Intro by Mayra Orellana-Powell & Chris Kornman
Under Mayra Orellana-Powell’s leadership, coffee producers in Santa Elena have unified and created a community and project that’s really worth celebrating. In this spirit, our Crown Jewels frequently feature community lots, blends of various producers that are something more than the sum of their parts.
This season, though, across at least five different iterations of preship and arrival cuppings, a single producer’s coffee kept leaping out at us as unique, flavorful, and perfectly aligned with the ideals we strive to achieve for each Crown Jewel.
The producer’s name is Fidelina Pérez, and in true testament to her tenacity as a quality-focused coffee grower, I was thrilled and unsurprised to remember that her coffee was featured years ago as one of our very first Crown Jewels.
Doña Fidelina has done it again. This is a super sweet coffee, loaded with vanilla, honey, and brown sugar notes, dusted with notes of grape and raisin, orange blossom and lemon-lime zip. It’s easy to appreciate its complexity and nuance, but equally enjoyable as a balanced and delicious morning cup. A rare coffee that elegantly bridges the gap between being a sipping brew and a chuggable drink.
Fidelina Pérez has a two-acre farm called El Rincon in the community of Casas Quemadas where she lives with her husband and four children. In prior years, Fidelina has sold her family’s coffee in cherry to the local middleman. For the last several years she has been working with Catracha Coffee. During this time, she has improved her farm management practices using lime to control the pH of the soil, fertilizing with organic compost, and spraying organic fungicides to control levels of leaf rust. These actions have improved the health of her farm and the quality of her coffee production. Fidelina has also learned to process her coffee along with her husband who also works with Catracha Coffee. They use the same micro-mill to depulp, ferment and dry her coffee before delivering it to Catracha Coffee. Fidelina plans to use some of the extra income from the sale of her coffee to renovate parts of her farm and help her oldest daughter continue her University education.
Mayra Orellana-Powell founded Catracha Coffee Company to connect her coffee growing community with roasters. 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 extra income helps increase 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.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Lowell Powell, Mayra’s partner, has had precision focused attention on the details of processing and drying coffee for the Catracha project for the past few years, and has really dialed in the specs for nicely prepped and preserved green. The specs here are thoroughly representative of the overall quality of processing for Catracha coffees: very high density, low stable moisture and water activity figures, and medium/medium-large screen size. Hallmarks of attention to detail and sure to roast predictably and age gracefully.
Fidelina Pérez is growing Catuaí, a Brazilian cross of Mundo Novo with Yellow Caturra. It was developed in the 1940s but not released into the public domain until 1970s. It retains the short stature of its Caturra heritage, and is resistant to wind. It’s also a quite productive tree with the caveat that it requires an above average amount of fertilizer.
Roast Analysis by Candice Madison
It is an absolute pleasure and privilege to be able to talk to Mayra Orellana-Powell and see her zipping around the office. Not just because Mayra is a lovely person (she is!), but also because it is incredibly gratifying to be able to have conversations with a producer/co-op leader about all aspects of life, not just pinhole glimpses in the world of coffee through the lens of a buyer or consumer. The passion that Mayra brings to her – and our – daily life is matched, if not exceeded, by that which she brings to ensuring that the coffee we buy from the Catracha Community is borne of excellence and meticulous attention to detail and the work of the producers is protected and elevated.
The proof is in the cups, and once again, this year’s harvest has proven this in abundance. This particular coffee is very dense and gets its weight from sugars and other components, not from excessive moisture, which gave me an indication as to how I wanted to eke out all that I could in the roaster. I decided not to chance any issues with momentum control, and so chose to start my roast with a low-ish charge temperature (as per usual, my charge weight is 400gm. I also kept the gas at my Probatino’s minimum of 2 on the dial.
