Hello: Colombia Single Origin Coffee Set

Our latest Hello set shines a light on four of our freshest Colombian coffees and the wide range of flavors they offer. This page also offers additional photos and guidance for enjoying your own coffee set at home!

[UPDATE: July 20,2023] – This set has sold out. It was fun while it lasted. Click here to check out our other Green Coffee Sets.

A limited edition sample set with a single origin theme… for our Hello: Colombia Origin Set, we selected four coffees from our latest container arrival that showcase the broad range of flavors found from this single origin. Cultivars are also a theme in this set, as two of the coffees are a unique varietal that was recently re-discovered in Colombia, called “Chiroso”.

Hello: Colombia Origin Set
Hello: Colombia Origin Set

Just as the “Hello My Name Is:” stickers save you from guessing someone’s name, our “Hello…” sample sets take out some of the guesswork of replicating our roasting results by providing you with comprehensive information and visual aids to help guide your roasts. Each set is attractively packaged with information about the specific roasts for this particular grouping, including overall roast times, moisture loss, associated flavor notes and scores. We’ve also included roast photos of each coffee for you to match up to, and a color reference chart that can be used beyond this set.

A Small-holder Coffee Farming Culture

Colombia is the third largest exporter of coffee globally, and of the half-million Colombian coffee farmers, more than 90% own less than 10 hectares of land. That’s an eye-opening number on its own. But when you consider that 90%+ produced more than 11 million bags of coffee last year, it’s nothing short of staggering.

The implications that come with buying in a system like this are many. For one, it requires a lot more work to manage all those small coffee lots for everyone in the supply chain. Farmers come up with ways to more efficiently process very small lots of coffees (like mixing harvest days, for example). Coops and Associations put an incredible amount of work into keeping individual lots separate until quality can be determined. And for us, it means cupping A LOT of samples in order to fill the three+ 42,000 pound shipping containers we buy each year.

Hand-crank depulper used to separate the outer cherry from the coffee seeds inside at a farm in Inzá, Cauca.
Hand-crank depulper used to separate the outer cherry from the coffee seeds inside at a farm in Inzá, Cauca.

How does this affect the coffee? Well, it’s not always obvious. But the fact that each farmer is responsible for processing their coffee down to dried green seeds, leaves a lot of room for variation. It’s not unusual to cup 50 samples of coffee from farmers in the same area, growing the same cultivars, and have them taste quite different. Things like fermentation times, and airflow in drying rooms can have a big impact on flavor, and is a big reason why we put the work into constructing our own lots from individual process batches, rather than have an intermediary do some of that work for us.

The Chiroso Coffee Varietal Has Ethiopian Roots

Two of the coffees in this set are billed as “heirloom”, which as it turns out, is a bit of a misnomer. These coffees – Los Naranjos Heirloom Caturra, and Edward Sandoval Heirloom Bourbon – came from the seeds of plants that were first found in the northern Antioquia town of Urrao. Initially thought to be regressions of Caturra and Bourbon (hence the names), the cultivar known locally as “Chiroso” was prized by farmers for its high yield, and little more.

This all changed in 2014, when Urrao coffee farmer Carmen Montoya took 1st place at the Cup of Excellence competition (“COE”) with her Chiroso entry. The coffee scored a whopping 91.3, and was noted as having delicate top notes that were tea-like and floral. Similar to the emergence of “Gesha” at the Panama COE in the early 2000’s (more on that story here), the Specialty Coffee spotlight was suddenly pointed at the small mountain town of Urrao, and this unique “new” coffee variety.

Caturra Chiroso coffee cultivar at the Santa Barbara farm in Antioquia.
Caturra Chiroso coffee cultivar at the Santa Barbara farm in Antioquia.

Understandably, the demand for “Chiroso” grew, now for superior cup quality rather than simply plant productivity. The exporter we work with, Pergamino, have played a big role in disseminating this cultivar to other growing regions they work in, and we’re starting to see the literal fruits of that labor at some of the farms we buy coffee from. In the case of Los Naranjos Heirloom Caturra, that coffee is from the farm of Pedro Eschavarria, who happens to own Pergamino.

I should also point out that just because you grow Chiroso, doesn’t mean the coffee will be great. The same can be observed with Gesha (we just cupped a Gesha from Papua New Guinea that nice, but basic. Definitely didn’t qualify the high price, and I think the lack of floral characteristics would be disappointing for our customers). But these two lots are great examples of what all the fuss is about.

