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Thursday, 10 November 2011

Los Naranjos some background

Los Naranjos stands for the “Orange Trees” in Spanish. It also means hope for the 97 small coffee growers that are members of the AsociaciĆ³n Los Naranjos de San Agustin. Los Naranjos Relationship Coffee is grown by the members of this co-op of small coffee growers, which live in the vereda Los Naranjos, in the Municipality of San Agustin, south of the Department of Huila. One of the highlights of Los Naranjos Relationship Coffee is that it is grown is an area that sits very close to the archaeological ruins of San Agustin, which are remnants of a pre-Colombian culture that disappeared leaving only their burial sites as evidence of their existence.

The region has been blessed with some of the most fertile soils in Colombia lying in an area known as the “Macizo Colombiano” where the three branches of the Colombian Andes split. There are unique micro-climates and weather patterns that are the main componets of the terroir of the Los Naranjos Relationship Coffee.

The small coffee growers that belong to the Asociacion believe that by working together they can share knowledge on best growing practices, learning from each other and improving as a whole. The effort has paid off and the region has become a point of reference for high quality coffees. The 97 members of the Association have seen how their joint efforts towards producing better quality has generated international recognition (third place in SCAA Coffee of the Year competition in 2007 and first place in 2009) and better incomes for their families. This is the start of a beneficial cycle that will lead to improvements for the community.

Los Naranjos Relationship Coffee represents the very best of the local coffee flavour, highlighting fruits, flowers and honey in the acidity, combined with a medium body and a long aftertaste.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Is the best coffee 100% Arabica?

Recently I read a forum post asking what makes the best coffee. Asking whether or not the following are so important:
  • 100% Arabica -it is that important?
  • Where is it grown
  • Hand instead of machine picked beans
A number of people started going on about Robusta, and how they believe it is essential to coffee. Here are a few notes about this and the above:

Firstly I think it is important that I state that I only drink double espresso or espresso. There is a history of many cultures who up until the 1940's had limited access to hand-picked, highland and shade grow quality Arabica, and hence the cultural taste has been a lower quality Arabica (which are normally cross bred with Robusta varied breeds).

However it is a simple fact is that Arabica has 3 times more oil in it than Robusta. Crema is the measure of good extraction, and crema is oil. So if you want a good crema, which is where the flavour comes from, you need a good quality Arabica. And that normally means shade and highland grown, and hand-picked to makes sure it is at the proper ripeness. When machines pick coffees they are not sensitive to the ripeness of the coffee, and hence you get a mix of ripe and unripe in the bucket, meaning that the oils are not fully developed.
All this said the problem Arabica suffers from, is that it only produces great crema for the first 2-4 weeks (depending on roast level and origin) after roasting. So this does mean for standard retail based brands there is a dependence on Robusta to boost the body and the crema for coffees that are sold past this 2-4 week period.
I have heard this Robusta argument a number of times, but in then blind tastings we have run where we only use fresh roasted coffees I have never had someone select a coffee made with a Robusta Contingent as a favourite.