Good morning, coffee lovers near and far – welcome back to my table here in the corner of this cafe. It’s Monday and I have the spent the last two days coming down from an extreme coffee high. This past Saturday, I attended the first ever CoffeeCON, presented by Kevin Sinnott in Warrenville, Illinois, and drank so much coffee I haven’t slept the past two nights. But it was a really great experience learning some of the ins and outs and what-have-yous of the coffee industry – from farming and sustainability, to DIY home roasting and brew methods. It was also great to catch up with friends from Alterra Coffee Roasters, Passion House Coffee Roasters, and I Have a Bean, and it was great to interact with some new contacts. Hopefully next year, the event will be bigger and better, but a big shout-out to Kevin Sinnott for a job well done!

One of my old friends that I got to catch up with was Brent Hall, from Counter Culture Coffee‘s training center here in Chicago, who was manning a booth and brewing up some awesomeness with a Hario V60. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the lucky dozens of people who managed to snatch up the free bags of coffee he was giving away, but I was at least able to have a pour-over of Counter Culture’s February coffee of the month, El Gavilán, made just for me. Swim Cafe, here in Chicago, is currently featuring this coffee too, so I made sure to grab a cup on my way to work this morning.

Feel free to pull up a chair.

El Gavilán hails from Ecuador, a country that hasn’t had the best of luck with coffee in the past. Ecuadorian coffee, though it sits at a prime location in the coffee belt (being bordered by coffee-producing giants Colombia and Peru – both of which have had great coffees lately), has been lacking in quality for a really long time. Lately, though, quality has started to rise; this is especially true for the Federation of Ecological Coffee Producer Associations in the Southern Region (FAPECAFES) co-op in Loja, Ecuador. When the four co-ops that make up FAPECAFES (among them, Procafeq – the producer of El Gavilan) got together in 2002, they made it a point to emphasize and improve coffee-growing practices as a means to grow healthy crops and produce high-quality coffees consistently. They very recently (in 2009) first introduced the cupping process to their operation, and they still have more tricks up their sleeves (from agricultural outreach to farms to improvement of their milling facilities) to keep slowly rebuilding what was once a big player in the coffee industry.

the basics:

Origin: Quilanga, Loja, Ecuador
Farm: Procafeq COOP (Federation of Ecological Coffee Producer Associations in the Southern Region COOP)
Elevation: 2100 meters above sea level
Varietal: Typica, Caturra, Bourbon
Process: washed
Certifications: Organic, Counter Culture Coffee Direct Trade

the coffee:

The most notable thing about this coffee’s aroma is it’s rich creaminess. From the fumes coming out of the cup – with their nuances of vanilla and caramel – I can tell that this is going to be a sweet and smooth cup of coffee.

Like Counter Culture writes on their website, “Cherry and vanilla are the classic hallmarks of the Typica variety, and these flavors are there in spades…” Cherry sweetness greets the palate first, being pushed forward by flavors of almond, banana, peach, apricot, and honey. From beginning to end, post-brew to room temperature, these flavors are consistent, sitting atop a soothing bed of vanilla creaminess and caramel coating. There’s very little acidity in this cup of coffee, and not much of an aftertaste – El Gavilán has a nice clean finish.

the bottom line:

Everything about Counter Culture Coffee’s El Gavilán is so pleasant. It isn’t going to knock your socks off, but will definitely become an instant favorite. A very solid offering from Ecuador. This coffee reminded me of a banana split almost – creamy vanilla with diced peach, banana, and apricot, coated with caramel syrup, shaved almonds, and a cherry on top; except that it’s not overwhelmingly sweet. It’s a well-rounded and balanced cup of coffee that is sure to please any palate.

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