Yes it's back. One of our favourite Colombian decafs sourced by Raw Material as part of their ongoing Red Associations project in Colombia. You'll probably notice that we have had 'caffeine' coffees from Villamaria in the Caldas region where Raw Material have built a mill and provide extensive community support. They run a similar project in the Pitalito region, building drying bed facilities and QC infrastructure at the community central hub. Through a new payment system they also provide stable prices that result in 2.5 times the average household income, compared to previous seasons. El Carmen provides stable and sustainable prices for a producer through a connection to the specialty market, improved quality control, and shared knowledge across the value chain.
It is decaffeinated using Ethel Acetate, a natural by-product of fermented sugar-cane, which bonds with the soluble caffeine compounds in the coffee and allows them to be stripped from the green beans. Not every coffee holds up in the decaffeination process, and not all processes are created equal. Raw Material carefully select the coffees they send for decaffeination, and partner closely with their decaffeination processors to ensure high quality standards.
For many years, Colombia was the number-one world producer of washed coffees, and the second-largest producer to Brazil. In 2000, Colombia was surpassed by Vietnam, and then the rust infestation of 2008 set them back significantly. Today they are currently in the top five of coffee production with roughly 10 million bags per year.
Colombian coffees are commonly known to be big, rich, chocolaty coffees with exceptional fragrance and often great acidity. Colombia has many diverse growing regions, so the coffee varies mildly from region to region. Tropical fruit, vanilla, caramel, and chocolate are common adjectives. More intense acidity and bigger velvety body are variations you might find going from south to north as well.
The Sugar Cane EA Decaffeination method:
In brief it's a natural method of decaffeination and starts by fermenting molasses derived from sugar cane to create ethanol. This alcohol is then mixed with acetic acid, which you'd find in vinegar, to create the compound ethyl acetate. In Colombia, where a lot of sugar cane is grown, it makes sense to use this naturally occurring solvent to complement their thriving coffee growing/processing industry. E.A. may sound scary, but you find it in wine, beer, fruit, vegetables, and other food and beverages.
The actual process requires the coffee to be first 'steamed' to open up its pores. Next, the E.A. is applied via water, which dissolves the caffeine in the green coffee. Then the caffeine is separated and filtered from the tank. Finally, the now-decaffeinated seeds are steamed again to remove any residual E.A. before being dried and shipped. This method avoids excessive heat or pressure, which can radically disrupt green coffees cellular structure.