About the bean
We've become awfully fond of honey-processed coffee. A process championed by Costa Rica after an earthquake in the seismically active region caused a severe water shortage. The honey method of processing coffee beans uses less water than that of washed coffees - some of the sticky (honey-like) mucilage beneath the peel of the coffee cherry remains during the drying process instead of being washed off. This effects the level of sweetness in the cup. Exposure to light during the drying period also impacts the end result, with some honeyed coffees exposed to more and some less, which led Costa Rican farmers to create a spectrum of colour to indicate the level of exposure: yellow honey beans enjoy their time in the sun the most, red honey somewhat less and black honey beans the least (the latter requires more labour to tend to during its drying period of typically 1-2 weeks).
Of these types of honeys, we have yet to try the black honey variety (considered the most rich and complex). What we have tried (yellow and red), we have loved. The cup is sweet but typically well-balanced and clean with lovely flavour notes. It's a different coffee experience and one we look forward to with every new batch of honey coffee we receive.
The best of Costa Rica with a golden twist.
These honey-processed beans are the yellow honey variety (the most exposed to light).
American roast profile / Cupping
We cupped our Costa Rican FTO honey-processed beans to explore the depth of the coffee. We noted a sweet, slightly floral fragrance. The cup was lightly bright, infused with notes of honey cane sugar and a pronounced nut taste (hazelnut and creamy cashew). Overall, a soft-bodied, smooth cup, very well-balanced with a lingering aftertaste of nut and dark chocolate.
American roast profile / Hario V60 pour over brew
The fragrance was a yellow fruit (apricot, peach) and honeysuckle/jasmine delight. Other notes in the underlay rounded out the cup (milk chocolate, nut and even black tea). At this profile, we savoured a most wonderful cup that was nicely bright with a pleasant tea-like body and a hazelnut aftertaste. Could it get any better?
City roast profile / French press brew
It got better! We sat a long time here enjoying a more subdued acidity and a pronounced sweetness (succulent pear). Again, the nutty notes emerged further amplified. No bitterness, a light-medium body, well balanced. As the coffee cooled, the nut flavour claimed the cup entirely.
This is one gorgeous coffee. It should be enjoyed at a light-medium roast (City is perfect) and skip the additives which almost always bury a coffee's personality. This is a pick to sit with, discover, and sip on all day; completely in sync with the mood of summer.
For an explanation of our different roasts, see here: http://greenbeanery.ca/pages/roasting-chart.
About the bean
We have long wanted to try coffee from Bolivia and, finally, our ship(ment) has come in.
Referred to as the Tibet of the Americas, Bolivia is the most isolated of the Andean nations. Its diverse landscape ranges from high-altitude mountains to jungles teeming with wildlife. Visitors treasure Bolivia for its lively culture steeped in tradition, as well as its numerous attractions ranging from Inca trails to fossilized dinosaur footprints (the world's largest collection). Of special interest is the spectacular Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat (10,582 sq km) on earth, with a surface resembling mirrored glass when wet. Other "attractions" include the notorious Death Road - a 64km route, with a 3,500m descent, that draws thrill-seekers at their peril.
Bolivia isn't as well known for its coffee, yet; although the country certainly has what it takes to become a producer of note thanks to that magic bean combination of elevation, fertile soil and consistent rainfall. Driving the industry's momentum is a growing cooperative movement (and the broad benefits of more money in the hands of growers), and the country's move into specialty labelling (Fair Trade, organic and shade grown).
Discover this rare treat.
Source: Asociación Integral de Productores Ecológicos de Pumiri (AIPEP)
Process: Washed Arabica
Varieties: 30% Typica, 25% Caturra, 20% Catuai, 15% Castillo, 10% Mundo Novo
Altitude: 1300-1550 masl.
Certifications: Fair Trade and Organic - IMO Control since 2002
SHG: Strictly High Grown; same as Strictly Hard Bean/SHB. High grown, usually denser and higher quality than a Hard Bean (HB) or High Grown (HG). These beans are grown above 1,200 masl. (metres above sea level).
EP: (European Prep) Indicates the coffee has undergone rigorous sorting - usually by hand to ensure defective beans and foreign material have been removed.
At a light roast (American brewed in a V60 pour over), the Bolivia offers a pronounced sweetness. A smooth mouthfeel with a medium-light body, the cup delivers a range of chocolate flavour from milk to salty caramel.
At a darker roast just shy of Full City (brewed in a French press), the bean's chocolate character really hit the mark; light in the mouth but richly flavorful. This gave us our best impression - a very nuanced cup, strong in personality; an excellent combination.
As a latte at a Full City profile, the Bolivia produced a standout specialty brew - bold and tasty.
When we roasted darker (Vienna brewed as a pour over), the Bolivia's character changed quite a bit: a hard-to-miss licorice underlay that carried to a burnt finish.
Roast recommendation: Light for nuance and medium-dark for chocolate gold. Clearly, we were sold on the Full City profile. Home roasters tell us they really enjoyed a "velvety" result at a City roast. For an explanation of our different roasts, see here: http://greenbeanery.ca/pages/roasting-chart.
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About the bean
We're welcoming a new coffee to our selection. The Brazil Natural comes to us from a very large farm in the Cerrado region of the world's most famous coffee-producing country, and, as its name makes clear: this bean was dried naturally. The natural method of drying coffee is an ancient practice that involves leaving harvested beans to dry under the sun. Simple!
This process has been likened to red wine by some connoisseurs with a renewed interest in the natural method. Like red wine, more of the skin and the fruit is absorbed. Because the seed of the coffee cherry is imbued with more of the coffee fruit's sugars and nutrients, the final result can be flavour magic. You will sometimes hear the term "wild in the cup" associated with naturally processed coffees. This method provides more in the way of flavour brilliance as well as flavour quirks. Its inconsistencies is one of the reasons why the wet method of washing the coffee seed off the fruit became the preferred process of the two. But never discount the merits of risk, coffee lovers. And this pick pays off.
A sweet softie with a thick body. Our favourite Brazilian bean in stock right now alongside the Brazil Planalto.
Grown at a low altitude of only 800m on a large farm and harvested mechanically. These indicators do not suggest the favourable outcome a bean cultivated at a higher elevation on a smaller farm with hand pickers does but this natural Brazilian is a total pleaser. In a country without the growing altitudes of more elevated coffee-producing regions, the natural process can accomplish more fruitiness, more flavour, more complexity.
Our taste test: Brewed in a French press at a City roast profile, we enjoyed a soft, velvety body reminiscent of white chocolate, a medium brightness (acidity), with a caramel underlay and some fruity flair. A pour over brew enhances these fruit notes. A most enjoyable, sweet aftertaste which is typical of the natural drying process.
For those of us who prefer a darker roast, the Brazil Natural brewed in a French press at a Vienna roast profile made a memorable impression. The deeper richness did not overwhelm or undermine the cup's balance. Great espresso potential here.
Roast Recommendation: To preference.