Costa Rica Sumava Lactic Fermentation Experimental


Bean name Costa Rica Sumava Lactic Fermentation Experimental
Country Costa Rica
Region Western Valley
Other info Varietals: Catuai and Villa Sarchi


This coffee comes from a farm that's actually two farms, but the two farms exist as one farm. They do produce coffee independently, though. Exciting, huh?

Overall the farm is called Finca Sumava de Lourdes, and it's located in Lourdes de Naranjo in the western valley of Costa Rica at an altitude between 1,670 and 1,790 metres above sea level.

The farm is made up of two farms called Finca Monte Llano Bonito, which has nine plots of land, and Finca Monte Lourdes, which has six plots of land. This coffee comes from Finca Monte Llano Bonito. Keeping up? Here's a picture that might help ...

This is a super unusual coffee. It's an experiment by the Sumava team, and we're very proud to be able to share with you. As always, the decision to buy this was made at the cupping table, where it really stood out from the coffees around it and screamed: 'drink me if you dare!!!!' It's a very unusual flavour, but thankfully one that we felt was delicious.

So how did the lactic experiment work? Well, to start with we need to talk about the Costa Rican honey process. This is now the most common way of processing coffee cherries in Costa Rica. It involves removing the skin and some of the fruit before the beans (and the remaining mucilage or fruit pulp) are left to dry in the sun. During the drying, fermentation by yeast and bacteria (particularly lactic acid bacteria – 'LAB') break down the remaining pulp.

This has achieved massive success in Costa Rica over the last ten years or so, and it's being used in other countries too. However, in the last few years, a new processing method has been trialled around the world: anaerobic fermentation. This has many variations, but it involves keeping the depulped fruit in a container filled with water, which keeps most of the oxygen out. Yeast can ferment either aerobically (i.e. with oxygen – this increases the number of yeast cells) or anaerobically (i.e. without oxygen – this makes alcohol).

Keeping oxygen out of the fermentation stops the yeast multiplying, but doesn't slow down the LAB. The idea of anaerobic processing is that the LAB will play a bigger part than normal and will change the flavour of the beans. There's a lot of variations (and debate!) on this, but beans processed this way are often described as slightly cinnamon-like or spicy.

Now we get to the experiment! Sumava already used anaerobic processing (for example in the H3 lot we buy from the farm), but this lactic experiment is the next step. In an effort to give the beans more time without oxygen, the whole cherries are picked, washed, and put in a plastic box with the lid closed. They're left there on their own for four days, during which they begin to squish down (not a technical term!) and release their juices. After four days, the fruit is taken out and depulped, before being returned to the box along with the cherry juices.

From there, we go back to the same kind of anaerobic fermentation as before, but these beans have had that extra rest in the whole cherries and they're soaking in fruit juices rather than water. After a day in the juices, they're rinsed and put into water to continue the fermentation.

The lot we have here has spent three days in anaerobic fermentation, and four days in the whole cherries. In many ways, this makes it something of a cross between a Natural and an anaerobic Honey process, and the flavour fits that. It's like the boozy fruit flavours of a great Natural processed coffee; but it's somehow different, replacing the Natural 'funk' with an over-ripe fruit flavour.

This just screams purple at me: black grape soda and purple Starburst, all mashed up with over-ripe raspberries and some dark cherries. There's some brown banana in there too, and a bit of bitter lemon on the finish before a big slug of Calvados hits you. It's super unusual and super complex.

Country: Costa Rica
Region: Western valley
Location: Lourdes de Naranjo
Farm: Finca Sumava de Lourdes
Producer: Francisco Mena
Altitude: 1,670–1,790 m.a.s.l.
Processing method: Lactic
Varietal: Catuai and Villa Sarchi

Black grape soda, purple Starburst, over-ripe raspberry, dark cherry, brown banana, bitter lemon, Calvados.

Clean cup: (1–8): 6
Sweetness: (1–8): 6.5
Acidity: (1–8): 6.5
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6.5
Flavour: (1–8): 8
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6.5
Balance: (1–8): 6
Overall: (1–8): 8
Correction:(+36): +36

Total (max. 100): 90

Roast Information:
Medium – keep it quite quick and drop this before it reaches second crack.

Cupping notes

Clean cup None/8
Sweetness None/8
Acidity None/8
Mouthfeel None/8
Flavour None/8
Aftertaste None/8
Balance None/8
Overall None/8
Correction +None
Total 90

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