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May 2011 Cupping Update

It’s an exciting time in the Stumptown cupping lab, as we’re finally receiving some of the coffees that we spent the better part of the winter working on and cupping through. Many are familiar, such as Honduras El Puente, Guatemala El Injerto, and Costa Rica Torres Villalobos. Others are brand new, or at least less familiar, like Ethiopia Duromina, Ethiopia Nano Challa, and Kenya Gatomboya. All of them are doing a great job of blowing minds around here.

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The Caballero family has done perhaps their best job ever with El Puente, producing yet another coffee full of malt chocolate, concord grape, and lavender. We visited Marysabel, Fabio and Moises in Marcala in February and were excited to see them experimenting with a post-fermentation soak, increasing the amino acids and protein content in the bean. It could be this or a modified storage technique that has lead to such a dramatically improved cup. After eight years of working with the Caballeros, it’s rewarding to see how committed they are to improving their coffee year after year. It’s even more rewarding to share those successes with you.

Meanwhile, El Injerto in Huehuetenango, Guatemala has bounced back from last year’s diminutive crop with another stunner. We are always happy, but rarely surprised, as the practices and execution at El Injerto are truly second to none. The equation stands: amazing land husbandry plus awesome cherry selection plus impeccable processing plus skilled drying does equal spectacular coffee. This year’s lot is like chocolate pudding with notes of jasmine, toasted almonds, meyer lemon and plum.

If you liked last year’s Torres Villalobos, which would most succinctly be described as blackberry juice, you’ll go wild about this year’s lot. From the West Valley in Costa Rica, the Torres family produces an abundance of the Villalobos varietal–a spontaneous mutation from Typica that has been subsequently cultivated in Costa Rica and beyond. The varietal is shorter and tends to produce more abundantly than Typica, and also has a more intense cup profile that often leans floral and fruited. This year’s lot is even more floral and honeyed, but continues to display notes of black cherry, concord grape, and plenty of blackberry.

It would be a lie to say that there is not a particularly heightened exuberance for the first Kenya coffees of 2011. Every year the coffees from Kenya rank as staff favorites, and it’s hard to imagine that being any different this year: Gatomboya, brother cooperative to Gaturiri (Stumptown’s first Direct Trade coffee in Kenya is the first in a string of amazing Kenyans this year. Big and juicy, this coffee is ripe with blackcurrant, raisin and sweet citrus.

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Perhaps the most exciting new coffees for 2011 are those from Western Ethiopia, where Aleco has spent a lot of time in the last 9 months. For the first time ever, we’re tasting coffee from some of the oldest growing regions of Arabica. For years the Duromina and Nano Challa cooperatives were selling their sun-dried natural coffees to intermediaries that would blend the coffee with other coffee from the general area and sell it under a generic regional mark. Through financing, the cooperatives were able to acquire small washing stations, and have been producing some of the best tasting coffees in memory. Furthermore, the producers have been able to get paid the best prices they’ve ever received, and the pride of having their coffee marketed individually. Watch for the red fruits and asian pear in the Duromina, as well as a buttery, macadamia finish. In the Nano Challa expect candied orange and fresh ginger complementing honey notes.

This is only the beginning, too. There are many more coffees that we’re eagerly anticipating–more coffees from all of the countries above, as well as El Salvador, Panama, and Colombia. Those may give even these coffees a run for their money!

The Stumptown Cupping Lab