// Case Study Coffee

Las Lajas Project 2017

by Troy Ramsey | | 0 comments

Top to bottom: Yellow Honey, Red Honey, Black Honey, and Perla Negra coffees from Las Lajas, Costa Rica.

It’s that time once again! This week marks the beginning of the Las Lajas Project 2017 at Case Study Coffee.  This is our second year doing a full lineup of Las Lajas offerings and the third year we’ve worked with them.  These coffees are special to us because, besides the Chacon family's meticulous organic practices, each offering illustrates stark contrasts in flavor by manipulating processing methods in accordance with weather.

Finca Las Lajas, Sabanilla de Alajuela, Costa Rica

The Chacon family's farms are certified organic, as is their mill.  Beyond that, they use the unique weather patterns created by their location between two volcanos to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west, in making decisions about how particular lots of coffee will be processed.  On overcast days they will leave the pulp on the milled coffee cherries for their honey-processed lots and turn coffees more frequently, and on sunny days they will remove more mucilage and turn coffees less often.

For the honey-processed lots featured at Case Study, three drying methods are implemented to achieve different results in the final product.  All honeyed coffee is taken to the raised drying beds and covered overnight.  After the covers are removed in the morning, the differences in treatment begin.  The Yellow Honey coffee is turned first thing in the morning and frequently throughout the day. The Red Honey coffee is left undisturbed until the afternoon, at which point it is turned.  The Black Honey coffee is achieved by leaving the honeyed coffee all day, and another entire night without turning. Greater degrees of agitation expose each coffee to varying amounts of light, thus drying each at a different pace to expose the beans to the natural sugars from the cherries for longer or shorter durations.

In addition to honeyed lots, Las Lajas also produces two naturally processed coffees, Perla Negra and Alma Negra, as well as a raisin natural offering.  These coffees are not run through their wet mill, but are taken to the drying beds with the fruit left intact.  Similar to the honeyed coffees, the differences between the two naturally processed coffees has to do with how often they are turned on the drying beds; Perla Negra is turned more often, and the Alma Negra is only turned a few times a day. The raisin natural is dried while covered with sheets that generate extra heat. This extra nudge dehydrates the cherries and exposes the beans to the natural sugars for a very long period of time.

The wet mill at Las Lajas where the coffee cherries are pulped

The differences between these processing methods in the final cup are remarkable. Most notably, the less the coffees are turned on the beds, the coffees gain a heavier body, and the fruit notes resemble more candied and/or cooked fruit. Obviously the addition of the fruit skin of the naturals also contributes to these flavors and heavier body.  The more the coffee is turned, as in the Yellow Honey and the Perla Negra, the more transparent the flavors become, and the more pronounced the acidity.

We are proud to feature all six of these coffees from Las Lajas side-by-side in all our shops.  Besides an offering from Guji and our decaf, these are the ONLY coffees available in the shops, including a special edition of our Deviation Blend made up entirely of Las Lajas beans.  The difference produced by the processing methods used are so pronounced that I am confident that everyone will be able to find a coffee in the line-up from Las Lajas that suits their particular tastes, be it a clean, typically Latin profile, a more wild, fruity, natural cup.  Regardless of the processing method employed, all these coffees are incredibly sweet and beautifully balanced.

We look forward to continuing our relationship with Francisca and Oscar Chacon in the years to come as they are continuing to push the boundaries of coffee growing and processing.  They have many more projects coming down the pipeline, such as aerobic vs. anaerobic fermentation of their honey-processed coffees, as well as individual coffee variety experiments.  We will be sure to carry these coffees when they are available.

For now, please enjoy these coffees in our shops and in your home.  We will be having a Las Lajas event at our Alberta location on Wednesday, February 15th, at 6:30pm which everyone is invited to! The event will encompass a tasting of all six coffees, as well as a happy hour mixer/Q&A featuring cocktails/mocktails utilizing the coffees of Las Lajas.

Christine with Oscar and Francisca Chacon of Las Lajas

Here is a video Christine took of Francisca explaining the differences in drying her honeyed coffees (featured is Luis Arocha of Cafe Imports):

Los Congos Coffee Tasting and Cocktail Mixer: A Case Study in Coffee Varietals and Processing

by Marcus Lintner | | 0 comments

Written by Christine Herman

Next Wednesday, May 4th, at 6:30PM, we are hosting a free coffee tasting and cocktail mixer open to the public at our Alberta Street location.  The event will focus on coffees from Finca Los Congos, Nicaragua; a farm that we have fostered a direct partnership with since 2014. We invite you to come taste coffee, drink delicious coffee-inspired cocktails, hang out with the Case Study Crew, and talk coffee.

