Our espresso blend, Cult of Done, is one that continues to develop and change, as seasons come and go, and fresh harvests arrive in Europe. It’s an espresso that constantly evolves and improves, and version 13 has taught us a very interesting lesson...

Originally, we’d planned on moving back to a blend. We’d gone as far as selecting two coffees, buying them, and moving them into the necessary warehouses. We brought a few bags to London and started test roasting, and then came to the first instance of actual espresso quality control. Each of the roasted coffees, pulled as espresso on their own, tasted wonderful. Different from each other, but delicious nonetheless. Blending them, however, was another matter altogether.

All sweetness, acidity and nuance from each component disappeared, replaced by a God-awful clash of flavours, and a noisy, abrasive, medicinal bitterness. No matter which test roasts we combined, or how we reworked the recipe, these coffees wrestled with each other in the cup, and the results were spectacularly unpleasant. Somewhat flummoxed (look it up), we weren’t quite sure what we were going to do with the tonnes of coffee in the warehouse, until our Clerkenwell Head Barista Ben suggested with staggering simplicity; don’t blend them -- just release one, and then release the other.

So, here it is: Chapter 1 of Lucky 13 -- comprised of 100% La Ilusion, El Salvador. This washed coffee from the volcanic Santa Ana region is part of a long-term project between Nordic Approach and El Salvadorian producer, Jose Antonio Salaverria, focusing on improving quality through changes to techniques in processing and drying, as well as more specific lot separation and traceability. The Salaverria family owns a number of farms in the Santa Ana region, geographically located around the central mill, Las Cruces -- also owned by the family.

In order to ensure that only the ripest cherries are harvested and brought for processing, well-trained farm workers are incentivised with monetary reward for the quality of their daily pickings. Each afternoon during the harvest season, the ripe coffee cherries are brought a few kilometres down the road from La Ilusion to the mill, where they’re processed using Jotagallo eco-pulping machines, which remove the cherry skins and about 70% of the sugary fruit flesh that cover the beans inside. An overnight soak in fresh water loosens the remaining fruit flesh, and the parchment coffee removed from the tanks comes out clean, bright and free of all mucilage residue.

The parchment coffee is then dried on a clay patio, being raked and turned periodically, as well as being piled up and covered at both the hottest part of the day and overnight to protect from over drying and rehydration respectively. The drying process is monitored closely and depending on climatic conditions usually takes between 8 and 10 days.

In the cup, you should be looking at this espresso as a staggeringly opposite counterpoint to the bright, juicy and vibrant characteristics of our most recent Cult of Done Espresso - Thunguri AB. Expect a fatter, deeper espresso with notes of toasted almond, baker’s chocolate, juicy cherry, warm butter and sweet, dense baked currants all contributing to a full, rich and satisfying cup.

From near disaster comes an espresso we’re absolutely delighted with, and the lucky 13th version of our Cult of Done, no less. Thanks Benny, and here endeth the lesson.

Cult of Done Espresso v13 starts roasting from Thursday August 8th.