Archive for February, 2010

Los Naranjos Microlot

Posted in coffee, coffee roasting, home roasting with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2010 by Chad

Yesterday, I posted about the Las Mingas relationship coffee program run by Virmax.  To summarize, the Las Mingas program differentiates small coffee lots by quality, and works to pair up buyers with individual farmers.  Virmax works with the farmers to improve their methods and quality, which gives them the ability to earn higher prices for their coffee.  For Las Mingas, Virmax separates and cups the samples, and then sends sets of approved samples to prospective buyers.  Buyers roast and cupth e samples, and arrange pricing for the approved lots based on the buyer’s cupping score.  Lots are then milled, vacuum packed, and exported to the buyer.

Our first foray into the program has given us a wonderful microlot–only about 380 lbs.–from Planadas in the Tolima region.  Luis Merchan is the farmer that produced this coffee from his farm, Los Naranjos.  Here is Luis one of his 13,000 trees on the 3 hectacre farm.

The average elevation of Los Naranjos is approximately 5,900 feet above sea level, and Luis estimates his annual production at fifty bags (70 kg net).  Some shade is provided by Guamos trees.  Coffee is washed, and naturally fermented in washing tank, then sun-dried in “heldas”, a traditional drying system built on the roofs of houses–black plastic on top of the wood, which is covered at night and during rain.

Sun-drying coffee

Now for the cup–this coffee cupped well above the other two samples, which were both excellent coffees.   The cup starts with complex fragrance and aroma, with sweet graham and floral notes and toasted grain and malt hints.  Flavors notes of graham, malt, and florals held together by caramel, honey and toffee sweetness.  Excellent interplay of the aromatic, sweet, and deeper caramel notes, held together by a Meyer lemon citric acidity (almost effervescent).  Medium weight, but rich, round and chewy body, outstanding balance (acidity–body, hot to cold), just a wonderful cup.

After I finished cupping the coffee, I sat down with the remaining liquid drained it down to the grounds.  An excellent cup from start to finish.   Soon this coffee will be enroute to home roasters across the country, and others can share this little bit of joy from Luis Merchan, in Planadas, Tolima, Colombia.

Many thanks to Luis Merchan and his family, and to Alejandro and Giancarlo at Virmax for making this possible.

Luis Merchan

Colombia Las Mingas

Posted in coffee, coffee cupping, coffee roasting with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2010 by Chad

My journey down the rabbit hole of specialty coffee has generally followed the three questions voiced in the our vision.  Over the last year, we have attempted to connect this small operation with those working directly with farmers or cooperatives–seeking ever a direct connection and a means by which we could directly reward the farmers and producers at the front end of the coffee chain.  Many times, the efforts have proved difficult or impossible, as we rarely buy more than 5-10 bags of any particular lot.

One program that had us hooked from the start is the Las Mingas program from Virmax.  Las Mingas, loosely translated means “for the good of all”.  The program focuses on quality, and provides a transparent pricing process from farmer, exporter, importer and buyer.  Virmax works with selected farms and cups individual lot samples–samples that score above an 84 approved as individual lots and then sent off to potential buyers for evaluation.  Buyers cup the samples, and then set the price based on the buyer’s cupping score.  It’s a means for the coffee buyer to directly reward the farmer based on quality.

After reading a bit on the program from our friends at gimme! coffee, including a question and answer session with the Las Mingas program founders Alejandro Cadena and Giancarlo Ghiretti, we contacted Alejandro and through our name in the hat.  Alejandro let us know that he could find small lots that would fit our buying profile.  Last fall, Alejandro sent us three samples from the Tolima region.  All three coffees were excellent, but one stood out above the others.   We approved the sample, agreed on a price based on our cupping score-one well above the fair trade price.

Here are a few details about the farm; I’ll post more on the farm and the coffee tomorrow, along with pictures.  Here’s to what I hope is a continuing relationship, and one of first steps of our part to improve the world of coffee.

Farmer Name: Luis Merchan
Farm Name: Los Naranjos

Farm Location
Department: Tolima
Municipality: Planadas
Elevation: 1,800 m.a.s.l. (5,900 ft)

Farm Size: 3.0 hectares
Total Number of trees: 13,000
Varietals: Coffea Arabica: Caturra (60%) / Colombia (40%)
Estimated Annual Production: 50 bags (70-kg net, each)
Harvest time: April – July / November-January
Processing: Natural fermented and fully washed in tanks
Drying: Sun-dried in “heldas” (traditional drying system built on top of the roofs of houses – with a black plastic on top of the wood, which is covered at night and when raining)
Shade Type: Semi shaded with Guamos
Fertilization: Chemical