Cafe Integral Caturra
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Last week, I packed up all of my worldly possessions, including three packages of coffee that were sent to me from New York City for review, loaded up my tiny 2003 Toyota Corolla, and moved to Chicago’s northernmost neighborhood, Rogers Park. After feeling completely emotionally and physically bankrupt all of Tuesday and shutting down for a much-needed rest, it was these three coffees that got me back into the swing of things.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. My sincerest apologies for my absence; I’m making it up to you this week with four reviews of Nicaraguan coffees from two different roasters. Today, we’re sipping the Caturra from Cafetalera Buenos Aires that was roasted by Café Integral, of New York City. Feel free to pull up a chair.

Café Integral, like several other roasters I’ve come across, source coffee from just one region. César Martin Vega, the owner and head roastmaster at Café Integral, committed himself to Nicaragua a few years ago when he realized that he didn’t like the way Nicaraguan coffee was being done, he took his love for it and turned pro. He is sincerely invested in the future of Nicaragua, and his personal relationships with growers is a testament to that commitment.

One such grower is Luis Emilio Valladares, the owner of Cafetalera Buenos Aires in Dipilto, Nueva Segovia, Nicaragua. Cafetalera Buenos Aires, located just a few miles away from the border of Nicaragua and Honduras, is entirely a family-owned operation with sons Luis and Olman handling the day to day operations of the farm. In addition to this farm (and several others in the Dipilto area), the Valladares also own and operate both a wet- and dry-processing facility which they make available to local farmers, and a full-service cupping lab.

Cafetalera Buenos Aires, though, is their flagship farm – and the farm where the Valladares really allow themselves to let their hair down (so to speak). They grow three principal cultivars on this farm, but have dedicated parcels of their land to other varietals, processes, and relentless experimentation. They have even created hybrid cultivars!

(But we’ll talk more about that later…)

Café Integral has put their full support into this farm with three separate and unique offerings from Cafetalera Buenos Aires – all of which César Vega has graciously given us the opportunity to enjoy.

the basics:

origin: Dipilto, Nueva Segovia, Nicaragua
farm: Cafetalera Buenos Aires
elevation: 1250 meters above sea level
cultivars: Caturra
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: standard

the coffee:

The aroma of the Caturra from Cafetalera Buenos Aires is mild, but very pleasant. I’m getting moderately heavy notes of milk chocolate, and a dash of hazelnut. There’s also a flutter of floral aromatics – lilacs? – and a small hint of golden wheat, like a Blue Moon – without the citrus.

Immediately post-brew, the chocolate notes are still there, but rather than creamy milk chocolate, it tastes more like raw cocoa nibs. The hazelnut and wheatiness are also there, playing lightly underneath the cocoa, giving this coffee a taste comparable to a Pirouline. Fluttering in over the top, gently tickling the roof of my mouth, is a bouquet of lilac and velvet aromatics.

As the cup cools down, the nuttiness dissipates almost altogether. In its place, a geyser of juiciness and stone fruit acidity comes bubbling up from under the surface. Now I’m tasting really sweet notes of peach and apricot, with just a twist of pear, perhaps. When this geyser of juice and acidity burst, it must have picked up some spicy sediment because I’m also getting a spicy and tingly, but sweet, feeling on my palate – a sweet and spicy cinnamon and brown sugar.

medium body; low acidity; honey mouthfeel; slightly dry, tannic finish.

the bottom line:

Café Integral’s Caturra cultivar, from Cafetalera Buenos Aires, took me a few tries to get right, but once I did, it provided me with a satisfying cup of coffee. It’s a bit complex, and not very forgiving (as far as grinding and brewing go), but as it is with most things in life, the reward was worth the effort. While a pourover method – like the V60 or Chemex – provide a nice, clean, delicate cup, fully saturated brews – like a French press or Clever – bring out a lot of nuance, depth, and complexity.

Crisp floral aromatics, raw cocoa, juicy stone fruit acidity, and a dash of cinnamon create a coffee experience that is both sweet and spicy; that at once pleasures the palate with a thick, soothing honey, then tingles the taste buds with a flutter of light floral notes and spice.

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