In the Shades of South America

In the Shades of South America

Fifteen coffees, fifteen roasters one box. 

Not our biggest project and not our tightest timeframe, how hard can it be?

The brief: Put together the Antithesis of the Advent Calendar, the coffee tasters box we had proudly proclaimed would be no fifty shades of Colombia. 

It was upon reflection that we realised just how diverse the flavour profiles of Colombia had become. It had been a long time since we had sampled that classic citrus acidity we used to associate with the South American country. 

Colombia, in our eyes had become the hotbed of innovation and experimentation for the coffee industry. 

While I won’t speculate on the catalyst for such a pioneering change, I can’t help but notice that the knowledge sharing from groups such as Cofinet and Raw Material (amongst others) of experiments undertaken at their own farms are being shared with small producers, this in turn seeing more availability of what have been termed experimental processes. 

To give some perspective, its only in the past few weeks that I’ve encountered the likes of anaerobic processed coffee from Guatemala (being fortunate enough to sample, thanks Toasted Coffee roasters) and read about Rwanda producing Anaerobic lots, a country that until recent years was forbidden to produce for export anything other than washed processed coffees. Furthermore, the first Micro lot auctions of rare varieties taken from Colombia to Rwanda (Raw Material) are happening as we speak. Further evidence to the idea that Colombia is the tree of life to the future evolution of specialty coffee.

With the abundance of South American coffees available in New Zealand, one would summarise that getting 15 different offerings on the table at once would be a doddle. How wrong we were. 

It is often reported in the media about shipping and supply issues within the global coffee industry, influenced by everything from political unrest, to natural disaster and of course, the global pandemic. But since we’ve never walked into our local roaster to find the cupboard bare, we find ourselves removed form the challenges faced by earlier actors in the supply chain. 

Fifteen Shades was our shake up into the reality of all of the above. The best of information, intention, planning and partnerships still left us exposed to derailments resulting from every single aforementioned issue. The result saw multiple line up changes, delays and leg work by everyone involved. We are ever so grateful to the patient coffee importers who willingly supply us with background information and photos, throughout our lineup changes, despite of not actually being a direct customer. 

One such coffee that had to swap out due to shipping delays was one that we wanted the most because it perfectly frames everything we’ve said above. 

Thermal stroke processed. 

Yes, we have questions too. 

Cofinet explain, after careful selection, the ripest cherry are subjected to an anaerobic fermentation for 48 hours ahead of being mechanically dried at a temperature of 35 degrees celsius for 20 hours. Later the cherries are transferred to an anaerobic environment at a temperature of 70 degrees for 20 hours, with the drying process being completed on concrete patios.

Visually, the result is a green (unroasted) bean that looks like it has been roasted according to Hugo of Cofinet NZ. While we didn’t get our hands on some roasted beans thanks to Jason and the Vanguard Coffee Co team.

First cup of the Thermal stroke. V60. Very smooth profile with ample body. 

Cherry forward notes with tones of strawberry and darker berries following behind providing a subtle sharpness that I’ve come to find in anaerobic fermentations providing a very pleasant tart note. 

This coffee was one we were grateful to experience, we have been informed that it is highly unlikely to be replicated or returned to New Zealand, it was a privilege that we are able to experience such experimental rarities.

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Posted: Wednesday 25 May 2022


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