Colombia’s Tolima department occupies a valley between two ridges of the Andes, about halfway between the country’s capital city of Bogota and the salsa capital of Cali. Tolima’s fame as a coffee production region is relatively recent, as the region hid in plain sight next to more familiar denominations such as Valle del Cauca, Quindio, and Huila.
This lot comes to us from ASCISP, the Asociación de Caficultores Indígenas de San Pedro, who operate as a support structure for the local Páez indigenous group (also known as Nasa) who are scattered around the municipal district of Planadas. A regional history of armed conflict and coca leaf production have isolated small coffee producers and exposed them to high rates of violence. ASCISP has worked hard to help its members break through the cycle of conflict to produce quality coffee that will yield better earnings for indigenous families.
This coffee really popped on the arrival table, so we snagged a few bags to release as a Crown Jewel; it’s also available in full size bags (which carry Fair Trade and Organic certifications). It’s a big coffee with a lot of ripe red fruit notes like pomegranate and loads of character layered on with floral, cola, and caramel sweetness. It’s hard not to love a coffee like this: juicy, sweet, and lively.
This smallholder produced coffee is a mix of classic Colombian cultivars and pretty normal looking physical specs. Not beholden to a Supremo or Excelso size gradation, the coffee maintains a relatively large profile at 16+. The water activity is just a tick above average for the corresponding moisture, and the density is pretty pedestrian, clocking in under 0.68 g/mL.
The Colombia cultivar was the second major Catimor hybrid crafted in Colombia, after Tabi, and was released in the mid 1980s. Its improvement, Castillo, is the most commonly grown variety in the country today. 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. They’re joined in this lot with the classic Caturra, one of many short-stature varieties observed in Bourbon, the result of a single gene mutation. It was first described in 1937 in Brazil and it is well-loved by coffee growers. 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.
This lovely coffee from Colombia with its large screen size and average density is a little different than most Colombian coffees that make it across my desk and I knew that I would have to roast it a little different to get the best results. I decided to use the 5:30 profile with the long Maillard (LM) mostly due to the large beans and the average to high moisture of this coffee. At the end of the roast, the rate of change is extremely low making this particular profile very adaptable. This Colombian coffee cracked slightly later than a similar coffee this week, although both coffees cracked at 405 °F which could be due to the higher moisture and higher water activity.
On the cupping table this coffee was juicy and balanced with tart pomegranate, apple pie and orange zest. Shortening the total roast time and/or the post crack development time could bring out more acidity if desired.
Tasting a bit of that sparkling acidity in the Ikawa roast I decided to apply steady heat 2 minutes in to the roast to maintain a high rate of change through the Maillard stage. Applied heat in roasting as well as in brewing can bring out more acidity in the flavor profile. At a total roast time of 9:01, this is quite a lengthy profile for the tiny 1 kilo Probatino.
On the cupping table the most common descriptor used was juicy: cherry, mango, and peach. The length of the roast provided a nice base of chocolate and black tea. For a brighter acidity I would raise my charge temperature and reduce the overall roast time by at least one minute. That said, this coffee was extremely balanced and had a sparkling acidity.
This is my second Crown Analysis using the Quest M3s roaster, and what better time to push my way up the (roast) learning curve? Just like the previous roast of CJ1218 my charge temp was at 400F, with 9A power.
My turning point was a bit later in this roast at 2:30, and occured at a lower temperature: 325F. My best guess as to why this might be would be the higher moisture content (11.6%) and slightly higher density.
At 350F/3:45 I increased the fan speed to a modest 2 and noticed shortly afterward that my rate of rise was quite a bit faster than I anticipated. I did what every reasonable new user would do: overreact. At 400F/7:10 I dropped the amperage to 7.5A, increased fan speed to 4, and first crack was delayed until 440F/11:10. In retrospect, it may have been better to continue along the path of faster development and increase fan speed even further.
At 12:40/450F I increased fan speed to full in order to pull all the chaff to the rear chamber, and prepare the coffee for drop. Dropping at 460F/13:00, there was quite a bit more smoke than in my previous roast taken to the same temperature in a shorter time (as one might expect).
This coffee provided me with a very good learning experience. The best plan of action when approaching a new machine is to have a plan of action that leaves room for unexpected turns. Always have a contingency plan, and don’t overreact in the moment.
All that aside, the coffee tasted decent on the cupping table. Chocolate and plum were the most common tasting notes, along with almond, black tea, apricot, and caramel. Compared to CJ1218, there were less roasty/toasty flavors noted, likely due to the fact that I didn’t leave the back chamber open during any part of this roast. Roast with confidence! This is a sweet coffee!
This was a busy week in the Royal Coffee offices: I recalibrated the EK 43 Malkhonig grinder this week, a process that take only an hour at most and can greatly improve the consistency of your coffee grounds. I’ve also been doing espresso training this week for our staff. Dialing in espresso is a mildly magical process that always reignites my passion for brewing. Although I didn’t have enough beans from the San Pedro Indigenous farmers to throw them in the hopper for shots, I am convinced that this coffee would taste delicious as espresso.
Instead, I chose to make some Kalita pour overs with this lovely coffee from Tolima. The first brew, at a 1:16 ratio at grind size 8 on the EK, was slightly over extracted, but produced some great stickiness and black tea astringency that I really enjoyed. There were also notes of vanilla, cranberry, stone fruit, and oak. After coarsening the grind up to 8.5, I found that the coffee offered much more specific fruit notes like plum and apricot, a lot of apple sweetness, and a great milk chocolate and nougat base. Despite pulling extraction back quite a bit, the pleasant astringency of black tea and pine remained, adding another layer of complexity to the cup.