Brian Beyke

Stone Creek Coffee - Zamora Ecuador Lab Series

Brian Beyke

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As I continue exploring elements in the coffee world, the one thing I know least about is varietal.  I’m developing somewhat of an understanding of flavor profiles from regions, but even that has so many variables factored in.  Wash process, varietal, region… all these things help me (as a more experimental brewer) figure out how to best highlight the cup.  As I take notes of coffees, especially offerings of single varietal or different wash, I can hopefully start to piece together all these elements.  Thats why varietal series like Madcap offered last summer, wash packs like Kuma Coffee offered this winter, and the Lab Series at Stone Creek Coffee play an integral roll in that education.  The second installment in Stone Creek Coffee’s Lab Series explores a single variety: Caturra. This sample comes from the Rosa Elena project in Zamora, Ecuador.  

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Details:

Roaster: Stone Creek Coffee

Region: Ecuador, Zamora, Chinchipe

Farm: Rosa Elena 

Process: Fully washed, sun dried

Variety: Caturra

Altitude: 1,700m

Harvest Date: Sep-Nov 2013

Brew Method:

Kalita Wave | 40g © to 552g (w) | 3:50 end time | 204 degrees 

The initial sips are dark, red fruits but there is some sweetness there too.

I seem to notice apple in the beginning with a heavier middle of savory notes and cacao nibs with crisp melon or grape in the finish.  It’s a bit hard to pick up notes but I’m coming back to stone fruit and dried fruits: date, raisin, plum.  It isn’t overly sweet, just has fruit notes in there of what is otherwise more maple and browning sugar.   

There are hints of toasty roast or slight spices too.  Not a lot, just enough to notice.  With just about every element that stands out it is presented “a pinch here, a dash there.”  It’s really interesting.

Green apple acidity stays with the cup as it cools, along with the roastiness and a juiciness developing more.  It also seems to have slight malty notes too.

It’s pretty rounded overall.  A little heavier of a coffee but it hits on a lot of different features that could attract a lot of different drinkers.  

I am almost thinking this would pair well with a lot of different foods, with different notes being highlighted depending on what you were eating.  Not conclusive though, just a thought that comes to mind.

As it cools further the roastiness dissipates some and the dried fruit notes stand out more along with some nutty tones.  It has a sweetness akin to jelly.

It’s almost like trailmix, chocolate covered raisins and nuts, or a Mr. Goodbar with a side of dried fruits.  

Juicy medium body in the end but still with a more savory/roasty finish.

Viscous, dried fruit, roasty. 

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Brew Method:

Woodneck | 34g © to 476g (w) | 4:30 total time | 202 degrees (preferred method)

Immediately post brew I am comforted by thick caramel and molasses notes with hints of spices - cinnamon and nutmeg.  It carries a sweetness in there with bursts of fruit and muscovado sugars.    

Lemon acidity is detected among orange marmalade, peach, apricot, and dried fruits with whipped cream in the finish.

Picture a sunny, summer afternoon sitting at a picnic table, homemade peach apple cobbler with a dollop of crème fraîche and served with a side of French vanilla ice cream and a glass of lemonade.  

As it cool it becomes a little more delicate.  The acidity, while tamer, joins a more tea-like fruitied body for an Arnold Palmer-esque finish to the cup.

Sweet, comforting, citrus.  

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Brew Method:

Chemex | 18g © to 288g (w) | 3:15 total time | 200 degrees

The cup presents itself lighter than other methods with caramel notes and whiffs of fruit, but it isn’t really juicy.  It is sweet, though.

Rounded with a nice, soft, refreshing mouthfeel to it.  

It tastes creamy and nutty with chocolate shavings, dried fruits, bursts of citrus, and toasted almonds in the finish.

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Brew Method:

V60 no stir | 24.5g © to 350g (w) | 2:55 total time | 202 degrees

The cup begins immensely sweet, yet balanced by baker’s spices and a warm, maple syrup body and lingering finish that is like burnt sugars and autumn leaves.

Very smooth with notes of orange concentrate seeming to show up along with grape juice, a ginger-like acidity, and a slightly roasted peanut finish.

It seems to balance between the notes of both Woodneck and Kalita Wave.  

As it cools more it develops more creamy almond notes yet also has some juicy qualities of cherry, peach, grape in a sea of lemon-lime.

Cooling further it seems to mellow into delicate and defines rip melon, red grape notes, and grapefruit and passion fruit among a refreshing tropical fruit cocktail with a tamer but still vibrant and lingering acidity.  

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Brew Method:

Clever | 34g © to 350g (w) | 2:30 then drop | 205 degrees

Immediately greeted by sweet, warm caramel notes with almost floral hints.  A syrupy body (but not as thick as others) and some spiced fruits, caramelized sugars, and autumn leaves-like notes in the finish. Lighter in body similarly to the Chemex, but a little more developed flavors.  
Caramel notes start to thicken up and fruit notes start to become more plump.  More of the baking spices seem to rest in the finish now. 
Very smooth, creamy body begins to develop. Sweetness seems to stand out more than any other attributes. 
Stone fruit notes throughout as previously mentioned in other methods and cooling more delicately with a prevalent grape candy-like sweetness. 

Syrupy, stone fruit, candy sweet.

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To give a little light on the Caturra variety, it is a mutation of the Bourbon variety found near the town of Caturra, Brazil in the 1930s.  It produces a higher yield than Bourbon, and this is generally due to the plant being shorter, higher yielding, and with less distance between the branches.  

Despite Caturra’s beginnings, it became less prevalent in Brazil and more common to Colombia, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  Genetically it is very similar to Bourbon although it usually produces a poorer cup quality in terms of sweetness and clarity, but this is mainly due to the variety yielding more.  

I messaged Christian Ott, Director of Coffee and head roaster at Stone Creek, after my initial tastings as I was worried about the roastiness I was getting from the cup.  He mentions:

Yes, your friend is right.  Caturra tends to be a bit spicy, not quite as fruity as a bourbon variety.  Definitely got the same malic apple acidity in it – and it gets sweeter as it cools. I had the same reaction the “roastiness” first time I roasted this – but checked the numbers on it and they lined up. 

It doesn’t really help my argument that the methods I had after that one yielded sweeter cups, but there were still hints of spice/roast in a lot of the methods.  It was never bad, but just something I want to try and note as I continue to try coffees of the Caturra varietal, or any varietal for that matter.  As I mentioned in the beginning, offering selections like this is a great experiment not only if it yields a great coffee, but to help a coffee nerd learn more about why the coffees they drink taste the way they do.  With the sweetness I did get in this cup, it really makes me wonder what a bourbon varietal from the same region would produce.  In the end, it was a great coffee that translated well on just about any device.

I look forward to the future potential to try a coffee from the same region/farm/lot with different varietals and be able to compare but until then, I’ll keep making sure to look for similarities among coffees with same varietals.

Thanks for the lesson Stone Creek, and I look forward to the next Lab.  

If you missed my review on the previous Lab Series: Burundi, you can check it out here and also explore the history of Stone Creek Coffee.

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.