Every now and then, a coffee comes about that sets all of the Internet’s social media networks a twitter; and on the Internet, word gets around fast. It didn’t take long for me to stumble upon the praises of today’s coffee – people yelping for joy! – once I unburied my face from the book I’m reading; and when I read it, the coffee immediately pinned my interest.
Today’s coffee is one that I’ve been reading about for about a month now. Several high-profile roasters around the country are carrying this coffee currently, and a few of my coffee blogging friends, including The Coffee Adventures and Snob Coffery, have already gotten the opportunity to try it. Thanks to Mark Barany, a roastmaster in Seattle, who sent a package of it to me last week, now it’s my turn to take it for a spin.
Welcome to my table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are going to sip Guatemala Bella Carmona from Kuma Coffee. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Guatemala Bella Carmona, named after the Hacienda Carmona estate that produces it, comes from the heart of Guatemala’s Antigua Valley – one of the most beautiful and best-preserved colonial cities in the world. Besides its beauty and rich history, Antigua is also one of the best-known coffee production areas in Guatemala.
The farm dates back to the late 1800’s, but didn’t feature coffee until the Zelaya family purchased it in 1908; the same family still owns it to this day. A hundred and four years and four generations later, Luis Pedro Zelaya Zemora is now running the operation and has transformed the crops into one of the most delicious and celebrated coffees in all of Guatemala.
Hacienda Carmona is blessed with a unique micro-climate in the Antigua valley, as well as plenty of hillside sunlight exposure and well-draining volcanic soils. But high quality coffee is almost just as much of a result of hard work and dedication as it is of great environmental conditions. The Zelaya family is fiercely dedicated to their 100-hectare farm and has even built a beautiful coffee mill where they process their coffee themselves. The Zelaya family is also very concerned about ecological stability – all of their coffee is grown in sustainable and environmentally friendly systems. Not only all of the coffee is shade grown, but special efforts are being done in developing ecofriendly wet mills
Bella Carmona is a trademark in Guatemala, being renown for its quality for decades and having been awarded several prizes in their long history.
Like I said, this particular coffee has been getting a lot of press lately; let’s see what all the hype is about.
origin: Antigua, Guatemala
farm: Hacienda Carmona
elevation: 1500-1700 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon, Typica
process: fully washed, patio dried
certifications: shade grown
The aroma of the Guatemala Bella Carmona is truly swoon-worthy. Heavy scents of dark chocolate cake batter, a pinch of nuttiness, with just a bit of floral playfulness mingled in – rose hips and orange blossoms.
I have prepared this coffee three different ways – with my Chemex, my Hario V60, and my Clever. Immediately post-brew, each of these cups is already not like the others. The Chemex and the Clever are similar, but the V60 is almost totally different.
The V60: In this cup, while it’s still hot, it tastes a lot like a slice of Portillo’s chocolate cake. What’s that? You’re not from Chicago and thus haven’t been blessed with the experience of a Portillo’s chocolate cake? Well, to what can I liken this coffee then – a fudge nut brownie. It has a big, bold, and forward chocolate flavor with a very subtle dash of almond. I say subtle because, while I can taste it, I don’t want to commit to stating that it’s a nutty coffee. As it cools off, I tangerine acidity makes an appearance. Finally, at room temperature, this coffee becomes almost entirely different. A light and delicate white tea flavor comes out and the coffee becomes suddenly floral and fruity – the white tea, the rosiness, the citrus, and just a dash of pear and lemon.
The Chemex: In this cup, the tea-like delicacy and lightness make their appearance first, and it’s accompanied by a rose hip floral play. Again, though, as the cup cools off, a citrus acidity starts to show up; this time, though, instead of a tangy tangerine, the citrus is more like a blood orange – bold, juicy, and sweet. Then, at room temperature, a bed of raw cocoa, salted caramel, and brown sugar finishes the cup off.
The Clever: In this cup, again, the tea-like delicacy and lightness make their appearance first, but without the floral aromatics accompanying it. As the cup cools off a bit, the citrus acidity comes out – instead of oranges, though, the citrus is more like a zesty lemon; citric, but also a little zesty and sour. Then again, at room temperature, the chocolate that was so prevalent in the aroma and the V60 cup is thicker, more full-bodied, more pronounced; it also has a buttery sweetness and mouthfeel
Full body; light, buttery mouthfeel; orange citrus acidity; dry finish.
the bottom line:
When Mark Barany, owner and roastmaster of Kuma Coffee, offered to send me two packages of his coffee for review, I had no idea that he was going to send me two that were so incredible. The Sumatra Tano Batak (which I reviewed yesterday) was easily one of the best I’ve had so far this year, and today’s Guatemala Bella Carmona is certainly right up there with it.
I can’t get over how rich and decadent this coffee is – after each sip, I caught myself wanting to lick icing off my fingers. It’s a heavy coffee that is reminiscent of chocolate cake and tangerine, but also possesses the lightness and delicacy of rose hips and white tea. What I found most interesting about it is, the first couple times I brewed it, it tasted heavily of chocolate, butter, and brown sugar then cooled off to white tea and citrus acidity; after about a week, with two different brewers, it tasted heavily of white tea and citrus then cooled off to chocolate, butter, and brown sugar. The tasting notes were the same, but reversed.
Regardless, though, it’s definitely worth checking out – certainly worth all of the hype. It will challenge your taste buds just as much as it will please them.
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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.