Coffee, like wine, can be transportive. The influence of the soil in which it is grown is crucial in creating an experience which can take the drinker to the certain time, the certain place in which it was created. The other element vital in the creation of this coffee, is the producer themselves.
In the case of our Limited Edition Diofanor, the coffee takes you high up into the Andes to the Ruiz family farm La Promesa. La Promesa (The Promise) lies tucked away in Buenavista, the smallest municipality of Quindío, the second smallest department in Colombia.
The slopes are covered with tropical rainforest, bamboo and palms. The soil is rich and volcanic, a legacy of the formation of the region, a place where tectonic plates which smashed together 45 million years ago created the Ring of Fire, part of which now forms the top of one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world. It is hot, humid and lush in Quindío, perfect for coffee growing and the department is a powerhouse of coffee production, both in terms of quantity and quality.
This coffee takes you to that place, but it is special in that it is also offers the drinker a detailed portrait of the man who produced it. Diofanor Ruiz comes from generations of coffee growers and he is passionate about his vocation.
Dedicated to environmentally friendly practice, Diofanor’s 20 hectares of Castillo variety coffee trees are nurtured without the use of chemicals. And most importantly, all the washed and honey processing is carried out on-site by the family.
It is here that the hand of the producer can be seen in these three coffees. Diofanor has chosen to show three very distinctive characters which are created from the same harvest.
So what is processing? To put it simply, it is what the coffee grower chooses to do with the ripe coffee cherries once they are picked. All coffee is delivered to its final milling in the same state – green, raw, dried seeds encased in a protective shell called parchment. What happens between the ripe cherry and the raw beans can make all the difference.
To draw another parallel with wine, it is similar to the winemaker’s decision to age in an oak barrel versus a steel tank. There are three common types of processing: natural (dry), honey (semi-washed), and washed (wet).
Ripe coffee cherries are spread out on raised patios to dry in the sun.
The thick skin shrivels and shrinks like a sultana and the flesh of the fruit (called mucilage in coffee) dries onto the seeds.
Once the cherry has completely dried, the skin is scraped from the outside of the parchment, and the coffee is ready to be milled.
Sounds simple, but this process is fraught with difficulty.
In order to ensure that the cherries dry evenly and do not become mouldy or fermented, the fruit must be constantly monitored and turned by hand over the 25 – 35 day process.
The benefit of a natural coffee is the beans are infused with the fruit flavours of the skin and mucilage, giving rich and wild tasting cherry-berry sweetness to the coffee.
Diofanor Natural flavour notes: strawberry, bubblegum, blueberry
No bees were involved in the processing of this coffee!
“Honey” is a nickname and refers to the appearance of the coffee during the drying stage of this process.
Diofanor first soaks the cherry in ceramic vats, allowing it to ferment, sweeten and soften, for 12 hours. The cherry skin is then peeled from the fruit.
What remains – the beans in their parchment, covered with a thin layer of sticky fruit – is laid on raised patios in the sun to dry, and the sugars from the fruit soak into the beans, without the cherry skin adding its character.
The drying process takes about 10 – 15 days, and requires the same close attention and hourly turning as the natural.
A great honey coffee has sweetness and crispness in equal measure, embodying some of the traits of the natural process and some of the washed.
Diofanor Honey flavour notes: apricot, milk chocolate, floral
“Washed” seems like an understatement for the process these coffee beans go through.
First, the ripe cherries are soaked in the ceramic tanks for 40 hours, starting a process called anaerobic fermentation, which breaks down the carbohydrates of the cherries to create sugar.
They then have the skin and flesh removed, before being soaked again for 20 hours, using the same anaerobic fermentation method.
Washing coffee is a precise art, and Diofanor monitors the Brix (sugar) levels of the tanks throughout the process to create specific flavours and balanced body and acidity.
The washed process is time consuming and requires a lot of equipment and water, but allows the producer to control the outcome down to very specific points.
Washed coffees are bright, clean, full flavoured and balanced.
Diofanor Washed flavour notes: pineapple, mango, citrus
In splitting his harvest three ways and applying a different process to each, Senor Ruiz and his family have enabled us to experience the full potential of his coffee.
It is very unusual to be able to compare washed, honey and natural lots of the same coffee – through Diofanor’s personal commitment of time and money, not to mention his creativity – we have a rare opportunity to taste distinctly different flavours in three lots of coffee from the same trees.
We thank Senor Ruiz, his family and his community for providing us with this opportunity and hope you enjoy this special experience as much as we do.