What’s Brewing: Guatemala Santa Clara

It’s a great time to sample some superb Guatemalan coffee in Brisbane at the moment, and I have also been in on the act by roasting some myself. Cup Coffee have a Santa Clara showcase of sorts, currently offering washed, honey and fully natural processed versions for sale, many of which have also found their way into a cup or two at Strauss Café & Bar in the CBD.

On a recent order of green beans from Ministry Grounds, I picked up some of the fully washed Santa Clara to roast and brew at home.

Coffee

  • Guatemala City (Image courtesy Wikipedia)
    Guatemala City (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

    Guatemala Santa Clara

  • City: Antigua
  • Altitude: 1600–1830m above sea level
  • Variety: Bourbon
  • Processing: Fully Washed and patio dried
  • Owner: Zelaya family

The farm has been managed since 1988 by Ricardo Zelaya, the 4th generation of the Zelaya family to have produced coffee at Santa Clara. The Zelaya family has been growing coffee for over 100 years and four generations. This renowned family owns farms throughout Guatemala and grows one of only a handful of genuine ‘Antigua’ coffees (coffees grown in the Antigua valley area bounded by three volcanoes – Agua, Acatenango and Fuego).

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds

While tracking down some information for this post, I also came across a brief interview with the owner of the Santa Clara Farm, Ricardo Zelaya, conducted when he visited Melbourne in 2013. He talks about managing the farm, plans for the future, and how he drinks his coffee. You can find it on the Market Lane Coffee blog.

Brew Methods

Hario V60 Filter, Aeropress, Espresso (+ Kalita Wave at Strauss Café & Bar)

Impressions

As I mentioned earlier, this shade grown coffee is processed by both wet and dry methods, and if you can, it is a worthwhile endeavour to sample both.

As I have now begun roasting each coffee more specifically for espresso and filter based consumption, this and most future posts will discuss my impressions from this perspective (that is, two separate roast batches with different roast profiles). In the past, I have written on the basis of a single roast profile for all types of drinks.

As a morning latte or flat white, the Santa Clara performed really well in milk. It created a creamy, smooth drink, with a good chocolatey base, and some of the fruity flavours peeking through as well. A very, very enjoyable way to start the day. As espresso, also very enjoyable, a bright cup, with a pleasant level of acidity, medium body and a lovely creamy mouthfeel.

The filter roast performed equally well in the Aeropress and V60 Pourover, the V60 resulting in a more delicate, refined brew as expected. Both demonstrated a fresh, bright cup, again the acidity was pleasant, with enough body to make a great “winter warming” brew consumed sitting in the sun on a cool winter afternoon. This perhaps clouded my judgement of the Aeropress (consumed at my office desk), given sitting in the backyard sunshine carries an obvious environmental advantage! Again, nice fruity flavours with chocolate and citrus in both forms of brewing.

Finally, a brief mention of my thoughts on the variety of processing options on offer at Strauss Café & Bar, which were all sampled through the Kalita Wave. My pick would be the natural process, which seemed to enhance the stone fruit flavours a little more, and at times was reminiscent of a juicy grape. Not the most elegant of descriptions probably, however hopefully you get my drift. That is all I have to say on this point – remember, I do not do café reviews.

Final Thoughts

Loved it.

Probably one of the more enjoyable coffees I have roasted and brewed this year. I must admit, the cool weather of late has made it a little easier to control my roasts (given they are done outside), and with a little experimentation, I feel these have been improving over time as well. I’ll be disappointed when the last of the Santa Clara goes through the grinder, however there may be something even more enjoyable up ahead. After all, isn’t that the basis for the journey?

