Third Coast Coffee Special Snowflake
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Third Coast Coffee has been on the Table’s radar for at least a couple years now, but it’s never really worked out. Since this time of year is the season of giving, though, the folks at Third Coast gifted me with their brand new holiday blend, Special Snowflake.

sol y cafe peru

Cooperativa de Servicios Multiples Sol y Café Ltda (Coop Sol y Café) was established in March of 2008, in the San Ignacio and Jaen regions of Cajamarca in Peru, to unite over 1,000 farmers (ten percent of whom are female), including rice and cacao producers. Comprised of 59 local organizations, the co-op was formed to collectively make agronomic and economic decisions, to construct new, creative marketing tactics, to protect the environment, and to help the communities and the families develop and progress. The members of Coop Sol y Café continue to work towards sustainable development for the future.

permato gayo sumatra

Permata Gayo was founded in 2006 in the Bener Meriah district of the Aceh Province in Sumatra, Indonesia.  Cooperative Coffees began importing coffee from Permata in 2009.  The characteristics of the coffee include a rich, leathery, and earthy body with a hint of dark caramel.

After picking the cherries from the trees, the farmer members of Permata Gayo sell the cherries to intermediaries, called “collectors.” These men, who are also farmers themselves, occupy a chief-like position in the local farming community and become the de facto “collectors” – though they and the coop claim it is an “elected” position. The collectors de-pulp, ferment, wash, and dry the parchment down to 40% moisture-content. The parchment is then brought to private hulling centers where it is dried to 18% moisture-content (asalan coffee) after which it is sold to the coop from the collector, at a mark-up that he benefits from. Permata Gayo stores the asalan coffee in a rented warehouse until it is loaded onto a truck and shipped to the dry processing plant (the final step before exportation) in Medan.

Unfortunately, this system of collection not only adds cost to the coop; it also prevents the farmers from establishing a better, more direct connection with the coop to which they belong since they never actually come into contact with anyone directly linked to the coop.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Special Snowflake Holiday Blend, from Third Coast Coffee Roasting Company in Austin, Texas. Feel free to pull up a chair.

the basics:

origin: Jaen, Cajamarca, Peru // Bener Meriah, Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia
farm: N/A // N/A
producer(s): smallholder farmers // smallholder farmers
assocation: Sol y Café Cooperative // Permata Gayo Cooperative
elevation: 950 – 2050 //  1200 – 1650  meters above sea level
cultivars: Typica, Caturra, Pache, Mundo Novo, Bourbon, Catuai, Catimor // Ateng, Linie S., Bor Bor
process: natural // semi-washed, patio dried
certifications: Fair Trade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance // Fair Trade, Organic

the coffee:

The aroma coming off of the Special Snowflake is certainly unique. There’s an element to it that I can’t quite put my finger on—it’s like a musty floral scent which, combined with the roasted nuts and red fruits, is a scent that I just can’t identify.

Immediately post-brew, I’m struck by how much of the spotlight the Sumatra component of the blend is taking up—I’m sure the darkness of the roast is contributing to that profile, too. This coffee is roasty, and has an abrasive and grainy, full-bodied profile that has dominant flavors of earth, cedar, lots of hot spices (clove, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg), raw cocoa nibs, and burnt caramel souffle.

As it cools, however, even though the flavors up front don’t go away, more palatable fruit notes bubble up. The coffee has just enough sweetness and flavor variation to keep me engaged now that the natural Peruvian component is coming through. Raisin, cranberry, cantaloupe, honeydew, plum, apple, and a sprinkling of roasted nuts that show up in the finish, leaving behind a bit of an astringency.

full body; grainy mouthfeel; melon acidity; slightly dry finish

the bottom line:

This is the one time of year that I forgive a little bit of roastiness in a coffee, which this coffee certainly has; although, even with surface oils on the beans, this holiday blend isn’t too far gone. But it’s pretty darn close to going on my Holiday Coffee Naughty List.

The Special Snowflake Holiday Blend, from Third Coast Coffee Roasting Company, suffers from one of two things: the heavy reliance on Sumatra, or the dark roast. It could very well be suffering from both things simultaneously. However, while the Special Snowflake is a little too roasty and the musty, earthy, spicy Sumatra is too dominant, the sweetness of the natural Peru saves the day in the finish.

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