Colombia La Plata
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Dear Reader, I greet you with great melancholy today. You see, today we’re wrapping up the Epic Coffee Exchange of 2013 and I’m very sad to see it send. The participants got to experience some incredible coffees from some great roasters around the country during this Exchange and I can tell you that I, for one, am really looking forward to doing this again soon.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. To recap the week, we kicked things off with my contribution—the Rwanda Dukunde Kawa, from Chicago, Illinois’s Halfwit Coffee Roasters; then we cupped David Simon’s offering—the Sumatra Wahana Natural, from Portland, Maine’s Tandem Coffee Roasters; unfortunately we weren’t able to sample Andy Leviss’s contribution, which was the Kenya Kiriani from Irving Farm Coffee Roasters—the roast date was January 9, Irving Farm didn’t ship the order out in a timely manner, then it sat in a cold warehouse over a weekend, then due to shipping issues with the post office beyond Andy’s control we didn’t receive the coffee until it had already gone mostly stale. Which is really unfortunate, because I’ve been looking forward to trying Irving Farm for a while. Maybe some other time.

But let’s not get hung up crying over stale coffee—we need to look forward to the final participant in the Exchange.

Today we’re sipping Maxwell Mooney’s contribution to the Epic Coffee Exchange of 2013—the Colombia La Plata, from Caffe Ladro in Seattle, Washington. Feel free to pull up a chair.

The name “La Plata”, which translates to “silver” in English, comes from the fact that when the Spanish arrived to this region in the sixteenth century they found silver mines. La Plata was also a stopping point in the route from Santafe de Bogota to Quito during the Spanish colonization.

The coffee representing this historic region today is the end result of piecing together 30 exceptional lots to create a clean and sweet cup. Nearly one thousand lots from over 300 members of the Asociacion de Productores de Café de Alta Calidad del Occidente del Huila (OCCICAFE) are cupped to build a lot of this size and quality.

OCCICAFE was founded in 2003 and is the result of the merger of several smaller coffee grower associations that existed in La Plata at the time. They realized that by working together and striving to produce high quality coffee they would be able to better compete and differentiate themselves in the market.

Today the association has over 320 members from the municipalities of La Argentina, La Plata, Paicol, Nataga, and Tesalia. Its members are small-scale coffee growers, whose farms range from one to five hectares and at altitudes ranging between 1,400 and 1,900 meters above sea level.

The growers involved in OCCICAFE all work side by side with quality analysis and are responsible for the harvesting, milling, and drying of their coffee. All of them process their coffee in their small beneficios and then dry the coffee in covered patios until the coffee reaches the optimal moisture level.

the basics:

Origin: La Plata, Huila, Colombia
Farm: Asociacion de Productores de Café de Alta Calidad del Occidente del Huila (OCCICAFE)
Elevation: 1400 – 1900 meters above sea level
Cultivars: Caturra
Process: fully washed, patio dried
Certifications: Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade

the coffee:

The aroma of the Colombia La Plata is warm and rich—succulent, even. It has light, airy notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and bakers spices; it’s sweet with traces of honey and caramel; and it even has a little bit of zesty orange peel in its fumes.

The flavor of this coffee starts off with a spicy sweetness that simultaneously bites the tip of the tongue and coats the entire palate with a syrupy stickiness. Cinnamon and nutmeg up front are closely followed by thick, sweet, brown sugared honey.

As it cools off, the coffee gets thicker, sweeter, creamy, and fruity. The honey mouthfeel dilutes a little bit, taking on more of a maple syrup texture; it doesn’t coat the palate as much as it did up front, which enables the taste buds to better pick out flavors of cranberry, currants, apple, cherry, and clementines.

At room temperature, a white grape acidity emerges, and the coffee becomes creamier and savory, with flavors of butterscotch, nutmeg, vanilla, almond, and toffee. The cinnamon up front also makes a reappearance here in the finish of each sip, leaving behind one last spice kick.

Full body; syrupy mouthfeel; grape acidity; clean finish.

the bottom line:

The Colombia La Plata, from Caffe Ladro, is a really great coffee that surges and swells in waves throughout the life of the cup. On a personal level, this coffee proved to be somewhat of a revelation for me as it provided me with the first really great result with a Moka pot (with, of course, many thanks to James Hoffmann).

As you can see in the picture above, this coffee were roasted under espresso parameters, so using a Hario V60 or even a Chemex wasn’t going to show me it’s full profile; a Clever or a press pot were a much better option, but even they wouldn’t show me this coffee’s fullest potential. Unfortunately, I don’t own an espresso machine so there was no way I was going to taste what the folks at Ladro tasted in these beans and this roast profile.

That’s why I decided to dust off my old Moka pot. To be sure, Dear Reader, a Moka pot is not going to make espresso, just like an Aeropress doesn’t make espresso. Instead, it makes very concentrated coffee that has flavor extraction, texture, and acidity most similar to espresso. When I brewed the Colombia La Plata with the Moka, then, I got as close as I possibly could to what the roastmaster at Ladro had in mind for this cup.

What I got was a mildly spicy cup that featured satisfying savories and delicious fruits. The cup had tremendous clarity and definition with a near-perfect balance. I would have liked to taste a more pronounced acidity, but I suspect if this coffee had been properly pulled from a proper espresso machine I would have gotten much better results.

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