Howdy coffee friends!
It’s May and we’re back with another Bright Lights, Little City. As you’re reading this, head roaster Josh and I will have just returned from the Specialty Coffee Expo in Portland. The Expo, put on each year by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) is the largest gathering of its kind and is held in a different U.S. city each spring. Tens of thousands of roasters, producers, retailers, importers, exporters, equipment manufacturers, and other industry types gather to network, attend lectures and cuppings, exhibit their wares, check out new coffee equipment and technology, and, in general, keep up with the latest industry trends. For us it’s also a concentrated opportunity to get some face time with many of our partners from across the industry and around the world, most of whom would not be in the same city at the same time if it weren’t for the Expo. In full transparency, I am writing this in mid-April, a week before the festivities begin, but I’m certain we’ll report that an excellent and valuable time was had by all.
In addition to the excitement of the SCA Expo, we’re gearing up for competition season again. I’ll be participating on another International Cup of Excellence jury at the end of this month, this time in Nicaragua, and we’ll also be cupping samples and bidding in other international and private collection auctions, like Santa Felisa, in the coming months. Win, lose, or draw, we believe that participating in these competitions and auctions is critical to keeping up with the state of the green coffee industry in the key origins where we work. Having an understanding of who the top producers are and what varieties, processes, and flavor profiles are piquing the interest of international cuppers helps us to make buying decisions that will excite our regular customers and keep our coffee program fresh and relevant. Our goal is to source some of the world’s best coffees and quality competitions are a great way to benchmark our offerings by seeing how we compare with the very best.
If you are interested in tasting some of these award-winning coffees for yourself, stay tuned. We’ll be hosting some special cuppings at the roastery in the coming months. Now, on to this month’s featured coffees…
Featured Microlot: Guatemala La Cumbre
May’s featured microlot comes to us from farmer and agronomist Rosendo Domingo, a second-generation coffee producer in the Huehuetenango region of northern Guatemala. Though his mother passed away a few years ago and his father is semi-retired, coffee production for the Domingos is still very much a family affair. Rosendo primarily handles the field work (planting, harvesting, crop management, etc.) and the marketing and sales of the final product while his three sisters oversee the post-harvest washing and drying of the coffees at their home in the town of Petatán. Each sister is responsible for processing the coffees of a different parcela, or plot, including Lupe, who handles the coffees arriving from their highest parcela, the origin of our featured microlot, La Cumbre.
“La Cumbre” translates to “The Summit,” so named because it occupies the highest point near the town of Petatán. The coffees from La Cumbre are typically Rosendo’s last to be harvested each year due to cooler temperatures and slower ripening of the fruit. This slow maturation allows for the coffees to develop more sweetness and complexity, and when picked at their peak they can provide the groundwork for creating magic in the final cup.
Next, the coffee has to be carefully processed. Though they have experimented with natural and honey-processed coffees and have altered some of their methods over the years, Rosendo and his family mainly produce washed coffees, the traditional method of Huehuetenango and, in our opinion, the most transparent expression of the clean and bright flavors associated with the region’s terroir.
After de-pulping, the coffee undergoes a 36-hour fermentation in water in order to break down the sticky mucilage surrounding the parchment covered bean. The reason the fermentation is done in water, according to Rosendo, is to control the temperature. In Petatán the nights can get very cold and the daytime temperatures can be equally as hot. The water acts as an insulator, slowing down temperature exchange with the outside air and keeping the coffee warm enough for the fermentation to remain active but cool enough to prevent over-fermentation and off flavors. Next, the parchment is rinsed and set out to dry, first in thick layers, then spread out to thinner layers until reaching 11 to 12 percent moisture. Finally, the parchment is hand-sorted to remove any defects or impurities before being sent to the dry mill and prepared for export.
Through their years of experience and consistent execution, the Domingo family continues to produce some of “Huehue’s” finest coffees and it is no surprise that they’ve once again delivered us a stunning lot loaded with caramel sweetness, tropical fruit notes, and complex, lively acidity. If you were a fan of last year’s lot then we know you’re going to love it, and if you haven’t tried the coffees from La Cumbre yet, you’re in for a real treat.
Roaster’s Choice: Republic Dark Roast Blend
Our motto at Little City is, “Everyone deserves a great cup of coffee.” Through our QC program and strict purchasing and production standards, we work hard to make sure we can stand behind our coffee’s objective “greatness,” but another element to providing great coffee for all is making sure we have a wide range of profiles to please a wide range of subjective preferences. Our microlots, of course, are a great way to offer an ever-changing array of unique and personalized drinking experiences, but it’s our year-round blends that offer our most consistent and clearly defined profiles.
We love our Roaster’s Choice subscribers and relish the opportunity to introduce them to something new each month, but we understand that some people are creatures of habit and just like what they like. So if you had an opportunity to try last month’s feature, Violet Crown, and are looking for something completely different, allow me to present this month’s counterpoint, Republic Dark Roast. While the Violet Crown is our lightest-roasted blend with fruity and floral complexity, Republic scratches the exact opposite itch. A dark roast with a more traditional chocolatey and nutty profile, it is full-bodied and bold, a stark contrast to the tea-like delicateness of Violet Crown.
We don’t pick favorites here are Little City, though I’m sure you can go back through these blog posts and find instances that would prove otherwise. We just want to stay true to our motto and make sure that all coffee lovers can find a little greatness in our offerings. And if you haven’t yet found the one for you, please reach out and tell us about your “great cup of coffee.” Perhaps you’ll inspire our next blend.