||#SSSSS No2 – Nicaragua Finca Limoncillo Pulped Natural Yellow Pacamara Petites 2019
||#SSSSS Limited Editions 2019
||Varietal: Yellow Pacamara
Number 2 of 12, February 2019, in the #SSSSS 2019 - Steve's Super Secret Stash Subscription. A limited availability series of roasted coffee beans.
This month it's: Nicaragua Finca Limoncillo Pulped Natural Yellow Pacamara Petites 2019
January has rushed past us and now February sweeps in with an impressively icy chill, and also something else impressive - Steve’s Super Secret Stash Subscription coffee #2 : D
The 2nd #SSSSS coffee was roasted + posted yesterday (Thursday, Jan 31st) and should be reaching you very soon, maybe if you've got a particularly good postie it's even already arrived.
I hope you all enjoyed last month’s special lot from Kenya (big thanks for the tweets & posts!!) – I know I did! It’s a tough act to follow, so I decided to call in a big hitter. A personal favourite of the last few years that brings bucketfuls of flavour… <deep breath> Nicaragua Limoncillo Yellow Pacamara Petites Pulped Natural!!!!
There’s a lot going on there, so lets break it down a bit. Starting with the farm – Finca Limoncillo in Nicaragua. It’s owned by the Mierisch family – one of the most well known and regarded names in Nicaraguan coffee production. Their family runs quite a few farms now, but they’ve got there by constantly pushing and learning and getting better. Life hasn’t been easy for them – there farms were confiscated by the Sandinista government in the 80s, before being returned to them in ‘92. After living in the US, they returned to rebuild the farms and have built an enviable reputation for quality and consistency. Headed by Doctor Erwin Mierisch, the family have brought skills from their other lives and brought them to bear on their farms. Maybe it was this forced delay in their coffee career which has provided this reputation – returning to their farms after nearly 15 years, they knew they needed to learn about coffee and didn’t have routines to fall back on. They asked questions and saw the potential for speciality, high quality coffee in Nicaragua. They experimented and were involved in the Cup of Excellence and coffee education – a family I’m honoured to know and call friends.
Next… Yellow Pacamara. That’s the varietal. Now Pacamara is a hybrid of Pacas and Maragogype which has unusually large beans and is most popular in El Salvador and Guatemala. Traditionally, Pacamara has had Red fruit, but this fruit is Yellow when it’s ripe. This natural mutation was first spotted on the farm by a sharp eyed security guard. He didn’t realise, I’m sure, how much of a stir this would create in coffee circles, but the Mierisch family did and diligently harvested the ripe yellow cherries before replanting the beans. Of those they replanted, some grew Red fruit and some Yellow. So they kept repeating the process until they had a working stock of Yellow Pacamara plants. I was lucky enough to taste this before it went to the wider world and I fell in love with the varietal there and then.
Then we come to Petites. This is something that came out of a conversation I had with my good friend Alejandro in El Salvador. His farm, Argentina, was having a bad year for production and he asked if we could try the beans that were a little smaller than what he normally sent us. These Petites as we called them would normally not make the grade, either because the flavour wasn’t as good or because they are difficult to roast. However, we tried them and liked them, and I had an idea. It’s one that worked perfectly in Nicaragua, as the Yellow Pacamara is such a small crop and in such high demand that it seemed like a natural fit to see how their Petites tasted. It also helps that Pacamaras are big beans – you’ll notice your beans might be Petite by Pacamara standards, but not by normal bean standards.
And now a change of voice, a rare guest on #SSSSS but someone who I thought you might like to hear from - 2017 World Barista Champion Dale Harris!! During his UKBC winning competition year of 2017 he used Yellow Pacamara Petites from Finca Limoncillo (but a different processing method) and here's a quick chat with Dale...
Steve loves Pacamaras and every time he comes back from Central America he seems to have found a new one. They can be really hard to work with, but can have simply great flavours. The Yellow Pacamaras grown on Limoncillo have great floral and citrus notes, and you get great depth, sweetness and body too when you combine them with Eleane Mierisch's excellent processing skills.
During processing, coffee is often sorted by size and the 'petites' are the beans that fall below a certain sizing grade. One year when Steve was tasting samples from Limoncillo, Eleane suggested he tasted those petites separately. He was so excited by the flavours that he asked for them to be bagged as a separate lot, and then when we were working through quality control they kept shining on the table.
I think this coffee ties well into trends expressed through projects like Dan Barber's wasted pop-ups earlier in 2017 at Selfridges; sometimes there are diamonds where we least expect them, and the challenge is staying open to them.
If you'd like to find out more about Petites via listening to Dale you can watch his 2017 UKBC Manchester regionals heat performance here and UKBC finals performance at Espressofest Bristol here.
OK right back to Steve time, now where was I, oh yes...finally – it’s a Pulped Natural. What this means is that, after picking, the ripe cherries go through a machine to remove the skin. This leaves the beans with a sticky layer of mucilage around them. Those are laid out on patios to dry in the sun. It takes lots of skill and attention to keep these drying cherries from getting too hot and producing unpleasant flavours as the fruit around the seed breaks down.
After all those explanations, how does it taste? In the cup this really is a super interesting coffee - there’s hops and black pepper, but all underpinned by a creamy body and loads of sweetness that reminds me of a banana milkshake. That all makes for bold flavours held in delicate balance.
Municipality: Yasica Norte
Producers: The Mierisch Family
Altitude: 1,200 m.a.s.l.
Variety: Yellow Pacamara
Processing system: Pulped Natural
"Quick Look" Guide:
Hops, black pepper, banana milkshake
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