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intro

The Jade Centennial microlot returns to our menu for the second consecutive season, and we’re pretty thrilled to have it back. Alfred Klein’s attention to detail at the farm level, and his clever selection of reefered banana container shipping logistics has provided us with an exceptional early-landing Central American coffee.

There’s quite a lot to tell about Alfred and his story and challenges on the farm, and we have other tasty lots from San Carlos this season, but I want to focus the attention of this analysis especially on this delightful Crown Jewel. It’s an incredible Chiapas, really delightful sweetness with a sparkling acidity uncommon for its origin. Truly a special coffee, likely the most uniquely flavorful Mexican selection you’ll taste this season.

Don Alfred chose the name for this coffee, and it certainly has a ring to it. Jade Centennial refers to the deeper than usual hue of the coffee and the hundred-year history of the farm. There’s more to the story of course – a parcel of the farm called Centenario is home to many of the trees, and on the parcel a hand-carved Mayan jade figurine was unearthed.

The trees were planted on the farm by a Guatemalan worker who claimed to have brought the seedlings from Quetzaltenango. Sr. Klein isn’t sure of the exact variety. Per his description, the bean size is close to Maragogype, the bean shape like old Bourbons, the tree structure like Catuaí with large, deep green leaves and light green new growth. The tree is tolerant, though not resistant to roya and ojo de gallo.

To my eye, the polished seeds appear long, more like Typica, Java, or Gesha.

One of the especially unique aspects of Finca San Carlos is its year-round access to spring water, allowing the coffees to double wash with an extended post-fermentation soak commonly seen in Kenya and Ethiopia. Don Alfred’s water management is second to none; he’s installed purifying tanks and has excellent wastewater management practices. Always in search of innovation, recently Alfred began renovating his drying patio and installing raised beds. He’s also received good sensory feedback from an overall 25% increase in fermentation time.

green

Alfred Klein’s Jade Centennial variety, perhaps a local mutation or hybrid, presents this season with average moisture and water activity figures and a fairly large screen size (mostly 17/18 – compare to a Kenya AA or Colombia Supremo, for reference – though the grading here is not as precise). The density is also quite high for the coffee, and you might expect this batch to resist heat a little in the roaster as a result of its larger size and higher than average density.

taste

probatino

I am so excited to be roasting the Mexico Centennial Jade from Alfred Klein’s farm again, especially so early in the season. After looking at the green coffee analysis that Chris has done, I can see that we have a large and dense coffee. This means that we will need to supply this coffee with enough heat and time to avoid any underdeveloped flavors. There also could be a lot of sugar that we can convert into a vibrant acidity. I decided to take two approaches to roasting this coffee. In the first roast I decided to gently ease into the heat, looking for a longer roast that is traditionally associated with Mexican coffees. In the second roast, I decided to push it and create a fast and hot roast that I might do with a large African coffee.

Roast One started with a lower charge temperature and lower heat at 2 gas. Just after turnaround we turned up the heat to 3 gas 1:13 minutes into the roast. We did not reduce the heat until after First Crack where we made a few adjustments until we finished the roast with 1:27 minutes of post crack development time and an end temperature of 401F. Roast Two started with a higher charge of 366F and higher heat at 3 gas which decreased our drying stage by 43 seconds. Because we were moving swiftly along, I decided to reduce the heat to 2 gas just after yellowing and I had plenty of momentum to carry me through to first crack which was almost a full minute sooner than it was in Roast One. Although the beginnings of these roasts were very different, the finish was almost identical. Both roasts had 1:27 minutes of post crack development time and both roasts finished at 401F.

On the cupping table Roast One was very sweet with lots of peach cinnamon and caramel, but the finish was slightly tannic and drying like sun tea. I was a bit nervous about Roast Two because I thought there might be some underdeveloped flavors in the mix, but I was wrong. On the cupping table the coffee was sweet with lots of fruit acidity balanced with a heavy syrupy body.

behmor

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.


After visiting Chiapas earlier this year, roasting this coffee carried a certain weight for me. Though I didn’t have the good fortune to be able to meet with Sr. Klein, seeing the general area where his coffee is grown changed my perspective. Knowing a bit of the history of this coffee certainly helps as well.

Seeing that this coffee’s green specs (moisture content, water activity, and density) were fairly middling, I decided to try my general approach. Manual mode, 100% heat until just before crack, and ramping heat down a little afterwards.  It would be very hard to miss the beginning of crack on this one. This coffee cracked quite early, and with a good amount of force.

I credit the floral notes in this coffee to my ramping down heat to 50% instead of the usual 75% just before first crack. The strong crack let me know that this coffee was taking on heat easily, and approaching post-crack development more gently worked out fine. I cooled the batch after 1:20 of development.

