So a big reason for wanting to make this trip was to go picking pulping of my own coffee. I've never been able to say I have picked the coffee I roast as pickings have been on farms that we have been unable to buy everything from.
"......... i like coffee more than cats christmas ......."
Merry Christmas, its that time of year again.
We have turned on our Christmas decorations, we hope you approve.
So its the last of the guest blends, we have had 12 months of fun, and it seems only right to thank you all for that fun. The Christmas Present Blend is a gift. Its a single origin coffee, thats a very special gift for you, and its free. But there are some rules
1. Its a surprise, it comes wrapped in special Has Bean Wrapping paper, you can keep until Christmas if you want, but I suggest its an early Christmas present.
2. Its free. You pay the postage and we give you an early Christmas present (the postage thing was we could let international friends be involved and people taking advantage)
3. YOU CAN ONLY ORDER ONE, Anyone found trying to trick the system or sending to another address (were checking IP addresses) santa will not come to you.
4. Enjoy it, leave a review on the coffee tell us on email how much you enjoy it.
"......... set a reminder, set your alarm and get set for amazing surprised and coffee. ........"
The final edition of the guest blend series. 12 months 12 coffees
So we launch this at midnight Saturday 30th to Sunday the 1st of December, its a big surprise, but its on a first come first served basis, and it will be massively oversubscribed, you are going to want to be part of this.
So set a reminder, set your alarm and get set for amazing surprised and coffee.
"................. The first information about coffee growing in Colombia dates from 1732 .............."
It is believed that the first coffee seeds arrived on the American continent thanks to the French and Dutch. The French introduced the seeds to their colonies (Guyana and Martinique) at the end of the seventeenth century, while the Dutch introduced them to Surinam in 1714. Coffee was first introduced to Colombia in 1723, thanks to Jesuit priests who brought the seeds from Venezuela.
The first information about coffee growing in Colombia dates from 1732. It is said that the first coffee trees were grown in the Jesuit Seminary of Popayán, which is in the department of Cauca, and later in 1741 in the provinces of Santa Marta and Riohacha. The first commercial plantations date from the end of the 18th century in the departments of Santander and Boyaca, and later in the hills surrounding Medellin.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, after Colombia’s independence from Spain, coffee became much more widely grown. At this time coffee prices were much healthier than today. According to the record books, Colombia’s coffee production increased from 1,000 bags per year to 100,000 bags per year between 1850 and 1880.
Fast forward to 1905 and the country was producing 500,000 bags. Fast forward a bit further to 1930, and it was exporting over 3 million bags. The expansion of coffee growing throughout the country had significant effects on the economy, exports, and political structures. Colombia became a power house of coffee representing around 10% of the total world production, and at the same time also became more organised as a body.
In 1927 a group of coffee growers met in the town of Medellin to create an organization that eventually became the Federation Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (the FNC) we know today. The main goals of this federation of coffee growers were to improve the prices that producers received for coffee, and to work together as a union to improve the name of Colombian coffee across the world. It was actually a very forward thinking idea – that if people thought it was a quality product they would pay more. So they began an advertising campaign, which still runs today. They created a spokesman and donkey, the fictional character of Juan Valdez, who has been used in many adverts.
The FNC guarantees purchase of green coffee, but farmers are under no obligation to sell to them – they can still sell directly to buyers. But what it does allow the farmer is to have the security that they can get a certain price in the market, but also maintain a higher than normal price for the coffee.
The coffee market in the commodity sense works with a price set by the ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) formally known as NYBOT (the New York Board of Trade). This is known as the New York C Price, where traders can buy or sell futures on this market against what they think prices will do. This price fluctuates up and down just as a share price might do (but sometimes much more violently). A frost in Brazil can send the price soaring, whilst a country reporting that the harvest will be plentiful and above expectations can send the price through the floor.
Each country will have what is known as a differential. These are country premiums on top of the commercial market price for any grade of Arabica coffee. So any one will be able to achieve this price, and there will be lots of people offering to take it off their hands for these prices, with no regard for quality. To give you an idea of the prices, take a look below for snap shots of the differentials that I put together a few years ago.
