Margogype Cafe Integral
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A couple days ago, I wrote a review of a coffee that was sent to me from Café Integral, in New York City—a roaster that specializes solely in Nicaraguan offerings. However, that was one of only three packages that Cesar (the owner) sent me for review.

In addition to the caturra (which I reviewed on Monday), he also sent me a maragogype and a hybrid of the two – a maracaturra.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are going large with a cup of Café Integral’s Maragogype, from the Cafetalera Buenos Aires farm, in Nicaragua. Feel free to pull up a chair.

Since I’ve already reviewed a coffee from Cafetalera Buenos Aires this week, and have already discussed the specifics about the farm, I don’t feel that I need to hash all of that information up again. However, I still want to give you, dear reader, a bit of background about this particular coffee.

As far as I can recall, we’ve never shared a coffee of the maragogype variety here at the Table; it’s a unique cultivar, and one that I think deserves at least some explaining.

A maragogype bean is a lot like a member of the X-Men; or, at least it’s probably the preferred cultivar of both Charles Xavier and Magneto. Maragogype is an anomaly—a mutant cultivar—that was first discovered in Brazil, after spontaneously appearing without explanation. It’s almost as if Brazil, the giant of South America, wanted to grow a coffee that was reflective of itself.

See, the maragogype is also known as “elephant bean” because of its enormity; it is an extremely large and porous variety of arabica. Since its discovery in Maragogipe, Bahia, the cultivar has been transported all over South and Central America. What’s even more interesting about this cultivar is its flavor—while other cultivars, like caturras or typicas or bourbons, generally have a common thread running through their flavor profiles no matter where they’re grown, maragogypes often take on the flavor characteristics of the soil they’re planted in. In other words, a maragogype grown in Brazil may not taste anything like the maragogype we’re sipping today, which was grown in Nicaragua.

However, as unique and individual as the maragoype is, it’s also arguably the most controversial cultivar; arguments within the coffee community have been swirling around it since its arrival on the scene. (Oh, you know us coffee geeks—we do love to squabble!) There are some who will tell you that maragogype is the greatest cultivar under the sun and swear by it, and there are others who will tell you that they produce bland and tasteless cups.

Let’s see for ourselves, shall we?

the basics:

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

the coffee:

The aroma of this maragogype is very pronounced, very distinguishable. Massively nutty and herbal—almond, cinnamon, and cooking spice—with just a touch of fruits and a small hint of rosehips. I’m picking up scents of apple, strawberry, and maybe a little raspberry.

Immediately post-brew, I’m not really getting a clear taste. I’ve brewed this three different ways for us to enjoy—Chemex, pourover, and Aeropress—but none of them are offering a taste that was as clear and pronounced as the aroma.

It’s been a few minutes that we’ve let them cool down, and now we’re getting somewhere. Just as it was in the aroma, a big wallop of nuttiness and cedar come storming out of the cup; roasted almonds and hazelnut predominantly, with a very slight saltiness which is reminiscent of a cashew (to keep with the nut theme, of course). There’s a little dash of cinnamon and black pepper spice that tingles the tip of my tongue, but does little else for the overall flavor of the cup. As it cools down even more, the nutty flavor gives way a little bit, allowing a syrupy, honey-like bed of flavor to come streaming out of the cup, coating my entire mouth with a thick, dense molasses.

Not unlike some of the criticism I’ve heard about other maragogypes, this cup has very little acidity. I know it’s there, because I can feel it in the back of my throat after each sip, but I can’t really taste it with each sip—not until the cup gets down to just about room temperature does a very slight strawberry acidity come out. Could be because the beans were a bit over-roasted?

One thing about maragogypes is that, since the beans are so incredibly large, roasters should cut back on the amount of beans they put in their batch—even if that means putting in about a fourth or even a third less than they usually put in for other cultivars. Since these beans have a greater volume, it is better to underload the roasting apparatus so that they’ll agitate properly and roast more evenly. Overloading the roaster or even loading it to capacity is almost a guarantee that the beans will come out over-roasted.

Full body; low acidity; syrupy, velvety mouthfeel; clean finish, with a slightly lingering aftertaste.

the bottom line:

I’d like to try a few more maragogypes before I firmly make this statement, but it seems like this particular cultivar may be purely coffee lovers and enthusiasts, but not necessarily for fairweather fans. While I could appreciate the experience this coffee offered—the texture of the mouthfeel, the unique flavor, the heaviness of the aroma—and while I found it to have a mostly pleasurable flavor, I could definitely understand why others wouldn’t be taken with it.

It’s a mostly mild cup of coffee, with notes of nuts, a bit of wood, earth, and spice, that cools down to a really sweet, palate-coating maple syrup, molasses, and honey experience that finishes thick and velvety.

Definitely worth a try, even if it’s just for the experience of tasting a unique cultivar.

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