On the northwest border of Huila, an area in southwest Colombia known for its rich archaeological history, lies a small community named Monserrate. This village is a collection of homes on a single ridge, and in the early aughts, a coffee cooperative was formed here after a group of coca farmers grew tired of the violence that plagued their community.
Although Colombia’s coffee production heritage dates back to the 1800s, the farmers of Monserrate needed to be convinced that growing coffee could not only put an end to drug-related crime but pave the way for a prosperous, sustainable future.
Today Monserrate is a model of transparency and technical assistance (similar in mission to Capucas in Honduras, but smaller). The co-op shares information among members to help produce better quality coffee which is then sold in individual and group lots. Rather than a centralized mill structure, Monserrate is a collection of micro-mills that produce a range of unique flavor profiles.
Our coffee is a blend of these small producers’ mills. It’s mechanically de-pulped, allowed to sit dry in tanks to ferment, and then washed and moved to raised beds inside covered solar dryers.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Monserrate Colombia, from Irving Farm Coffee Roasters in New York City, New York, courtesy of Craft Coffee. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Monserrate, Huila, Colombia
producer: smallholder farmers
elevation: 1800 – 2000 meters above sea level
cultivars: Caturra, Colombia
process: fully washed, patio dried
The aroma of the Monserrate Colombia is a complex mix of roast, wood, earth, burnt sugars, nuts, raisin, and citrus. It kind of reminds me of trail mix, actually.
My first few sips of the cup immediately post-brew present my taste buds with a full-bodied coffee with a pretty aggressive, fairly abrasive flavor profile. The coffee doesn’t seem over roasted or burnt, but it definitely seems a little “cooked” with flavors charred oak (like a Bourbon barrel) and cooking spices. The cuppers at Craft considered that spiciness to be Advieh; I didn’t know what that was so I looked it up—turns out it’s a Persian cooking spice, which I think is a pretty accurate descriptor in this case. In any case, those initial flavors pretty quickly give way to walnut and honeyed dark chocolate.
As the coffee cools, the mouthfeel gets more and more buttery and it begins to present my taste buds with more tasting notes, including raisin, a juicy blood orange acidity, and a flutter of hibiscus that plays throughout a somewhat dry finish.
Full body; buttery mouthfeel; citric acidity; dry finish.
I’m not going to lie—I was pretty nervous after taking the first few sips of Irving Farm Coffee’s Monserrate Colombia. With as spicy, earthy, and burnt as it tasted up front, I thought for sure that Craft Coffee’s cupping standards were slipping.
Much to my surprise, though, those flavors pretty quickly gave way to beautiful and delicious finish.
This was an enormously complex and interesting coffee that really kept me on my toes from start to finish.
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.