Colombia 66.73 Cents/lb
Guatemala 25.53 Cents/lb
Costa Rica 24.35 Cents/lb
El Salvador 9.73 Cents/lb
Honduras 8.26 Cents/lb
Mexico 4.55 Cents/lb
Brazil -18.85 Cents/lb
So as you can see, Colombia has done a good job of getting a higher price than the rest of the market. Much of this is down to the FNC.
This all sounds like a bed of roses, but Colombia is not without its issues. A booming economy leads to rising costs – not just for labour, but for everything. Colombia is booming after many years of unrest from rebels. The peace talks have brought prosperity, but also these issues.
Much of the unrest was brought about by the drugs trade, which at one point nearly broke the country. Safety was a real concern, as was any investment in a fragile economy. Although lots of this is now sorted out, drugs and gangs are still an ongoing problem in rural parts of Colombia.
Leafrust, or Roya, is something which has been in the coffee buying and producer news in recent times. It’s a fungus that is spread through the air as well as by contact. It attacks the leaves of a plant, leaving the plant exposed and in some cases killing off the coffee plant. At best, it reduces the yield of the coffee dramatically. However, this has been something affecting Colombia for a very long while, and has been a persistent problem.
Climate change is also something that has affected Colombia more than most, with increased rain causing new problems with coffee growing. Rains during flowering knock off flowers, as well as causing dramatic drops and rises in temperature at times of the year when it was never expected – all affecting the fragile coffee plant.
Also, during the ultra lows of the 1990s and the famous coffee crisis, small scale 1-2 hector subsistence producers were hit hard. Unlike bigger plantations, they were not able to “ride the storm,” and many of them ripped out coffee plants and planted more productive and stable products.
All of this combined has seen Colombia, year on year, producing less and less coffee. Although still considered one of the powerhouses of coffee, its ability to produce a large volume of coffee has diminished from the highs of 16,000,000 60kg sacks back in 1992 to 9,500,000 sacks in 2012/13. The 2011/12 crop was even worse than this, at just 7,654,000 sacks.
What Colombia has done very well is breaking the country into to defined regions. These departments are very defined and exhibit certain broad taste profiles.
Coffees from the department of Huila tend to have HUGE sweetness, and thick milk chocolate and caramel tones that lend themselves to bigger bodies. The department is big and very spread out. Pitalito and its surrounding area is becoming the largest coffee producing region in Colombia.
Another top area for specialty coffee is Nariño. La Union is the main specialty coffee producer, in the far south west of the country, with part of the department being coast, and part high mountainous region. Most of the population resides in this high mountainous region, with its capital being Pasto. In the cup the typical profile is a buttery mouthfeel with big bodies and light acidity.
Located in the Andean region, in the centre west of the country, it neighbours the famous Hulia. The south of Tolima is currently a centre of FARC Guerilla activity and it is of strategic importance in Colombia’s ongoing civil war, so it’s a tough place to go find coffees. The capital of this department is Ibague, with the coffees here being typically floral and with bright acidity.
This department includes coffees from the Inza region and those areas surrounding the Popayan. Caucas, in my experience, tends to exhibit delicate floral flavours and fruit acidity, along with big sweetness. However it often lacks power, punch, and body.
All these states in Colombia share the spine of the Andes Mountains, which splits into three mountain ranges. This spine carries on through Peru and Bolivia, and manages to produce some of my favourite coffees. It was always thought that the Caturra varietal was the best for these regions, and indeed in the cup it produces some stellar results. Originating in Brazil, this is a mutant from the popular Bourbon varietal. Caturra shares many of Bourbon’s negative aspects; it’s not very pest resistant, and can be difficult to grow. Its one big plus is its higher yield than Bourbon (over 200kg per hector). Its other bonus is that it can be used for high density planting areas, with as many as 10,000 plants per hector (normally around 6,000 though) and as little as 1 metre apart. However, with the big leaf rust problems I mentioned earlier, the FNC has issued advice to plant Catimor, Colombia, and Castillo varietals. It’s an interesting time for Colombian coffee.
