I was blown away by Ironclad Coffee Roasters’ Idjwi Island coffee from Congo last week. It was an orange-bomb and it was spectacular! The good folks at Ironclad also sent along one of their Tolliver’s Reserve coffees, this one a natural process from Nicaragua. Let’s check it out!
IRONCLAD COFFEE ROASTERS NICARAGUA GOLD MOUNTAIN “THE DON’S TUTTI FRUTTI”
Ironclad Coffee Roasters is located in Richmond, Virginia, which they are very proud of, so I knew their Tolliver’s Reserve series had to have some sort of a VA tie-in. Took a few minutes of researching, but the name, Taliaferro, often anglicized to Tolliver, is big in that part of Virginia. Tolliver was a first-family in Virginia and the family was/is prominent in Virginia and Maryland. Mystery solved! Today we’re looking at “The Don’s Tutti Frutti,” a natural coffee from the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua. The package for this coffee also says “Nicaragua Gold Mountain” so I presume it was sourced from the fabulous Gold Mountain Coffee Growers who represent some awesome small farms and microlots coming out of that country. As far as who Don is? Well, that’s going to remain a mystery!
Ironclad gives us flavor notes of, “tropical fruits, pineapple, strawberry jelly, lingers on the palate.” This is a natural process coffee, meaning the coffee is picked, sorted and then dried with the cherry still intact, sort of like a raisin. Some level of fermentation occurs inside that drying cherry and that usually imparts more body, sweetness and fruitiness to the coffee beans inside. In my experience, naturals from Nicaragua tend to be more tropical while Ethiopian naturals, probably the most well-known for this type of processing, pick up lots of berry flavors this way. This coffee scored a 9/10 from the Angel’s Cup subscription and is considered an Angel’s Cup All Star, too!
I used my standard pourover setup for this coffee. 1:16 ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of water in a notNeutral Gino dripper. I used a Handground grinder set on 3 and Third Wave Water to make my samples. The aroma on the cup is fruity, with some fermented strawberry notes coming out. The initial sip proves that this coffee earns its Tutti Frutti name! There is a lot going on in here… right up front there is a tropical, pineapple-like sweet-tartness going on as well as some ferment notes. A quick aside… when it comes to natural coffees there is generally some amount of ferment note in the flavor. It’s hard to describe, but when you drink a lot of naturals you’ll start to recognize it. To me, it’s sort of that estery, almost-boozy, funky note you’ll get from fruit that is a bit over-ripe. Not rotten or anything that drastic, but it’s strawberries that would’ve been perfect a day or two ago, or a pineapple that sat for a couple days too long, etc. Some people really hate ferment in coffee, others love it. I’m the latter. I don’t mind it at all and it adds a lot of dimension to a cup of coffee, for me. I even like the insane “Funky Naturals” that the Miersch family in Nicaragua produces!
Anyway, back to the coffee… there is a lot of tropical tartness and sweetness and a healthy amount of ferment in that initial sip. This ferment note really lingers on my palate well into the long aftertaste, too. Ironclad doesn’t list any nutty flavors, but as this coffee has cooled down quite a bit I’m getting a lot of hazelnut. When I read a label that calls out hazelnut notes I almost never really taste it, but I’m getting a ton of hazelnut in the middle of the sip from this coffee. Yeah, there’s a ton of pineapple in this cup for me and I really dig it. Some strawberry comes through in the finish and aftertaste for me, too, but this is definitely a natural coffee that leans strongly into the “tropical” side of things rather than the berry. The acidity comes right along with that pineapple note, so it’s more of a fruit tartness than a standalone note like citric or malic acids have. Pineapples themselves contain both citric and malic acids, but this coffee just screams, “Pineapple!!!” to me, so I get the fruitiness, sweetness and also the tartness and a little funkiness that I would associate with a really ripe, slightly overripe pineapple.
I really enjoy this coffee. It is complex but in a fun way, if that makes any sense. There is a lot going on in this cup, but it’s all familiar, to me. In other words, I don’t have to sit and think about what I’m tasting so much as I do with some really complex coffees. There’s pineapple, hints of strawberry and a significant hazelnut note for me, but it’s all clear and easy to “find” and recognize. That makes this a really approachable coffee and it’s also super-drinkable. If you’re looking for a big, African berry bomb of a natural coffee, this is definitely not it. This one is a spectacular example of Central American natural processing yielding a very tropical, slightly tart, slightly funky coffee that is right in my wheelhouse, for sure. I’d also warn that if you don’t like ferment notes, this probably isn’t for you, but if you do, you will love this Tutti Frutti from Ironclad!