Not very long ago, Colombian and Brazilian coffees were the laughing stock of the coffee industry. They were known for being cheap – in terms of both cost and quality. Colombian beans, in particular, were sold primarily for purposes of homogenization and blending; go to any grocery store and pick up the first bag of Hawaiian “Kona Blend” you can find on their shelves – that blend is about 50-75% Colombian.
Lately, though (over the past few years), Colombian coffees have advanced considerably. The farmers there are more careful with their practices, more observant of coffee quality, more interested in producing a coffee they can be proud of.
Coffee companies all over the world are flocking to Colombia to source the most excellent beans they can get their hands on. We’ve had a few them here at the Table already: CREMA’s Colombia El Pital, Stumptown’s Colombia El Jordan, Heart and Metropolis’s Colombia Alto-Palmar, Heart’s Los Pijaos de Tolima… They were all fantastic – nothing at all like my father’s Colombias.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping Counter Culture Coffee’s La Golondrina, Colombia. Feel free to pull up a chair.
High in the mountains of colonial Popayán, located in southern Cauca, Colombia, is an association of farmers who call themselves not La Golondrina, but Orgánica (Spanish for “organic”). The farms of Orgánica’s members lie in clusters around the villages of Timbio and Piendamó, to the north of Popayán, and they range in size from one hectare to more than 20 hectares. This area of the world has exquisite coffees, but is sadly more renown for its troubles – terrorism, violence, drug trafficking, and high crime rates. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of Colombian coffees, the farmers here have had to overcome nearly insurmountable odds.
Just as insurmountable an odd that Orgánica had to overcome originated at the farm level. A few years ago, in late 2009, leaf rust struck some of the farms of this organization and almost decimated their business, decreasing their output by about 75 percent. But with the perseverance and dedication of Orgánica’s members and founders, Nelson Melo and Liliana Pabón, Orgánica rebounded.
Despite these hardships, Counter Culture stuck with Orgánica, even helping them get their operation rebooted. In 2010 Counter Culture used Orgánica’s coffees in their 2010 Holiday Blend; a dollar per pound sold supported organic composting and soil building projects with Orgánica’s farmers.
origin: Popayán, Cauca, Colombia
elevation: 1500-2000 meters above sea level
cultivars: Caturra, Castillo
process: washed, patio-dried, raised screens
certifications: Organic, Direct Trade
The aroma of this coffee is very sweet, very pleasant. It has a smooth roasty hazelnut, with notes of caramel and vanilla. Like a creme brulee.
Immediately post-brew, there are heavy flavors of milk chocolate and salted caramel. It has a great buttery mouthfeel, sweet and smooth, that coats the palate which allows the mellower fruitiness that rests underneath the heavier, dominant flavors to come out a bit more. Cherry, cantaloupe, banana. As the cup cools, the cherry flavors become more prominent and the chocolate and caramel is replaced by a very creamy vanilla. This coffee has a really mellow citrus acidity that bubbles just beneath the surface and, when combined the vanilla creaminess, gives the coffee a really sweet Dreamsicle flavor.
Full body; creamy mouthfeel; clean finish; low, mellow acidity.
the bottom line:
Counter Culture Coffee is usually pretty consistent across the board with their coffees: they’re mellow, they’re sweet, solid, and well-rounded. The La Golondrina, Colombia is certainly no exception. Smooth and clean, full-bodied and well-rounded, sweet and satisfying, with dominant notes of chocolate, caramel, and cherry. It doesn’t pull any punches and there aren’t any surprises in the cup, but it’s a pleasurable experience from beginning to end.