One of the things we love about our relationship with Luis Alberto Balladarez is his willingness to experiment with coffee processing. By "processing" we mainly mean the method the farmer uses to extract the seed from the coffee cherry and dry it.
Lately Luis has been having really good success processing his pacamara varietals as naturals or honey processed coffees. Pacamara is a hydrid varietal that crosses Pacas with Maragogype. The seeds tend to be very large, which, whgen done well mean they have the ability to communicate more complexity, which is the case here.
This particular lot of pacamara comes from his Finca La Bendicion, which is very beautiful and outside of the town of Jalapa in the Nueva Segovia department of Northern Nicaragua.
The honey process method of coffee originated in Costa Rica and has now become rather en vogue among forward thinking producers. The begin, the ripe coffee cherry is harvested, and the outer skin is immediately removed. Then, the remaining seed, covered in its pulp, is set out to dry on a raised mesh fiber bed - and in Luis' case, under a shade canopy (pictured below) During the day, workers sift through the drying coffee, breaking up clumps as they form (which can be sticky work), and making sure the coffee dries evenly. They also pick out shard of skin left behind from depulping. At night, the coffee is carefully covered up so that additional moisture from overnight dew does not accumulate on the drying coffee.
After about 14-21 days, the coffee is dried enough for the seed to be broken out of its parchment shell, and then rested for exportation.
Honey processing is very risky for the farmer as it exposes him to more risk than with traditional wet processing of coffee. If it should rain during the drying phase, or if the coffee does not dry evenly, mold can begin to grow, or fermentation can head in a negative direction and cause phenolic or vinegar type flavors to emerge in the coffee. Hence ruining the entire lot.
We are grateful that Luis is willing to take these risks so that we can enjoy amazing coffees like this beautiful pacamara honey.
In the Cup
Expect a coffee with a viscous body, and that majors on tropical fruit flavors, with notes of mango and honey being the most prominent.