Small is Beautiful (and delicious)

Jan 10, 2019

We start 2019 with a couple of new components in our Seasonal Espresso Blend. I have always enjoyed the extra interest an African coffee can bring to our blends and was therefore extremely pleased to acquire Galana Abaya Tore from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia. We have teamed this up with Machetillo from the San Ignacio region of Peru. The coffees in this blend have come entirely from small holding farmers, who either supply a regional mill or work together with the support of a growers association.

Parchment drying on raised African beds, Galana Abaya Tore

The physical roasting and brewing of a coffee represents such a small part of the overall supply chain. It is all too easy to forget how much effort goes into production and exporting the coffee. Hopefully the snapshot below will give some indication of the effort required to produce your daily cup of coffee.

Galana Abaya Tore, Ethiopia

Coffee headed to the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, Galana Abaya Tore

This coffee bears the name of the village where it was grown (Galana) and the washing station where it was processed (Tore). Between 750 and 800 small holding farmers supply the Tore Washing Station, a small fraction of the some 43,794 producers who live in the Yirgacheffe region. Tore washing station is operated by Testi Coffee who operate with the aim of securing the very best prices for their coffee so that they can pay fair prices for the cherry delivered.

Sorting the coffee beans, Galana Abaya Tore

There is only one main harvest a year in Ethiopia – this usually takes place in November and December across all of the country’s growing regions. There are, on average, 4 passes made during the harvest period, and, in regions that produce both washed and naturals, the last pass is used for the natural coffee. Washed coffees are then generally pulped on the same day that they are picked (usually in the evening/night), sorted into three grades by weight (heavy, medium and floaters), fermented (times vary – usually between 16 and 48 hours), washed and then usually graded again in the washing channels. The beans are then dried on African beds, where they are hand-sorted, usually by women.

Machetillo, Peru

This community lot was produced by various smallholder farmers all of whom reside in or near the small town of Machetillo in the San Ignacio province of Cajamarca, Peru. Residents of this small hamlet high in the mountains produce very high quality coffee but have very little farm land. It is by working together and through their membership with the Santuario Association of Coffee Producers (Asociación De Productores Cafetaleros El Santuario) that they are able to reach global markets for speciality coffee.

Machetillo, Peru

All the farmers use the same strict harvest and processing methods so as to insure that the natural potential of their coffee is maintained. During the harvest, coffee is selectively handpicked with only the ripest cherries being harvested at each pass. These cherries are then hand-sorted to ensure no underripe or damaged cherries make it into the fermentation tanks.

Harvest Time, Machetillo

The coffee is pulped on the same day that it is picked using a mechanical pulper, located on the farm itself. After pulping, it will then ferment in a tin or cement tank for up to 30 to 40 hours (depending on ambient temperature, which is very cool at this altitude) before being washed clean in pure water. The coffee will then be delivered briefly to patios or tarpaulins for pre-drying for around 2-3 hours.

Many of the producers have constructed raised ‘African’ beds for drying, and the clean parchment will shortly be moved from the patios to be finished on these or on Solares (raised drying sheds). Here, the parchment is turned regularly for 20 to 25 days until humidity reaches 11.5-12% humidity.

The Blend

We’ve used 64% Machetillo to 36% Galana Abaya Tore in this blend. Despite the inclusion of an Ethiopian coffee, this blend has a mild acidity. We picked out flavours of plum and raisin with some floral tones evident at the front end. The espresso is particularly good with milk.