About a week and a half ago, Ashley and I went on a road trip for an extended weekend getaway, from Chicago, Illinois to Nashville, Tennessee. After touring the downtown area and seeing the couple of touristy things that Nashville is famous for, we embarked on the first installment of a new thing I’m going to do in every major city I visit – we went on a coffee crawl. Nashville isn’t really known for having great coffee – not the way Seattle, Portland, Austin, Chicago, or even Grand Rapids is; Nashville is known, of course, for being the country music capital of the world.

However, there is one company that only very recently started roasting, but is already making a big name for themselves, and doing their part in helping set up Nashville as a legitimate specialty coffee town.

Care to join me in sipping one of the souvenirs I brought back from my vacation? Feel free to pull up a chair.

Today’s coffee comes to us from roasting newbies, CREMA. CREMA opened up in Nashville in 2008 in the unassuming Rutledge Hill neighborhood, in an assuming storefront. Immediately the small operation garnered a lot of attention and well-deserved praise. In late 2011, just a few short months ago, CREMA started roasting their own coffee on their Diedrich IR12.

The coffee we’re sipping today is CREMA’s take on the Pital region of Huila, Colombia. El Pital is located in the center of the Department of Huila. In this region, hardworking families of coffee farmers produce a coffee with unique characteristics and exceptional taste. It was grown in the Colombian highlands at elevations of up to 1700 meters above sea level by various small land-holders. Most of the farms that supply the El Pital co-op are around three acres and produce between ten to fifteen 70kg bags.

the basics:

Origin: Pital (El Recreo, El Amparo, Minas), Huila, Colombia
Farm: Various small land-holders
Elevation: 1700 meters above sea level
Varietals: Caturra, Colombian
Process: washed and sundried
Certifications: standard

the coffee:

My favorite part of drinking any coffee, believe it or not, is opening the packaging for the first time. As much as I love the first sip, as much as I love experiencing the life of the cup, as much as I love savoring that very last drop, my absolute favorite part of drinking the coffee is the rush of aromatics that burst out of the package the very first time you open it. The Colombia Huila El Pital firmly establishes this preference in my mind.

As soon as you open the bag, you are immediately lulled in by a soothing and intoxicating vanilla bean aroma. The same is true when you brew it – the wet aroma is very similar to the dry aroma in terms of vanilla scents, but the wet aroma also has traces of pear and roasted almond.

The flavor of the coffee, upon first sip, doesn’t really come as a surprise after experiencing the aroma. This coffee has a really wonderful vanilla bean and a very faint white chocolate creaminess. Behind the creamy vanilla, in each sip, is a quiet swell of juiciness – while the most dominant flavors are pear and sweet red apple, there are also elements of plum, blackberry, and currant. While the vanilla and cacao create a bed and really coat the palate, enabling the fruitiness to sort of glide in over the top, there’s a cooling cherry note that sits right on the tip of the tongue.

The acidity is very mild in this cup, but it’s there; it’s definitely coming out a bit more as the cup cools – it has a very mild blood orange acidity. As the cup cools even more, that acidity gets more defined, more prominent, brighter, a bit more tart like a tangerine, and really hits the roof of the mouth. Finally, at room temperature, the acidity becomes very grapefruit-like.

Tart, but rounded acidity; medium body; smooth, clean finish with a somewhat lingering aftertaste.

the bottom line:

CREMA’s Colombia El Pital: “What a great cup of coffee” – a phrase you won’t typically catch me uttering about a cup of Colombia. It has a lot of character, being smooth and creamy and soothing at one moment, then juicy and fruity and sweet at another moment, then becoming smooth and creamy and tart towards the end. It’s a very flavorful cup of coffee with notes of vanilla, nougat, cacao, pear, plum, and tangerine.

I can’t wait to try some of the other coffees they’re currently roasting.

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