February 2016 has been my favorite Kurasu x Good Coffee Japanese coffee subscription month yet. Behind these very conservative and unassuming bags from Golpie Coffee have been two absolute face melters and very adventurous coffees! Golpie Coffee is located in Nagoya, Japan, and if these coffees have been reflective of their regular lineup of offerings, they are absolutely insane! I looked at their Kenya Kigwandi last week and it was a standout among what has been a great year for Kenyan coffees, so let’s check out today’s coffee, a “Funky Natural” Pacamara from Nicaragua. There is a lot of backstory to this coffee, which is quite rare and special, so if you want to skip straight to the tasting you have a bit of a ways to scroll…
TLDR: This coffee has earned its funky namesake. Sour cherries, lemon acidity, bright but with a sweet, milky/creamy mouthfeel, fermenty strawberry on the finish, boozy and even some banana in there for good measure! And it tastes great!
This coffee comes to us from my Japanese coffee subscription, which so far has been well worth the money for me. It was roasted by 2015 Japanese Coffee Roasting Champion Kawai Yuya of Golpie Coffee. This coffee comes from Limoncillo, one of the Nicaraguan farms of the Mierisch family that is located in Matagalpa. Limoncillo has an elevation of 850-1150masl and an area of 171 manzanas (a traditional unit of area… in Nicaragua, 1 manzana = 1.74 acres) with 77 of those manzanas being protected area. They grow Caturra, Java, Pacamara and Yellow Pacamara at Limoncillo and the Mierisch family coffees tend to attract high prices in auctions thanks to their innovation as well as good standings in the Cup of Excellence.
This particular coffee features the Incredible Hulk of the coffee world, the enormous Pacamara bean. These things make me laugh every time I see them because they are so gigantic. What makes this coffee relatively rare, though, is that it was processed using the Mierisch’s “funky natural” approach. Natural coffees are picked and hand sorted and then are dried with the coffee cherry still intact. This causes some level of fermentation inside the skins of the fruit that can be imparted to the beans and usually results in a lot of sweetness and body as well as fruity flavors in the cup. There are so many variables at play in coffee processing and each one can have dramatic effects on the outcome of what happens in your cup. At the time, the Mierisch farms were experimenting with more turning of the cherries on the drying bed, but a section got either forgotten about or purposefully left to turn less and when they sample roasted coffees out of this section of the drying bed, Has Bean Coffee owner Stephen Leighton was on site and tasted it, proclaiming it to be “funky!” and the name has stuck ever since. The sound is pretty bad on this video, but there is some good info in it all the same:
When the Mierisch farms produce Funky Naturals now, they do so by leaving the drying bed built up a bit thicker and even spraying water on the cherries to slow down the drying process. They also turn the beds less frequently. What they are essentially doing is encouraging more fermentation to happen inside the cherries and walking a tightrope between overfermented and ruined coffee and something that is palatable yet exciting and, well, funky!
I could see how this coffee could be quite polarizing to coffee drinkers. For me, it’s delicious and exciting and different and I like it for all those reasons. It has all the elements I like in a coffee and while maybe it wouldn’t be a daily drinker for me, getting to taste this unique and rare processing is quite an honor, especially coming from the roasters of Kawai san and Golpie Coffee. This is definitely a coffee to let cool down. I used my usual 1:15 ratio for a 4:00 total brew time in a notNeutral Gino pourover dripper with Kalita 185 filters. Right out of the brewer, I was a bit let down because there wasn’t much going on in the cup, but as it cools the excitement ramps up pretty quickly!
The fresh brewed aroma had hints of florals but mostly a sweet, lightly caramelized aroma with bits of lemon candy flitting on the edges. The body is heavy on this coffee with a feeling of milky creaminess. In the warmer cup there were hints of strawberry in the flavor but the finish and aftertaste was strongly of strawberry, but not the sweet, just ripe strawberry you may get from a natural Ethiopian coffee. No, this was more of a quite overripe strawberry that is fermenting and starting to turn, and I know that sounds horrible, but it was awesome! The warmer cup really reminded me of a cortado made with a bright espresso. It had the lemony acidity and brightness of the espresso, creamy mouthfeel and sweetness from the milk and a bit of a sourness in the finish.
As the cup cooled it got boozy with a lot of banana esters in the flavor as well as a sour cherry character. This was when it hit its stride, for me. As the cup arrived at room temperature there was banana and pineapple, a nice sour cherry in the finish and an uncanny feeling in the throat like I’d been drinking whole milk. It’s really a weird coffee, but I absolutely loved the flavors and how unique it is. It’s rather complex yet it remains very drinkable, probably because I was looking for new changes in the flavors with each sip.
Golpie served up the two most unique coffees in this subscription so far and, frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if these two coffees are still standing out from the crowd at the end of the year! Kudos for Kawai san’s great roasting and adventurous approach, and if you can get your hands on a Funky Natural Pacamara from the Mierisch family, do it!