Wes and Christine with Rina Paguaga of Finca Los Congos

The evening will feature a blind tasting of coffees from Los Congos that differ in either variety or processing method, both of which lead to vast differences in flavor, while still allowing the coffees to show their common terroir and the characteristics unique to the variety.  We will be showcasing a Caturra variety and a line-up of washed, honey, and natural processed Pacamaras. Guests will get a chance to taste the coffees and take a stab at which coffees are which. 

Following the tasting, there will be a reveal and brief discussion about how variety and processing effects the flavor of coffee presented by Dylan McClain, longtime Case Study Alberta barista and recent NW Regional Aeropress Champion.  There will be a raffle with coffee prizes for participants.  There will also be an assortment of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails highlighting these stunning coffees, as well as snacks.

Please come join us for an evening of cocktails, coffee community, and a celebration of this fantastic line-up of coffees available at all the Case Study locations.

Date and Time: Wednesday, May 4th, 6:30 PM

Location: 1422 NE Alberta St.

Type of Event: Free and open to the public.  21+ please

Los Congos: Relationship Coffee from a Barista's Perspective

by Marcus Lintner | | 0 comments

Written by Dylan McClain

The first time I worked with coffee from Los Congos, Nicaragua was in preparation for a small event I was holding at our Alberta Street café.  The idea was to create a little bit of coffee theater: customers could come in for a special tasting and more in-depth information on the coffees, and I would pull a few rabbits out of my hat in the process.  I think we charged eight bucks or something like that, which bought you an aeropress flight of the Los Congos Pacamara in washed and natural form, as well a tasting of the cascara and a cold brew of the coffees.  I also used the Los Congos in an ice-cold glass of Portland Lemonade, which is the stage name for a lip-smacking mixture of washed pacamara cold-brew and blood-orange nectar.

I remember during the preparation for that event feeling overwhelmed by the beauty of those coffees, especially the pacamaras.  All coffee professionals have stories to tell about a time when they fell passionately, madly, head-over-heels in love with a coffee.  This was one of those times.  But the challenge was real.  Here I was trying to put together a platform for our customers to peer into the soul of a coffee.  I wanted to dive to the depths of what that coffee had to offer, but I had the terrible luck of working with a coffee whose depth seemed infinite, bottomless, forever inexhaustible.  There was more to show than what I could fit into a twenty or thirty minute experience.  I had to focus on one or two aspects of the coffee that were speaking to me, and merely hint at the other possibilities.

Don Rene Paguaga

A month or so later, we held a second event celebrating the coffees of Los Congos, but this one was bigger.  Rina Paguaga was our guest at the Alberta café, and in front of a large gathering of coffee professionals and amateurs, all with glasses of cascara vodka in our hands, she gave a passionate telling of the remarkable story of her father, Don Rene, and his ongoing journey as a coffee grower and as the owner of Los Congos.  It is a journey that embodies so many of the challenges and triumphs of the coffee industry as a whole.  Here is a man who has been growing coffee for what, 70 years?  And he has had to start over from zero on three separate occasions during his career?  And the production at Los Congos keeps getting better and better.  We at Case Study are honored to play a small part in the most recent chapter of that long story--a story which is still being written.

The mill at harvest

Coffee is an industry of relationships.  The coffee family tree is built on relationships.  You see that in the branches that baristas build with their regulars, forming relationships that tie cafes to their neighborhoods and make it possible for coffee companies to become part of the cultural identity of a city.  And behind those scenes, you can find a thick structure of relationships binding roasters and suppliers and café owners and importers.  And down by the roots you can see relationships creating pathways for growers to adapt and respond to what’s happening all the way up at the tips of the branches.  All those relationships form the body of the coffee industry, and they are what make it possible for every part to continue to grow and adapt. As a barista I don’t always get to see where and how these relationships impact my work, but I am grateful whenever opportunities come along to form connections that go deeper into the heart of coffee.  It is so rewarding to be able to work repeatedly with such accomplished professionals as the Paguagas.  And we are just now bringing their beautiful coffees from Los Congos back into our lineup, so won’t you stop in to taste them again?  I think they’re better than ever this year.  And be ready for our next event showcasing this special coffee and this special relationship. 

1 2 3 16