Finding coffees suitable for espresso is difficult. They need to be delicious, taste fresh, have lots of sweetness and be available in workable volumes. We love being surprised by new and interesting origins, and until this month we had never been blown away by coffees from Nicaragua. Speaking to Joanna Lawson at Caravela she was adamant that she could change our minds with some samples that were the result of their work in Nicaragua, whereby they are purchasing pulped cherry and taking on the drying themselves at the super manicured Beneficio La Estrella.
A lot of the work that goes into preserving the quality of a coffee’s potential flavour is done in the drying. We have experienced a lot of samples from Nicaragua in the past that have real potential, but tend to fade very fast due to improper drying and transit protocols. The infrastructure is not yet there to get what can be very good coffee to us still in good condition. However, Caravela’s project is to dry the parchment coffee down to the correct moisture levels, using raised beds to allow for good airflow enabling even drying, and using 100% shade netting to slow the process down. Obviously this incurs a greater cost as the process takes a lot longer, more parties are involved and more labour is required to ensure the job is being correctly done, but the results are fantastic!
This particular coffee is from John Mark LaRue Palacios. The Palacios family have gained a reputation for producing very good quality in the Jinotega department of Nicaragua, but John Mark has now begun separating out the Caturra and Catuaí from his own farm, Finca Apolo 11, for around 10 years now.
His father, an American, first planted coffee on this plot during the moon landings, and so named it Apolo 11 (dropping the second L in doing so as spelling it with two would see it pronounced incorrectly in Spanish, being said “Apoyo”). When it came to passing on his large estates the small plots were divided up, and Apolo 11 was inherited by John Mark. His intention is to commit to more sustainable farming practices and produce unique, specialty grade coffees. There are Guaba trees planted for shade, a fruit known colloquially as ‘Ice Cream Bean’ and the coffees are grown at around 1,100m. Through reducing chemical inputs and monitoring waste management his farm is newly Rainforest Alliance certified.
We’re really happy to have found a Nicaraguan coffee we’re excited by, and the result is an espresso with a velvety texture and lots of comforting flavours like chocolate and nougat, as well as a balanced acidity reminiscent of cooked citrus to add structure and bite to the cup. Whilst often seen as an underhanded compliment when describing the quality of an espresso, we are particularly fond of this coffee in milk, as it is rich enough to cut the fattiness and dilution that milk adds to coffee, but the origin profile and character still shines through in a clear way.
We hope you enjoy Apolo 11 as much as we do, and as always would love your feedback on this new coffee and new origin. Enjoy!
Complementary flavours of maple syrup, brown butter and pecans support high notes of citrus and cherry in this silky espresso. In milk expect chocolate orange.