Rating: 4.5/5

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Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesdaya weekly link to posts of interest from around the web:

The Well Appointed Desk
Whichever pen is regularly in your hand, you will likely need a refill from those listed here. There is an endless amount of Googling required when searching for refills or at least trying to determine compatibility. This post from Ana at the Desk goes a long way towards solving this problem, and is destined to be a classic:
The Epic Pen Refill Guide

Asian Efficiency
This continues a four-part series by Mike Schmitz for AE on the principles and systems of quick capture in the context of a GTD based workflow. A nice integration of nvALT, which is a super fast plain text search and entry Mac application that also supports Markdown. Part 1 is well worth reading also:
Quick Capture, Part 2: nvALT

SBRE Brown YouTube Channel
One of the more experienced fountain pen reviewers out there, and perhaps one of the most prolific as well, presenting us with regular high quality video of various pens, inks and many other things in action. Take it from Stephen, if you’re thinking of doing some reviews yourself – Do it! (whilst reading that, imagine 2 very pointed fingers in your direction straight down the barrel of a HD Webcam). Words from a master that suggest forgoing the second thoughts and writing about what you enjoy – its your duty:
Why aren’t you doing reviews?

The Fountain Pen Quest
With the Nock Co on-line store finally open, no doubt there will be more reviews and views of customers to come, however I thought this was a nice first look of some index cards I will certainly be trying out for myself. Pictures do speak a thousand words, and Ray has put up a great gallery which will give you an excellent idea of what to expect:
Quick Look: Nockco 3 X 5 Dot Dash Note Cards

Whilst at FPQ, also check out Ray’s post looking at the remaining pen cases from Nock Co.’s Kickstarter project, having reviewed The Hightower back in May (a model I have also been enjoying using on a daily basis). No doubt much of this inventory is going up…then down, in Nock Co.’s on-line store:
Review: The rest of the Nock Co Kickstarter Pen Cases

Serious Eats
If you read my previous post, you will know I have a keen interest in learning more about this manual coffee brewing caper. Nick Cho describes many of the principles and processes involved with this method of brewing:
Coffee Science: How To Make the Best Pourover Coffee at Home

Barista Guild of America
A short video (4:46) produced by the author of the article above, demonstrating those very brewing principles. Everyone who watches these videos screenshots the key captions and brew ratios etc right!…er…right?
Kalita Wave Coffee Brewing: Intensive with Nick Cho

Pens! Paper! Pencils!
Now that’s a pen. Ian Hedley’s great review of a gorgeous Franklin-Christoph, with yes, that is correct – 20 different nib options. I’m all for choices though I’m thinking perhaps that’s a paralysing one for some:
Franklin-Christoph Model 02 Intrinsic fountain pen review

Mac Sparky
David Sparks is back with another Field Guide. Although currently for pre-order on the iBooks Store (AUD $11.99) with a release date of 21 July 2014, I’m sure this guide to preparing and giving great presentations will be every bit as good as the previous four Field Guides (of which I own two, Paperless and Markdown):
New MacSparky Field Guide: Presentations

~ PD.

A little coffee and a lot of learning

In thinking a little about independent learning recently, it seemed a good time to put down some thoughts, having myself attended a class on manual coffee brewing at Strauss Cafè & Bar in Brisbane’s CBD a couple of weeks ago. What follows is a brief rundown of the class, along with a few of those thoughts learning.

On Learning

Brew_Class_3Exactly why have I been thinking specifically about learning? Part of my day job involves training new staff in certain areas of the business, and in reviewing and updating these materials, I’ve been considering further improvements to make them more effective. Thinking back, I have also sat in enough university lecture halls, experiencing a wide cross-section of teaching to understand the delivery of information is equally as important as the content itself.

I’m referring to those memorable courses or seminars you attend, regardless of the topic. Where, after attending, you leave with a solid foundation of the topic at hand, yet also a framework for independent experimentation and growth. In cases where you already have a solid foundation, some of the tenets of that foundation are challenged, with alternatives provided that encourage you to seek further information, experiment, or at the very least reassess those facets of the foundation your knowledge is based on.

The great presenters? Those that clearly have knowledge so deep it would be nothing for them to talk all day, entirely unscripted, though remaining somewhat focused on the topic at hand. The best “stuff”? Well, that can often be found in the anecdotes and stories they have to tell, illustrating a point so precisely, it becomes one you won’t forget.

