Here’s an interesting tidbit of coffee history trivia: when Costa Rica, one of the earliest Central American countries to adopt commercial coffee cultivation, was first growing coffee under British colonial oversight, it was considered sub-par and often transhipped with bags repacked and sold as Panamanian or Chilean coffee to increase the price. Such dishonest tactics were, and frankly still can be quite common. Ethiopia once sold the bulk of its coffee transhipped through Mokka, and as recently as last year Tanzanian officials suggested that 60% of the country’s robusta was crossing borders illegally to be sold in Uganda or Congo, for example.
At any rate, Costa Rica’s humble beginnings and low market value would soon be discovered after its independence in 1821. A shipment accidentally was sent straight to England, immediately appreciated for its high quality, and a round of British investment poured into the country. Coffee revenue built the country’s first railroads. To this day, coffees from Costa Rica’s mountainous center, near the capital of San José in a region known as Tarrazu, regularly demand some of the highest prices for coffees based on the high perception of quality.
Take this Crown Jewel for example, produced by 25-year coffee veteran Francisco Gerardo Jimenez Robles on his farm “La Manzana.” Blessed with excellent elevation (they told him it was “too high for coffee” when he first planted!), motivated by excellence, and equipped with his own micromill, Don Francisco has produced a coffee of excellent quality, packed with sweetness. Apple pie, brown sugar, caramel, and vanilla dominate the flavor notes, a sturdy coffee and solid addition to any menu. We’ll be serving it as espresso at The Crown.
A little larger than average but still within the realm of an “EP” grade, this coffee is fairly dense and has solid moisture and water activity figures. High quality physical coffee, not much more to say; sometimes less is more!
Don Francisco is growing Caturra and Catuaí, classic Central American cultivars (though both originally hail from Brazil). Caturra is a spontaneous mutation of heirloom Bourbon, first observed in 1937, and Catuaí was developed about a decade later (though not formally released until the 1970’s) by hybridizing Yellow Caturra with Mundo Novo. The short stature of these two cultivars makes them resistant to wind, and easier to plant densely and harvest, though they are susceptible to rust and other common coffee afflictions.
Using a recently developed profile intended for Central American washed and honey processed coffees, I roasted each of the Costa Rican options this week to the same spec, and I think this coffee from Francisco Jimenez was the star. Apple Cider, Jolly Rancher, Peach Candy, Jelly Donut, Maple Syrup… the list goes on. It was a perfect window into what the coffee could offer and gave us a jumping-off point for further roasts and analysis down the line. I noted that the coffee cracked about 10-20 seconds earlier than its counterparts, and thus spent a little longer in development on the roast displayed here.
You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: RC ck 6.5m afmod 6.2019 3rd
Don Francisco’s coffee from his farm ‘La Manzana’ is a delightful example of meticulous agronomic and processing practices married with the deliciously sweet caturra and catuai varieties and the excellent growing conditions of the Tarrazu region in Costa Rica. Bubbling with baking spices, dried fruit, juicy red apple, toffee, vanilla and chocolate, as well as the soft acidity of meyers lemons, this coffee is just lovely.
I started this roast off at a low gas application (2 gas on our dial). Its spread in screen size, high density, and the fact that it is on the drier side, led me to want to allow the coffee to take on thermal energy at a more moderate rate, before ramping up the gas to encourage all of those lovely fruits and florals to come to the fore. I turned the gas up to 3 at the turning point. I was worried that this approach might not allow this coffee to be pushed up the hill of the curve, but was comforted by the fact that less initial moisture would mean a faster turn around. I was correct in my assumptions, and the coffee started the Maillard stage ‘on time’ at about 2:30. I then allowed the roast to proceed for another minute before making my last gas change (going down to 2.5 gas), backing off a little allowed for more time in the Maillard stage, and for the sugars to start caramelizing before first crack. I was trusting that the thermal energy and previous heat applications would serve their purpose – allowing the coffee to proceed steadily through the rest of the roast without more fiddling about from me! I finished the roast with a 15% PCD, ending at 401F. The coffee had a gorgeous silky smooth body to accompany its myriad of complimentary flavors and I couldn’t stop cupping it! I’d want this comforting, smooth, juicy coffee as a pourover, but there’s nothing here that doesn’t read ‘delicious espresso and apple pie latte’ at all!
This week, I experimented with lower charge temperatures, with increased airflow and heavier heat application just a touch after turning point. This was in an effort to get the ‘deep-v’ shaped roast curve that allows for more time in the Maillard stage.
In order to achieve this goal, I changed my roast technique slightly in comparison to CJ1294 – For this roast, I kept the back of the roaster open to stymie airflow until the 2:00 mark, and I increased fan speed to 3 slightly later and at a higher temperature (270F/3:00). I also maintained 10A of heat application until the beginning of Maillard. At 330F/4:40, I increased fan speed to full. However, my results were very similar in terms of percentages spent in each stage. I chalk this up to slightly wider screen size distribution, and incredible density. This coffee needs all the push it can get, until it doesn’t.
On the cupping table, seemingly everyone noted an apple pie note in this coffee, as well as distinct vanilla. I have a hunch that this is a coffee that would rate close to 12/10 on the Kornman Chuggability Scale. That is to say, it’s very chuggable. I would recommend this coffee thoroughly as a pourover drip offering, and possibly as a single origin espresso as well. Take a look below for more brews clues from the baristas at The Crown.
Another day, another delicious new Crown Jewel from Costa Rica! The sheer number of times “apple pie” came up as a tasting note during our initial cuppings of this coffee had me very excited to taste it as brewed coffee, especially knowing that it will be hitting the espresso bar here at The Crown in a few weeks. I’ve been talking to lots of customers about the Origami dripper’s versatility as a brewer lately – you can use a variety of different filters with it – so I decided to put my money where my mouth is and brew three different cups of this coffee with 3 different filters: the kalita, v60, and Fellow Stagg. I was pretty confident that all three cups would be delicious, but curious to see how the might differ in taste via this brief experiment.
I kept my parameters pretty straightforward and followed the brew recipe we’ve been using for the Origami dripper in service lately: 20g of coffee, 300g brew water, and a middle-of-the-road grind setting. My hope was that the slightly strong 1:15 brew ratio would make it easier to taste whatever delicious flavors decided to present themselves. In terms of brew specs, there were some slight variations, but nothing shocking. The Fellow filter yielded the highest TDS and extraction, with the v60 filter giving us slightly lower numbers despite having the shortest brew time. I didn’t stress too much over the numbers, as I expected the true differences to be in the cup, so to speak.
Boy oh boy, this coffee did not disappoint. All three brews were stunning, boasting complex acidity, rich sweetness, and a clean, lingering finish. The brew with the Kalita filter (which had the longest brew time) was super floral, with notes of lavender, chrysanthemum, and violet. The v60 filter’s brew had the zippiest acidity and an incredibly juicy finish, evoking thoughts of blood orange, lime, strawberry, raspberry, white grape, and lemon. The 3rd brew, with the Fellow filter had a luscious body and some serious sweetness. The team did pick up on a hint of dryness, and a slight tomato note came through, but it was specifically an ‘heirloom tomato,’ so at least it was a delicious tomato! This coffee has so much to offer! Try to extend your brew time if you want to experience a more floral cup or keep it short to keep the acidity bright and sparkling. Either way, your taste buds will thank you. And don’t forget to come visit The Crown soon to try this coffee as espresso! It should be hitting the menu towards the end of July.