Luis Pedro Zelaya is a force to be reckoned with in Antigua coffees. He’s a fourth-generation coffee professional whose reputation, in part, results from his remarkably clean and efficient beneficio that produces world-class coffees. Among the many impressive features of the mill are the sizable maceration tanks and guardiolas. However, this lot was not mechanically dried but rather sent to the greenhouse, where Luis Pedro has stacked raised beds three tiers high and maintains a strict rotation schedule to ensure even drying. While not all of the coffees processed at Beneficio Bella Vista are grown on his farms, this particular Crown Jewel is exactly that. The Bourbon and Caturra blend comes from a farm called Hacienda Bella Carmona, located within the traditional Antigua growing region.
Located a mere 90 minute drive from Guatemala’s capital city, Antigua was once itself the capital of the Spanish colonial Kingdom of Guatemala which included nearly all of Central America, stretching from Chiapas, Mexico south to Costa Rica. World renowned as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city contains a remarkable concentration of beautiful architecture connected by cobblestone streets. Coffee from the highlands surrounding the city has a protected designation of origin and benefits from the volcanic soil in the region; Guatemala is home to numerous dormant, extinct, and active volcanoes. Antigua rests in the shadows of Volcán de Fuego, from which smoke can be seen rising on a daily basis.
One of the consistently impressive feats Sr. Zelaya accomplishes at his magnificent dry mill in Antigua is absolute precision in drying practices. Year after year, coffees processed at the mill exceed expectation for their longevity and physical specs. This Bella Carmona fits the mold: tighter than average screen size for the region paired with perfect moisture figures and a very high density make this coffee a sure-fire bet to stay delicious for months to come.
The lot is comprised of exclusively Bourbon and Caturra cultivars. Bourbon is one of Arabica’s two commonly grown heirloom varieties and it traces its history back to the island that was once its namesake, now a French department known as Réunion. While still fairly common, it has been outpaced en masse with higher-yielding, more disease resistant trees… like Caturra. After Bourbon seeds crossed the ocean to the New World, the Arabica heirloom plant began to take on new characteristics, and a mutation eventually called Caturra was first observed in Brazil, noted for its short stature and resistance to wind and rain.
This is a dense coffee that needs ample heat throughout the roast. My first roast started with an average charge temperature, and I turned up the heat to 3 gas at 1:36 just after turn around. On my second roast, I used a higher charge temperature and set my gas to the lowest possible setting. The rate of rise dropped dramatically after the turnaround point and I applied heat (3 gas) at 2:26. The delay of heat application increased the total duration of the roast by 44 seconds. The first roast was very citrus driven, sweet and tart. The second roast, with the extended time during the Maillard stage had a larger body presence in the cup with vanilla and roasted nuts.
This coffee cracked more quickly, and took more time to develop compared to the Ugandan coffees I roasted in the same session. I was under the impression that this coffee would turn out significantly darker due to the extra time it was in the roaster, but it wasn’t so. Colortrack numbers were similar, if not a little lighter than the Ugandan coffees. This is a very dense coffee, and it is worth mentioning that some extra time in the Behmor may be needed.
We brewed this sweet coffee with a couple different grind and dose sizes in order to explore the types of flavors we could achieve. To our chagrin, the results were very consistent! The thick texture and gentle citric acidity in this coffee maintained through our two different brew ratios, two different ends of the extraction percentage spectrum, and gave us a very enjoyable cup in both cases. Look for well balanced candied citrus, golden raisin, and vanilla notes in this coffee. Though we didn’t pull this coffee as an espresso, my hunch is that it would perform very well that way.