Ah, springtime is here, which means the arrival of new crop coffees from Central America and Africa. Last week, we unloaded a container from Ethiopia, including some lovely Yirgacheffe from the Kochere district, and today saw the arrival of our very own farm-direct Guatemalan coffee beans from Finca Nuevo Vinas. (Take a look at the source report and photos from our trip to Guatemala back in February.) The ripe cherries were harvested less than two months ago; this farm-direct coffee is extra fresh.
When all was said and done, I headed to the beach and had a drink with a nice fellow from Rainforest Alliance, discussing the work they are aiming to accomplish with various certifications throughout Indonesia. That night I was able to dine with a number of producers from Indonesia including some partners in our Organic Sumatra Gayo River project. We called it an early night, as the next day promised an exciting voyage to the island of Flores…
Much to my delight, Caffe Vita was invited to attend the first ever Indonesian Specialty Coffee Auction, which took place last week in Bali. Not quite knowing what to expect I made the journey half way around the world to see, smell, and taste what could be considered the finest from one of the largest producers of coffee in the world. Submissions throughout the archipelago had been collected, with only twenty-three coffees making the grade, of which seven were small lots of the notorious luwak (civet) coffee.
Before the festivities began I wanted to gain some knowledge about the local production of coffee, so I went on a day trip through the Kintamani highlands, a volcanic plateau with an average elevation of 1000-1700 meters.
The agricultural production on the island has been well organized for generations through the subak abian, which functions similar to a co-op and is based on the principle that happiness is a result of maintaining a healthy relationship with other people, the environment, and the gods. The farmer can utilize the subak abian to process and sell their harvest, which in addition to coffee may include cloves, orange, cocoa, and rice.
A leading member of the subak abian, Mr. Astika Nyoman III, accompanied us on the trip. Here he is describing the various plants and shade cover that grow in harmony with the coffee, and some of the challenges that face the local farmers.
One challenge has been a lack of water for processing, but as a response the natural method (in which the entire cherry is sun-dried on a raised bed) is now being used for a portion of the harvest and the results have been interesting — a cup with huge chocolaty body, brandied fruit aromas, and good sweetness. This spirit of experimentation is encouraging in a region that is constantly challenged by the ever present whim of nature.
More from Bali to come soon…
Our green bean buyer, Daniel, checks in from Caffé Vita’s cupping table…
Today’s cupping featured enigmatic coffees from the horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula, regions most steeped in coffee history: the birthplace, Ethiopia, and the first major trading port, Yemen. These were rustic, natural coffees, each exhibiting different expressions of terroir and fermentation.
From Yemen were two Mocca Sanani, one wild and fruity, with aromas pineapple, hazelnut, and brandy. The other was a more subdued affair, offering cocoa, sassafras, and apricot. The third Yemen was Anesi, low toned and earthy, with scotch like leather and wood aromas. I am on the search for an exquisite Yemen for the enjoyment of our Caffe Vita peeps, one that will both please and intrigue.
Moving on to Ethiopia, we cupped two coffees from Harrar, and three from Sidamo. The arid conditions of Harrar typically allow for quicker drying of the fruit than in the Sidamo region, and this difference in climate manifested itself in the cup. While the Harrar was fairly consistent from cup to cup, with pleasing earthy cocoa and dark fruit aromas, the Sidamo was wild and unruly, each cup slightly different, some with blueberry and citrus, others yeasty and winey, and still others with a medicinal menthol-esque quality. I believe that due to an extended drying period these Sidamo coffees express more fermentation than the coffees of Harrar, which at times can be fabulous, but at others a tad rotten.
Though not all of these natural coffees were to my liking, they most certainly were a joy to cup, due to the unexpected and complex aromas that result from the process which created them.