October 02, 2019
2.5 Minute Read
Ali JohnstonAs I write this, the temperature is a cool 95 degrees Fahrenheit in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with a heat index of 102 degrees. It’s hot, humid, and sticky.
North America Lab Coordinator
So why am I thinking about the holidays?
At Caravela Coffee, I have the privilege of cupping the finest coffees Latin America has to offer. Because of this daily practice, I’ve begun to build a sensory memory for certain coffees. One will pop up on the table and it will be like seeing an old friend. Ah, hello there, nice to see you again.
Such is the case with the Mara family of varieties: Maragogipe, Maracaturra, and Pacamara. My cupping notes have some common themes when it comes to these coffees: Buttery. Cranberry. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Citrus. Floral. Savory. Cocoa. Silky. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. You get the idea. Even on this southern summer day, cupping these coffees transports me directly to December – snow flurries falling, gathering with friends and family by a warm fireplace.
The Mara varieties are visually recognizable because of their very large bean size, sometimes referred to as “elephant coffee beans.” Grown predominantly in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, they are delicate, and can be particularly susceptible to diseases like leaf rust. Maragogipe, a natural mutation of the Typica variety, is the most delicate and lowest-yielding variety of the three. It is named for the city in Brazil of the same name where it was discovered. Pacamara, a Pacas and Maragogipe hybrid, is grown primarily in El Salvador. Maracaturra is a hybrid of Caturra and Maragogipe, grown primarily in Nicaragua. Both, due to the crossbreed with a heartier variety, can produce higher yields while maintaining excellent quality at high elevations. Caravela’s PECA coordinators work directly with farmers to ensure that great care is taken in each step of the process - from off-season soil analysis to post-harvest storage - so that these delicate varieties are treated with impeccable care in order to realize their full potential.
Each year around November, coffee roasters begin rolling out their featured holiday roasts and blends. The choice to feature a holiday coffee can be approached in a couple of different ways. Sometimes a holiday blend can be a catch-all at the end of the year and an opportunity to get creative with roast profiles and marketing. There is nothing wrong with this approach, particularly if there is excess inventory in need of a good home.
However, another approach to the holiday featured coffee – and the thesis of this modest proposal – is to source something truly unique that encapsulates the flavors of the season. Enter the Mara varieties. These unicorns are worth the investment for a truly memorable holiday coffee experience. Pairing equally well with holiday dinner or an entire Whitman’s Sampler box of chocolates (no judgement), these coffees are the perfect complement to the holiday season.
Is it winter yet?
For more information on these and all coffee varieties, see the Variety Catalog compiled by World Coffee Research.
Ali Johnston is the Quality Coordinator for Caravela Coffee’s North America import offce in Chapel Hill, NC. She has worn many hats in the coffee industry, including barista, roaster, café owner, Q-Arabica & Robusta Grader, and Quality Analyst. Coffee blog contributor might be her new favorite hat.