I fell in love with Colombian coffees in late 2014/early 2015, thanks in large part to some awesome selections exported by La Palma y El Tucan. I received a surprise in the mail the other day from my good friends at Bold Bean Coffee Roasters in Jacksonville, Florida and to my surprise, it was their Finca Buenos Aires 3, a Colombian coffee from La Palma y El Tucan’s Neighbors & Crops program.
La Palma y El Tucan is a company focusing on the highest quality farming and processing practices. They are masters of both the science and art of coffee growing in Colombia, which is a place of constantly shifting microclimates that make some of the most interesting coffees in the world possible. They apply these principles to their own farms as well as making their expertise and services available to some 200 small coffee farms in the area, most of whom have little access to foreign markets and, therefore, low incentive to produce amazing specialty coffees. The folks at La Palma y El Tucan have worked with these farms through their Neighbors & Crops program to produce amazing coffees sold in exclusive lots around the world, and whenever I can get my hands on a coffee that has La Palma’s mark on it, I jump at the chance.
Bold Bean Coffee Roasters have sent me a lot of coffee to review (scroll down to Florida for a complete list) and they are consistently awesome. They are true masters of getting beautiful roasts into their coffees, particularly when the beans are from Latin America. So, having a La Palma y El Tucan coffee in the hands of the roasters at Bold Bean can only mean one thing: sheer awesomeness! You can buy the Colombia Finca Buenos Aires 3 coffee exclusively from Bold Bean Coffee Roasters for $20/12oz bag.
This coffee is grown near Anatoli, in the La Mesa growing region of Colombia near Bogota. The farm is owned and run by Dioselina Piñeros and her daughter and the processing is done by La Palma y El Tucan. The growing altitude is around 1600masl and like much of this area of Colombia, Finca Buenos Aires 3 benefits from a microclimate that gives it relative cool temperatures, high humidity and lots of sun.
Additionally, this is a honey processed coffee that gets La Palma’s lactic acid fermentation process. La Palma has been working carefully to monitor time, temperature and microbes in their fermentation tanks, understanding that the critters who eat the sugary mucilage off the beans in the washing process can definitely add flavor in the cup. Lactic fermentation creates an environment that is preferred by microbes whose metabolism generates lactic acid. Lactic acid has a soft tartness that I absolutely love whether I find it in a sour beer or in coffee. Yum!
So, this coffee itself is awesome. Bold Bean gives us tasting notes of, “vanilla, strawberry and tropical fruit with sparking acidity.” Yes, yes and yes. I prepared all my cups of this coffee using a 1:16 ratio in my notNeutral Gino pourover (28g coffee, 450g water) with a total brew time of around 3:30. There is a light strawberry aroma with a bit of funky fermentation that is right in my wheelhouse. Actually, in many ways I found similarities between this coffee and Golpie’s Limoncillo Funky Natural I reviewed a couple months ago. This Finca Buenos Aires 3 is quite a bit more restrained, but the flavors are similar, just not dialed to 11 like the Funky Natural’s were (but I loved that coffee, too).
The flavors in this coffee are a delight and also quite complex. A big strawberry note carries through the whole sip, but goes through a lot of changes along the way. At the front of the sip there is immediate acidity from the lactic fermentation. It gives a full feeling in the mouth and across the palate with a bit of a dry sensation on the tongue, and it’s a soft type of acidity, more of a tartness than anything else. Toward the middle of the sip, the sweetness of the strawberry and sugars in the coffee take over as the lactic tartness diminishes and it’s like biting into a sweet, ripe strawberry. In the second half, that strawberry note is colored by some light fermentation notes and other tropical fruits. Think of a pineapple that is really ripe, maybe just slightly past its prime… sweet, juicy and just a bit funky. The acidity here is a little more citric, maybe lime.
This is everything I love in a Colombian coffee… lots of interesting brightness with a sweet bass note that gives balance. It’s complex and because of the ferment I wouldn’t call it the “cleanest” cup in the world, but it’s one of the most structured coffees I’ve had in a long time, so the flavors are well-separated and go through distinct changes throughout the sip and aftertaste. In that way, the coffee “feels” cleaner than it is since there is such distinction and structure in the flavor. I know “ferment” can be a bad word in coffee, especially to people who dislike naturals or honey coffees, but Bold Bean did an awesome job roasting this coffee to make that part of it a selling point, not a flaw. The reality of coffee is that it is colored by how it’s processed. The idea that washed coffees are somehow “pure” and more “honest” is nuts… that fermentation tank has a lot to do with the flavors in the cup and in this case we have multiple types of bright, beautiful, yet soft acidity, the whole lifecycle of a strawberry from being slightly underripe and tart in the front to super sweet and perfect in the middle to slightly funky and fermented in the finish. It’s astonishing and this coffee deserves even more accolades than I am giving it. This is a “wow coffee” for sure. Buy it!