Every coffee harvest comes with its own surprises and opportunities, usually with variances in the local climate and resource availability as the main variables. With some coffee producers there is also a very powerful variable at play: human ingenuity and industriousness - the will to experiment and improve.
Each March we make a point of visiting the farmers of Café Orgánico Marcala (COMSA) at the tail end of the December - March harvest season in order to select the coffees that we want to buy and to build our relationship with the producers there. This year I was in for an unexpected experience. Over the past 12 months the agroecological farmers of COMSA had collectively embraced the spirit of experimentation, deploying unconventional processing methods on substantial quantities of coffee. In prior years, we typically saw a handful of natural or honey processed coffees amongst the dozens that we tasted. This year the offering was equally split -- over 100 samples to evaluate, a third of them wet processed, a third natural and a third honey. This was going to be a deep learning experience in Central American processing alternatives.
At the end of a week of cupping and visiting with farmers, I was delighted to find that some of my favourite producers from the area were really on top of their game this year. We usually buy coffees from the brothers of the Melghem family - in part because we have developed a great relationship with them over the years, but ultimately because they simply grow the best coffees. In keeping with the ‘post harvest processing’ theme of the year, each of the three Melghem brothers produced the very best examples of each method. Here's what they grew for you this year:
Demetrio Melghem produced a washed 100% catuai coffee this year
For producing the best wet processed coffee of the year, my appreciation and recognition goes out to Demetrio Melghem and his family. Demetrio grows a variety called Catuaí on one section of his five-hectare farm and we buy the production of this parcel every year. Demetrio takes great care in the harvest of this Catuaí and the results in the cup speak for themselves -- delicious, intense and floral wet processed coffee.
Rommel Melghem produced a natural processed coffee
This year Rommel Melghem produced the tastiest natural processed coffee I have ever tried from Honduras. Natural processing involves leaving the coffee seeds inside their fruit to dry in the sun -- different from the standard wet process, where the seeds are removed and fermented prior to washing and sun drying. Natural processing is unpredictable and can introduce a lot of unpleasant flavour if moisture is not properly managed during the drying stage. Rommel really nailed it this year with a beautiful coffee bursting with fruity and savoury flavours.
Pedro Melghem produced our first honey processed coffee
To complete the trio, we selected the best honey processed coffee of the year from Pedro Melghem. Honey processing involves removing the fruit from the seeds, as is the case with wet processing, but then skipping over the fermentation and washing stages by leaving the seeds to dry in their sticky, sugar-dense mucilage. This can impart body and enhanced intensity of toasty, almost barrel-aged flavours. This is the first honey processed coffee we have ever bought and is a great coffee for anyone looking for that extra intensity of coffee aroma in coffee taken with milk or cream.
We are very excited to be launching these three coffees for the winter season. They are definitely must tries of the year - delicious and fascinating to explore as great examples of how post-harvest processing influences flavour.
Darren Drouin, Moises Melghem (son of Rommel), and Ian Clark
If you enjoy these coffees and want to let the Melghems know about it, post on social media with the hashtag #CafeMelghem and we will be sure to pass along your comments and images to the family.
Director of Coffee
Posted in: Farmers
November 09, 2017