Intro by Charlie Habegger
Milton Fabian Villota Pizarro, or simply “Fabian” as he is known to friends and family, is 43 years old and a fourth-generation farmer. Fabian, along with most of his relatives, grew only corn, beans, and wheat prior to planting coffee for the first time 6 years ago on the 4-hectare farm called El Recreo, which he manages with his father. The family cultivate Caturra, Typica, Colombia, Castillo, and have planted some Cenicafe1, a recent improvement on the Castillo hybrid, each on a unique plot. Coffee has not overtaken everything, however: the family maintains commercial crops of local peas and milk cows, as well as subsistence crops for the extended family.
As is the norm across Colombia, the Villota family processes everything on their own estate. After careful hand-harvesting, the coffee is de-pulped and fermented for 24 hours, washed, and then spread onto raised screen beds to dry, a process that typically takes 8 to 12 days.
Chapacual is one of the veredas within the municipality of Yacuanquer, perched on the southern slope of the formidable Galeras stratovolcano, a central fixture in this part of the Nariño department and whose continuous activity, documented since the 16th century, plays a significant role in the region’s terroir. Many of the farmers in Yacuanquer are “new” to coffee, having traditionally grown beans, carrots, cabbage, wheat, peas, corn, or potatoes, and coffee is a recent convert for the younger generation of farm owners here.
And coffee, as you would expect in these conditions, is absolutely thriving. The young trees, still in their first decade in Yacuanquer’s fertile volcanic soils, intense sunshine, wide diurnal temperature swings, and in their youthful vigor, are very productive, and the intensity comes through in the cup. Many of the new coffee fields are densely planted with little shade, as the climate does the work of thinning sunlight and there is ample cloud cover. There’s a lot of promise here. The famers, perhaps new to coffee but certainly not new to commercial growing in such an environment, are receiving a lot of encouragement.
Azahar Coffee, the sourcing company and exporter of Fabian’s coffee, originally began as a specialty roaster and coffee boutique in Bogotá serving Colombia’s top quality microlots to a developing local consumer base. In time, Azahar began making international connections to their farmer contacts and exporting green coffee, with top traceability and ambitious price transparency, to select buyers in a few northern markets.
The business has evolved to what is now a very sophisticated exporting model. Azahar partners with local grower organizations to identify coffees and producers of the highest potential, pull these aside from the usual export stream, and market them directly to buyers internationally on a quality-based pricing scale. The net effect of the intervention is often significantly more money than a farm could receive without the added exposure and marketing. Through Azahar, countless farms and communities are being uncovered and sold globally with traceability not experienced before. And prices follow: the average farm gate price farmers receive is 25-50% above Colombia’s federal price. This particular lot was purchased at a farm gate price of COP 1,600,000 per carga (125kg of parchment coffee), roughly $1.91 per pound for milled green coffee.
On the cupping table, we lauded the Villota family’s efforts. The cup is lush and juicy, mandarin orange, kiwi, and pomegranate come to mind, with hints of cherry, dried cranberries, and baking spice. There’s a whisper of hibiscus and basil on the top end, and a delightful even sweetness and balanced finish. It’s a coffee that toes the line between comfort and complexity elegantly, both thrilling for the seasoned roaster and perfect for pairing with wool socks and warm blankets.
Just a handful of boxes are available for this limited release, exclusively available as a Crown Jewel.
Green Analysis by Nate Lumpkin
This fully washed coffee from Colombia comes to us with above average density, and approximately average moisture content and water activity. As is typical for high quality Colombian coffee, its screen size is very well sorted, with most of the coffee falling into the tight range of 16 and 17, with small amounts falling outside that. These green metrics should make for ease and consistency of roasting, though its high density may cause it to resist heat, especially early in the roast, so consider trying a higher charge or increased energy for best results.
The well-known Typica was first brought from Yemen to India, and then brought by the Dutch to Indonesia, and from there spread across the Western Hemisphere. Caturra is a short-statured mutation of Bourbon, and was originally reported in Brazil in 1937, and is known for its potential for high yield. Colombia, Castillo, and Cenicafe1 are all varieties created by Colombia’s Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros’ research division Cenicafe, which worked to create a number of F5 composites, particularly Colombia (a composite of the Timor Hybrid and Caturra) and Castillo, which has high rust and disease resistant due to its genetic diversity. Castillo is also the most commonly cultivated coffee in Colombia. Cenicafe1 is similar to Castillo but has shown even higher cup scores, disease resistance, and screen size.
Diedrich Analysis by Candice Madison
Every single time an origin is announced as being in season (allow for latitude please…. and longitude!), there is spontaneous applause and cheering. You can see by the sparkle in people’s glazed eyes that they are reminiscing about lots from years gone by and tasting their favorites on their imagination’s tongues. All of this would be very exciting and unusual if we weren’t constantly and unashamedly assaulted year-round, by the best of each origin and have our pick of the bunch. Some origins have clear regional, farm or mill favorites, Colombia, however, just comes as a package; ‘Colombia!’
