||Costa Rica Monte Brisas Finca Salaca Black Honey Typica 2016
Here we have the coffee which, in the past, I affectionately started calling 'Monty Burns', and it's back for a third year. This year we had two lots from this farm/mill combo, but only this lot has made it to the website. The other lot (a naturally processed Villalobos) was sent out exclusively to In My Mug subscribers. Aren't they a lucky bunch?!
So I think I should start by explaining this coffee's long and rather complicated name. The mill where this coffee is processed is called 'Monte Brisas', and the farm's called 'Finca Salaca'. The varietal of the coffee plant is Typica, and the processing method is called 'Black Honey' (more on this later).
This coffee comes from the west valley in the region of Zarcero; both the farm and the mill are very near to the famous mill owned by our friends Gillio and Zarcero. The farm (Salaca) is located at 1,750 metres above sea level and is owned by Luis Salazar, who has a total of twelve hectares of land (eleven of which are for coffee production).
Although the family have been farming for years, Monte Brisas is a brand new micro mill in only its third year of production. I visited last year. The family had the tiniest amount of coffee and had already pre-sold it to another buyer. Luis promised he would have something for me this year, and the sample was waiting when I visited again.
So, Black Honey processing. When the coffee cherry is picked, you either leave the cherry on (Natural processing) or remove it fairly shortly after picking. When you remove the seed from the fruit (the coffee bean as we know it), there's a sticky mucilage, which is usually removed using fermentation for Washed processing. This requires an amount of water and can pollute local rivers and streams. Add to this the problem of a lack of water in Costa Rica, and the Pulped Natural and Honey processes become the perfect solution. There is a kind of de-pulper that can remove this mucilage and which can be set to different degrees. Honey processing started off as three different types, but the range expanded over time: there is White Honey (removes the most mucilage), Gold Honey, Yellow Honey, Red Honey and Black Honey processing.
The drying of the parchment with all the mucilage still attached has a direct impact on the cup's sweetness. Black Honey is the most complex, rich in body, flavourful, laborious and expensive. It's also the most at risk of over-fermentation. But generally, it has a very unique cup profile characterised by its sweetness, enhanced fruit notes and sweet acidity in the taste.
In the cup this coffee takes you on a bit of a flavour journey. You're going to start off with black cherry jam and then find just a little bit of milk chocolate. Then there's the texture of chocolate truffle, and black tea on the finish, with an aftertaste of lemon. Quite an adventure!
Country: Costa Rica
Farm: Finca Salaca
Mill: Monte Brisas
Farmer: Luis Salazar
Farm size: twelve hectares
Coffee growing area: eleven hectares
Altitude: 1,750 m.a.s.l.
Processing system: Black Honey
Medium – just before second crack.
"Quick Look" Guide
Black cherry jam, milk chocolate, chocolate truffle, black tea, lemon.
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