slow down post-crack development by opening the door slightly (perhaps a 2 inch aperture) at about a minute after first crack, which was more like a very gentle popping. I didn’t let the coffee go much longer, and my final time was 13:25.
On the cupping table, this coffee achieved sweetness, but with some of the hallmarks of a more developed roast: vanilla, sweet tobacco, and a herbal root beer or coriander flavor. The acids were maintained somewhat, but the real focus was the sugar. Some gentle fruits like plum and mandarin orange came through, but definitely not too far in the foreground. Jen’s Probatino roasts achieved more of the cherry sweetness, and we felt this coffee would perform excellently on larger roasters as well.
This coffee was delicious every time we encountered it, but brewing it offered another level of delight. Las Bromelias was so easy to dial in I can barely even say that I “dialled” it. I brewed it carefully and with intention, but the coffee deserves more credit than the barista in this case. Starting with a standard 1:16 recipe, I used 25g of the Vides family’s coffee and 400 filtered water in a Kalita. Stirring the bloom has become part of my standard operating procedure at this point, and I employed it here. Gentle 100g pulse pours allowed brewing to finish in exactly 3:00 minutes. This cup was bright and sweet, with some clear star fruit and pleasant tannins.
I wondered if, by using a more concentrated brew ratio, I could condense those notes of star fruit into something a little juicier. At a 1:15 brew ratio, Finca Las Bromelias presented sweet cherry and melon, with tons of honey and brown sugar sweetness. It was chocolatey, clean, sweet, pleasantly citric, and a delight to brew.