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The La Comunión Project

One of our most recent releases is a radiant single-origin, Honduras La Comunión. In addition to being a delicious cup full of dried fruit and lemon-lime acidity, there's a beautiful story of collaboration and humanity behind it. Check out Xavier's (Metric Coffee Co.'s Co-Owner & Sourcer) side of developing this new offering in tow with our producing partners of Honduras. Enjoy!

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"La Comunión was born out of a visit to one of our favorite producing groups in Colombia, Azahar. Their pickers project (Los Recolectores) is lead with a simple mission: to pay smallholders microlot pricing for a single-origin, community blend. This program incentivizes smallholders to take a % of their profits to pay higher daily rates to their pickers (in this case, usually each other's neighbors). In addition to offering more support to one another, paying pickers adequately for their hard work helps maintain and build a high level of quality. After several years of bearing witness of the direct impact this program had in this community, it became clear to me the importance that we can make by replicating this program at other origins.

With that in mind, I connected with our good friend, Benjamin Paz, whom we've had a great relationship since 2015 harvest! He helped us create a Santa Barbara community blender project with a group of producers already in our fold. The result: La Comunión, a new project focusing our efforts with 3 of our current producing partners (Alma Pineda, Dionisio Rivera & Cecilio Aguilar) and giving us the ability to purchase their crops in their entirety while also ensuring a minimum price paid to the producer of $4.00 F.O.B.

For Metric, the goal of La Comunión is multi-faceted. Bulking coffees from smallholders allows us to purchase entire crops; this guarantees higher premiums with the understanding that the increase in pay will result in better payment to the picker. On the flavor-side, this project allows us to craft a regional blend based on variety and processing, resulting in a profile with uniqueness and quality of a single origin at the consistency of a blender for what will be a surefire crowd favorite"

-Xavier 

Subscription Spotlight No. 3: Bernardo Chaves

Similar to our last subscription spotlight, our latest Roaster’s Choice and Single Origin sneak peek also comes from the steep hills along the Andes Mountains— even coming from the same family! We’re excited to share with you: Colombia Bernardo Chaves.

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[Bernado along the hillsides of his Palo Seco]

Over the last three years, we’ve developed a relationship with Nelson Chaves, a producer Xavier (our co-owner and green buyer) describes as a “quiet and humble spirit.” On Metric’s most recent trip to Colombia, this rapport led to not only another year of delicious coffee from Nelson but also a new partnership with his father, Bernardo.

After working with the son in this talented coffee-producing tandem, Xavier knew Metric needed to form a relationship with Bernardo as well. X persistently requested samples throughout 2017 and 2018; however, Bernardo was difficult to contact. He had an ongoing contract to deliver a specific yield to a commodity coffee buyer, so he lacked the crop and time to correspond with us. Bernardo became this mythic figure in our minds. “Up until this year, [he] was like the Wizard of Oz— I knew he existed but never saw him or knew anything about him other than his name,” X articulated.

[The fantastical, steep terrain that makes up Nelson and Bernardo's land]

Last November, a human gave our expectations life. With Nelson’s help and with an earlier, abundant harvest, Xavier managed to visit Bernardo in person at his farm, Palo Seco. “I believe, had we not been persistent” we wouldn’t have been able to “pin Bernardo for a face-to-face.” Although difficult to track down, once there, Bernardo welcomed Xavier with warmth. He invited Xavier to his farm and into his home (the very home our friend and liaison Nelson was born). A stout, strong man who “smiles with his eyes,” Bernardo may be seventy plus years old, but whether playing with his white, poodle-type farm dog, Nino or developing his coffee practice to keep up with his son, he exercises an infectious energy. Sowed into a life of farm work, this energy pays dividends: Xavier was blown away by his crop of castillo and caturra.