Even though coffee exports only represent roughly 10% of Colombia’s total exports by value today, it is still a very important sector of the economy. There are over 500,000 coffee growers, who together own approximately 850 thousand hectares of coffee plants and produce an average of 9 million coffee sacks per year. Of these 500,000 families, 70% are small producers with less than 1.5 hectares of coffee land.
" ....... its brought to us by two of our Mo loving producers ........."
Available Roasted Beans Only
This is the 11th in a new line of guest coffee blends that we are introducing in 2013. Each month there will be a new blend, for which there will be an original label in a different style of bag, and of which there will only be 500 made. Each bag will be marked with a unique, limited edition number.
These are the blends most roasters would be scared to share with you, but not us fearless souls at Has Bean Towers where we think the unthinkable.
In the cup think unbalanced, off-the-wall experiments that are tasty but never normal, and are always a bit unusual and pushing the boundaries.
The inspiration for this comes from the now infamous Movember. During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of millions of moustaches around the world. With their “Mo’s” men raise vital funds and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer and mental health. As an independent global charity, Movember’s vision is to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health. Here at Has Bean we are all supporting this (even the girls), and you can too, as 50p from every bag of this coffee we sell we will give to Movember.
Each bag will also contain your chance (even the girls again) to get involved. We encourage you to send us pictures of you and your mo!
So What is in Must Dash ? Well its brought to us by two of our Mo loving producers, one from El Salvador in Alejandro Martinez Argentina Piletas Bourbon Natural
And Daniel Cardoso Murcia with his Washed Colombian from Finca Las Brisas
60% Argentina Piletas Bourbon Natural
40% Colombia Las Brisas Washed
In the cup expect some funky sherry tones and stewed dark fruits with a whisker of milk chocolate and creamy mouthfeel.
" ........................ It's a varietal that's confused and bemused me for quite a while, and one I've spent a bit of time researching and tasting ......................."
This month the ‘focus on’ from in my mug is on the varietal pacamara.
It’s inspired by the Yellow Pacamara we have brought in from Limoncillo, but has been many months in the writing.
This yellow pacamara comes from the special auction that was held this year, called Los Favoritos Fincas Mierisch, where some very special lots were sold to the highest bidder. This was a super special chance to try something amazing.
I first came across this yellow pacamara two years ago, when visiting the farm. I begged Erwin to sell us some back then, but he told me they were using all the crop to create more seedlings to plant more coffee, but soon it would be available.
It’s a varietal that’s confused and bemused me for quite a while, and one I’ve spent a bit of time researching and tasting – I thought this might be a good place to share my experiences with you.
I do add the caveat that lots of this is my own findings, or from sources II believe to be true. The information is also from rum fueled conversations at origin with producers who’s first language is not English (and some would say neither is mine with my accent) so any errors are just that.
It amazes me how little is written about coffee varietals. I bought a book a few years ago for nearly £200 for 8 pages of intelligent words, and to this date found nothing better.
So pacamara is a hybrid of two quite different varietals, this is a good place to start to get an understanding of what makes this such a fascinating varietal
Mommy Bean Pacas
Pacas is a natural and spontaneous mutation of Bourbon, El Salvador’s answer to Villa Sarchi in Costa Rica or Caturra in Brazil, it thrives in the El Salvador Climate where it was first found.
This variety was discovered in 1949 in the San Rafael farm we buy from on the Santa Ana Volcano. Funnily Pacas was never sold from this farm on its own until three years ago when I visited and asked them if they would. Its quickly become a firm favourite here at Has Bean.
The story goes that a visiting botanist, Dr Cogwill,was asked to check out this plant they had seen doing very well on the farm. First spotted on the farm in 1930, Don Francisco Pacas re-planted a 3/4 of a manzana of the farm with seed stock from some special trees he had seen on San Rafael. These trees seemed to yield much more than the other Bourbon trees, and seemed healthier and thrived far more. This re-planted part of the farm yielded 20% more than the rest of the farm, and this got nicknamed San Ramon Bourbon. Because of the nickname, some people thought that it was a hybrid between Typica and San Ramón, but later it was confirmed that it was a natural mutation after genealogy tests on the plant.
