Honduras Hubert Nicolas "Finca El Tatascan" Pacamara Micro Lot by Education RoyalNY

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Though Honduras is the largest producer of specialty coffee in Central America, some of the best finds don’t come from larger farms, but small, individual producers. This particular offering from Hubert Nicolás perfectly exemplifies this idea. Two of our traders, Andrew Blyth and Brittany Amell, went down to Honduras recently and cupped this coffee along with several others. They came back with a lot of good things to say about this particular lot, so we decided to take a closer look at it before it arrives in June.

Honduras wasn’t always the coffee powerhouse it’s known as now. Before the early 2000’s, the country was a considerable exporter of commercial-grade coffee. Honduras lagged its neighbors through the 1990’s as they developed strong specialty coffee markets; countries like Nicaragua and Guatemala produced higher-scoring coffees and were hosts to the Cup of Excellence program in 2001 and 2003 respectively. A government tax in the early 2000’s helped generate much-needed capital for infrastructure in coffee-producing regions, which helped transport coffee grown in fertile soils at higher altitudes to market. Today, more than 100,000 families are involved in coffee production, with the majority producing their coffee on farms smaller than two hectares.

Hubert Nicolás is a Q Grader and fourth-generation coffee producer from the village of El Aguacatal in San José, Honduras. His farm, Finca El Tatascan, is situated at an average altitude of 1,550 meters above sea level, and is located in the middle of a local forest reserve. Hubert takes special care in drying his coffee and uses a solar-drying setup for 15 days to get the most out of his crop. From there, he transfers it directly into GrainPro bags and stores the coffee in a warehouse for further processing for exportation.

Much has been said (and written) about the Pacamara varietal. It’s a huge bean; screen size for this coffee was very much at the higher end of the spectrum. When done right, Pacamara has excellent flavor potential. However, if care is not taken in drying and processing, there can be a pronounced and unpleasant earthy flavor to the resulting brew. This varietal originated from the Salvadoran Institute of Coffee Research (ISIC) in late 1980’s and is the result of a cross between Pacas and Maragogipe. The intent of this crossing was to capitalize on the drought- and disease-resistant nature of Pacas and the high cup quality of Maragogipe.

This coffee arrived with a moisture content of 11.2%, which is a little higher than average. Density here was also quite high at 0.73 g/mL. These two factors, coupled with a larger-than-normal bean size will make roasting slightly more complex than a run-of-the-mill washed Central American coffee. One thing that you can look forward to though is the overall preparation and grading of the bean; this is a remarkably well-sorted, uniform coffee. Keep in mind though that this is an extremely large bean; this will play a part in the roasting process.

As mentioned in the green analysis section of this post, there are a few variables that play into the roast profile construction here. First, the moisture content and density are both fairly high, indicating the need for an extended drying phase at a reasonably high temperature. If you’re doing this on a traditional drum roaster, a low flame and high start temperature is the way to go. The IKAWA roaster we used for this test helps with temperature stability a bit, so we started the roast off a little hotter than normal in both profiles. From there, we need to account for the bean size. This lot will need a little extra heat to get into first crack, so backing off as you near that point isn’t going to work.

  Click the roast curve above to download this IKAWA roast profile.

Click the roast curve above to download this IKAWA roast profile.

This first profile was set to follow the instructions above. The drying phase was fairly relaxed, followed by a gradually increased browning phase into first crack. Overall development time here was shorter than average.

  Click the roast curve above to download this IKAWA roast profile.

Click the roast curve above to download this IKAWA roast profile.

We tried for a longer development time for the second roast, with a slightly more aggressive drying process. Though the overall roast was slightly shorter, this coffee had more time post-crack to develop the fruity, sweet notes we expected.

Given this coffee’s high score at origin, we were excited to put the two roasts on the cupping table. Side-by-side, we noticed a few differences:

Unfortunately, the first shot at roasting this coffee didn’t work as expected. The shorter development time left some of the fruit notes behind, instead giving us a more herbal, citrus-forward cup than we were expecting. Definitely keep this in mind as you roast this coffee; it needs some time to work after first crack.

 

The longer development time of the second IKAWA profile paid off. We were happy to find sweet notes of brown sugar and red apple rounded out by a tart, pineapple acidity. The cup was as fruit-forward and complex, with a sweet plum note rounding out the cup.

This is a limited-availability micro lot currently on its way to Royal from origin.

