Cup Notes: Blackberry Jam, Plum, Almond Butter, Lemon Zest, Velvety
12oz Retail Bag MSRP: $30
12oz Brew Suggested Price: $5.50
Grower: 20 small-scale producers organized under the guidance of Miguel Jiménez
Variety: Caturra, Colombia
Region: Caicedonia and El Rubi veredas, Planadas, Tolima, Colombia
Harvest: April - July 2020
Altitude: 1800 – 1900 masl
Soil: Clay minerals
Process: Macerated Natural: Coffee cherries floated and then sealed in airtight plastic drums to macerate for 46 hours, then dried on raised beds with intermittent GrainPro conditioning before finishing a final mechanical dryer.
Macerated Natural? Yep. In this case, what we’re talking about is ripe cherries first floated for density and defect separation, then sealed in airtight plastic drums and “fermented” (or macerated) for 46 hours and monitored for temperature (24 degrees Celsius) and pH (between 4.5 and 5). These “extra ripe” and “lightly fermented” coffee cherries must then be carefully dried, slowly over the course of a few days in thin layers on raised beds until they dip below 30 percent moisture.
That is hardly the end, though, as the coffee undergoes a series of cold conditioning stages before it’s finally ready to taste. At 30 percent moisture, the still-too-damp-for-export cherries were placed in GrainPro bags and rested for five days in a cool indoor space. Then the coffee was returned to the raised beds and dried to 20 percent moisture, and again rested in GrainPro bags for another four days. After this process the coffee was placed in a mechanical drier to reduce the moisture to its final, export-ready 11 percent.
This coffee is extra, especially considering most natural coffees are just picked and then dried. This whole concoction is the brainchild of Miguel Jiménez who was recruited by the local government in Tolima to work with producers to create a pilot program for natural coffees to sell to the specialty market. The twenty producers, identified by Jiménez and selected for their small farm size and traditional cultivars, are otherwise unaffiliated and don’t fall into a particular producer group or association. Instead, they work independently under the guidance of Jiménez to create this small, slightly bonkers batch of coffee. Following a strict post-harvest protocol makes each small individual batch consistent to be combined into a larger lot and a stunning example of innovation. At this stage, an export company called Mastercol provides crucial logistical support for things like warehousing and milling coffee for export to the international market, which provides better income for everyone to reinvest in their farms and strengthen their families’ livelihoods. The producers themselves are located in the veredas of Caicedonia and El Rubi within the municipality of Planadas in the Tolima department. For many years Tolima has remained hidden in plain sight between other well-known coffee growing regions because armed conflict and coca leaf production isolated coffee producers and exposed them to high rates of violence. During this time, Planadas, located in the southernmost corner of Tolima, had remained an untapped source of specialty coffee where thousands of producers have been cultivating coffee on just a few acres of land intercropped with shade trees, bananas, corn, beans, and sugarcane. As conflict has subsided in recent years, locally organized producer groups have created market access for their coffee.