Big and boozy pineapple, banana, blueberry with a cocoa finish. This is all tropical fruits and florals.
Time for something a little special ladies and gents. Before you is a naturally processed (I'll come to that) Pacamara (that too), from the award winning Cafe Granja La Espreranza in the Valle Del Cauca, Colombia.
Why so special ? Well the Pacamara is an usual bean that is a hybrid cross between a Pacas and Maragogype varietal:
The Pacas varietal discovered by Fernando Alberto Pacas Figueroa in 1949 was identified as a natural 'spontaneous' mutation of the Bourbon varietal. In amongst his rows of coffee trees he found plants which were shorter, denser, and heavy with fruit. Their compact shape made them resistant to environmental challenges like heavy storms and the yield was up to 20% higher than the regular Bourbon on his estate. Naturally he was delighted by this development and propagated and planted this new tree across one section of the farm, giving it the nickname ‘San Rafael’. Flavour-wise it very much echoes it's parent Bourbon, sweet and well-rounded.
Maragogype has its origins in Brazil, and was another 'spontaneous' mutation from the Typica varietal. They are nicknamed “elephant beans”, almost everything about them is big, with tall trees, large leaves and huge cherries. The beans are enormous, the biggest of all known coffee cultivars, but this is offset by the fact that the yield is very low. Maragogypes are known for unique and beautiful flavours, with delicate aromas, complexity and balance.
The big Pacamara on the far right
The Salvadoran Institute of Coffee Research in 1958 as part of a wide-ranging experiment in creating new kinds of coffee trees, combined the sweetness of Pacas with the sophistication of Maragogype, and the resultant Pacamara surpasses both of its parents. The profile leans toward a medium body, with a rich creaminess, balanced with an elegant and fine acidity, particularly when grown at high elevations.
This particular lot from Las Margaritas has been processed fully-dried aka 'natural'. After meticulous picking and sorting the cherries are stored in silos for 48 hours which kick-starts the fermentation before a slow drying over 28 days. The dried coffee cherry is then hulled and stored 'in reposo' for a further three months to stabilise before export.
If you're a fan of naturals because of those heavy boozy characters then this is definitely one for you. The tropical fruits and florals are there in abundance along with that heavy boozy quality from the process. To borrow a phrase from a good coffee friend "It's a juicy banger".
Roasting my first Natural Pacamara
These are big and have a very porous/open cell structure requiring a very careful approach in the way the heat is applied. Add to that it’s a naturally processed ! I mentioned that I’d just bought my first natural Pacamara to a few fellow roasters recently and they just looked, smiled and wished me luck. I sent some samples of the first roasted batch out to a few of those roasters who had wished me luck and got the big thumbs up all around. Big thanks go out to Tom at Craft House Coffee for being a sounding board and his detailed feedback.
Pacas and Crankhouse
My first origin trip in 2016 was to El Salvador and I had the pleasure of being hosted at Finca Tuxpal by Federico Pacas, the great grandson of Fernando Alberto Pacas after which the Pacas varietal is named. He's a keen cyclist and I gave him one of the Crankhouse cycling caps. I met him again at this years World of Coffee in Amsterdam and asked if he still had it. He smiled and said that he uses it all the time when he's out riding.