Although occurring in the context of drawing out information from a subject rather than the teachings of a presenter, a similar point made in a recent blog post by author Steven Pressfield, about doing research for his latest book The Lion’s Gate:

They brought out the insights and memories that they had kept in the vault because they deemed them marginal or “not important enough.” It was these stories that turned out to be the most fascinating and revealing.

Time for the coffee, however my point above is simply this, while the brewing ratio’s, numbers and guidelines are important[1], I believe we learn more from the experience (both successes and otherwise) of those more knowledgable than ourselves, who have spent countless hours themselves learning, considering, tweaking and experimenting, so our starting point begins further along the learning curve than it otherwise might. What follows is evidence enough of that.

The Brewing Class

Myself and nine other keen participants were in attendance for the class, run by national level competition barista Adam Metelmann (Twitter, Instagram), of Strauss Cafè & Bar. The contents of the class itself covered the key aspects of brewing (items below in brackets were the focus for the particular topic or the key numbers used on the night), which those interested in coffee would be familiar with:

  • water quality (characteristics, with an emphasis on filtration)
  • brew temperature (standard of 93 degrees)
  • measuring and dosing (28g coffee, 400g water)
  • pouring technique (differences for various brewing methods)
  • coffee (type and roast level; coarse grind/deep coffee bed principle)
  • phases of brewing (Wetting or bloom, Extraction, Hydrolysis)
  • different types of brewing equipment and grinders
  • key components of a home set up (brewer, grinder, temperature probe, scales, timer)
Kalita Wave
Kalita Wave (image courtesy Cup Coffee on-line store)

After gaining some understanding of the level of brewing experience within the group, Adam covered those aspects listed above, and proceeded on to some brewing. To demonstrate the differences in some of the above variables, we sampled coffee brewed using the Kalita Wave filter (which can be purchased from Strauss or through Cup Coffee here in Brisbane). The first round, two brews made from different water sources (both from the Brisbane area); the second, two brews made with water a couple of degrees apart in temperature (93 vs 91 degrees celsius).

The results? Like night and day on both occasions – actually fairly astonishing when tasted side by side. The key here? Knowing. Being aware of the factors that will alter the resulting brew, and being able to measure them, control some and change others, before again assessing the results in the cup.

Other more technical topics came up, including total dissolved solids (TDS), refractometry, agtron levels and the like, however these are for my own further reading and interest, or perhaps a 2nd level brewing class (cc Strauss suggestion box). Great to know about, however the class remained focused on the key fundamentals of brewing as noted above, utilising the tools I have readily available at home or could easily obtain and use should I choose.

Where to Next?

Brew_ClassSimple. For myself, more tweaking, experimentation, a greater willingness to waste a little of the coffee I roast (or buy) in the pursuit of something better in the cup. In addition to more reading, searching, YouTube-ing and pursuit of further background knowledge in these topics.

Since attending the evening a couple of weeks ago, I have monitored my brewing temperatures a little more closely (new temperature probe on the shopping list); ground a little courser and increased my dose a little; brewed sooner after roasting, assessing the changing flavour profiles as the days pass; improved my pour technique; and now tare my scales after the initial bloom pour. Little changes – big difference. My brews (and understanding of them) have improved immensely and I believe this will continue.

The best part of the evening? Over an hour and a half spent with someone who clearly has a passion for all things coffee, has experimented and experienced all aspects of the brewing continuum to present us with a more focused point at which to work from. Sure, what I am looking for might take a little work, however at least I know to head north rather than have to find out east, south and west aren’t where the answer lies.

Finally, I am lucky enough to have my daily filter brew made by that same barista with clinical precision and overarching passion each and every day, for which I am eternally grateful.

Go forth and brew!

(And sign up early for the next class – if you’re not quick I might take your spot).

~ PD.


  1. Were we simply after a recipe, a Google search will provide thousands of these.  ↩