Coming from a tiny twelve bag microlot in the region Caranavi, Bolivia and harvested by Maria Quispe Vilca, this coffee is picked and travels several hours by cab to the Buena Vista wet mill where it is then processed with the highest of care. It is then dried on African raised beds for seven days before being bagged to rest in the climate controlled bodega.
Once rested it makes its long journey to the dry mill in El Alto, where it is meticulously sorted by machine and by hand under special lights that point out flaws that would be invisible to the eye normally.
One of the challenges of getting high quality, consistent coffee from Bolivia is the fact that most farms are quite small on average they are only three to eight hectares, so finding the farmers that can provide the expertise and knowledge to do this type of experimentation with processing for us and do it to such a high level becomes very difficult.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are sipping the Bolivia Finca Maria Elena, from Fratello Coffee Roasters in Calgary. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Illimani, Caranavi, Bolivia
farm/factory: Finca Maria Elena
producer: Maria Quispe Vilca
elevation: 1700 meters above sea level
cultivars: Typica, Caturra
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The aroma of the Finca Maria Elena is warm and inviting, but it’s a bit too soft, too understated. It’s nice, but it doesn’t necessarily reach out and grab me. Soft cocoa powder introduces mild spices and roasted nuts.
The first few sips immediately post-brew are a little muddled, presenting the palate with sweets, spices, and roast. Very soft notes of cocoa powder and toffee pave the way for mild cinnamon and nutmeg spiciness, but they don’t nip at the tongue nearly as much as the flavors carbon, roast, and salted peanut shells.
As it begins to cool off, some fruit flavors emerge but they’re not very pronounced. A malty textures carries notes of Fuji apple, cherry, and a very soft but zesty citrus acidity that help to make notes of bittersweet chocolate chips more prevalent, but there is a bit of a papery aftertaste.
Medium body; matly mouthfeel; citrus acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
The Bolivia Finca Maria Elena, from Fratello Coffee Roasters, was a really tough coffee to get a handle on. I brewed it every which way, constantly adjusting my parameters, and I just couldn’t get the coffee where it needed to be. I couldn’t find its “sweet spot” in any brewer, at any grind, and no matter how intently I slurped.
It had a few highlights—particularly in its cool-down phase (the cocoa and zesty citrus notes were nice)—but the overall experience was fairly run of the mill and underwhelming, given its flaws up front and at room temperature (roasty, a little papery).
A disappointing coffee coming from a region that is steadily on the rise, but more disappointing coming from the likes of Fratello.
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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.