by Ted Stachura
January is a good time to review coffees from the previous year and regroup in anticipation of the new crop arrivals that have already started coming in. As most coffee drinkers know, coffee is a seasonal crop with distinct periods of time in each growing region for harvesting, processing and shipping. From a coffee enthusiast’s perspective, it is sad when a favorite coffee runs its seasonal course but, exciting knowing that a new vintage is just a few months away.
We saw some outstanding coffees here at Equator Coffees in 2013. Among them, no fewer than four Geisha variety coffees, including our Roaster’s Choice Award winner from Colombia’s Cerro Azul farm. In just a few weeks we expect to see the first lots from Cerro Azul’s main harvest landing at the Port of Oakland. In this first shipment, we have two coffees -- a Geisha variety peaberry lot and special unidentified dwarf variety of Arabica known only as Enano – both exclusive to Equator. For later in the year we have plans for additional coffees from our friends at Granja La Esperanza, the growers group that owns Cerro Azul and other coffee farms.
Director of Quality Hernando Tapasco at Cerro Azul Farm, Colombia
Equator also offered a trio of Kenya coffees (a personal favorite origin) and we were pleasantly surprised to find that each lot sold out much faster than anticipated. This year, despite political posturing by local government groups that is slowing commencement of the Kenyan coffee auction, we expect to begin seeing delicious new crop offers soon. Based on interest in this origin from our customers, we plan to bring in a larger quantity of Kenya coffee to satisfy all of our needs. Although we tend to favor coffee from the higher altitude co-op sector in Kenya, we were surprised last year by an exceptional lot from the Oaklands Estate. At Equator we never allow ourselves to be biased by the names or locations of specific lots; each coffee is evaluated blind and judged on its own merit. We look forward to this year’s auction which is rumored to begin next week.
Another big surprise of 2013 was a special coffee from La Perla del Café farm in Costa Rica. We had been enjoying a SL28 variety coffee from this farm for a couple of years but, the quantity produced by the farm is tiny. Much larger volumes of a local variety know as Villa Sarchi is grown on the farm. We made a special request to have this variety processed by the so-called red honey method, a process that farm owner Carlos Barrantes had never attempted at his new mill. The idea behind the red honey method is to remove the skin of the coffee fruit while allowing the fruit mucilage to remain in contact with the bean during the drying process. The coffee develops a sticky, honey-like appearance as it dries; because of the large quantity of mucilage left on the bean, it also takes on reddish cast. The resulting flavor was outstanding! In February I will travel to Costa Rica to meet with Mr. Barrantes to check in on the harvest and make plans for new crop lots.
Coffee Drying at Herbazu Mill, Costa Rica
These were just some of the highlights for 2013, there were many other coffees of note – three coffees from Buenos Aires farm in El Salvador each processed by a different method, a series of clean natural processed coffees including one from La Pira farm in Costa Rica and another from Kona’s Mokulele Farms, that latter still happens to be available. This time of year we continue to receive new coffees from Peru, Brazil, Rwanda and Brundi, and then during the spring and summer months we begin receiving new crop arrivals from Kenya, Costa Rica, El Salvador and other Central American countries.