Tarqui Colombia Huila Microlot Passion HouseWhen I stopped by the Passion House roasting facility a couple weeks ago to chat with my friends Shannon Steele and Joshua Millman, they gave me a coffee  that they were in short supply of. But after they let me have a few sips, I had to have it. It’s unfortunately sold out now, but it was too good to not mention here.

Welcome to my table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are sipping Tarqui Colombia Huila Microlot II from Passion House Coffee Roasters in Chicago. Feel free to pull up a chair.

This coffee was produced by Coocentral, a cooperative in southern Huila in Colombia. Coocentral was started in 1975 with only 55 members; since then, with nearly 40 years of experience under their collective belt, the group has exploded to over 3,000 members. And wouldn’t you know it – they’re still growing.

Another part of this cooperative that is continually growing is their commitment to sustainability – for their workers, and for the environment.

One of the most important services that Coocentral offers to its farmers is a credit system during los meses flacos (or “the thin months”) between crop harvests – when farmers who live solely by their coffee output don’t have money coming in. When the money they are paid for their harvest runs out, they have no choice but to wait until next harvest. In swoops Coocentral, who provides this credit system for farmers to utilize during this time to feed, clothe, educate, and medically attend to their families. Thanks to many private buyers who pay well above any minimums and market levels,during the harvest season, farmers make sufficient money to pay back their accumulated debts and still have enough left over to support their families.

Coocentral funds a wide variety of programs and support systems. Of the income made from coffee, a portion goes directly to a fund to support wives and children, a portion to the coop, which is put back into these projects and community improvements, a portion in cash to the producer, and the remainder is put into a personal savings account for the farmer to save. For full members, the coop also covers 100% of the family’s health insurance premiums and 50% for partial members.

As I wrote before, Coocentral is also committed to the environment.

When the farmers process their harvests, the farmers utilize the washing process for about 70% of their coffee, and “eco-pulping” for the remainder. Eco-pulping is an environmentally-friendly practice that uses only 2% of the water necessary for a full wash. After this processing, the beans are then dried with a solar drier. This relatively new method of drying coffees is more economically sound than mechanical coffee dryers because they don’t rely on fossil fuels or electricity. They are also more efficient than patio drying because their hotter drying temperatures dry coffee beans at a faster rate.

This quick turnaround is beneficial for the environment, and beneficial for the farmers.

the basics:

origin: Tarqui, Huila, Colombia
farm: COOCENTRAL
elevation: 1720 meters above sea level
cultivars: Catuai, Bourbon
process: washed, eco-pulped, solar dried
certifications: standard

the coffee:

The Tarqui has a sweet, very pleasant aroma that features fruits, spices, and flowers. I’m getting strawberry and coconut, maybe even a dash of melon? There’s also a faintness of rose hips.

The flavor is equally as sweet. Immediately post brew, my palate is greeted with a full-bodied bed of raw cocoa and caramel. Pushing its way in behind it is a rush of juicy blood orange,washing everything down and making my taste buds stand at attention. As the cup cools, the cocoa is subsiding a bit, while the caramel becomes more emphasized. There’s also a salty cashew nuttiness mixed in there that allows a coconut and cantaloupe sweetness and tart strawberry acidity to stand out. This coffee has a really nice creamy, milky mouthfeel that coats the whole palate, and it finishes cleanly with a lemony zest and a tart strawberry sweetness.

Medium body; sweet, creamy mouthfeel; zesty acidity; sparkling, clean finish.

the bottom line:

I really loved this coffee, and it’s such a shame that it is completely sold out. But, like I said, it was just too good to not write about. It was so sweet and full-bodied; a very calming and relaxing cup of coffee that had just enough flavor to save it from being too calming and relaxing.

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