Just one cup of this coffee was enough to inspire a journey to South America to discover this species for ourselves. Legends and speculation buzz about this coffee. For starters, this is not even the same species as most of the coffee encountered on the market today. Coffea Eugenioides is considered to be one of the parents of modern Arabica coffee. Eugenioides is a very difficult coffee to grow, yielding only 150 grams per tree of unmilled coffee. It contains about half the caffeine of Arabica coffee, which causes the coffee to have almost no perceived bitterness. The defining characteristic of this coffee is its wild, almost unbelievable sweetness. It has a compelling lack of citric acidity that we are so used to in a coffee, presenting a whole new perspective on what coffee can be. Interestingly specialty coffee has honed in on just one species, Coffea Arabica, as the species that has become synonymous with specialty coffee. Over 100 species of Coffea have been described, and Eugenioides is hailed as a progenitor of modern-day Arabica.
Throughout the ‘19 and ‘20 competition year, we used this coffee onstage as an integral part of owner Andrea Allen’s winning barista competition routine. Since that win, our close friend Fernando at Inmaculada broached the idea of dialing in the processing method for this coffee over the next harvest. Fernando worked with the entire team at Inmaculada, settling on an 8 day ‘carbonic maceration’ fermentation. This is a limited oxygen fermentation where the cherries are placed in a tank, allowing the microbes to do the work of breaking down the sugars of the coffee cherries into a juice. The temperature is regulated throughout the fermentation in order to limit the activity, otherwise, the resulting cup will be too fruit-forward and will taste of vinegar. The results of that hard work are evident in the cup, this year's harvest jumped over a full point in quality. What was a clear cereal note in the cup before has shifted into more vibrant fruit notes. Strawberry and guava are now more prevalent up front, which fades into the more familiar sugary sweetness that this species is known for.
INMACULADA COFFEE FARMS
In 2010, the Holguin family began their coffee journey in Valle del Cauca, Colombia. They have a long history of producing both palm oil trees and sugar cane in Nariño. They started with 5.12 hectares*, and nine years later, they hold 50 hectares that is divided up into four farms, all of which have a unique climate. Inmaculada Coffee Farms is divided up into El Jardin, Las Nubes, Monserrat, and Inmaculada Concepcion. Inmaculada’s focus on growing exotic varieties and processing them to highlight their terroir is inspiring. Their goal is to “produce the most extraordinary coffees possible, regardless of risk or costs.” Most of the varieties they grow are incredibly low yielding and difficult to grow, proving their commitment to their goal. Within the grounds of their Inmaculada Concepcion farm, there is an old Catholic school that has been turned into their dry mill and cupping lab, complete with a Ferris wheel style drying bed on the roof. After cupping in their classroom-converted-to cupping lab, we zeroed in on four varieties that highlight what Inmaculada is accomplishing with all their hard work.
*A hectare is a unit of measure widely used in coffee-producing regions, one hectare is about 2.4 acres.