Following our last submission, talking about my history with David Solano, I wanted to write more in-depth about each offering in this Holiday Gift Box. I wanted to talk about the washed process coffee first, mainly because I feel like it will be the one that is most underrated in everyone’s expectations. A good-washed coffee is not hard to find; grab almost any Colombian coffee or Guatemalan coffee off the shelf, and you will find a good-washed coffee more often than not.
So, what sets this washed process coffee apart, and why is it not only worth putting in this gift box but necessary to compare it to the other two less traditional or more wild coffees? On my side of things, it is a simple answer: mastery. It reminds me of a chapter in Eiji Yoshikawa’s novel Musashi, about a roaming samurai searching across Japan and within himself the experience needed to become the greatest swordsman in the world. In a small village inn, he comes across a single Peony flower in a vase that, upon first glance, is unassuming but, with further inspection, bares the skilled cut of a sword master.
This is an abstract idea that has persisted in my professional life, and I find myself constantly being drawn to coffees that show the mark of mastery. This washed-process coffee from David Solano shows that Conception Buena Vista is not just an experimental processing mill. They have the technique and the ability to produce world-class traditional processes while incorporating the lessons they have learned during their experiments at the mill.
For this project, we chose the Red Bourbon from their La Joya farm. This was because of the natural shade the coffee trees receive, and the natural topography of the farm makes the tree healthier than similar trees grown with a terracing structure. The cherries are picked at 25-26% brix (1% brix is equal to 1 gram of sucrose per 100g sample, so 25% brix is equal to 25g sucrose in a 100g sample), once picked the cherries are thoroughly washed to remove any possible contamination that could affect the development of bacteria inside the fermentation tanks. With the cherries cleaned and sorted by density, they depulp the coffee using mechanical depulping machines and move them directly to large open fermentation tanks to be fermented for 48 hours. This step is where the mastery becomes apparent. In this 48-hour period, all of the previous prep work becomes very important for managing contaminants and balancing fermentation. Those variables are where you find overly fruity-washed, or unbalanced, or restrained-washed coffees. As soon as the coffee is done fermenting, it is put out on the drying patios for 7-10 days with constant movement every hour throughout the day.
During peak harvest times, Conception Buena Vista employs 8 people to work at the mill who ensure everything meets David Solano’s standards.
I find this thought of mastery all over the world and talk about it often in my personal life. Having a goal that doesn’t end at a particular point in time is important for us to grow as people. Anytime in my life that I have felt aimless in the grand sea of life, it was because I was exactly that: aimless. It is something that I really admire in David Solano as a man and as a coffee professional; his goal in life is to increase the value of Guatemalan coffee in the specialty coffee market and to bring experimentation back to what could be seen as a stagnant ideology.
I tell David this every time I see him “I am along for the ride.”
Let’s drink cool stuff.
About the buyer:
Jake Deserre is the Green Coffee Buyer & Head Roaster at Vibe Coffee Group; he has been in the coffee industry for 17 years and has been roasting and buying coffee for 10 years. His favorite way to drink coffee is without anything added, with his wife and two cats.