Brian Beyke

Populace Coffee - Bolivia Wilfredo Castro

Brian Beyke


It hasn’t been long since we’ve seen an offering from Bay City, Michigan's Populace Coffee around these parts, and only a few months since our last offering from Bolivia.  Last month I was privileged to receive a sample tube from Andrew at Populace and in it contained three tins of approximately 50 grams of coffee each from some of his current offerings.  As you may have gathered from posts here or if you follow me on social media, Populace is quickly becoming one of my favorite roasters, definitely within the top four for me.  I’ve probably had more offerings from them than any other roasters outside of my local Deeper Roots or Kuma Coffee, and they’d definitely land in my top 5 roasters to drink from in terms of consistently good selections, as far as my personal palate is concerned.  Let’s dive into the first of these three samples and get a closer look at Bolivia Wilfredo Castro.

 Wilfredo is a respected member of the extended Castro family of coffee growers. Wilfredo and his extended family migrated from the Bolivan Altiplano (High Plateau) in the Pacajes province towards the coffee growing region of Yungas to start a new life as coffee farmers. They eventually settled in Colonia Siete Estrellas, Chijchipani County, Caranavi Province.  

His farm is 10 hectares (about 25 acres), 1.5 hectares are dedicated to coffee production. He grows both Caturra (90%) and Yellow Catuai (10%)coffee varietals.  His farm is situated at over 5,300 feet above sea level.  He has been involved in coffee growing for the past 15 years.  In 2009 he participated in the last Cup of Excellence®, but only made it to the National Winners phase (did not make it to the International Internet auction). His coffee won 21st Place in the 2011 Invalsa sourcing/cupping trip competition, which included the presence of 5 International judges. In 2008 when his brother Pedro obtained the second place in the Cup of Excellence® competition, Wilfredo assisted him and he indicates that the lot was a “family submission” under the elder brother’s name, Pedro. 


Roaster: Populace Coffee

Region: Caranavi, Bolivia

Farm: Siete Estrellas

Process: Fully washed

Varietal: Caturra // Yellow Catuai

Elevation: 1,615m

Brew Method:

Aeropress (Inverted) | 17g © to 240g (w) | 2:00 then plunge by 2:30 total time | 199 degrees | 1.31 TDS | 19.60% Ext. (Immersion mode)
Dry aroma of Frosted Flakes. 
Sweet and syrupy off the bat.  Almost as if I am sucking on a honey straw- coatings of glazing, sweet cherry, and strands of honey and whipped chocolate down the tongue.  It continues to grow sweeter, almost cotton candy-like in the aftertaste of each sip, with a deliciously syrupy mouthfeel that gives just enough weight in your mouth to dazzle you. 
It starts to carry a slightly drying mouthfeel, with fruit notes that remind me of apple skin, Apple Jacks, cinnamon, grape, and plum.  Really, really cohesive as these flavors play off each other like an expertly crafted dinner selection.  Dense, medium bodied, clear. 
In that clarity it starts to grow a bit more refreshing in the fruit notes, introducing some melon pops but at the same time a bit of a peanut butter-esque finish and ultimately a hoppy lingering.  The acidity grows a bit brighter, with flavors of sweet lemon in the cup leading into a juicier body than before with the likes of raspberry, peach, honeydew and cantaloupe now joining the celebration, still with a really unique sweetness lingering like cotton candy and mouthfeel similar to drinking a hefeweizen. 

Brew Method:

Chemex | 19g © to 300g (w) | 3:00 total time | 202 degrees | 1.32 TDS | 19.27% Ext.
Carries an aroma that reminds me of Twizzlers. 
Diving in is syrupy and sweet, with notes of cherry cordial, cinnamon, honey, and a light chocolatey finish.  There is a refreshing acidity that while bright, stays comfortable and clean in the cup, thinking a spritz of lemon, maybe a hint of orange. 
The flavor quickly lifts and you find cleaner and crisp fruit notes - melon, apple, grape, apricot, and raspberry that immediately mellow into a vanilla and honey finishing, with notes of chocolate and a persistent, low lying brightness.
The aroma now gives way to spiced plum.  The cup is dense, flavorful, and very well balanced.  In the coolest moments of the cup you find some of these sweetest notes, candy-like, softly complex yet delicately rich, and cocoa lingering.
Not to sound weird, but this coffee makes a delicious compliment to Puppy Chow.  (more on that later)

Brew Method:

V60 no stir | 13.5g © to 219g (w) | 2:05 total time | 198 degrees | 1.39 TDS | 20.85% Ext.
Nice mouthfeel.  Syrupy at first, but as you slurp and it fills the mouth space you have these juicy bursts of cinnamon apples on the sides of your mouth, with vanilla cream and chocolate finishing. 
Cooling the coffee becomes nearly effervescent, bubbly fruit notes arrive- lemon, raspberry, melon, raisin, apricot, apple.  Nice and clean, balanced, and sweet. 
I decided to stop here and dive into some more Puppy Chow.  The sweetness of the coffee plays off the sweetness of the Puppy Chow, and more stone fruit sweetness emerges when drinking after a handful.
A little more citrus notes emerge too, but I also think it allows the Chow to be creamy, chocolatey, and sweet, then allowing the Wilfredo to fill out all the other spectrums with clean fruit notes and its deep, resonate finish. 
I got to try something with this coffee I don’t always get to do - pairing.  I wish I did it more, and maybe it’s something I will try and incorporate into more reviews in the future.  Either way, the Wilfredo Castro was a great offering.  I don’t have infinite experience with coffees from Bolivia, but the few I’ve had previously have been very soft, and less detectible sweetness and notes.  I think I have even previously mentioned that Tom from Sweet Marias laid out the characteristics of a good Bolivian offering and that those coffees did seem to meet that criteria, but the Wilfredo and another offering I’ll be visiting soon far exceeded those expectations.  
The pairing with Puppy Chow came a bit randomly, as someone had brought some in to work on the day I was making the Chemex.  I usually don’t eat while taking notes on coffees, but before I finished that cup I had some and it was one of those “oh, so delicious” combos to me like white cake with chocolate icing paired with neapolitan ice cream or washing down a cheeseburger with a Coca Cola.
The sweetness in this offering was noticeable and unique, candy-like but not out of balance.  In fact, the balance of this offering was quite impressive and cohesive while it remaining clean, effervescent, and still carried a resonate finish.  From beginning to end, this offering sure did please the palate in the way I’ve come to expect from Populace’s offerings.

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.