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