The coffee used in this analysis is reference number 38066 out of our warehouse in New Jersey. We strongly suggest reaching out to your trader as soon as possible if you’re interested in adding this coffee to your offerings.

Organic DR Congo Kivu Butembo Village (GP) by Education RoyalNY

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Long troubled by conflict, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a relatively small specialty coffee growing origin compared to its larger-volume neighbors Ethiopia or Uganda. The Republic of the Congo initially achieved independence from Belgium in 1960 but was plunged into civil war shortly thereafter in the Congo Crisis from 1960 to 1961. Another coup in 1971 saw the name of the country shift to Zaire, then back to the DRC after 1997 following the disastrous First Congo War and related Rwandan genocide. The Second Congo War lasted from 1998 to 2003, devastating the country and, by extension, the coffee trade.

The DRC is no stranger to coffee production. Back in the late 1980’s, exports peaked at 119,320 tons, but declined sharply in the following decade due to the civil wars in 1997 and 1998. After a peace agreement was signed in 2003, production was at 212,000 bags, up from 179,000 bags in 2002. Currently, the DRC produces approximately 335,000 bags of coffee per year, exporting about half of that in 2016. It remains a relatively small producer for the continent, though the export numbers have been rising steadily in the recent past.[1]

The DRC is the second-largest country in Africa by land area (and the largest in sub-Saharan Africa). The area around Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s Great Lakes, provides a remarkably good terroir for coffee production. The high altitude relative to the lower-lying areas to the north allows for thousands of smallholder farmers to produce coffees like this one, which is processed in the Butembo village on the western shores of Lake Kivu. The coop that we source this coffee from, Soprocopiv, specializes in organic specialty coffee production, and have continued to improve not only their coffee processing methods, but also local healthcare and educational services.

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The Kivu Butembo lot is a bourbon varietal. Originally from Yemen, bourbon traveled to the island now known as La Réunion in the early 1700’s, and only left the islands in the mid-1800’s as French missionaries traveled abroad (making its way to the Americas in the 1860’s). From there, bourbon (and its derivatives) have become one of the most common coffee varieties produced today. Bourbon is a taller than average plant that produces an average bean size and medium yield. The trees are productive at first around their fourth year and tend to ripen fairly early. Bourbon is unfortunately susceptible to issues such as coffee berry disease or coffee leaf rust.[2]

This lot is grown at over 1,500 meters above sea level, comfortably within the optimal growing range of the varietal. Freely-settled bean density comes in at 0.70 g/mL, which is slightly above average. This density measurement lines up well with other African offerings, which tend to be above average, often measuring between 0.69 g/mL and 0.72 g/mL. When roasting, this higher density can cause the coffee’s development to slow down a bit before first crack; you can compensate for this by charging with a hotter drum over a lower flame setting to evenly develop the bean.

After harvest, coffees go through a de-pulping and washing process and are sun dried on patios. The coffee arrived to Royal NY with a moisture content of 10.8%, which is well within the acceptable range for such a coffee.

We did two roasts of this coffee on our IKAWA Pro sample roaster. We like the IKAWA because of its ability to export precise roasting data on limited sample sizes; we only needed 50g of coffee for each roast. If you’ve got an IKAWA of your own, feel free to download the profiles (click on the graphs) to try on your own!

The first IKAWA roast was designed to bring a lengthened browning stage and post-crack development to the coffee. Since the moisture content was right around average, we left this to a normal-length drying phase with a slightly higher charge temperature.

We set up the second roast to drag out the development time a little longer in an effort to boost the body of the coffee. The browning and drying stages were just about the same as the first roast.

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We brewed both of our roasts using a Hario V60 pour over. Each pour over was done at a 1:13 ratio, with 30g of coffee. Both coffees had a brew time of 3:04 using a grind of 6 on our Mahlkonig EK43.

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Our first roast was defined by a pleasant, citrusy acidity and a sweet, smooth body. We found notes of candied orange in the acidic front of the coffee, with sweeter notes of cola, brown sugar, and plum in the body. The second roast was (as expected from the longer development time), a little heavier in the body, with more caramel and butterscotch notes for sweetness.

The coffee used in this analysis is reference number 37575 out of our warehouse in New Jersey. Coffee from the DRC is, as you’ve read, in short supply generally, so please be aware of that if you’d like to place an order. Harvest generally takes place from August to December, with exporting happening from January through April.

[1] http://www.ico.org/prices/po-production.pdf

[2] https://varieties.worldcoffeeresearch.org/varieties/bourbon