Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Colombian Variety Trial Down Under. We decided to hold one cupping in Sydney, and one in Melbourne.
For those who are unfamiliar with the trial there are 22 pairs of samples, 22 Castillo and 22 Caturra, for a total of 44 samples. Each pair comes from the same farm and all samples are from the same region: Nariño. All of the coffees were harvested with equal amounts of TLC. We would blind cup them side by side to hear peoples honest opinions on these coffees.
The reason behind this trial is to educate our industry as to how the varieties are actually performing in an impartial manner. In Colombia, there has been a lot of talk in the past 5 years as to which variety is “better”.
What we do know is that Caturra is a natural mutation of Bourbon with good cup characteristics and productivity, and that it is prone to coffee leaf rust disease (roya) which has wiped out many coffee farms around the world. Castillo, on the other hand, was produced by Cenicafe, the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (FNC) research center, for resistance to leaf rust, big bean size and higher yields. What we are all curious to know is which one tastes better in cup. What the producers in Colombia need to know is which will be better for their business (their farm).
The idea was to work with CRS to replicate the cuppings that were held in the US in October- to get some experienced cuppers from multiple coffee companies to come in and cup the coffees, describe what they tasted and give the coffees an honest score. I emphasized the fact that the cuppers weren’t buying anything or rewarding farmers. It also wasn’t about calibrating with the team at the table.
We held the first cupping on Wednesday, December 17 at Coffee Supreme in Melbourne.
After a Skype briefing with Michael Sheridan we commenced the cuppings. Everyone was excited as I was to see what was going to happen, and we were cupping completely blind so that added to excitement, it was almost like a game.
We then held the same cupping two days later, in Sydney at Paramount Coffee Project with another group of fine judges.
Each judge had previous experience with Colombian coffees before, having travelled to origin, or being in the QC department of a place that has received a fair amount of Colombian coffees.
The results were very interesting. Although the cuppers were not calibrated score-wise, the notes were all pretty similar. As this is part of the greater CRS Colombia Variety Project, the general results will be published by CRS in April 2015 during the SCAA’s Symposium.
In conclusion, I think that this exercise was a bit of fun, but to give both of these varieties a fair go, we could have done it a little earlier in order to avoid tasting the age of some of the samples. I also think that I have personally learned that there are some nice Castillos out there. We look forward to doing more events like this down under soon.
A massive thanks to:
Coffee Supreme Melbourne
Paramount Coffee Project and the judges for coming out and participating in the cupping