Smack in the middle of Colombia’s Valle del Cauca department are a collective of farms, co-managed by brothers Luis and Rigoberto Herrera, the third generation in the family’s line of coffee growers. Their farms – Cerro Azul, Las Margaritas, La Esperanza, Potosi, and Hawaii – exemplify the innovation and stewardship undertaken by the brothers’ father, who first diversified their coffees to include Yellow and Red Bourbon, Caturra, and Typica back in 1945. After a year managing a coffee farm in Panama (and taking first place in that harvest’s Best of Panama competition), Rigoberto returned to his family’s farms with the coveted Panama Geisha seeds and began the work of continuing the spirit of the farms’ founders. This Crown Jewel is this year’s culmination of the Herrera brothers’ work for the 2016 harvest, and we couldn’t be happier to add it to our menu.
We had the opportunity to host Rigoberto and his marketing/sales coordinator Felipe a few months ago here in the Bay Area, and then to join them for a whirlwind 2-day tour of Los Angeles to promote their coffees. Rigoberto is a man who exudes humility, passion, and vast knowledge of cultivation, speaking with us in detail about the Cerro Azul farm (which is entirely dedicated to the 30,000 trees of the Geisha variety) and why its unique microclimate is particularly suited to the cultivation of a fickle cultivar. In addition to the wind and sun, the humidity and soil and elevation and so many other factors influencing the plants’ growth, there is also an impressive amount of attention paid to processing, including a zero-water depulping with an underwater fermentation stage that lasts between 19-22 hours depending on the temperature. Mechanical dryers are used for precision slow drying, and the resulting coffee is unparalleled.
One of many unique features of the coffee’s flavor is its propensity to retain the acidity commonly associated with high grown Colombian coffees, but not necessarily affiliated with the Geisha variety. When roasted to a relatively light degree, the coffee showcases both floral and citric notes that provide a fascinating example of the adaptation of a cultivar’s flavor profile to the terroir in which it is grown.