Great Taste Awards 2021: Producer Focus
Mikava Distinctive Coffee, Colombia
With the recent announcement of the 2021 Great Taste Awards - the “Oscars” of the speciality food and drink industry curated by the Guild of Fine Food - we wanted to take an in depth look at some of the producers who’ve helped Dark Woods to achieve these top industry awards. It’s also worth remembering that these awards are not coffee specific, and have been judged by a leading panel of food and drink experts alongside similar artisan products like cheese, meats, bread and wine. So these coffees get to sit alongside the very best of the best that the UK, Ireland and beyond can offer.
Our direct relationship sourcing is critical to what we do at the roastery, and presents us with the opportunity to work alongside some of the finest coffee growers and producers. Some of these relationships have been forged over many years, some more recent and by coincidence, by for us we don’t just buy specialty green coffee “off list”, we work directly – at times with the help of sourcing and export partners – to explore the lots and micro-lots a producer can provide specifically for us, and that we can return each harvest and continue that relationship.
For us, it represents the opportunity to explore new aromas and flavours and help us to present some of the most complex, unusual and distinctive coffees within our overall range. Many of these single origin coffees are seasonal, varietal specific, and carry the signature of the local terroir and individual producers processing techniques where the coffee is grown and harvested.
With our blends, the sourcing, recipe choice and roast profile is fundamental in the final outcome of quality and flavour, but when we’re presenting single origin coffees that are often very small, hand-selected micro and nano-lots from farms such as Mikava and La Huella, we want to shine the spotlight on the producers of the coffee and their hard-working teams because we their impact is fundamental to how the final coffee tastes.
Mikava Estates, founded in 2013, is owned and operated by Paul Kevin Doyle, an American who progressed from running a coffee cart, to a café and roastery in the Pacific Northwest before turning his attention to coffee production in Colombia. With support from his son Kevin, they decided to buy a beautiful coffee farm in Marsella in the Risaralda region, and to focus on the finest, quality driven arabica varietals, processed using modern techniques. Inspired by techniques from the wine industry, particularly carbonic maceration, they experimented with these methods to bring out more sweetness, complexity, fruit and floral notes in the coffee.
They grow a number of Arabica coffee varietals on their two farms, including the heirloom Red Bourbon and varietals sourced from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, and also the celebrated Gesha (also known as Geisha) Arabica. A low yielding, tricky coffee plant to grow, and preferring high altitudes, it nonetheless delivers high sugar content and complexity in the cup, with big floral and citrus flavours – so it’s very much worth the extra efforts involved. It’s also perfect for complex processing of the coffee cherries, helping to create layers of flavours that complement the natural character of this coffee varietal.
Colombia Mikava 100% Gesha, Carbonic Maceration Natural (“SASD” lot)
3 Star Great Taste Award 2021
Great Taste judges’ comments:
“There is an instant intensity of tropical fruit flavours. A complex and refined filter coffee that delivers on every level. Intense, slightly jammy, and full of vibrancy.”
These small preparation lots from Mikava’s Santuario farm in Risaralda – situated at a lofty 2000m – are 100% Gesha Arabica, and undergo an extended, carbonic maceration process (within stainless steel tanks, flooded with carbon dioxide) on the whole coffee cherries, to bring out juicy and intense flavours, prior to drying. A high sugar content within the ripe coffee cherries helps the natural yeasts to feed slowly, and the minimisation of oxygen reduces the ability of bacteria to create any damage or off flavours.
A slow drying on marquesinas (multilevel solar dryers), with drying taking up to 60 days in total before reaching the desired humidity, again helps to drive and to protect the quality and flavour characteristics in the beans.
The Great Taste entry was an experimental variation on this, known as “EF SASD”, and this process development seems to have helped generate even further fruitiness and complexity in the coffee. Extended Fermentation Solar Aerobic Slow Dry (EF SASD): these coffees undertake more than 400 fermentation hours in tanks sealed with CO2, and are again temperature and PH monitored, with very long, slow drying on raised beds in a multilevel solar dryer system.
In 2019, Mikava won the Colombia Cup of Excellence competition – these are one of the world’s most celebrated events for coffee producers - with a Gesha coffee from their Santuario farm, and with a record points score. Considering the level of competition in the Colombian CoE, this was a stunning achievement, and they have gone on to win various coffee competitions, and be the choice for baristas entering global events.
Mikava Santuario, Risaralda
Finca Santuario lies at 2000m on an adjacent divide of the Andes, across the valley from Finca Marsella. We were introduced to Paul’s coffees in 2020 by Roger Zapata of Los Cafes Del Arriero, and we released small batches of Marsella Red Bourbon and Santuario Gesha to incredible customer feedback.
“On an adjacent divide of the Andes range, viewable from the farm in Marsella across the valley, Finca Santuario is located at base of the East face of Tatamá National Natural Park. A mountain reserve located in the transition zone between the Andes and the Colombian Biogeographic Pacific Area.
Below the temperate cloud forest of Tatamá, finca Santuario produces 6 hectares of Gesha and a small plot of Ethiopian heirloom varietals at elevation ranges between 1940 – 2000 meters above sea level.
At higher altitudes and cooler temperatures, we’re able to process and ferment these coffee cherries for prolonged periods of time that helps us develop delicate and complex flavours.
Noe, the majordomo (manager), has been managing this farm for over a decade, and has seen this farm develop and transform through the vision that Paul brought with him. Noe and Paul together planted each coffee tree and began replanting shade trees beneficial for coffee. He and his wife Nena, look after the farm and the full-time staff who pick coffee year-round.”