Once the coffee reached the turning point, I stepped up on the gas, just a little, going up to 2.5 on the dial. I knew the coffee would drink in the heat, but the low moisture had led me to be cautious and not attempt to push too hard. As I suspected, the coffee decided to ‘roast itself’ and proceeded, unaided through the Maillard reaction and towards first crack. Wanting to stave off any sharp temperature increases and to keep the roast curve within an arc which would allow for an appropriate post crack development time, I cut the gas to the minimum application (2 on the dial) approximately 30 seconds before first crack. If you’re a regular to these analyses, you’ll know that I do this to mitigate any chance that the temperature will rise too quickly, making me lose control of the roast – sometimes it works, sometimes I cry. What can I say? Coffee does as coffee wants to do! In this instance, turning the heat down and then back up to 2.5 just after first crack, allowed me a luxurious 1 minute of development, which translated to a very respectable 17% PCD of my total roast.
After spending the majority of this roast in the Maillard stage, I was expecting the translation of sugars and their byproducts (acidity), to be dominant in the cup. It was sugary and so, so much more. I think the only way to do justice to this coffee is to list every flavor description we noted: Florals including orange blossom and lemongrass, grape, peach, tangerine, sweet lime, vanilla, 65% chocolate, caramel, graham cracker, maple syrup, marshmallow, toffee. The body was syrupy, juicy and coating with a lingering aftertaste. There’s no way to shorthand this fantastic example of the exemplary work being done by Fidelina Pérez, championed by Mayra’s indomitable spirit. The Catracha Community deserve to take a bow and several encores!
Quest M3s Analysis by Evan Gilman
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.
Fidelina Pérez’s is a dense coffee, and starting off with a decently high charge temperature seemed to allow me to roast this coffee just as I desired: with lots of attention to the Maillard stage and plenty of time in post-crack development.
Sugar browning notes were predominant in our cuppings of this coffee, and I really wanted to emphasize the sweetness you can get from this Honduran coffee.
My approach was to start with a 394F charge temperature, and to follow the path described in my updated post about roasting on the Quest M3s: cutting airflow at turning point, and slowly reintroducing it until I’ve reached a temperature where I think the coffee won’t need too much more pushing. In this case, my rate of rise was sufficient at 4:20/328F to carry the coffee through into exotherming, and I reintroduced full airflow at that point. I reached crack at 7:26/386F, and continued developing the coffee for quite some time – about 20% of the roast! I didn’t get above 399F in post-crack development, but I felt good about this coffee regardless. No baked notes showed on the table.
Nearly everyone noted dark chocolate on the cupping table, but there were some other intriguing notes for this coffee: cherry cola, mandarin orange, and red apple. There’s a lot to this coffee, and I feel like different roast styles may bring you different results as far as which acids are represented. Citric and malic profiles are very prominent with this coffee. I would recommend this coffee for drip or espresso, but no need to stop there! This is a versatile coffee with a lot to say.
Brew Analysis by Alex Taylor
It’s always an honor to get to brew coffee from the Catracha community, and this is the second coffee we’ve taken through the Crown Jewel analysis this season!
I recalled how wonderfully sweet this coffee was on the cupping table, so for my brews today I kept my grind setting on the finer side, hoping to really push my extraction percentages to try to get as much of that sweetness out as I could! I used a 1:16 brew ratio and the St Anthony Industries c70 dripper for my first brew, which yielded a cup with 1.43 TDS and 21.18% extraction. For the second brew, I went with a slightly stronger brew ratio of 1:15 and Fellow’s Stagg X dripper, hoping for a more robust body, with lots and lots of sweetness.
When it came time to taste, I was very pleased with both cups! The first cup was slightly more delicate and approachable, with a nice floral aftertaste. The team tasted cherry, cantaloupe, vanilla, and a super creamy milk chocolate! The second brew was insanely sweet! That 1.71 TDS was a little much for me, but even so, I found myself going back for more. We tasted black cherry, red grape, graham cracker, raw sugar, molasses, and tons of dark chocolate. Sweetness is definitely the dominating aspect of this coffee, so it would be perfect for folks who don’t want a ton of acidity in their coffee. The acidity is there, but it’s just enough to maintain balance in the cup. And if you do want more of that acidity, Consider using a lower brew ratio to allow the cup to open up a bit more! Either way, this coffee is simply delightful.