Like many of you I'm starting the year with the very best intentions; I'll be temporarily ditching the booze, refraining from eating cheese directly from the packet, lacing up my old running shoes and cultivating a zen-like detachment to be deployed exclusively whenever a lorry overtakes another lorry and spends the next 20 minutes inching painfully past it at 61 mph. Now I don't have a good track record with sticking to resolutions and I certainly can't help you get thinner, richer, wiser or more organised but if on the off-chance you have your heart set on drinking better and more interesting coffee in 2019 then I may have just the thing.
Without further ado, I'm delighted to present our Jan-Feb Single Estate List. All coffees available now from our webshop
1. Panama Kotowa Don K 100% Caturra Natural
Filter - Sour cherry, forest fruits, violets, medium body
The Kotowa farms (which include Finca Don K – where this coffee was grown) were named by Alexander Duncan MacIntyre, a Canadian who settled in the Boquete region in 1918. Inspired by the high, cool climate of the area, he used the name ‘Kotowa,’ meaning "mountain" in the local Ngobe language, to designate the land that currently composes the Kotowa estate. For the people that work on the farm, Kotowa provides free medical attention, a school program, and a pre-school program – the latter two of which provide meals to the attending children. These social programs have earned Kotowa Farm recognition from UNICEF nine years in a row.
Volcanic soils and excellent processing lend this coffee sweetness and elegance that make it a regular seasonal favourite at Dark Woods. In the cup we find delicious aromas of macerated red fruit, sweet balsamic and hints of guava. There is also a refreshing sour cherry acidity and a subtle note of violets which remind me of light bodied young red wines such as Pinot Noir. This is a bright and elegant natural coffee that provides an interesting counterpoint to the more conventional washed Panama also on our list.
2. Panama Finca Lerida 100% Catuai Washed
Filter – Stewed apple, lemon zest, raisin, maple syrup
This delicious coffee hails from the world-famous Finca Lérida – the very first coffee plantation ever established in Panama and still renowned today as producing some of the best and most desirable coffees in the world. Though not perhaps as complex and characterful as the Kotowa Natural it is nonetheless a tasty and rewarding coffee worthy of your attention.
On brewing I enjoyed some really sweet and enticing aromas of stewed apple and bread and butter pudding and on drinking I was pleased to find much of this translated to the cup. Lots of sweetness, a gentle apple acidity, lots of raisiny sweetness and a hint of lemon zest make this a really pleasant and balanced coffee. A really good choice for those who enjoy bright and juicy coffees with moderate acidity and plenty of sweetness.
3. Brazil Fazenda Cachoeira 100% Catuai Fermented Natural
Filter – Cox apple, mulled wine, candied pecan, intense!
Espresso – Kirsch, dark chocolate, candied nuts, winey (banana flumps/strawberry cream in milk)
More often than not we have to work hard to find exceptional coffee. Either by tasting countless roasted samples at the roastery or by travelling to origin, our buyer Damian rarely has the good stuff just fall into his lap. This outstanding and unusual natural coffee from Brazil is the rare exception in that it was waiting for him early one morning when he came into work. Sat on the doorstep of our roastery was a family friend of the farmers at Fazenda Cachoiera and amongst his samples was this coffee…
Coffee processing is undergoing a period of experimentation as more money moves through the speciality supply chain and farmers work increasingly closely with end users to explore wild new variations on traditional techniques. This extended natural process allows a degree of additional controlled fermentation to occur, driving a profound fruit complexity that I’ve never experienced in Brazillian coffee before.
4. El Salvador San Jose Lot Cup of Excellence 100% Pacamara Washed
Filter – Raspberry, Elderberry, vanilla, herbal
Espresso – Forest fruits, cane sugar, lime, juicy
Cup of Excellence competitions exist to showcase the very best of a country’s coffees and featured coffees must score a minimum of 85 points out of a possible 100 to be ranked. This beautiful lot scored an impressive 88 and ranked 13th which makes it technically one of the “best” coffees we’ve ever bought. It’s also for me, one of the tastiest.
With aromas of raspberry, vanilla, rhubarb and shortbread biscuits this coffee reminds me, unseasonably as it happens, of delicious summer puddings. The cup is exploding with bright berry flavours with strong notes of elderberry, cranberry, lime and vanilla all undercut with a hard-to-place herbal quality that is characteristic of good Pacamara. It is full-bodied, full-flavoured and extremely complex, so much so that it took a few cups for me to take it all in. I really love this coffee and I think you will too.
5. Ecuador Pedro Giron ML Washed
Details to follow*
6. Colombia - Veracruz Estate, Extended Fermentation
Details to follow*
*Our busy pre-Christmas period and a few shipping delays prohibited a full appraisal of these two coffees. They are available to order and I'll update on my tasting notes as soon as roasted samples appear on my desk!