Owner and roaster Jeff Duggan fell in love with coffee while pursuing a degree in Chemistry. His natural inquisitiveness and thirst for quality led to the need to get under the hood to see what made coffee tick - or as us industry folk say, “crack.” Jeff took it upon himself to learn the craft of roasting. While this newly-found hobby was often rewarding, it was not without despair. For every bean gone bad, Jeff was determined to never let the fruits of so much labor fall victim to his roaster again. With that in mind, I think Portola Coffee Lab teaches us something more about ourselves when experiencing coffees. There is a long journey that this commodity called “coffee” goes on to reach our cup, and it would be quite a disappointment to dismiss one that doesn’t get prepared properly, or tasted with openness in mind. Today, we’ll look at Bolivia Cadena & Melgar.
Roaster: Portola Coffee Lab
Origin: Caranavi, Bolivia
Producer: Mario Cadena // Rosendo Melgar
Process: Fully washed
Varieties: Caturra / Catuai / Typica
Elevation: 1,450 - 1,550m
Gino Dripper | 40g © to 552g (w) | 3:40 total time | 201 degrees
Brewed to: The War on Drugs - An Ocean in Between the Waves
Very interesting aroma to the nose: a bit spiced but a bit candy-like
Initial sips leave a little to be desired, but can notice some fruity notes amidst slight honey notes and a nutty finish. Medium to full bodied, very clean.
As I dig further it becomes a little more sweet. Green apple notes and candy-like sweetness colliding with a slightly earthy and toasty nutty finish, coming off a little malty.
It is rather immediate that it opens up and really starts to shine. Really creamy with juicy apple notes starting to form, honey coating that seemingly drips down the tongue to the throat into a still nutty finish, creamy like peanut butter but also carrying hints of hazelnut. These notes carry throughout the cup, nice to just sit back and enjoy as the sweetness and nuttiness balance out between an otherwise syrupy, creamy and sweet middle with tangerine seeming to pop most notably in the lingering finish.
Bonmac | 24.5g © to 343g (w) | 3:05 total time | 203 degrees | 1.45 TDS | 18.40% Ext.
This is neat - really sweet and subdued. There is a almost slimy feeling to the cup (that ISN’T as gross as it may sound). It’s incredibly intriguing and overly enjoyable. Great apple and pear sweetness, hints of wood in the rear but everything is really reserved… really quiet. That’s the best way to describe it’s introduction, quiet.
Sparkling pear acidity, honey sweetness and almost green tea with lemon finishing the cup, but the body is more than tea-like.
Hints of spice in the finish.
Woodneck | 30g © to 476g (w) | 4:20 total time | 203 degrees | 1.40 TDS | 20.71% Ext. (preferred method)
Mmm. Apple fronted - like a whole bunch of freshly picked apples, or applesauce combined with some pear, honey, and a little bit of spice. A little nutty and warm cherry (like cherry pie) sweetness taking you into the finish. Nuttiness seems more tame than in previous makes.
Very creamy like peanut butter in the mouth. It fills a nice, as they say, comfortable space in the coffee lineup.
Cherry pie sweetness continues to reign as it gets cooler - completely delightful, soft and sweet.
It’s fragrant in the mouth, still soft and creamy with a tickling acidity that is fun, noticeable, and not in the way. It seems to dance on the tongue while the sweet fruit juices soak in.
Until the very last drop it grows more succulent, more syrupy, more honey sweet. The final sips leave the tongue feeling as if it just ate a chocolate cake topped with cherries and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
Apple, nutty, creamy, sparkling acidity.
Like the PT’s Bolivia offering I recently had, I think it could be easy for me and my palate to dismiss coffees from Bolivia as “leaving more to be desired”. However, when I don’t look at the coffee for what it seems to be (my experience with it) and instead look at what it is, (the profile, its attributes, it’s journey) I can experience it on a different level. I can understand its nuances and really enjoy what it is offering without some sort of predisposition or comparison to a coffee with a completely different region, altitude, climate, terroir, varietal, etc. I loved the fruit highlights in this coffee, and I loved the way it sweetened up as it cooled. The sparkling acidity was fun, and welcomed to the super smooth and comfortable body it provided. It was creamy and quiet, and just a pleasing coffee to have overall, especially in this month’s box. As Tom from Sweet Maria’s describes, it carries all of the classic qualities of a great cup of coffee, especially a great cup of coffee from Bolivia. I imagine as practices continue to develop in the region we’ll only be seeing better and better offerings in the future.
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.