We fell in love with Diofanor’s coffee when we were lucky enough to visit his farm and taste the coffee onsite. This black honey edition is rich and sweet, with flavours of cherry, caramel and toffee.
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 August Bean of the Month – Colombia Diofanor Black Honey, 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 honey processing is carried out on-site by the family.
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).
No bees were involved in the processing of this coffee!
‘Honey’ processing refers to the appearance of the coffee during the drying stage of this process. Diofanor first soaks the ripe coffee cherries 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 mucilage – 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 close attention and hourly turning. 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.
Black honey is achieved when only the skin is removed while preserving all of the coffee fruit – called mucilage – intact to dry onto the beans. The fruit becomes sticky and darkens as it dries, creating the ‘black honey’ effect. This process is relatively rare, as it takes up to twice as much work and labour as yellow or red honey methods which dry much faster due to the lower fruit content.
Colombia Diofanor Black Honey is richly aromatic, with notes of cherry, caramel, and toffee in a syrupy body with a clean and sweet finish. This coffee tastes a bit like cherry ripe in a milky coffee and silky as a long black.
Try Colombia Diofanor Black Honey in-store as your regular coffee (for no extra charge) or purchase beans online.