[Nelson playing with Nino]

Trying to secure a portion of the crop, Bernado was at first skeptical of the prices Xavier offered. You see, Bernardo had almost exclusively sold to one specific commodity buyer on a contract basis and at market price, a wage that is “low and unsustainable” long-term for most family-sized producers like the Chaveses. Bernardo’s logic derived from valuing a “committed buyer, no matter the price.” Even though his coffee scored far above commodity grade, Bernardo was settling for the guaranteed consistency of what he knew. Xavier understood that to gain his trust “Bernardo had to see how well Nelson was doing” before accepting our earnest offer for his beautiful coffee.

[Nelson, Nino, and Bernado Chaves]

Xavier poignantly tied a bow to recounting Bernado and his first of what will be hopefully many trips to Palo Seco: “Our intention is to be fair every step of the way, which isn't a new concept or something re-invented by us (or anyone for that fact), but it’s a chance to be mutually good to one another with the result being good coffee for all.”

Whether you’re a subscriber getting a sneak peek or you awaited the coffees official launch, we’re excited to share this good coffee and story with you. Here’s to family, sustainable trade, and radiant coffee!

Part of a Process, Chapter III: Dry/Natural and Honey Process Coffee

 Pictured Above: Pre-sorted coffee cherries; dark, ripe cherries will be hand-selected to undergo the dry/natural process
Photo Credit: Ryan Lodge

 

Dry/Natural Process

At one point avoided because of perceptions of cloying sweetness, overly floral notes, and even vinegar-like fermented flavors, the dry or natural process is gaining ground in the specialty coffee industry by overcoming those stereotypes—in fact, well done dry processed coffee can be something balanced, complex, and delicious.

In undergoing the natural process, cherries are plucked from the shrub and then simply dried on patios or raised beds. In the case of Metric’s El Pilar Natural y Honey Hybrid, the natural lot is dried over twelve days. The coffee cherry is left on the bean throughout the entire drying process. Because the cherry stays intact, distinct flavors from the fruit are introduced to the bean. The bean itself interacts with natural microbes of the cherry that impart unique regional flavors, natural sugars, and fermented fruit tones naturals are known for as enzymes break down the mucilage. Before export, the cherry’s pulp and parchment are scrubbed mechanically from the bean.

Although ideal for drier climates, Central and South American countries are keen to master the natural process. It can prove to be very labor intensive, requiring manual sorting to sift out defects and careful attention in assuring drying occurs consistently and completely. Yet it can be done, and coffees like this El Pilar Natural y Honey prove that this processing is viable anywhere if enough work and attention are given to it. As the process gains traction, we can find natural processed coffees that have it all—balanced and unique fruit flavors working in tandem with the inherent flavors of the bean.  The trick is, just like with wet processed coffee, to do it well. It is yet another example of the forever changing nature of the coffee industry, and another reason why cupping everything with an open mind is important. 

 Pictured Above: Mill worker turning coffee cherries via the dry/natural process at Finca El Pilar
Photo Credit: Ryan Lodge

Pulped Natural/Honey Processed/Semi-dry

 Gaining popularity across Central and South America is the honey process. 

“Honey process” is an admittedly conflated term that refers to a process in which some outer layers remaining in contact with the bean during the drying process. Some grade honeying with how many outer layers are left to dry with the bean, and some grade honeying in terms of how often the bean is turned during the drying process, or in general how long the drying is managed (yellow, red, and black are terms referring to the length of time the bean is dried with the mucilage left on). Although terminology and definition of such terms differ across producers and roasters alike, the important part of the honey process is that some parts of the the sticky outer layers are left to ferment, lending an amplified acidity unique to both the region and the coffee. 

For Metric’s Guatemala El Pilar Natural y Honey Hybrid, select lots are honeyed to a “yellow,” with some skin of the cherry and a portion of the pulp being removed before being left to ferment and dry. These lots are blended in with with natural process coffees, and the result brews into a balanced yet vibrant brew. Pleasant wine-like acidity and strawberry notes come through beautifully, and showcase the best of natural and honey-processed coffees all in one cup.