What would the end of summer be without incoming Catracha coffees?
Among the projects we feel most passionately about at Royal is Catracha, established by Mayra Orellana-Powell to connect her coffee growing community in Honduras with roasters across the world. Nearly ten years later, Catracha Coffee has gained momentum with more than 80 producers and 20 roasters working together on sustainable relationships and a profit-sharing model, which has consistently paid at least $2.00 per pound directly to producers.
This season, we’ve again selected a community blend for our Crown Jewel. Catracha Bourbon is a community blend of Bourbon cultivar selections from Alexander Martinez, Carminda Vásquez, Celso Sorto, Mario Vásquez, Max Anibal Vásquez, Santiago Pérez, and Santiago López.
Each producer attends monthly workshops to learn farm management practices such as applying lime to control the pH of the soil, fertilizing with organic compost, and spraying organic fungicides to control levels of leaf rust. They have also learned to process coffee using the same procedures at each individual micro-mill to depulp, ferment and dry coffee before delivering it to Catracha Coffee. These actions have improved the health of the farm and the quality of coffee production. Each producer is paid a premium based on the quality of their coffee. This extra income increases each producer’s capacity to reinvest in their farm, and overtime, increase their standard of living.
The sale of Catracha Coffee also creates income for a non-profit called Catracha Community (a 501(1)(c)(3) nonprofit), which invests in income diversification opportunities without taking resources from a farmer’s bottom line.
Catracha Community host weekly workshops for women and youth to learn craft making skills. Like the coffee, the focus is on quality. With the help of talented volunteers, the group has been able to make many beautiful things and sell them through our network of coffee friends. We even have a name for the group, Catracha Colectivo.
Catracha Community has also established an art residence and studio in Santa Elena to host artists from Honduras and around the world. These artists have been running art classes two days a week for over a year. Every week more than 30 children come and learn art. Art is starting to pop up everywhere around Santa Elena. There are more than 30 murals along the streets of Santa Elena, in people’s homes, and at many schools.
Pretty by the books stuff here from the Catracha Project in Santa Elena. Average moisture and water activity, and a pretty tight 16-18 screen size keeps things fairly predictable. Higher than average density has been a persistent theme for as long as I’ve been working with Catracha coffees, and this year is no exception. You’ll likely find pumping a little extra heat during Maillard will provide enough momentum into first crack to achieve desirable results on the cupping table.
This lot is a blend of producers exclusively growing Bourbon, arabica’s second globally cultivated variety. It has its roots in Yemen in the early 18th century, where 60 trees were given to a French agent stationed in Mokha who organized their transport to the colonially occupied Island of La Réunion, known then as Bourbon. It didn’t escape the island until 1859, when it made its way to Brazil and rapidly gained popularity in the Western Hemisphere. Rounder and shrubbier than legacy Typica, Bourbon is slightly higher yielding and has more spherical than ovoid berries and seeds.
I had the honor of meeting Mayra and learning about the Catracha Coffee project during my first few weeks at Royal. To say that the work she and her community are doing is inspirational would be a huge understatement. Roasting coffees like these that have a personal significance can feel a little more high pressure, so I was happy to set aside plenty of time to be able to roast at least a few batches, so we could really see what this coffee has to offer.
I opted for two different approaches to these roasts: for the first roast, I let the coffee “soak” at a low gas setting for about 30 seconds before turning up the heat. Typically, this helps to keep the coffee from getting too hot too quickly, especially with smaller batch sizes. For the second roast, however, I started out at high gas, fully aware that this would lead to a hotter faster roast. There were no real surprises through first crack, and the rate of rise didn’t crash super dramatically, making the end of the roasts a little easier to maneuver. I let my first roast – the slightly slower one – proceed until 20% post crack development, about 1:30 in this case. The second time around, I ended the roast with the PCD at 17%, or 1:10.
On the cupping table, both roasts presented a delicious, balanced, sweet cup. The first roast definitely boasted a fuller body and deeper sweetness than the second (think baked apples and caramelized peaches), but both cups had a pleasant, crisp acidity, with just a hint of orange blossom on the finish. The added body and sweetness in the first cup lead me to believe that this coffee prefers a little more post crack development. So if you do lean towards a hotter, faster roast, be ready to turn your heat down well before you get to first crack so that you can give the coffee the time it needs towards the end.
Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Quest roasts. Generally, I’ll allow the machine to warm up for 15 minutes until my environmental temperature reading is at least 250F, weigh out 150g batch size, and begin roasting when I’ve reached my desired charge temperature. Read my initial post here and my updated post here.
Always a pleasure to see Mayra’s coffees arrive in Oakland again! Luckily for us, she’s also coming to visit – her sunny countenance and freshly landed Catracha Project coffees always bring a bit of brightness to the office. We were lucky to get a hold of this lot before it completely sold out. Many of the Catracha Coffee lots are sold before they even arrive, so having this on the menu as a Crown Jewel is a treat.
The screen size distribution falls within the 17/18 range, with a bit of outliers at screen 16. I thought this coffee would need just a little push in terms of heat application, so I planned to wait until 270F to engage the fan to ‘3’ and 340F to turn it up to full. Despite a slightly higher than average turning point temperature (215F), and plenty of push, this very dense coffee spent the majority of time in drying phase. I would have liked to see a little more time in Maillard, so I would recommend a slightly higher charge temperature for this coffee, with heavier airflow closer towards the end of the roast.
Regardless, this coffee displayed peach, almond, and sweet toffee flavors on the cupping table. I think with heavier heat application at the beginning of this roast, I would have been able to achieve the limey acidity and tootsie-roll sweetness that I know resides in these Catracha coffees every year. Keep in mind that this is a very dense coffee, and you’ll be on the track to success!
Catracha coffees are here! If you’ve made it all the way to the brew analysis for this coffee, you’ve probably read through plenty of us gushing about Mayra and the Catracha Coffee Project, but if you haven’t, scroll back to the top of the page and start over!
We got a new brew device in the Tasting Room at The Crown this week, so we took brew analysis as an opportunity to put it through the works. Similar to the analysis for CJO1311, we did a simple brew bed geometry experiment here. Two identical brews, the only difference being the shape of the brewers themselves, in this case Saint Anthony Industries conical c70 vs their flat-bottom f70. Everything else stays the same. Take note in the chart below that the two brews were almost the same by the numbers (the conical brew took a little longer), which begs the question: does brew bed shape make a difference? The proof is in the pudding!
The first brew (from the conical brewer), featured lots of complex, delicate acidity. We tasted honeydew, green apple, nectarine, orange, and white wine. The brew was rounded out with a pleasant sweetness highlighted mainly by a strong milk chocolate note, and a crisp, clean finish. The second brew (from the flat-bottom brewer) immediately presented as heavier, richer, and sweeter. The acidity was just as complex, but fell more on the red fruit side of the spectrum: red apple, plum, and cherry! The acidity then took the back seat as an intense sweetness took center stage, driven by notes of caramel, toffee, brown sugar, and cocoa. The fact that we were able to pull such different taste profiles out of this coffee merely by changing the shape of the brew bed shows just the tip of the iceberg that is this coffee’s versatility. Put it on your pourover menu; pull shots as espresso; make cold brew; this coffee can do it all!