About 20 miles east of Cauca’s capital city of Popayán, indigenous coffee famers from the Novirao and Paniquita communities harvested this delightful coffee in the district of Totoró.
Here at Royal’s California office, we fell in love with the name of the coffee well before we tasted it or learned about it. The wink at Miyazaki’s iconic Studio Ghibli animation was hard to resist.
But the coffee itself is also exceptional. Its zesty citrus notes captured our attention, and its brown sugar sweetness and spiced apple pie complexity drew us in. It’s the kind of coffee that’s immensely versatile—it could anchor a blend or be a daily menu option for a large batch brew, yet it’s also delightfully complex and rewarding as a hand-poured option. There’s lots to love about it.
Sourced for us by Banexport, this lot from Totoró consists of coffee from seven farms: Ciro Antonio Camayo Camayo’s Vista Hermosa, Maria Teresa Paz Mellizo’s El Progreso, Ramior Antonio Vainas Zambrano’s La Laguna, Arley Arturo Camayo Camayo’s El Eden, Edelmira Camayo Cometa’s La Fortaleza, Liborio Zambrano Camayo’s El Naranjo, and Aiber Fredy Vainas Zambrano’s El Cabuyal. The farms all range from 1900 to 2100 masl, and average between one and eight hectares in size. The community has a “School & Coffee” program that provides training for new generations of farmers.
Small traceable lots like this one from Totoró in Cauca tend to fall outside the more traditional bulk designations like Supremo and Excelso. This lot is relatively large in screen size, though not as strictly size-graded as a Supremo. It’s quite high in density, and moderate in moisture and water activity; a by-the-books physical grading for high quality. Expect this coffee to last well as green on the shelf and to respond much like other high-density Colombian coffees in the roaster.
Excellent grading, high quality flavor, with complexity and resilience in the roaster—the hallmarks of Specialty. And yet this lot is not grown with traditional varieties like Caturra, but rather with lab-developed hybrids targeting high yields and disease resistance.
Castillo, and to a lesser extent, its predecessor Colombia, are cultivars that attempted to marry sensory quality with resilience and productivity. Both have a bit of an unfair reputation with some cuppers, whose romanticization of heirloom varieties like Bourbon and Caturra have clashed with research striving to improving sustainable coffee farming. Yet over and over at the cupping table sufficient evidence arises that the two can coexist under the right conditions. This exceptionally tasty Totoró coffee makes a strong case for the kinds of attention to detail in picking and processing that can result in high caliber specialty flavor paired with agronomically advantageous cultivars.
El Totoró is perhaps the most adorable name to come across the cupping table since the peaberry. Thankfully we were able to cup this delicious coffee blind and notice its dynamic fruit acidity before discovering the name of the coffee. Knowing that I wanted to pull more of the tropical fruits and yellow citrus that I tasted in the arrival sample, I decided to use two different profiles. Both roasts have the same fan setting, descending from 80% to 65% at the midway point between yellowing and the end of the roast, then back up to 80% just before the roast finishes. The temperature profiles are similar in strategy, but Roast 1 is a total of 5:15 and Roast 2 is a total of 5:45. The main difference is the length of time between the yellowing stage and first crack. I was hoping to keep the post crack development times the same.
The plan seemed to work like a charm and both roasts yielded excellent tasting notes. I enjoyed the lively acidity of Roast 1 and the sweetness of Roast 2. I think that a new profile with a 5:30 total roast time might do the trick and find the balance between these two profiles. Regardless, this coffee is delicious and I could drink it all day.
This week I was able to muscle my way into the construction zone also known as The Crown and roast on the Probatino. Fortunately I was able to squirrel away in the corner, but I only had a limited amount of time and just enough for one roast of coffee. I had no idea how much I missed roasting on my little Probatino that the song together again was stuck in my head for the rest of the day.
With a charge temperature of 374F, I started the roast with 2 gas, my lowest setting, and bumped the heat up to 3 gas at 2:30. The roast easily sailed to first crack at 8:10 at which I lowered the heat 2.75 gas and then back down to 2 gas for the last few seconds. I felt like I had a lot of control at the end of the roast and hit all of my intended time and temperature targets.
On the cupping table this coffee was electric – fruit punch, mango, starburst where all notes found in this roast. What I have learned from this coffee is that the density and size of this coffee needs enough time to fully develop so that all of the grassy or vegetative flavors dissipate. What you are left with is an abundant smack of citrus punch and sweetness even in a longer roast.
Having tasted this coffee from Totoró multiple times on the cupping table, it was clear that it could hold up to high extraction. Jen’s Probatino roast popped full of clean sweet citrus, floral, and brown sugar notes, and I knew I really wanted to pull all the deliciousness I could out of this coffee.
Pulling out the trusty glass V60, I used a 1:17 ratio to start with my grind set to 8.5 on the EK 43. This brew featured some star fruit, lemon bar, concord grape, and fig jam. It was really tasty, but lacked a little clarity and balance; it was ever so slightly over extracted. But I knew I was close.
Coarsening just a half notch, I brewed the same recipe again. This time, there was tons of sweet tangerine, cantaloupe, juicy mango, and cherry. There was also a touch of floral aroma, and the cup was tied together by a clean butterscotch base. This is an incredibly dynamic and juicy coffee which can stand up to high extractions and long brew ratios. It can taste good without much effort, but with a little bit of dialing it will create a truly exceptional cup.