There’s a buzz in the office. We’re all huddling around the hopper and filter brewer. It can only mean one thing: New Microlots.
As expected, the limited parcels we’ve got in store for you are absolute delights. To satisfy you filter fans, we’ve got the delicate and balanced Adulfo Calmo with notes of plum, white grape and brown sugar. For the espresso enthusiasts, we’ve got the Esquipulas - a delicious, lively espresso with notes of green apple, dark chocolate and almond.
Both of these coffees are from Esquipulas, a co-operative made up of smallholder farmers in the town of Libertad, Huehuetenango, Guatemala. We’ve been buying green coffee directly from Esquipulas since 2009. If you’ve tried our Cold Brew Concentrate - then you’ve already had the pleasure of tasting some of the amazing coffee that Esquipulas has to offer.
As with all our producer partners, our relationship isn’t solely about buying and selling coffee - it’s a lot more exciting than that! Rudy on the tasting workshops that he held on his trip. Take a read here:
Coffee producers rarely get a chance to taste their coffee. Very few of them have ever had the opportunity to cup coffee and even fewer would be able to tell the difference between a good and a bad cup according to export standards; they completely rely on the co-operative's quality control team to assess the quality of their crop.
One of the main objectives this year was to introduce as many producers as possible to cupping and train them to recognise the differences between different quality tiers.
In addition, the increase in revenue generated through the new microlot program, created in partnership between Union and Equipulas, has sparked a sense of curiosity in the farmer community, motivating them to find out the reasons those coffees command higher prices and what makes them so special.
To answer their questions, we designed a tasting experience consisting of coffee tasting and food pairing aiming to draw a parallel between coffee quality and food items they can easily relate to.
Based on my experience in the speciality coffee I found that very often there are five different types of taste profiles that tend to correlate with higher or lower scores:
- Nuts - Think peanuts or Brazilian nuts - the flavours are very neutral and they come with a low sweetness, a sensation of dryness, and often a lingering bitterness. These, to an extent, can have a positive contribution to the cup; but they often show the coffee cherries were picked too early and as a result didn’t have to develop their sugar content or any flavour complexity.
- Chocolate – Broadly speaking, from milk chocolate to 90% dark chocolate, we will find more sweetness, still some dryness, but overall positive flavours. These are very common in roasted coffee.
- Citrus fruits – Think tangerine, lemon, orange- they are sweet, have a bright acidity, and in coffee, these notes are characteristic of well processed and highly-grown Arabica.
- Ripe fruits – Now we are getting into the really tasty stuff- ripe pineapple, juicy peach, ripe mango. These flavours are quite rare, although thinking about it, coffee is a tropical fruit and should taste like one! These are characteristic of ripe coffee cherries and excellent processing., especially predominant is the natural process.
- Floral – Rare and sophisticated aromas, these come through in extremely well processed, highly-grown coffees and are specific to rare varieties such as Geisha or in top-quality Ethiopian coffees.
We presented five different coffees: (the scores are based on the CQI scoring system)
- Rejected lot (<80): Lacks distinctive flavours, high bitterness, low sweetness; often inconsistent from one cup to the next.
- Entry speciality ( 81/82): Sweet, chocolatey, nutty. Often nutty or herbaceous on the finish with a dry sensation lingering.
- Special A (84+): Citrus, caramel, higher sweetness, balanced cup, smooth aftertaste.
- Superior (85+): Some complexity, high sweetness, structured, clearly identifiable flavours.
- Microlot (86+): Complex, sophisticated, presence of ripe fruit notes, citrus, and even florals in the top lots.
We organised a “blind” tasting meaning we didn’t know the order in which the coffees were presented.
As coffee professionals we learn to make a distinction between personal preference and cup quality- different people like different flavours, which may be due to cultural differences in our upbringings, different expectations or simply genetic predispositions; and the best lots from a professional opinion are not always the most appreciated.
This proved true with every group hosted. As a general observation we noticed that, more often than not, men were drawn towards more bitter and chocolatey coffees whilst women to sweeter and more sophisticated profiles.
Everybody eventually understood this distinction and that taste profiles are directly correlated to financial incentives- higher prices reward higher process quality and higher flavour complexity.
Overall we managed to reach out to 180 producers over the course of three weeks!
Rudy’s trip was jam-packed with other activities too:
- Selling 101 workshops - preparing the Quality Control team for tasting sessions with buyers. This included how to set up sessions; preparing sample roasts and understanding the best practices for selling.
- Microlot preparation - working together with Iliana (General Manager of Esquipulas) and producers to develop lots which can meet the microlot standard.
- Field visits - meeting the producers, introduce ourselves and visit their farms.
- Roasting Project - laying the foundations of roasting chemistry and talking about the importance of knowing their customer base to ensure their coffees are relevant and competitive.
- Honey and Mushroom projects - Rudy was given the honour of cutting the ribbon to the new training centre for the project that supports the diversification of incomes.
This is a very busy co-operative who are working hard to make the most of their lots and further etch their name into the speciality coffee world. You can try the delicious Adulfo Calmo and Esquipulas now - available online now.
Written by Rudy Huemer, Quality Manager