Von La Cabra: “This particular lot is from the farms overseen by LaREB project leader Ana Mustafa, and is known as Crucero. Up until recently, Ana was selling the coffee from her family’s five farms to a pair of local cooperatives in the towns of Pereira and La Celia, at prices based on the commodity market. In Colombia, the coffee grower’s federation, the FNC, is able to demand a premium above the commodity price, but for many producers, the price is still far too low to create a sustainable business. The farms from which this lot is harvested are located outside the town of Pereira, in the Risaralda region. Pereira is approximately a 7 hour drive from Colombia’s capital Bogota, a relatively short distance in Colombian terms, but the landscape here is rather different. Green lush forests drape mountainsides in this grand old area, with a rich coffee producing history. During the ‘Coffee Bonanza’ of the 60’s and 70’s, high prices allowed many producers to make good money and expand their growing lands. One of these was Ana’s grandfather, a Palestinian immigrant to Colombia, who initially worked as a fabric trader when he arrived in the country in 1930’s. The farm lands were split up amongst the younger members of the family upon his death, leaving Ana the five farms across Risaralda she now oversees along with her cousin; two near the town of La Celia and three near Pereira.
One of the main ways that Ana has added value to her coffees is through novel fermentation methods. This lot of Castillo is named Crucero after a crossroads near the Pereira farms, and is processed using a method LaREB have dubbed ‘fed-batch semi-washed’. The aim is to create further complexity in the cup, while maintaining a high level of control over the fermentation process. Using this method, a first day’s picking is added to the fermentation tank, but then the next day’s picking is simply added and mixed in, adding new fuel for the fermentation through new sugars, but holding onto the yeast and bacteria cultures from the existing fermentation. For anyone familiar with making sourdough bread from a starter culture, the same rules apply here. This year the process has been refined, creating a cleaner cup and hopefully a longer shelf life. Each addition to the larger fermentation tank is now pre-fermented in cherry beforehand, adding to the juicy feel in the cup and a little more body and sweetness. This time water was added to the fermentation 12 hours after the second addition of depulped coffee. Normally in a large batch open air fermentation like this one, the fermentation reactions will cause the temperature to rise quite rapidly at this stage, leading to a runaway reaction and making the fermentation difficult to control. Adding water slows down this rise in temperature, allowing the coffee to finish fermenting cool and slow. Again sourdough bread bakers will recognise this technique from cold proving, allowing more complexity of flavour to build in the coffee. After 20 hours of this slow fermentation, the coffee is removed from the fermentation tanks and semi-washed, leaving some of the sticky mucilage on the coffee. This adds a funky edge to the cup, with some ferment-driven soft fruit notes. Finally, the mechanical drying was tweaked for this batch, first dried down to a moisture content of between 14 and 15%, then rested for three weeks before finishing the drying. This allows the moisture content to equalise throughout the coffee before the second run in the driers, allowing for a more even and gentle drying. As this faster initial drying drops the moisture content quickly, the fermentation is also stopped, creating a greater degree of control over the process. This should help with both the clarity and the shelf life of the final coffee. This careful fermentation results in a complex fresh fruit filled cup, with waves of ripe fruit character, alongside a heavy confected sweetness and a finish with a pleasant cocoa dryness.”