Happy New Year, dear readers! It’s 2018, so let’s start the year off with a unique microlot from one of my favorite roasters and check out this Catuai microlot from famed Panamanian grower, Hacienda La Esmeralda, roasted by my friends at Theodore’s Coffee Roasters in Michigan. Stay warm!
THEODORE’S COFFEE ROASTERS HACIENDA LA ESMERALDA NATURAL CATUAI
2017 is the year I discovered Theodore’s Coffee Roasters for myself and, man, what a discovery! They are solidly in my “anything you buy from them will be great” recommendation camp, so I always enjoy when owner, Darwin Pavon, and crew send new coffees my way. He recently sent me a couple of their high end Private Collection coffees, which are limited editions from small microlots. The first one I’m sharing with you is the Hacienda La Esmeralda Natural Catuai. La Esmeralda is probably most famously known for their geisha crops, but they do grow microlots of other varieties, too, such as this Catuai lot.
This coffee came from La Esmeralda’s Jaramillo and El Velo farms in Boquete, Panama and was grown in the 1600-1800masl range. This is a natural process coffee, so the coffee was picked and sorted by hand, then dried with the coffee cherry whole and intact on raised beds, like big raisins. As the fruit dries and breaks down, the coffee seeds (what we call beans) inside the cherries soak up a lot of sweet, fruity flavors and tend to have a little more body than their washed counterparts would have. Sometimes this comes with some ferment notes that can run the gamut from a slightly overripe fruit characteristic to full on funky (and for me, the funkier the better when it comes to Central American naturals!).Theodore’s gives us tasting notes of, “sweet, like honey, juicy and floral with wild berry, nutty and cocoa finish” for this Catuai microlot.
I’m using my standard pourover setup with a 1:16 ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of Third Wave Water in a notNeutral Gino dripper with Kalita 185 filter. Handground grinder is set to “3” and this coffee did extract a little slower than the average, so pouring keeping the water level relatively low over the brew bed and pouring to get the brew bed agitated will help move it along a bit.
This is an interesting coffee. For me, it definitely needs to rest after brewing because it doesn’t give up much when it’s still piping hot, but as the coffee cools down it really opens up a lot. This is a medium-heavy bodied coffee that has a lot of acidity up front in the sip, then mellows out as the sip progresses. It’s like a peak in the front of the sip and then it runs out downhill for the rest of the flavors (and that doesn’t mean anything good, bad or otherwise, it’s just an observation). That acidity is fruity and has some berry jam notes as well as a nice lemon-lime brightness to it. The underlying sweetness definitely has a honey character to it. There is a little bit of ferment in the early sip and into the finish (which is sweet) and aftertaste, which lingers for a long time. The aftertaste had a bit of a wine-like characteristic for me and in one of my cups I was getting a lot of chocolatey notes from this coffee, but I wasn’t picking up on that as much this morning as I write this (I also woke up with a slight head cold, so all bets are off!). In one of my earlier cups I was getting a lot of notes that reminded me of purple grapes, more so purple grape juice, and I get a little bit of that in the sweetness in this morning’s cup, too, but it’s less prevalent than what I noticed before.
This coffee has a lot of complexity, especially for a natural. It gives me different notes and nuances depending on the size of my sip and how long I leave it on my palate before swallowing. This morning’s cup reads very “wine-like” to me and I really like that. To me, this also seems like a coffee that may have a limited audience, not because it’s not good, quite the contrary, but because it is so complex and there is so much going on in the cup. It has accessible flavors, but this is not like a berry bomb, super sweet candy-like natural coffee. And, in my opinion, the Central American naturals rarely are. For me, naturals from the Americas tend to be more subtle and more complex than their African counterparts and this one definitely fits that bill. This is unique and delicious natural coffee from one of the world’s great coffee producers, and given the free shipping and $8 savings for this 8oz bag, I think it’s an easy recommendation for people who like complex coffees and “different” tasting naturals. What a start to 2018!