Chiroso was included as part of a recent scientific study that linked several cultivated coffees back to either Ethiopia or Yemeni accessions. Chiroso was shown to be “Ethiopia Only”, meaning it is not a regression, but rather seed from heirloom Ethiopian cultivars that somehow made their way to Colombia. Gesha, Java, and Mibirizi are also in this group.

Single-Origin Coffees, Multiple Cup Impressions

Sure all the coffees are from a single origin, but the flavors from each are quite unique. Veredas Vecinas and Vereda San Antonio are both from the Inzá region of Cauca, and were put together from several small lots we selected from farmers in those communities. Building custom blends allows us to group similar tasting coffees, as well as construct unique flavor profiles from several different tasting lots. In both cases, we’re able to build larger lots that offer a farther reach to our customers.

The 1-road town of San Antonio, Inzá. If you look closely, you can see the tarp-covered coffee drying "patios" on the rooftops.
The 1-road town of San Antonio, Inzá. If you look closely, you can see the tarp-covered coffee drying “patios” on the rooftops.

Veredas Vecinas (“VV”) is an example of our more balanced Colombian blends. This is a great coffee for dual-use (espresso and brewing), as well as offers roast versatility. Vereda San Antonio typically has more fruit than VV, and this lot certainly does not disappoint in that regard. Moderate complexity can be found in both coffees when kept to City roast level.

Los Naranjos and Edward Sandoval coffees are both unique varieties known locally as “Chiroso”. These coffees show delicate aromatics atop syrupy sweetness. Edward’s coffee is the more delicate of the two, showing tea-like qualities consistent with variety. Don Pedro’s coffee from Los Naranjos stands in contrast, with heavier-handed fruit notes that are syrupy and delicious!

About the roasts w/ photos

The coffees were roasted on a Quest M3s electric roaster, a compact table-top drum roaster with two heating elements that heat a solid steel roasting drum (non-perforated). It’s a lot like our Probat P3 electric sample roaster in that it doesn’t require a whole lot of “profiling” in order to achieve a gentle roast curve in a reasonable amount of time.

The Chiroso coffee flavors are a little more tied to roast level than the other two. What I mean by this is that it’s important to stick to City roast level. Will you blow it if you accidentally run into City+? No! But the aromatics these coffees are capable of producing are volatile, and you risk flattening them out with darker roasting.

Comparing the ground coffee sometimes gives you a better idea of roast level than when looking at whole beans.
Comparing the ground coffee sometimes gives you a better idea of roast level than when looking at whole beans.

I should also point out that the observed moisture loss in these roasts exceeded my expectations for the roast levels. I think part of this has to do with moisture levels being a little higher than some of the other coffee’s we’ve featured in previous Hello Sets, though they are still well within the range of what we consider stable (<12%).

Because roast level plays a major role in flavor, we’ve included detailed photos for guidance of the actual roasts that went into this set so that you can shoot to achieve similar flavor profiles as us. So please do refer to the included roast card in your kit!

Hello: Colombia Origin Set includes these coffees and short label descriptions (these are notes from our review notes, and specific cupping notes for the roasts we did for this set are included on the postcard that comes with it):

Colombia Inzá Veredas Vecinas:Impressive cup sweetness and body, molasses and brown sugar accents, pistachio torrone, pecan caramel, and tea-like tannic acidity. Dark roasts boost deep chocolate low tones perfect for brew or espresso. City to Full City+. Good for espresso.
Colombia nzá Vereda San Antonio:Sweet all along the roast spectrum, with notes of brown sugars, dark honey, cinnamon-laced caramels, vanilla, dark chocolates, and fruited accents of apple, raisin, and candied orange. City to Full City+.
Colombia Los Naranjos Heirloom Caturra:Juicy and sweet, this heirloom lot conjures bright notes of mandarin and tangerine, a spritz of lemon, dark currant, raspberry herbal tea, and yellow cherry. Acidity falls somewhere between citric and malic. City to Full City.
Colombia Edward Sandoval Heirloom Bourbon:A competition-level heirloom Bourbon (“Chiroso”) in limited quantity. Aromatic sweetness,  refined fruits, and sparkling acidity, floral raw sugars, apple, Bartlett pear, white grape, cinnamon-apple tea. City to City+.

More photos of the Hello: Colombia Origin Set!

Further reading on Colombian coffee in the Sweet Maria’s Library:

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