I know everybody my age says that at some point or another, but I really want to move to Portland, Oregon. There’s a weird, mesmerizing, mystical aura about the city that seems to attract a lot of fascination and infatuation from twentysomethings.There’s a sort of mystery shrouded in the rain and the fog of the Pacific Northwest, and it’s captivated the imaginations of a lot of people.
This imaginary love affair my generation has with the city could be attributed to the IFC show, Portlandia; it could go back even further, to the release of the Donald Miller memoir, Blue Like Jazz (this book is what sparked my intrigue); but it’s most likely attributed to the fact that Portland, Oregon is home to some of the best coffee roasters in the country.
And, of course, you can’t talk about Portland coffee roasters without mentioning Heart Coffee Roasters – one of Portland’s premier specialty coffee roasters and, I just learned, the official coffee supplier of this year’s World Aeropress Championship (and many congratulations are in order for that honor).
Ready to discover the coffee Heart of Portland? Feel free to pull up a chair.
Today’s coffee, Los Pijaos de Tolima, comes to us from Herrera, a tiny village in southern Tolima, Colombia. This coffee is named for the Pijaos – a loose federation of indigenous peoples who live in the region of Tolima and other surrounding territories. In pre-Colombian times, they inhabited the Central Mountain Range of the Andes, between the snowy mountains of Huila, Tolima and Quindio, the upper valley of Magdalena River and the upper Valle del Cauca in Colombia. Los Pijaos is also the nickname for the Desportes Tolima soccer team.
Nowadays, this area is inhabited by coffee plantations and cooperatives. One such coop is the Asociacion De Caficultores Especiales Del Alto Saldana (or, ASOCEAS) Cooperative.
This coffee represents the combined efforts of small holder farmers who belong to the ASOCEAS Cooperative in Herrera. Each member’s finished product is delivered to a local buying warehouse where it is carefully considered for purchase. Arriving lots are kept separate and evaluated to determine quality, and to identify the individual characteristics of each coffee. Some producers’ lots remain separate and some are blended together. In the case of the Los Pijaos de Tolima, a number of producers’ coffees were blended together, each lending a unique quality to the overall cup profile.
Origin: Herrera, Tolima, Colombia
Farm: ASOCEAS Cooperative
Elevation: 1500-1600 meters above sea level
Cultivars: Bourbon, Caturra, Typica
Process: washed, patio dried
Los Pijaos de Tolima starts off with a wonderfully pleasant aroma. It has elements of dried fruit (raisin, currant, and cranberry) and a hint of nuttiness (almond), sitting atop a bed of floral aromatics (lilac and hibiscus).
Immediately post-brew, the dried fruits that were so present in the aroma are even more present in the flavor. I’m no foodie, but I think that the primary difference in flavor between a raisin and a currant is that currants are sweeter – if that’s the case, the currant flavor in this coffee takes a few steps back to let the raisin flavor come out a bit more. However, mixed in with the dried fruits is the juiciness of plum and crispness of a pear or apple.
As the cup cools, however, the dried fruits suddenly come back to life, bursting with life and freshness. The cranberry tastes like it’s fresh on the vine, the currant does whatever a currant does when it’s not dry, and the raisin morphs into a very fresh, very juicy red grape. In its lukewarm state, this coffee becomes almost red winy. Now, I’m a coffee reviewer, not a wine reviewer, so I don’t know exactly to which red wine I can liken this coffee, but it almost reminds me of a Zinfandel. It’s not as bitter as a Merlot or Pinot Noir, it’s not as fruity, bright, and light-bodied as a rouge or blush, not as spicy as Shiraz, and not as intense as a Cabernet Sauvignon.
It’s medium-bodied, sweet, has a bright, but balanced raspberry acidity, has a syrupy or jammy mouthfeel, and just a hint of a citrus zest that tingles the back throat after each swallow.
the bottom line:
When I posted my review of CREMA’s Colombia El Pital last week, my coffee-blogging compatriot Michael Crimmins (of Daily Shot of Coffee) commented, “I’ve had some really great Colombias over the past six months or so. They’re not my Dads Colombias, that’s for sure.”
That is for sure.
The Colombian coffee of twenty, ten, hell, even five years ago is not at all today’s Colombian coffee. So many significant strides have been made at the farm level since specialty coffee started to really take off and the efforts really show in the cup. Colombian coffee used to be regarded as “just plain old coffee” and it was dirt cheap, so companies like Folgers and Hills Brothers were the ones buying it up. Nowadays, though, Colombian coffees are very highly regarded by the specialty coffee industry and by coffee connoisseurs.
This Colombia, for example, Heart Coffee Roasters‘ Colombia Los Pijaos de Tolima, is a sweet, complex coffee that continually evolves over the span of the cup’s life – it starts off sort of blase with a muffled raisin and cranberry sweetness, then shifts to a crisp and juicy pear and plum sweetness, then finishes off by bursting with the flavors and sweetness of a lush red wine.
That being said, as impressive as Colombian coffee is and is still becoming, we of course still have to give credit where credit is due – to the Heart of Portland: Heart Coffee Roasters.
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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.