On the cupping table, the dominant note of this coffee was clearly the caramel sweetness. There was a bit of malic acid expression with green apple and white grape notes coming from some, and a spicy and floral finish of cinnamon and honeysuckle. This coffee is luscious and sweet.

brew

Armed with Sandra’s brew analysis from last year’s harvest, I decided to repeat the same brew process she used with the Chemex so as to allow comparison of the results from year to year.  I kept all variables constant aside from the coffee to water ratio, in order to taste the ways that the different brew strengths affect the cup profile.

Brewed at a concentrated 1:15 ratio, Alfred’s coffee yielded a viscous, syrupy sweet cup tasting of orange, vanilla, molasses, raisin, macadamia nut, and milk chocolate. At a looser 1:16, the brew was super clean and balanced, with more florals coming through.  The juicy cup featured fruity notes of melon, green apple, citrus zest, and blackberry, and retained a delicious brown sugar sweetness while gaining a floral finish reminiscent of fresh lavender. At the most dilute ratio I brewed (1:17), the coffee continued to perform, though the cup was much tarter and more acidic, with a lemony body complemented with peach, raspberry, crisp pear, cedar, and rounded out with a honey sweetness.

This coffee was super easy and very fun to brew, and was delicious at each ratio! It managed to run the gamut of flavors and ratios without skipping a beat.  Phenomenally dynamic, and definitely not one to miss!

Origin Information

Grower
Alfred Klein & Annette Schnippenkoetter | Finca San Carlos
Variety
Unknown "Jade" Variety
Region
Unión Juárez, Chiapas, Mexico
Harvest
October – March
Altitude
1100 – 1350 masl
Soil
Clay minerals
Process
Fully washed after pulping, fermented underwater for 48 hours, then soaked for 48 hours in clean spring water, and finally dried in the sun on patios and raised beds
Certifications

Background Details

With too many producers and their heirloom varieties on the brink of extinction in Mexico, we’re happy to offer a comeback story with coffee from Chiapas. The estate is called San Carlos, located at the border between Mexico and Guatemala on the western slope of Volcán Tacaná, and it has a rich heritage that dates back to 1896. The comeback story starts in 1996 when the grandson (Otto Hotzen) of the man who planted the first coffee trees at San Carlos offered to sell the farm to Alfred Klein.  Alfred had made his reputation in the coffee world as the guy who could restore old mill equipment and his work restoring mill equipment at San Carlos impressed Otto. For the next two decades, Alfred worked hard to pay Otto, but San Carlos suffered from every possible consequence of climate disaster (wind, hail, and hurricanes), peso devaluation and skyrocketing inflation. At the bottom in 2004, Alfred lost ownership of San Carlos due to his inability to make the agreed payments to Otto. Alfred continued to manage San Carlos another decade for the Hotzen family and developed a strong relationship with Royal during this time. But by 2012, more than 85 percent of San Carlos had been destroyed by leaf rust.  And now the comeback story: With some financial support from Royal, Alfred repurchased San Carlos from the Hotzen family in 2013. With his gift for restoring heirlooms, Alfred immediately began an aggressive plan to renovate San Carlos to its original luster, heirloom varieties and vintage mill equipment all included. In 2020 we visited San Carlos and it’s clear that Alfred and his 40 full time employees have done the job. The farm has over 10 varieties: Typica, bourbon, mondovo, Costa Rica 95, pacamara, jade, Ana café 14, marsellesa, and even a few robusta plants. He also continues to experiment with some rare stock including seedlings of black bourbon and Jade varieties grafted on a robusta root system to counter nematodes. Processing coffee at San Carlos has no compromises. Coffee cherry is carefully sorted, depulped with the vintage vertical depulpers, slowly fermented for 48 hours in cold spring water, then double washed with a 48-hour soak. There is versatility with drying strategies. Micro-lots are slowly dried on patios and raised beds, while mechanical dryers are used for drying larger lots. Although there is an abundance of spring water, Alfred has configured the mill to operate with 5,000 liters per day, which is recycled several times and then returned downstream, clean, pH balanced, and oxygenated thanks to a state-of-the-art water purification system and bio-digester. All of these layers of efficiency are essential because weather patterns have become more and more unpredictable.  Alfred also runs his own dry mill using a series of 3 vintage catadores (wind channels) to classify his coffee. He explained that cherry selection and classification at the wet mill is so good that he does not need any more equipment in his dry mill to sort the coffee. Alfred’s wife Annette is also deeply involved in the business, handling human resource and labor law compliance for employees, as well as, all the export logistics from Tapachula, including refrigerated banana containers, which defy all the regular conventions of moving coffee across Mexico to Veracruz for milling and export. Alfred and Annette have done much to save their coffee business against all odds but it is no less important to recognize that two-thirds of their 370 acre estate is dedicated to crop diversification (including  guanabana, cardamom, macadamia, and banana trees) and preserving natural habitat for many native species. For further reading about Finca San Carlos, check out our three-part producer profile series, a blog about refrigerated banana containers, and another about climate change.