Here’s another truly special coffee produced by Miguel Domingues in Tolima. With the exception of our Congo Muungano, we don’t often purchase natural process coffees outside of Ethiopia. At this point in our coffee career–call it sensitivity, or snobbery–we’re just not psyched with process-driven, clunky fruit, and what we often find is that naturals processed in the Americas, while fruity, are generic in character. The fruit flavor is, essentially, forced, rather than revealed; the varietal of the coffee and the place it’s from end up being kind of irrelevant. There is pulpy, red (usually) fruit flavor, and it’s often accompanied by a soft, nut-like character. Meh. Give us a clean, crisp, washed central from the same farm everyday and Sunday instead.
This coffee is not that. It’s awesome. It is an “anaerobically” fermented coffee, meaning (basically) that instead of placed in a dry (or water filled) open storage device to ferment (a process in which yeasts and bacteria begin breaking down coffee sugars, and so making the residual mucilage “washable”), the coffee is placed in an oxygen-free, controlled environment for a number of days. It’s a process that’s gained traction with savvy producers over the last few years, and the results can be quite striking, in terms of the profiles generated and flavors created.
(One note here. It is quite possible that we will get tired of anaerobic fermentation flavors sooner than later! We readily admit that. And, to be truthful, the process DOES seem to produce a profile that is kind of identifiable, and in this way, runs counter to our exhortation above about “generic” natural process coffees. But we’re not there yet. At least not with this coffee, anyway.)
Another cool thing about this coffee is that it is Typica. It’s the less common mother species (bourbon is the other one) in what we might call the “main stem” of the Arabica specialty coffee family tree. It is low yielding, but can provide supreme top-end, floral character. So, to have a Typica fermented anaerobically and dry processed is pretty sweet.
Now, on to what’s really important! Grind it, and it smells great. Definitely more purple and concord grapey than anything else. And in the cup? So good. The thing that has struck me most in brewing up sample roasts is not the fruit–I knew that was going to be there–but its flavor of high-percentage cacao, and how it lingers in the aftertaste long after it goes down the hatch. And yes, there’s also plenty of that purple grape flavor, along with florals–the typica talking?–and an acidity that keeps everything else in check. Call it pineapple. It’s not lemony or super-citric, but it tends toward that end of the yellow spectrum. AND–if I am honest–there is a little bit of that soft nut quality that I mentioned above. But it’s not distracting. Everything seems to work in concert.
Yes, this is expensive. But it is a labor-intensive process on the farm to produce it, the farmer received a really nice premium for it, and it is delicious.