This is our first year working with producer Pablo Prado, based in San Isidro de León Cortez, located in the famous Tarrazu region of Costa Rica. Having been involved in the multiple stages of coffee production from an early age it is only recently, since 2014, that Pablo has begun to process his own cherries, maintaining a layer of traceability and provenance that is so important to us when seeking out quality coffees and looking to foster sustainable working relationships.
The coffee is grown on Pablo’s 3-hectare farm, Finca La Manzana, situated at 1650m, and is comprised of both Caturra and Catuaí varieties. Once harvested the cherry is transported to the UNDECAF Micromill, located a few minutes away from Finca La Manzana, which is owned by Pablo and another four quality discerning coffee producers from San Isidiro. This is in contrast to before 2014 when Pablo sold his fruit to a local co-operative which was then blended in with many other producer’s lots, inevitably losing a layer of traceability and potentially muddying the flavour clarity that can be achieved in lots hailing from a particular terroir. An important reason for Pablo to differentiate and isolate his own coffee is to be able to establish a higher price for his higher quality produce. The Micromill utilises energy from 60 solar panels to power the processing equipment, as well as powering their lights with their own micro wind turbine.
Before being passed through an ecological pulping machine, the cherry is graded in a washing channel by removing floating, ergo less dense, fruit. The modern equipment enables the producer to dictate the quantity of fruit mucilage left on the parchment coffee before it is either fermented or sent out to dry depending on the desired process they wish the coffee to undergo. For this El Roble lot, the demucilaginator is calibrated so as to remove 70% of the fruit sugars from the seeds, and then, bypassing any wet or dry fermentation to break down the remaining sugars, the coffee is sent out onto drying beds. By choosing to dry on beds rather than patios the sticky coffee can be turned more easily, ensuring that no clumps form which can house mould and prevent uniform drying. After around 15 days they test the parchment to ensure the moisture content is under 11% before bagging it up to be dry-milled.
When cupping coffees in Costa Rica earlier this year we were lucky to taste a whole range of processes which the creative producers are able to achieve given the the opportunities that more modern coffee processing equipment provides, as well as a growing market for the different processing techniques. It is always our intention to avoid coffees driven entirely by processing flavours, as it can be difficult to taste the terroir and variety of the seeds underneath a whole layer of funkiness. Given that this white honey processed coffee still displays a clean and interesting character we leapt on it, but there is a definite heft and some date-like flavours that inevitably stem from the decision to dry the coffee with 30% or so wet fruit sugars still adhering to the parchment layer.
Tarrazu, Costa Rica
Intense date sweetness and flavours of pecan precede a tingly red apple acidity. A velvety mouthfeel finishes with lingering notes of milk chocolate.