Traditionally decaffeinated coffee has a rather bad reputation in terms of flavour. This Colombian masterpiece however, has everything it needs to overturn this bad rep once and for all. It is fruity, it is nutty, it is sweet and mellow and if you didn't know it, you probably wouldn't be able to recognize it as a decaf at all! In other words: you should try it!
This coffee comes to us from El Carmen in Pitalito, Huila, Colombia, a town of coffee growers who have banded together to form an association which is part of a bigger nation-wide network (in Spanish: "Red") of associations initiated through the efforts of one of our green coffee partners Raw Material. The main purpose of this network of associations is for farmers and buyers to come together in facing and improving the major constraints that are making it extremely hard for coffee growers in Colombia (and most other parts of the coffee growing world) to make a living from their coffee production: a lack of key infrastructure to produce quality coffee and access to stable prices in return.
In joining the Red Associations set up by Raw Material, the farmers of El Carmen have received support in building their own washing station as well as a coffee quality lab in their town to be able to work continuously on improving the quality of their coffee. They also benefit from an agreed minimum price that is (as of September 2019) more than three times what they would receive at the price level of the world commodity market and more than double the FairTrade level. At the time of writing the minimum price for this coffee was at about 3.43 USD which amounts to 2.5x the average household income in this area. The coffees are awarded price premiums for outstanding quality on top of that. This system ensures that the producers receive stable and sustainable prices, get access to the specialty coffee market, can improve their quality and share knowledge across the value chain both ways. It ensures that they can make a decent living from growing coffee and sets the whole community up for a better future.
Have you ever asked yourself how the caffeine is taken out of the coffee? Here is how it's done: with this coffee, which is fully washed and tried before it is transferred to the decaffeination plant, an organic compound (Ethyl Acetate) which is a by-product of the sugarcane production is used to flush out the caffeine. The process begins with steaming the coffee, increasing its porosity, triggering the chemical break down of the bond between the caffeine, salts and chlorogenic acid in the bean. The beans are then submerged in an ethyl acetate solvent, until 97% of the caffeine is removed. A final steam then serves to remove residual traces of the compound. It all sounds very technical but in fact this way of getting rid of the caffeine is widely regarded as the least disruptive to the beans and is often referred to as natural process decaf.
El Carmen - Fully Washed Decaf
Region: Pitalito, Huila
Altitude: 1400 - 2100 masl
Producer: El Carmen Association
Process: Fully Washed, Sugarcane Decaf
Varietal: Caturra, Castillo
Tasting Notes: Nut Brittle, Brown Sugar Rose Hips
Recommended for: Espresso and Brewed Coffee