Colombia, once again, in 2013, has been killing it.
I was really impressed with a lot of the Colombias I tried this year and I (think I) enjoyed all of them (one that I didn’t enjoy doesn’t immediately come to mind, anyway).
Cartel – a roaster that really blew me away earlier this year with a Costa Rica – is back at the Table, under the scrutiny of my cupping spoon and, this time, I’m presented with a Colombia. If the recent past is any sort of indication, this coffee is going to be da bomb. It’s gonna raise the roof. It will be off the hook. It’s gonna be 2 legit 2 quit. It’s gonna be all that and a bag of chips.
Homage to the 1990’s: over.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Santa Ines Colombia, from Cartel Coffee Lab in Phoenix, Arizona. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Santa Ines Colombia is, in theory, a single origin coffee – in that it was grown in one specific area of the world (namely San Antonio, Colombia). However, this coffee is, in the strictest definition of the term, a blend in that it mixes threes coffees from one region. So. Kinda confusing, but, mostly, not confusing at all.
The three farms represented in this package are El Venteado, Finca Gualanday, and El Monte.
Javier Odilio Carmona Arteaga, who owns El Venteado, saved little by little to acquire enough to allow him to buy the farm that he owns today with his wife Olga and their two sons. As it is with the coffee growing families of Antioquia, the whole family helps with the daily work, with the children helping after school finishes. Don Javier works from sunrise to sunset with a typical day during harvest beginning at 4:00 a.m. and ending at 10:00 p.m. All this is done with loving care and without any qualms.
In order to plant new seedlings, seeds are acquired from the Municipal Committee of Coffee Growers. Lots susceptible to rust are treated with low-toxicity fungicides and organic fertilizers are applied 3 times a year in January, May and September. Each year close to 20% of the estate is re-planted with new seedlings between June and August, just after the fly-harvest. The main harvest occurs between October and December, using 8 to 10 workers for collection. Fertilization, weeding and the gathering of the fruit are all done manually on the farm.
Coffee is picked during the day and that evening is taken to a hopper where the pulp is removed and later left to ferment for between 12 and 15 hours. It is then dried in the sun on a “box” that serves as the housing cover and subsequently packaged in 120 kilos sisal sacks. These are stored carefully in a small winery and then later transported on the back of a Mule to the district of Santa Ines to be sold to the Cooperativa de Caficultores de Andes.
Coffee has always been the main economic line, however, a couple of years ago, Don Javier and his children sought to expanded into other crops such as plantain, corn, cassava, beans and a few mandarin trees, which, have already begun to adapt the land.
Now, the farm has a good infrastructure and a renovated coffee plantation, the first plan is to improve the quality.
John Freddy Bedoya Correa learned to produce good coffee from a young age, and now owns 10 thousand coffee trees on his two acre Finca Gualanday Farm. All the work on the farm is done by hand, with love and after 10 years of hard work, now produces coffee cherries of unique notes.
The weather on the farm is cold and shady which could affect productivity. From the nursery through to the daily maintenance tasks, care is needed for optimal development of the plants. Although the farm tries to control disease before it arrives, if rust appears, fungicide is used to stop it. John Freddy is part of the programme called “Biological corridor”, driven by the Cooperativade Caficultores de Andes and the Comité Departamental de Cafeteros. Thanks to this program, I got a green module for the benefit of coffee; that means that we do not need water to make the process. Residues are directed to a pit and thus there is less pollution index”.
There is strong community around the village, with six jobs generated on the farm during harvest time, The village help each other and work together as a cooperative movement, as they recognize that this teamwork helps them move forward.
Don Jorge Iván Taborda’s El Monte farm stands 1800 meters above the sea level and is the land that his father acquired and planted with coffee. It was pure, virgin forest mountain when his father took it over and has since been transform to raise the Taborda family. Jorge works throughout the year, rising as early as 4am during harvest and never taking holidays. During harvest there are 6 employees however throughout the rest of the year the family is the labour force. Everything there is the result of daily work by the family.
From a young age, Don Jorge knew that coffee was the sustenance of life and when his father left him and his 16 brothers small subdivisions or plots of land, the majority continued to follow the coffee heritage. Jorge hopes that his son and daughters will want to stay.
origin: San Antonio, Huila, Colombia
farm: El Venteadero // Gualanday // El Monte
elevation: 1700 – 1850 meters above sea level
cultivars: Caturra, Castillo, Colombia
process: fully washed, patio dried
The aroma coming off the Santa Ines Colombia is exhilarating. Crunchy peanut butter and cane sugar fill the airspace between the nose and cup first, and these are immediately followed by lilting scents of fresh fruits and tropical flowers.
The first few sips, however, are absolutely nothing like the aroma. Wow! I was expecting the coffee to be, you know, creamy and savory and a little delicate; certainly not explosive and tropical and fruity and lively and tart and sweet and… My goodness. This coffee has my head spinning.
Okay, right out of the gate, this is a really complex cup so bear with me as I rattle off all of the specific flavors I’m picking out: cherry, banana, papaya, mango, cantaloupe, kiwi, strawberry, raspberry, green apple(?), certainly tangerine, tamarind, pear, peach, pineapple, wild grapes, lemon. You get the idea – very tropical, very fruity, citrusy, very acidic. This coffee could double as a fruit punch at your next dinner-party.
As the cup cools off, the wildness gets reined in and spreads out more evenly, the tartness dissipates (but oh so slightly), and a tamer sweetness comes into play as flavors of white sugar and caramel round out the bottom of the cup, leaving me breathless and dizzy.
Goodness gracious me.
Light body; juicy mouthfeel; citrus acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
The Santa Ines Colombia, from Cartel Coffee Lab, is one hell of a cup of coffee. To be perfectly honest, I could sign this article off with that statement, immediately followed by “‘Nuff said,” and leave it at that. But for the sake of posterity, I won’t.
Really, though, this coffee bursts out of the mug with a tropical punch – sweet and fruity, intense and exciting. However, for as brimming with life as the coffee is, it’s actually very sophisticated and refined. Let me put it this way – this coffee isn’t like a nightclub or a disco and it’s not like ballroom dancing or ballet so much as it’s like one of Jay Gatsby’s famous parties; the music really swings, the dance floor is really hot, and the energy is unbridled, but everybody’s dressed formally, driving luxury cars, and drinking champagne.
The cup is sweet, sweet, sweet, all the way through, but it has just enough of a tart citrus acidity and a creamy caramel base to keep the coffee grounded; yeah, it’s very sweet – but it’s never too sweet. And that’s a very important distinction to make. However, if I were to keep scores at the Table, I’d probably dock points for that – the fruitiness is just a little out of control at times. I would have liked to have that reined in just a little bit more than it was. Still, though, an incredible cup – certainly 90-92 worthy in my opinion.
This is the quintessential Summah Time coffee – light, fruity, sweet, refreshing, and if you think this coffee sounds good hot, just wait til you try it over ice or as a cold brew… Oh man.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.