Dr Gogwill meant to label the trees with the name San Rafael San Ramon Bourbon, but forgot. When he returned to Florida University he did remember the name of the family who owned the farm – the Pacas family – so he marked them ‘Pacas’, and the name of the varietal ‘Pacas’ was born.
Varietal: Pacas Related to: Bourbon Origin: El Salvador Grows best at: 1000 metres or above Prevalent in: El Salvador and some of Central America Predominant Colour: Red Fruit size: Normal rounded Leaf Characteristics: Wide and short Tree Size: Dwarf Branches:long Internodes:short Botany: Mutation
Pacas is simular to bourbon (surprise surprise), but tends to be a little less sweeter. It’s yield is around 20% higher than bourbon, and I think this has a small effects on the final cup. We have found some amazing pacas cups, but we have also found some more disappointing. It is rare that the pacas out performs a bourbon on the cupping table from the same farms (although we have seen examples of this for instance on San Rafael)
Daddy Bean Maragogype
Another mutation this time of the Typica varietal. This time though it really does fit its mutant tag. ITS HUGE !!
Pronounce mar-rah-go-jeepeh this varietal was originally found in Brazil. This variety appeared in 1870 in the Maragogipe province in Bahia.
The plant is very distinctive its very tall huge leaves and massive fruit. The coffee seed / bean is also very distinctive due to its large oversize. This has created some interest in the bean as its very distinctive to the eye, some times to the detriment of the cup it can fetch a premium even if it doesn’t taste very good.
I’ve seen a lot of them from Brazil, Guatemala and Mexico. I’ve head it said that the larger bean produce’s a more flavoursome coffee but my experiences don’t really show this. It’s a tiny bit of a gimmick but there are one or two fantastic examples out there. But there are many that are just plain awful, old or poorly processed. I think it’s very little to do with the bean size and more to do with the quality of husbandry and environment, a problem of when you get that huge price regardless of how it tastes.
The plant is very low yielding despite how tall it can grow, it is known as the Arabica coffees giant, it shows a very tall size, large leaves, cherries, etc. In general, its architecture is open and messy.
Varietal: Maragogype Related to: Typica Origin: Brazil Grows best at: 800 metres or above Prevalent in: Brazil, Guatemala and Mexico Predominant Colour: Red Fruit size: Large Leaf Characteristics: Large Tree Size:Tall Branches:long Internodes:short Botany: Mutation
High acidity bright citrus fruits like lemon grapefruit and floral properties.
A brief introduction to the Pacamara’s Grandparents
the mothers side (pacas)
Bourbon, originating maybe on the island of Bourbon (now known as Reunion) from a planting from Ethiopia or perhaps straight from Ethiopia, this varietal has many sub-varietals. At risk of pest and disease, and decidedly average in terms of yield, but the cup profile tends to be anything but average.There is some evidence that Yellow Bourbon gives a higher yield compared to its red and orange derivatives, although red is the most prevalent. With very close links to SL28, Typica and Cattura, in the right environment because of its low yield Bourbon tends to produce a very high quality cup (there is evidence that the lower the yield the higher the quality as the plant can use its energy more efficiently). I don’t think it is a coincidence that my top three coffees of all time have been from the Bourbon varietal.
Varietal: bourbon Related to: heirloom Origin: Ethiopia / Reunion Grows best at: 800 metres or above Prevalent in: Everywhere Predominant Colour: Red with some orange and yellow Fruit size: medium rounded Leaf Characteristics: medium Tree Size:medium Branches:long Internodes:short Botany: Heirloom
the farther’s side (maragogype)
Typica is grown throughout Central America, islands and some Indonesian islands. The plant has large elongated cherries, with the tree producing thin leaves that are long in appearance.
It grows best in sandy soils and mixed reports of its hardiness to pest and disease. Its yield is quite low. The famous Jamaican blue mountain is from the typica varietal.
Typica is also known as Criollo in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. This variety was introduced 100 years ago in the Piura Andes of Peru, because of its liking of high altitudes.
