I was fortunate enough to have to go to Puerto Rico for a history conference related to my J.O.B. job last month. We were pretty busy, it’s the middle of the trimester for me so I had no way to spend extra days there and we were way out of town on a resort (sounds terrible, doesn’t it?!), so it was all work and no play. I did get to visit for a short time with Christopher Lopez, though, who I’d been following on Instagram for a while. He recently started roasting coffee in Puerto Rico as Rustic Coffee Roasters and he even drove way out to the resort to hand-deliver some of his coffee to me to try!
You can buy this coffee directly from Christopher for $12/bag and I think the dark roast is a big improvement over the medium, which wasn’t bad either!
That was his medium roast Las Marias, a bourbon and caturra mix grown in Las Marias, Puerto Rico. I reviewed that coffee here, and this is a good article on the coffee business in Puerto Rico as a whole, from NPR.
The coffee was pretty good, but it’s a fairly low altitude coffee and, like with most Brazilian coffees for me, an easy life for coffee trees means relatively uninteresting results in the cup. Sometimes, though, a kinda boring coffee is a good candidate to take to a darker roast, since that gives the roaster an opportunity to highlight the roast characteristics since there isn’t a lot of “origin” to pull out of the beans.
In other words, take something like a Gesha that has tons of florals in it and roast it into second crack and you’ve pretty much ruined the coffee, killing all its own origin character and flavor profile in the roast. But take a bean that doesn’t have much character to begin with, and roasting it more darkly may actually enhance it.
In my opinion, that’s what Christopher has done with this Las Marias.
Now, I want to emphasize that I didn’t find anything wrong with the medium roast Las Marias (except it had a fishy aroma, probably from the beans hitting the drum at too high of a temperature… and none of that aroma is in the flavor at all… it’s simply caffeine over-heating and turning into other amines that can smell fishy!), but there wasn’t much going on in the cup.
This darker roast has some oil creeping on the surface so most of it probably made it into second crack. I am not opposed to a darker roast, especially when it improves a coffee! I mean, let’s be honest, ALL coffee is roasted, so “roast” plays into the flavor of every coffee to some degree. The art of the roaster, in my opinion, is to not compromise interesting, individual characteristics of coffee in favor of predominantly roast flavors.
In this Las Marias dark roast, Christopher has enhanced the coffee with the better sugar development and it works better, for my palate, than the medium. There is still some of that fishy aroma, but it was less in this dark roast than in the medium. And, as with the medium, none of that fishiness makes it into the flavor, so no worries there.
There is a nice chocolate and caramelized sugar aroma in the cup and the dark roast gives it pretty good body and a pleasant and lingering aftertaste. It’s a tad drying on the palate, but not too bad.
Oh, and I used a 1:17 Chemex for my cups and that seemed to open the coffee up, too. The flavors are a bit of carbon, darkly caramelized sugar, something that reminded me of red peppers, hints of spearmint and wintergreen in the almost room-temperature cup and a bit of sweet fruit that reminded me of Juicy Fruit gum a bit!
That sounds like a weird and horrible mix, I know, but these are subtleties sussed out of each sip. Oh, I also got lots of molasses in the cup, too. Like a lot of darker roasts this is a low-acidity cup and I really enjoyed it every time I drank it. I cut my coffee teeth on DARK coffees for many years, so it’s nice to get a darker roast that also isn’t just carbon and metal from the inside of the drum! Christopher did a great job with this coffee!