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Subscription Spotlight: Pineda Pack

This blog is the first entry in what will be an ongoing series highlighting a unique group of special-release coffees. Before making their way to other avenues, these especially radiant and limited coffees will be available to our coffee subscription humans; this new perk allows us to offer a special thank you to all our immensely important subscribers!

Introduction aside, let’s get to what’s important, the coffee and the humans behind it.

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Over the last several years, we’ve been lucky to develop a relationship with Alma Pineda. The matriarch of a talented coffee family (her husband Evin Moreno also a prolific producer), Alma runs her own, small farm in Honduras’ Santa Barbara department.* This year in particular though, Alma and her colleagues have decided to push the boundaries of her Paraneima coffees.

In the past, Alma has focused her resources into producing delicious washed coffees. Washed in this context refers to the coffee’s processing, i.e., the process in which the coffee seed undergoes from coffee cherry to bean. To wash process coffee is to rid the coffee seed of any residual mucilage entirely, i.e., the fruit sediment remaining from the coffee cherry. Asking what if..., Alma decided to venture down other routes opposed to simply continuing to fully wash all her coffee.

To walk us down the two innovative routes Alma took, we had Xavier (co-owner and green buyer) write up his first-hand account of Alma’s work:

Experimental, aka Weirdo Fermento--

The Weirdo Fermento's impetus sprawled out from a conversation between Evin Moreno, Alma’s husband, and Benjamin Paz. Their question: What happens if you bag up a cargo of cherries and dunk it into cold water? Further, what happens after milling them? Paranima’s profile verges on the bright and usually yield citrus/lime notes when washed. Understanding this trend allowed Alma to imagine where they could take her coffee with experimentation. After 2 days floating in water, the coffee was pulped and left in its own mucilage for up to 72 hours. This experimental semi-washing developed an aroma reminiscent of rose water and pineapple. The final result, a really clean and complex cup that exhibits a cornucopia of fruity depth.”

Honey--

“No, Alma Honey is not the follow up to Pablo Honey (though this coffee certainly is a jam). Much like Weirdo, Alma Honey was born out of a desire to push the boundaries of this lot-- to see what other flavors they could muster from this Melado, Honey process. The result, amplified sweetness, which would usually be expected from a natural process, remaining balanced with creaminess and floral notes. This year, Alma and Evin produced only about a bag’s worth of raw coffee. But with how well this coffee is cupping, we’re eager to see them produce more honey processed lots in the future.”

 

*Santa Barbara is an area near and dear to as its the home to other partner/friends of ours, such as Benjamin Paz and Denis Enamorado.

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Due to both coffees having an experimental nature for Alma, as X mentioned, she only produced a tiny yield. We’re proud to have secured one bag of each (only approx 150 lbs), and we’re now excited to share them with you.

Whether you sign-up for a subscription or risk waiting for them to hit our website next week, make sure you give yourself the gift of tasting these special-release micro-lots!

Part of a Process, Chapter II: Wet/Washed Process Coffee

Pictured Above: Coffee cherries just about to begin the washing process
Photo Credit: Ryan Lodge

After the cherries are plucked from the branch at the peak of ripeness, they find their way to the mill. Each mill is unique, operating with different techniques and equipment. Community co-ops, families, and sometimes just a few individuals run a mill. Some use relatively costly tools like parabolic dryers, fermentation tanks, high-volume sorting and hulling machines. Other mills utilize traditional manpower and natural resources to process their coffee. But all techniques are aimed at producing a viable final product and all are valid ways of producing outstanding coffee. 

There are a few main ways coffee cherries are processed: the wet process (washed), the dry process (natural), and the pulped natural process (honey).

As a refresher, the coffee cherry is comprised of several layers. Moving from the inside out, it goes as follows: bean, silverskin, parchment, pectin layer, pulp, and the outside layer (skin) of the cherry. By the time the cherry arrives at the mill, we are at the point of getting down to the core—going from a red ripe cherry to green coffee beans ready for export.

Wet/Washed Process 

The idea of the washed method is to remove ALL layers of the cherry from the bean. Without the flavors of that cherry, what remains is solely the inherent flavors of the bean itself. Washed coffee aims to bring the essence of the bean front and center.

After arriving at the mill, the cherries are “pulped,” removing the pulp and the outside layer of the cherry from the rest. The remaining bean then undergoes a period of controlled fermentation to encourage remaining tissues to separate from the bean. Sometimes cherries are soaked in water over a period of hours or days. Alternatively, after resting through a fermentation period, some mills choose to mechanically scrub down the beans rather than soaking.  

After this rather intense and detailed process, the bean must be dried. Every mill has its own method of drying the beans. Some have large cement patios that have direct sunlight. The beans are attended to regularly and are flipped over with large rakes to even the drying process. Other mills employ parabolic dryers that loom over tracks of raised beds in a greenhouse-like setting.  Many use combinations of these methods depending on the coffee, and still others have entirely innovative approaches to the process. Whatever the method, atmospheric conditions and rigorous human attention are of utmost importance. Drying typically is complete between seven and ten days, and the beans are then hulled, sometimes polished, weighed out, bagged, and sold. 

Washed coffee benefits from a notable consistency. Defects are sorted out at several points throughout the process, and because the cherry is removed, there is nothing masking the flavors the bean possesses. The naturally occurring acidity and sweetness can come through with every complexity and nuance available to the palate.

Most of Metric’s coffee selections are washed, with our latest release being the Xenacoj y Pichol from Finca El Pilar in Guatemala. Producer Juan Carlos Chen specially processed and selected two lots and united them into blend that reminds us of toffee, dried fruits, and candied nuts. The careful attention to processing ensures that every cup is crisp and clean, and highlights the incredible quality of the bean.

Pictured Above: Washed coffee beans being turned in raised beds at Finca El Pilar
Photo Credit: Ryan Lodge