EL MIRADOR, ELKIN GUZMAN. Bourbon stripped lot
Elkin Guzman is worldwide recognised as one of the most outstanding and pioneering coffee farmers nowadays. It is not a coincidence that coffee personalities as Sasa Sestic -Worlwide Barista Champion 2015-, Maxwell Colonna -UK Barista Champion-, Hugh Kelly – Australian Barista Champion 2016- have used El Mirador’s coffee in the final stage of their competitions or have acclaimed his coffee, besides his job by using new technologies to improve cultivation, harvest, and coffee process have captivated the attention from the coffee community. So in last January, precovid season, I had the opportunity to visit him in his farm El Mirador, Pitalito, Colombia as part of my yearly trip to select unique outstanding coffees directly from coffee producers for our roastery.
As presage, coincidence or fate, that January warm day before to start my journey of 10km approx. from the town of Pitalito to his farm El Mirador, I stopped to drink a coffee in one of many flourishing speciality coffee shops in town, Café La Meca from Oscar Trivino – a top 5 finalist 2018 in the national barista championship, worldwide barista championship participant and now a converted evangelist in barista’s best practices-. Biased by my preference for pour over coffees in the morning, I asked Oscar for some special one to pair with a Chemex brew that I was tempted to try. So wow, that tasted coffee was delicious. Delicate, fruity, washed processed, Bourbon variety from El Mirador, Elkin Guzman’s farm.
Well, with a red fruits long-lasting mouthfeel I arrived to la finca ‘El Mirador’ and what I experienced that day was a fascinating journey through many, even not very well known for me, ways to process coffees explained by Elkin. If you thought that washed, honeys or natural were the only ways to process coffees… please, forget it ( Just to mention that Hugh Kelly won the Australian barista championship by using an El Mirador coffee which was processed with a method called ‘freezer’ where coffee is kept for 36 hours in minus 10 degrees in order to cut brix sugars in 25%, method which provide an elegant and tasty espresso cup ).
Engineer by education, at present time I don’t know yet if Elkin is a geek coffee farmer or a coffee scientistic. Gifted with an exceptional curiosity which accompany with exceptional passion and deep knowledge he plays around with reactions of sugar under different environments in the coffee process. So he can perfectly decipher which is the best type of process that enhance the best qualities of each coffee variety.
He is a master at innovation. Elkin grows at least seven distinct coffee varieties. El Mirador farm includes a broad collection of varieties like Catiope, Mokka, Tabi, and Gesha, as well as three different Bourbon strains including Orange, Striped, and Pink Bourbon. Caturra is a core variety for the farm as well, making it a staple for volume lots . For each, he can list the ideal sugar content for harvest, average density, and minute processing variations to produce the best cup. I was able to taste seven of his first experiments this year and it was a mind-melting table. As amazing as his coffees are, his work is not self-serving. He aims to share his experiences with the thousands of producers that work with speciality coffees throughout Colombia, freely sharing his knowledge with producers on small changes in harvesting and processing that can immensely improve cup quality and the profit directly tied to it.
His family has always been involved in coffee cultivation, trading, or retail. Collectively, his family has celebrated over 70 years in coffee now, with 12 years of research devoted to post-harvest processing techniques. All of this research and experience has brought Elkin to utilize multiple processing techniques depending on the individual lot of coffee, including Coffee Maceration, Lactic and Acetic Natural processes, and Natural Hydro Honey. Harvest and post-harvest procedures are highly standardized for consistency and quality. First, the sugar content of the coffee cherries is measured in degrees Brix, followed by density and volumetric separation. Finally, the decision is made on which processing method is best suited to bring each lot to its fullest potential. The processing methods used by Elkin embody his pioneering spirit, combining different approaches to fermentation and drying techniques to complement each coffee's inherent characteristics.
At Coffee Gems we have imported two lots from El Mirador, a Tabi variety washed processed and a striped Bourbon coffee, the team at El Mirador chose natural processing. Striped Bourbon is a natural mutation of the common Bourbon variety. Elkin came across this variety during a visit to a producer in San Adolfo and was surprised by the coffee’s flavour and characteristics in the cup. After learning more about the plant he decided to grow it at El Mirador in order to share with the world a coffee that he found to be incredible. The Natural process at El Mirador starts immediately after harvest. The coffee is first sorted by floating the cherries in water to remove defects, which is followed by hand sorting to remove dark and overripe fruit. Then the coffee is moved to the drying area, where it will then dry whole for 25–32 days. During this fermentation and drying period the coffee is kept in thin layers and moved consistently to ensure consistent drying throughout. After milling, the coffee is packed into GrainPro bags to maintain its humidity and to preserve the sensory attributes of the beans.
For sure tasting this coffee warp our minds. It immediately strikes you with vibrant tropical fruit flavours, most clearly expressed as berries, guava. As the flavours develop on the palate, we are reminded of banana splits with flavours of vanilla bean, malt, pineapple, fudge, and dark nuts. The refreshingly clean aftertaste of fresh smooth chocolate has an almost effervescent quality. It is the perfect coffee to push you into a good run through the sprinkler.
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Once again, each Coffee Gems bean tells you a story. A story about passion, tradition and respect. We are also experience hunters…