It’s hard to even figure out where to start when it comes to Kickapoo Coffee Roasters. My first experiences with this Wisconsin based roaster were two of their Congo roasts that came in Craft Coffee boxes earlier this year. In those bags, not only did I find some of the most flavorful coffees I’d had to that point, I found stories of farmers and struggle that, again until that point, I have never known existed.
Flash forward to a few months ago when I was contacted by Kickapoo about interest in visiting more of their offerings, and you can imagine my excited. I spent a good hour on the phone with Alex, just talking about the family-owned business, about sustainability with cooperatives, farms, and packaging, living in and representing the Midwest, and about their 1930’s German Probat. All these are things we will dive into more detail about in the next several days, but for now, let’s just dig into one of the many amazing offerings that Kickapoo has: La Gabriela Costa Rica.
Finca La Gabriela is located in the Santa Cruz de León Cortés area of Aserrí, Costa Rica, about two hours south of San Jose. Gabriela owns approximately five acres of property, four of which are dedicated to coffee production. She brings ripe, red cherry down to the Rio Jorco Mill where individual farmer lots are kept separate and dried in massive, gordiola dryers to about 10.5 percent moisture content in preparation for export.
Kickapoo visited Rio Jorco last February and were welcomed with open arms by Rio Jorco’s owner, Luis Alfaro. The mill is impeccably run by their manager Ruddy Azofefia who does an amazing job collaborating with over fifty small-scale producers in the region. They visited many beautiful farms in Tarrazu and met with a slew of producers.
Luis Alfaro’s grandfather, Jorge Zeledon Casto, purchased the main farm and processing facility in 1920. He had rare vision and dedication to quality way back then, made a name for himself as the godfather of specialty coffee in Tarrazu. Fast forward three generations and Luis and his brother Jim have taken the reigns and doubled down their efforts in helping producers craft some of the most delicious micro-lots in the country.
Roaster: Kickapoo Coffee Roasters
Region: Aserri, Tarrazu
Farm: Finca La Gabriela
Process: Mechanical Wash, Gordiola Drying
Varietal: Caturra, Catuai
Elevation: 1,700 - 1,800m
V60 no stir | 14g © to 227g (w) | 2:10 total time | 200 degrees | 1.39 TDS | 20.85% Ext.
Nose carries citrus, wood, berries.
First sips are so layered. Rich and syrupy peachy nectar on the front that slides effortless into a glaze donut-like sweetness, with green apple, green grape, blood orange marmalade, lemon and lime also present in the sips that end in a sweet, slightly spiced, honey coated finish.
Actually, the end of each sips are quite remarkable. Buttery in mouthfeel, with luscious butterscotch candies, warm honey-buttered croissants, and caramel covered orange that saturate the palate.
About mid-cup these floral notes also come out in the tail end of each sip, so replacing some of that dense saturation and giving a lighter, more fluttery ending that is still citrusy, still bright and clean, and take you into those caramel and spice finishes.
The colors turn from greens to reds, still sweet and fruitied with a resurgence of peach, apricot, and raspberry, and cranberry, caramelly and spiced, but the finish now seems more structured, more aimed, more purposefully. Because of that, it creates a beautifully balanced cup, citrusy, sugary, spicy, with red fruits in a slick mouthfeel that has a sweet lingering and dry spice finish.
Kalita Wave | 34g © to 552g (w) | 3:45 total time | 205 degrees | 1.34 TDS | 20.15% Ext.
A more nutty, spicy, and chocolatey start, still with clean fruits in the finish. It’s rich, deep, and moves towards a creamy sweetness in the finish, but still a lot heavier, more full bodied than the previous make. It still carries an orangey citrus note, but balanced and sweet in the cup.
Soon it opens up, and lays down some of that weight and becomes a sweeter cup with those peach and apricot notes coming through, followed by the grape and apple cleanliness, and still finishing with a spiced nut finish.
The front of each sip is clean, splashy, and it grows a bit more creamy in the mouthfeel, with notes reminiscent of incense, anise, and mint seeming to stir around these dried fruit notes with caramel and chocolate oozing out of the bottom end, with the lingering finish giving nods to toasted marshmallow, malt and barrel aged liquor tones.
While not as sugary, it still gives some nice orange and raspberry tootsie roll sweetness in the end, still bright and spiced through the sips.
Chemex | 30g © to 480g (w) | 3:40 total time | 200 degrees | 1.34 TDS | 19.85% Ext. (preferred method)
First sips are syrupy sweet, a bit tropical, a bit green apple tartness, and a bit of spice in the finish.
Continuing sips are caramel sweetness, almost like a glazed donut sweetness with a splashy fruits after leading to nips of cinnamon on the sides of the tongue in the finish.
Cherry brightens the way in the cup, peach and mango flesh is the landing point with raspberry sweetening the end of each sip, sprinkled with sugars as it gets closer to candy sweet with light notes of florals growing and a slightly biting orange cream soda aftertaste.
That candy sweetness actually grows more plush after each sip, I feel as if I’m eating a French macaron, the question being what kind? Matcha, earl grey, vanilla bean, raspberry, brown sugar, lemon zest lavender? The mouthfeel is similar enough, slightly cake-like with delicately saturated sweetness.
Such balanced sweetness in this cup, truly an experience.
Aeropress (Inverted) | 17g © to 240g (w) | 2:00 then plunge by 2:30 total time | 201 degrees | 1.37 TDS | 20.45% Ext. (Immersion mode)
This cup is clean on the front. Lightly creamy, rich, and carrying nips of spices on the sides of the tongue with lingering notes of cocoa and pomegranate.
It soon opens to cherry pastry, showing both a lightly concentrate sweetness, a bit of a ting and a slightly drying finish, with more savory bread-like qualities.
I can tell this one has seen fresher days, so know that you may want to address this coffee within the first few weeks. Still, cooling you do find some sparkling peach notes enter, a more moderately syrupy body growing with spice and cocoa still lining the finish. In terms of whole picture, it is quite balanced, no one element jumping out above the rest. A light layer of meyer lemon rides through the cup, sitting just below the other fruits notes and just above this strand of brown sugar sweetness growing in the cup. The fruits, while still lightly tingly, begin to grow more caramelized as the cup cools, just not as vividly as previous makes.
Really clean cherry and raspberry develop in the final sips, sweetened, plush, creamy, and leaving trails of dried lavender and honey, and caramelized sugar (akin to the top of creme brûlée) on the palate, with lingering notes of apple torte.
Maybe it was wrong of my to have come out of the gate like this, but man. From the first make, this coffee was immediately on my favorite coffees of this year. It was so approachable and elegant yet lively, layered, and complex, leaving nothing at all to be desired that wasn’t already being offered. The highlight would probably be the cup’s sweetness, that while tantalizing and mesmerizing, never leaves the cup out of balance. The addition of spices and slightly savory touches here and there really make this an exceptional offering that, if at all possible, should be experienced to really understand.
Co-host of the I Brew My Own Coffee Podcast and always has all the chocolate. I also love to play board games. Yea, let's go do that right now.