PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. is a big name in the coffee industry and a highly respected roaster, too. They opened their first cafe in Topeka, KS in 1993 and in 1997 began roasting coffee themselves. Soon after, their focus shifted toward developing direct relationships with farmers at origin and the benefits this can have on the finished product. Today’s coffee from PT’s is the result of one such relationship, and the story behind this coffee is as compelling as the Santa Maria coffee from Colombia I am going to tell you about.
Because I know many of you readers are here for the coffee, let’s start there and then I’ll backtrack my way around to the amazing story behind this coffee. Today’s coffee from PT’s is their Santa Maria, a direct trade, washed coffee from Colombia. My bag was roasted on July 13 and came to me via the good folks at My Coffee Pub, a monthly subscription service. You can order this coffee from My Coffee Pub, or directly from PT’s for $16/12oz bag.
Before I continue, I have to give PT’s massive props for their awesome website. I look at a lot of coffee websites and PT’s is the best shop/roaster site I’ve seen (Cafe Imports rules the roost for importers/suppliers). The PDF Coffee Info Sheet that PT’s creates for each coffee is just about my favorite thing in the world!
So, let’s talk technical stuff for a minute. This is, as mentioned, a direct trade (purchased directly from the farmer) coffee that, like most Colombian coffees, is washed/wet-processed. It comes from Finca Santa Maria, the farm of Armando Benavides, who we’ll meet after I talk about his coffee. This coffee is 100% Caturra variety, which has been grown at Finca Santa Maria for 40 years. It is grown at about 1830masl in the Nariño region of Colombia and PT’s offers flavor descriptors of “champagne, key lime pie and white chocolate.” OK!
Colombian coffees have been killing it for me over the last year. I got super-spoiled from the amazing La Palma y El Tucan coffees I’ve gotten to enjoy this year but I don’t think I’ve had a bad Colombian yet. I brewed this coffee both as a pourover in my notNeutral Gino dripper and AeroPress. I don’t know if my palate is just a bit biased right now or if the stars have aligned for all my AeroPress variables to be working perfectly, but yet again this is another coffee that I think shines in the press!
The aroma from this coffee is really sweet and pleasant. It’s honey and sugar and, well, “coffee” but it smells awesome! This is a bright coffee right off the bat and opens up even more as it cools. It’s a clean cup but has a lot of body and really coats the palate and seems to lie heavy on my tongue. Really nice! I did find that a 15:1 ratio with a 4:00 brew time (31g of coffee, 465g water) in the Gino produced a nice cup with a little lighter body and aftertaste and it also knocked the brightness down a notch or two. I really enjoyed this coffee both ways. The Gino offered a bit more balance and a mellower cup, but what a coffee, either way!
The acidity is definitely in the lime with a little lemon citrus category. The inherent bitterness in the coffee and the slightly drying mouthfeel (the mouthfeel was “wetter” and juicier in the Gino than the AeroPress) also create a sense of some rind and pith in the acidity. All that brightness does get some balance from the honey-like sweetness this cup has. This coffee, for me, is definitely all about the bright, soaring acidity, but it’s not harsh like you might expect. It’s round and full and delicious without a sharp edge. The aftertaste features more of the sugars and even has a bit of caramel in it for me.
This is simply a fantastic coffee and it’s another in a long list of Colombian coffees that I have just fallen in love with this year! I drink a lot of coffee and this is a stand-out, for sure. It makes me super-excited for a trip to Topeka I’m going to take in August to visit the roastery and check things out!
The Amazing Story Behind This Coffee…
This is an incredible and delicious coffee, no doubt, but the story of the family that grows it and their relationship with the good people at PT’s is worth telling here, too. PT’s Santa Maria is grown by Armando Benavides Portilla and his family on their farm, Finca Santa Maria in the mountains of Nariño, Colombia. Armando took over the farm in the 1990’s and he is a model of sustainable farming practices in the area. There is shade for the coffee, balance with nature and he uses innovative agricultural practices so much so that local farmers, technical institutions and universities visit his farm regularly to learn more about what he is doing!
Here’s a nice video highlighting the farm and the amazing Benavides family:
In the spring of 2013 Finca Santa Maria was raided by bandits. Luckily, Armando and his family live in the town of Buesaco and were not on the farm the night of the attack, and this happened while Jeff Taylor, co-owner of PT’s and his wife, Maritza, were in Colombia on a buying trip. In a second stroke of good luck, Jeff and Maritza’s flight had been cancelled due to weather and so they weren’t at the farm when the raid happened, either!
The bandits held the farm manager at gunpoint, tying him up, while his family locked themselves in one of the buildings on the property. The men took everything… furniture, beds, the motors and pumps used to process the coffee… they spent over five hours on the property dismantling the farm and taking everything with them, including coffee drying on the patio.
PT’s, with the help of other coffee shops and roasters, raised money for the Benavides family to rebuild their farm and salvage their harvest and the results of that relationship is in our cups today! Armando sent this letter to PT’s thanking them for their help and, for me, it makes my cups of Santa Maria all that much better!
We are still amazed and grateful for the grand gesture you made toward us in times of adversity, not only for our material losses but also because it affected us emotionally. Your help provided support for our desires, our projects, and hopes. This is what gives value to life, and the support you provided us was one of the most important factors that stimulated us to go ahead despite the harsh reality we found ourselves in. The biggest lesson we learned is how to recognize the sensitivity of people who are far away from us and yet so close to our heart.
We are pleased to tell you that your economic support was of great help. Due to the low internal price of coffee and the assault on the farm, we ran out of working capital, but with your help we were able to meet the maintenance needs of the farm such as fertilizers, payments for labor, and purchase of some of the most essential equipment. All of the economic help went into our first priority which was to end the harvest and ensure the next. Thanks to you, this seems to be going well. Most importantly, my wife, children, and I are very encouraged to move on.
We hope that God overflows you with blessings and that you enjoy our coffee and continue to buy it. As you know it is our job and we do it with love for special people like you.
Juan Pablo, Valeria, Magaly, and Armando