Northwest Arkansas is getting a bit of a coffee surge these days with companies like Onyx Coffee Lab, Airship Coffee (a green coffee purveyor) and Mama Carmen’s turning out high quality, popular coffee to the Fayetteville and Bentonville communities and beyond through our pal, the Internet. I received a couple of coffees from Mama Carmen’s Coffee recently and the first one I’m sharing with you today is their selection from Acatenango, Guatemala.
It took me a bit of detective work to piece the story together, but Mama Carmen’s Coffee is named after and inspired by Mama Carmen, an elderly woman whose story, for our purposes, began about 20 years ago. Mama Carmen’s son had been kidnapped by narcoterrorists and she promised God that she would devote her life to His work if her son would be returned safely to her. He was rescued, and from that day forward she has put her faith completely in God and has devoted herself to caring for orphans, most of whom are disabled and often very sick. This article from John Brown University is worth the read.
Along the way, Mama Carmen was anonymously gifted a coffee farm to help her achieve her mission and sustain her work and this is where the northwest Arkansas connection comes in… Mark Bray, an argonomist and the owner of green coffee distributor, Airship Coffee, met Mama Carmen on a mission trip to Guatemala and he was able to help her get the farm up and running as well as import her green coffee to the United States. 1
When I received the coffees from Mama Carmen’s Coffee, I noticed the return label was from Airship Coffee and I found a handful of articles online (here’s one) linking Mark Bray to Mama Carmen’s. My guess is that Mark is the owner or at least a partner in both ventures. Mama Carmen’s itself is a large cafe in Fayetteville, AR and they also roast coffee from Mama Carmen’s farm in Guatemala in addition to other places around the world. At least 10% of their profits go back to the communities where their coffee comes from, and ostensibly, a good portion of that makes it back to Mama Carmen in Guatemala.
Mama Carmen’s website is a little sparse on information for geeks like me, simply listing today’s coffee as being from Acatenango and having tasting notes of “apricot – chocolate fudge – pecan.” It can be purchased directly for $13/12oz or for less expensive if you’re a subscriber. We have no varietal, altitude, farm or processing information on this one. Acatenango is a coffee-growing region in Guatemala centered around a massif of volcanoes. Lots of great coffees come from the area and most are washed, although you can occasionally get an outlier like Oddly Correct’s gesha from this area that is processed as a natural. Acatenango was designated as a coffee-growing region by the country’s national coffee association, Anacafé.
As you can tell from the photo Mama Carmen’s Coffee comes packaged in some pretty nice looking bags. The black & white look suits the labeling design which is a nice balance between being clean and modern as well as inviting and human with its hand-drawn elements.
I brewed my samples up using my usual 1:15 pourover ratio in a notNeutral Gino dripper using Kalita 185 filters. This coffee is really delicious, super easy to drink and really satisfying. OK, review over! LOL The aroma in the cup is sweet with a touch of fruit and is an aroma that I’ve always gotten from, almost exclusively, Kenyan coffees. So that was a bit of a surprise. I was also getting tons of an aroma that is really nice but I still cannot place. I have referred to it as “coconut” in other reviews, but it’s not really coconut. I don’t know what it is… sweet, sort of a baked goods type of aroma, but I still haven’t been able to find the same flavor/aroma/character in food to better ID it. I’ll call it “coconut-that-isn’t-really-coconut” for now. LOL But there’s a ton of it in the aroma and flavor on this coffee and it’s a primary element of what makes this such a good drinker and such an inviting cup.
Right after brewing, the coffee was pretty bright with a very apparent flavors and acidity matching the “apricot” description on the label. The apricot gets a little more subtle in the cooling cup, but is still present throughout the flavor and into the finish which has a bit of a buttery component to it for me, too. The overall profile of this coffee is sweet and it’s a borderline sugar bomb, but it restrains itself just shy of being cloying. This coffee really has a cool fruit-pie vibe to it, with that coconut-that-isn’t-coconut baked crust type of flavor, the apricot and pectin sweetness and a sweet nutty finish. It’s like an apricot jam and a pecan pie curled up together in a nice crust!
This is a wonderful coffee. It’s got obvious complexity and plenty to think about but it’s super drinkable on top of that. This really hits my sweet tooth the right way and I couldn’t be happier with this Guatemalan from Mama Carmen’s Coffee!