Pichincha Ecuador

I am excited to be roasting another years harvest from Gilda Carrascal, my fourth straight year. Every year I get the pleasure of developing this Pacamara from Ecuador. Pacamara, a hybrid seed variety of the Pacas and Maragogype strains from El Salvador, is a dynamic coffee that is rarely grown in South America. It wins award after award in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, so seeing it flourish in a new terroir is innovative and unique.  This varietal has such a wide ranging flavor profile, that the complexity alone forces you into a place of contemplation and pleasure. Gilda owns and operates a 7 hectare farm at 1650 - 1700 masl in Las Tolas de Pichincha, where a break in the clouds provide adequate exposure of sunlight for optimum coffee production to flourish. Processing is very clean and simple here - manual depulping, fermentation in plastic buckets, washing in clean buckets and drying on raised beds. I have roasted every harvest she has exported and here in year four the output has entered the plants prime. This coffee is a true beauty. 

You’ll first find rich honeys and chocolates jumping out of the bag. Pour water on it and apple blossom and papaya infused vanilla candy fill the air. Put it to your lips and you are met with an electric rain of tangelo, blood orange, and hints of mango. Clouds of chocolate mousse move in with flashes of lilac and sage. What’s remarkable is the softness of the body and smooth transition of focus of flavor. The aftertaste lingers with candied citrus and baking spices which entices you to continue drinking, even if your have to brew another cup. For the fourth year in a row, I have fallen in love with what Gilda does and what  is going on in the mountains of Ecuador.


For the second year in a row, we have the pleasure to enjoy a single producer lot from Santa Barbara. Although it may be one of the lowest income municipalities in Guatemala, it is beginning to be recognized as a standout micro region for specialty coffee. These producers grow less than one hectare of coffee which is often processed with a  more rustic approach. Pick ripe cherries, depulp into a wet fermentation lasting for 36 - 48 hours, rinse and scrub to clean, before being laid out on small patios to sun dry. Due to the cold nights and steep slopes in the mountains, the fermentation and drying times are extended to create their unique fruit forward profile. This enables the coffees to get to a stable point before making its difficult journey from the rural mountain village to the more centralized dry mills. Coffee this good helps promote lot separation as a way to isolate quality that deserve premiums and showcase the beautiful individuality of the distinct micro-climates of this region.

Driving southwest of Santa Barbara towards San Miguel Ixtahuacan, you’ll find a mountaintop road that zig zags you through an isolated rural farming area. Perched atop its peak, you’ll find Julian Gomez Sanchez at his farm doing the same things that his handful of neighbors are doing. It’s a rugged area that produces some beautiful coffees. Julian has planted with Bourbon, Caturra, and Pache that grows in heavy clay soil amongst the steep slopes of the Sierra Madre at elevations of 2100 masl.  Julian has produced around 1400lbs total this year on less than half an acre of coffee. 

This coffee is loud, strong, and here to assure you that everything is ok! It’s uncharacteristic for a fully washed coffee to possess such intensity of fresh fruit. Rainer cherry, pluot, peach, and raspberry jam instantly greet you with such lively sweetness. Through this you will fly on interwoven wings of honeycomb and chocolate wafer towards a nougat sun setting into the depths of bourbon whisky skies. This fruit juice sparkles forever. It’s clean, plump, and loud. I hope you’re listening.

Odo Shakiso is one of the oldest woredas in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia. Here you find nearly perfect conditions for coffee to flourish. Averaging elevation of 1850 masl, the canopied forest floors have thriving arabica coffee with great spacing and an upright growth pattern that presents textbook specimens. The filtered sunlight enables the plants’ fruit to ripen in unison. This gives you full branches of plump clusters of fully ripe cherry. Truly, coffee is meant to be grown here. I refer to the varietal as "Native Selection”, because each area prides itself on the taste of their land. The coffee that has been growing there for hundreds of years is replanted year after year to maintain this taste. This mineral rich soil has been producing beautiful gems for a very long time. Just as the Ethiopian flag presents the Red, Green and Gold, Shakiso’s treasures are Red Coffee Cherries, Ethiopian Emeralds, and a trillion dollars of annually mined gold from this jeweled region.

Such beauty comes with it’s costs. In 2000 & 2008, wildfires ravaged over 80,000 hectares of forrest destroying plantlife and displacing wildlife. Currently, Shakiso is protesting the mining industry. Government officials came and told the people of Shakiso that investors would come and develop the land alongside with them. They didn’t mention they would take away the land entirely. Once the mining investors came, nothing seemed to go as told. An official of the Oromia Environmental Protection and Forestry Bureau is one that voices opposition and asks to consider the environmental and social concerns that arise with the implementations of the mining operations without the consultation of the public. It seems like a simple request, "We don’t want the community harmed chemically.” The coffee industry represents the cultivation of a different gem with a healthy interaction with the land on which one lives. 

This Lot from Shakiso reminds me of the Ethiopia Opal, a soft white stone with radiant bright colors beaming from within. Grind the coffee and the aromatics of fruit blossoms and honeysuckle fill the air. Water only intensifies florals while meyer lemon candy, dried apricot, and peach marmalade begin to play. This coffee is soft and elegant. The texture and weight of an oolong tea, the roundness of milk chocolate and lemon shortbread, this coffee is completely infused with flowers and limeade and finishes with the refreshing delight of an afternoon glass of rosé. May this Ethiopian gem make you shine with satisfaction as it dazzles your imagination. You deserve it.