Varietal: Typica Related to: heirloom Origin: Ethiopia / Reunion Grows best at: 800 metres or above Prevalent in: Everywhere Predominant Colour: Red with some orange and yellow Fruit size: medium rounded Leaf Characteristics: medium Tree Size:medium Branches:long Internodes:short Botany: Heirloom
How did they meet
It was a smoky bar, their eyes met. Well that would be nice, but it was in a laboratory,Inside the Genetic Department of the Salvadoran Institute for Coffee Research (ISIC) back in 1958. There was a coffee breeding program using lots of varietals, these two of many. One of these experiments was crossing the above Pacas and maragogype varietals. Of course like every good partnership they took part of each others name.
This lab work involved individual isolating the parents until scientists obtained pure plants which gave seedlings to many lines. Many lines to find the best child (I know thats impossible but think the strongest, healthiest). Coffees that would be disease resistant, strong, high yielding, biggest fruit size and many other measures of healthiness. These were then combined to obtain a new varietal, the pacamara cultivar.
This took over 30 years to distribute the F5 (or 5th Generation) that is currently known as pacamara. Much lab work was done to find the pacamara that we enjoy today, finding a strain that was both strong, healthy, pest resistant and high yielding.
Theres a small problem with using pacas and maragogype in that they both have dominant genes, so around 10 -20% fail to become pacamara and remain one or the other, so its important for these to be spotted in the nursery / planting stage. This is easily done with the Pacas, but a little more attention is needed with the maragoype.
True love is always bigger than the sum of it’s parts
This is where it really gets interesting for me. My experiences of Pacas and Maragoype has been mixed at best. As a varietal its rare to find amazing lots from either of them (maragogype in particular). Pacas has taken lots of work to find the amazing lots we buy,and Maragogype I have found one lot in 5 years that I liked. They tend to be flat plain and boring and lacking in any character or depth.
But stick these two together and you get one of the most unpredictable, interested and challenging delicious varietals. Now of course there are bad examples, and in fact when they are bad, they are very bad. Vegetal, mushroomy, dirty, cardboard pacamara’s are very very very common (far more common than they should be, and bought by some roasters so they just have a pacamara). We have done more work and asked more questions of the producers we buy from about these coffees than any other. You only have to look at Limoncillo and the work we have done with the natural lots. Now let me be clear here, and I would like to add lots of weight to the statement here.
“I would never ever tell a coffee farmer what to do. All the experiments we have run with producers are experiments they have wanted to run, mostly their idea by asking what would you like to do. Telling a farmer what to do is like the farmer telling you how to roast. I know very very little about coffee growing (unfortunately) and would be coming at it from a knowledge base much much lower than that of the producer”
Glad I have that off my chest. So the experiments we have run with the limoncillo Natural pacamara’s were the brain child of Eleane Mierisch who noticed on the cupping table some huge differences on how they dried the coffee. The story goes that they decided to turn the coffee every hour instead of the every two hours they had done before. Eleane thought this would make the cup cleaner whilst still retaining huge body. So everyone began to turn every hour apart from one guy who did not ‘get the memo” and continued every two hours.
When visiting the farm I was cupping the samples for that year in the cupping lab, and I got to the natural pacamara, and it was indeed much cleaner, in fact the words I used was more “Elegant”. But I missed that box of frogs craziness that the previous years had. Eleane remebering the mistake, went off and roasted a sample of the turned every two hours lot. The first words out my mouth when cupping this was “funky”. So the names were born. The funkier I can not lay claim to, this was Eleane development of what we had begun the year before. This was done with differing thickness of beans drying which slows or speeds up the drying process.
But in conclusion, the two of these varietals coming together create something far bigger and more interesting than the sum of its parts, that makes this one of the most interesting varietals.
Whilst Pacamara beans are not fundamentally different to roast than other beans, their larger size means that there are a couple of roasting problems that they are particularly susceptible to. Firstly, there is the issue of drying the beans. The first 80% or so of the roasting process reduces water content in the bean from about 10 or 12 percent, down to a nearly zero. Due to the large size of the Pacamara beans, if the roast is too quick, the water content in the centre of the bean will not have been reduced to the same degree as in the outer parts of the bean. This can lead to an under-roasted centre and over roasted outside to beans.