So here we are, spoilt for choice with another delightful and delicious offering, this one from Yacuanquer, I would romanticize the gorgeous fresh vibrant smell of the green coffee, the uniformity of screen size and glossy gem-like quality of the beans and the near meticulous sorting, but that means I wouldn’t leave myself room to talk about roasting it!
I was expecting, looking at the density and moisture content, some resistance in the heat uptake at the beginning of the roast. A high density and relatively average moisture level mean that there is enough water to resist heat transfer during the drying phase, and that most of the density would be nutritional and not moisture, leading to the same, initial heat resistance, as well as, crossing my fingers, a super sweet coffee.
Because of these suspicions, I started the 4lb batch off at higher than my usual charge, using a minimum heat application, so as not to introduce to many variables that could lead to scorching. But I was too ginger in my heat application and realized, almost too late, that I need a little more heat in the drum, so possibly a higher charge, and/or to have started the roast at a much higher gas application. The reason for this adjustment for future roasts, would be to spend less time, more productively in stage 1. That way I could wait for the heat and eke out as many expressions of the intrinsic enzymatic reactions as possible; the precursors of which are already in the bean, after all. Reaching stage 2 faster allows me to adjust the heat as I have done here. Stepping down and spending more time in this stage – more time in the Maillard and initial stages of caramelization – creates symphonies out of the sugars. That being said, I wasn’t let down one bit!
The cup was as bountifully fruity as I am now coming to expect from the very best Colombia has to offer. The unmistakable taste of late autumn pluots, which I can say I have never noted before, rolled right out of the cup onto my tongue. The fruit notes were completed by notes of Bing cherries, hints of green apple, mandarine zest and pink grapefruit, in both taste and quality of acidity. The sweetness of clover honey, caramel and drinking chocolate brought dimension to the fruit notes. And the whole cup was velvety and silky smooth.
How good is this coffee? I stole some and am drinking it in the late winter sun as I type. It’s worth every purloined bean!
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.
Colombia season is upon us again, and a bevy of incredibly well-sorted high quality coffees are here. This is just such a coffee, and I expected no surprises going into this roast due to its immaculate processing. Opening the bag of green, I noticed that this coffee smelled very, very fresh. When the green has such a vivid fragrance, you know you’re in for a treat.
But I was also in for a surprise! Let me give a little preamble: this coffee heats up quick.
My roast of this coffee did start with a slightly higher charge temperature of 397F, but my aim was to move quickly through drying and spend the majority of the roast in Maillard. The surprising part was when this coffee didn’t dip too low after charge; this was the highest turning point I’ve seen in recent memory, 228F. Accordingly, this coffee began to race through drying stage.
With 10A heat application and full fan at start, this coffee was off to the races indeed. At turning point, I cut airflow, and waited until 2:30 / 260F to reduce power to 7.5A. Earlier than usual at 2:55 / 285F I turned fan up to 3, and reduced heat application to 5A shortly after at 3:30 / 310F. Luckily this last adjustment allowed me to draw through Maillard stage nice and slow. Approaching crack, I really wanted to keep this coffee below 400F, so I turned the fan speed up to full at 6:10 / 380F, perhaps a little too early. Crack occurred 51 seconds later, and I allowed for 1:27 development, though my temperature never got above 392F.
If I were to have done anything different, it would have been to introduce fan just a tad later, at 385F. My true goal for end temperature was somewhere between 395F and 400F, so I was close, but a little more sugar browning would have been nice.
The cup, however, was splendid. I could tell that the end temperature was a touch low due to a slight graham cracker flavor, but the honeyed sweetness and bright maraschino cherry flavors overwhelmed any negative impressions pretty swiftly. While this roast is clearly tailored for filter drip, I believe slightly heavier-handed post-crack development would make this coffee an absolute dream for espresso. Especially at larger brew ratios (1:2 and above), this coffee would excel in a demitasse. This coffee is also an easy drinker – I’m on my second cup right now!
I quite enjoyed brewing up this gem! Armed with the St. Anthony Industries C70 cone brewer and a flat–bottomed Stagg brewer from Fellow, I made two tasty cups for comparative analysis and both were deliciously juicy.
The C70 brew had a tart, explosive green apple acidity on the first sip, although the cup mellowed and balanced out nicely as it cooled down. Also present was a juicy navel orange note, plum, praline, and pecan pie. Fragrant, sweet, totally chuggable!
The Stagg – with all variables the same aside from swapping the brewer – also produced a zippy cup with a bright and refreshing lemony acidity. Nectarine and kiwi notes appeared and were rounded out by a nice toffee sweetness and baker’s spice in the aftertaste. Overall, this coffee was very easy to brew and even easier to drink.