What’s Brewing: Colombia San Marcos

I’ve been roasting and sampling quite a few coffees of late — certainly too many to write about all of them. There are however probably a couple worth mentioning — one of which is this beauty produced by a group of small farm-holders under the San Marcos name in the Huila region of Colombia.

The Region

Wikipedia tells us:

Huila (Spanish pronunciation: ˈwila) is one of the departments of Colombia, and is located in the southwest of the country, with Neiva its capital. Colombia’s second highest peak, the Nevado del Huila volcano, is located in the Huila department. The Magdalena River is Colombia’s largest river, and rises in the Huila department, with the river valley containing some of Huila’s most important towns.

Of course much of the country has a strong heritage with its coffee growing regions, and nearby department Quindío houses the National Coffee Park.

Again from Wikipedia:

The National Coffee Park (Parque Nacional del Café) is a theme park located in the department of Quindío, Colombia, 4 km south-west of the town of Montenegro and 11 km west of the departmental capital city Armenia. The park can be reached from a cable car, offers attractions orchid animatronics colorful, global coffee garden, a roller coaster, food stalls based on coffee, Colombian folk architecture, and other attractions.

1024px-Colombian_National_Coffee_Park_195
The Colombian National Coffee Park – Image courtesy Uria Ashkenazy

The Coffee

All information in this section courtesy Ministry Grounds Coffee:

  • Coffee: Colombia San Marcos
  • Region: Huila
  • City: San Marcos, Timaná
  • Variety: Caturra (70%), Colombia
  • Altitude: 1,500 – 2,000 metres above sea level
  • Processing: Fully washed and dried on raised beds
  • Owner: 30 small holder farms
  • Tasting notes: Balanced and clean, with bright orange acidity, intense sugarcane sweetness, and notes of milk chocolate, caramel, honey and marzipan and lingering sweet finish.

The 30 small-holder farms under the San Marcos name, farm in the town of Timaná — located in the south of Huila, 180 km from the state’s capital Neiva, a prime location for growing high quality Colombian coffee.

The San Marcos small-holders are members of the Association of Agricultural Producers of Timaná (Asprotimaná), who have helped this group find access to specialty markets for their exceptional coffee. Created by a small group of coffee growers in 2002 as a way to increase their bargaining power and achieve a better price for their coffee, currently the association has around 150 coffee producing members, who produce on average a total of 10,000 bags of green coffee annually.

The Brew

I often order in South American coffees with the expectation of fairly bold, full-bodied results in the brew. This offering from San Marcos in many ways achieved that, yet with exceptional balance and subtlety as well.

Brewed in a V60 drip filter, the end result was an exceptionally creamy, medium bodied drink, with a smooth, lingering finish. The overall flavour profile I’d describe as choc-orange, however there were definitely notes of blackberry, honey and toffee in there as well.

Whilst not as clean when brewed with the AeroPress, it was very well-balanced in the cup, displaying perhaps a little more of that toffee sweetness. It was enjoyed equally as well by my buds in our little office coffee collective as a start of the day pick me up.

When brewed as Espresso, again, the combination of orange acidity, sweet toffee, and chocolate, made for a choc-orange bomb in a cup. A real winner on all counts. When combined with milk in a cappuccino or flat white, although a little more subtle, the sweetness of the milk and those choc-orange flavours presented a Jaffa milkshake of sorts.

The Finish

This offering from the small-holders of San Marcos is well worth trying, whether you’re a filter or espresso type, and will serve you equally well through either method. If – like me — you are both, then there is a treat in store with this superb Colombian.

It looks as though there is still some available on the Ministry Grounds website (links above), and it would be advisable to get on over and order some, otherwise I might just snap up the rest.


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What’s Brewing #12 – Colombia Hato Viejo

I was particularly excited to roast a batch of this Colombian, given the same coffee had recently been used in the QLD Aeropress Championships and I had also tried some of the filter roast at Strauss, in Brisbane’s CBD. My initial batch was roasted a couple of weeks ago, and did not go as smoothly as I would have liked, hence this post being delayed until I had the chance to try another batch. Let’s see how things went on the second attempt.

Coffee

Nariño is located in the south of Colombia, right in the border with Ecuador, this farm is located in a village called La Pradera, one of the best producing regions in Colombia and where most of the best Cup of Excellence coffees come from.

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds

Brew Types

Hario V60 Filter, Aeropress, Espresso

Impressions

This coffee was highly enjoyable when consumed with milk as a latte or piccolo, having a nice buttery mouthfeel, and notes of dark chocolate, berry and a little honey. There was enough body to carry these milk-based drinks well, and it certainly did the job as a morning starter. When consumed black, my pick was the V60, particularly once cooled, as the flavours really developed well, including some citrus and a little berry complementing the base chocolate flavours, with a nice clean finish.

As espresso, it made a great filter! No doubt a feature of my roast more than the coffee itself. Served short, the sweetness was certainly evident, however the acidity quite intense and overpowering. I intend to roast the remaining green beans I have just a little darker and assess things again. The Aeropress was probably somewhere in the middle, again the flavours increasing proportionally to the temperature cooling in the cup. Here I would mostly tend to brew and let rest a good few minutes before polishing off the cup fairly quickly while it was in this “sweet spot”.

Final Thoughts

On occasion I order in some green beans to roast and probably don’t quite hit the target with the roast profile – I think this is one of those times. There is probably something else at play here too, that being my expectations. Having consumed this coffee elsewhere prior to my roasting and brewing attempts, I had certain pre-conceived notions about the taste and flavour.

The difference? More than likely professional roasters and high quality baristas being far more adept at the entire roasting and brewing process than myself, producing superior results in the cup. Had I not tasted this first, perhaps I may have rated the Hato Viejo a little more highly. It is probably worth reminding anyone reading, the results of these What’s Brewing posts are influenced just as much (if not more so) by my roasting and brewing techniques, as they are the merits of the coffees themselves, and should be viewed accordingly.

Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly not disappointed and this is a highly enjoyable coffee, though (I) probably missed the mark slightly this time.

Rating: 3.5/5