Secondly, Pacamaras tend to roast at slightly lower temperatures than other bean types. This is a trend they share with the other large bean varietal, Maragogype. They go through the same processes as other beans, but typically the beans will be a few degrees Celsius cooler when they reach the key roasting points of 1st Crack and 2nd Crack. Additionally, 1st and 2nd Crack are exothermic – meaning that the chemical reactions that are occurring inside the beans, give out more heat than they absorb. For Pacamaras, there is an increased risk that this extra heat will cause the roast to accelerate beyond the roasters planned profile, and the beans can quickly become over-roasted.
As a general rule, sight tends to be the least useful of our senses when judging the roasting process. The third issue with Pacamaras, is that this is doubly true when roasting them. Often, Pacamaras will appear very uneven, and to be at a lighter stage of roast than they actually are.
Finally, the larger size of Pacamaras mean they take up more space in a roaster than smaller beans. As a rule of thumb, if you weigh out the same mass of unroasted Pacamara beans and of a smaller varietal of bean, the Pacamara will take up about 10% more space than the smaller beans. This is something a roaster has to be aware of, to avoid inconsistencies in the roast from an under or over-filled roasting drum.
So who’s this yellow fella?
Before signing off I can not miss out the brand new varietal we have just added to the site and is the motivator for writing this blog post (I have wanted to do write this for a while but great I have had the push) that I mentioned at the begining.
So why is this so rare ? Well this is a freak natural mutation from red fruit to yellow. This was spotted first of all on the farm of Limoncillo, amongst the red fruiting trees. This was spotted by a security guard, and brought to the attention of the Mierisch family. Now its not unusual for a coffee plant to have a freaky one time change of colour (although not common its been seen). So they forgot about it until the same security guard became the farm manager (working hard and his way up in the farm). So they isolated it (collecting the beans from it separately and then using the seeds to grow seedlings in the nursery, and they repeating until they had enough plant stock). Coffee takes 4 years grow into a tree that will give you a full harvest, so you can see how long this takes to build up. This year there is 240kg of this coffee for sale that went through the auction I mentioned at the start. I was trying to buy both of these lots, but when the price went up I had to step back, the other lot going to Japan to one of our friends there (and I am very happy they also got to enjoy some of this coffee).
And it proves yet again the complexity of this varietal. The coffee from the yellow tastes so different to the red fruit. Cupped blind I get lots of yellow fruits (I know I know) peach and apricot and yellow fruit. A creamy mouthfeel with pineapple and tropical fruit. Compare that to the red of lemon pith on the front end, and think those bright vibrant hops you get in craft ales all the way through the rest of the taste. It has a creamy edge and all the sweetness. Super different coffees.
So thats Pacamara. I know not all of you watch the In My Mug videos, but in episode 256 I talk a lot about pacamaras with something I filmed with Erwin. I thought it might be good to share that here with you, so have made it a stand alone video so you don’t have to partake in any of the other silliness. I think its super interesting and covers many of the points here.
The invention guest blend of August proved very popular.
Lots of entries and a tough job to find a winner. But a winner we have and it comes from Abigail Weston
He’s the art work she sent in, that I am sure you will be as impressed as we were
This is the 10th in a new line of guest coffee blends that we are introducing in 2013. Each month there will be a new blend, for which there will be an original label in a different style of bag, and of which there will only be 500 made. Each bag will be marked with a unique, limited edition number.
These are the blends most roasters would be scared to share with you, but not us fearless souls at Has Bean Towers where we think the unthinkable.
In the cup think unbalanced, off-the-wall experiments that are tasty but never normal, and are always a bit unusual and pushing the boundaries.
This comes from the winner of the invention blend of August and the creation of Abigail Weston who also came up with the label too.
So What is Alchemy ?
“A process by which paradoxical results are achieved or incompatible elements combined with no obvious rational explanation.”
Well we think Abigail came up with gold.
60% Costa Rica La Pira Washed
30% Kenya Gachica Washed Peaberry
10% El Salvador Petrona Bourbon Natural
In the cup expect floral tones with huge acidity, Peaches creamy with the hint of blackcurrant and sherry, but this is a real acidity monster.