Fans of our recent “XO” offering from Las Margaritas will likely relish this new opportunity for another booze-branded selection from Rigoberto Herrera and company in Colombia.
This iteration, dubbed “Bourbon Noir” is processed in such a way as to accentuate the wine-like (one might even say Pinot-esque) characteristics of the coffee, yet in a fully washed setting. Extended fermentation and rigorous cherry selection result in a flavor profile that is paradoxically familiar and unique. You can love it or leave it, but I guarantee you’ve never tried anything quite like it, and compared to the high cost of coffees from this farm, this delicious (and high-scoring, I might add) selection can be had at practically bargain prices.
Frequently recognized by the brand Café Granja la Esperanza, brothers Luis and Rigoberto Herrera are the proprietors of a small group of farms in central Colombia: Cerro Azul, Las Margaritas, La Esperanza, Potosí, and Hawaii. We’ve worked with a number of exclusive microlots from this innovative group of farms since the beginning of the Crown Jewel program. It seems like every harvest the Herrera hermanos come up with something new and innovative, exemplifying the stewardship undertaken by their father, who first diversified their coffees to include Yellow and Red Bourbon, Caturra, and Typica back in 1945.
Characterized by a large seed size and round shape, this green coffee doesn’t fit neatly into Colombia’s standard grading of Supremo or Excelso. It’s a tick above average in density, with moderate moisture content but a slightly elevated water activity. You’ll likely find it hits first crack at a slightly higher temperature than usual as a result.
Bourbon is the little sibling to Coffea arabica’s original “heirloom” variety, Typica. It emerged under the cultivation of French Spiritan missionaries on the island now known as Île Réunion off Madagascar’s eastern coast, evolving from a single surviving tree to be shrubbier, with broader leaves and rounder seeds than Typica. It was introduced to the Americas via Brazil in around 1850, and found to be more productive than Typica, it subsequently replaced its counterpart in most of the Western Hemisphere. It’s still revered for its bright acidity in the cup, though the tree itself is far more susceptible to disease and climate than many of its modern descendents, and as such is increasingly difficult to find in isolation, as it has been preserved here.
The Bourbon Noir is an interesting coffee, it looks like a beautifully washed coffee, but smells fruity like a natural. This is a large coffee, medium high density, with high moisture and high water activity. All of the Café Granja la Esperanza coffees are so unusual and rare that I decided to use the same Ikawa profile that I had for the other two coffees, 5:15 412 \m/fc LM. The Bourbon Noir hit first crack at a normal temperature just slightly later than most washed coffees with the same attributes.
On the cupping table this coffee tasted like a beautifully balanced pinot noir, from which we can assume is where it gets its name. Red apple, cherry, and pear complemented by jasmine and vanilla. This coffee truly has a truly exciting and unique flavor profile.
This week was my first time roasting on the Quest M3s and it operates similarly to an average drum roaster. Since it uses electric heat, you will see the heat manipulation denoted by amperage (0-11). The fan speed is also adjustable and the dial functionally goes from 0-8. Regarding electric heat, it is important to remember that it is much slower to respond than gas heat, so every manipulation at the end of the roast during that crucial time can easily result in a stall if the roaster is not careful.
The Bourbon Noir was the most predictable coffee to roast this week on the Quest M3s. Both batches are very similar, same charge temperature of 385F and 10 amps and fan speed set to 2. Quest (1) reached yellow just slightly later (10 seconds) than Quest (2). First crack occurred at 382F which is a normal temperature so far for the Quest M3s. In terms of total roast time and all of the stages in between, these roasts are just 10-20 seconds away from each other.
On the cupping table the two roasts had very similar flavor profiles but it was the intensity of those favors that really made the difference. The longer roast, Quest (1) was very vibrant and jammy with more grape jelly and tartaric flavors to complement the citric qualities. Quest (2) was lighter and more citric in nature in comparison. The kiwi and strawberry tasted like an elegant herbal tea with sweet fruit juice. Although this is a washed coffee, the flavor profile is similar to a natural coffee and I believe that it will behave accordingly in the roaster. For more cooked fruit or dried fruit flavors, use a more gentle curve and lengthen the total roast time and for a more vibrant and bright profile make sure to keep those roast times on the short side.