We have, this month, our best decaffeinated coffee to date arriving. The coffee itself is from Fazenda IP, Brazil, a stalwart on our counter. It has been decaffeinated at Descamex in Mexico and at time of writing has just arrived at the roastery. We tasted the arrival sample when it landed and all of us agree, it is our best decaf ever.
Your newsletter writer is of an age to have grown up with specialty coffee – none of that other stuff the boomers had to put up with – really great, local, not overly roasted, Arabica coffee. Before the third place and the third wave were things, I was skipping school for a flat white with a toasted bagel and living the dream. Fast forward a few many years later and the after dinner espressos leave me wide eyed at ungodly-o’clock, and the heart palpitates a little too haphazardly after coffee number three in the morning. At some time many of us wish for a coffee but not the caffeine. And if you have become accustomed to great coffee then decaf can be a real disappointment.
Until recently we used to buy our decafs from local importers and we occasionally still do when we have a gap. These coffees serve a purpose and as the years have gone by they have definitely improved but our decaf took a few steps forward when we started organising it ourselves. It took us a long time to reach the stage where we could commit to the 5000kg minimum run that the process takes and we haven’t looked back. The first few coffees for decaffeination were chosen from El Pastoral, Nicaragua. These were mindboggling when they first arrived. The coffee was chosen for its balance and body and then sent directly to Mexico for decaffeination before arriving in the UK. This was the freshest decaf we had ever tasted and there was a real improvement in coffee flavour. Next up we had coffee from our Colombia competition, Lo Mejor de Nariño, which served as a really nice counterpoint to the El Pastoral. The Lo Mejor de Nariño had more fruitiness and acidity, and the gentleness of the Mountain Water Process preserved the higher notes. And now over the last year it seems that the pandemic and the lock-downs have had more people awake and unsure at times and more people are reaching for decaf. So this year we have two new ones, the already mentioned IP and right now the new crop from La Bolsa, Guatemala, has just arrived in Mexico.
We have bought each coffee specifically to decaffeinate. The selection sample from Fazenda IP was full of chocolate and heavy body and we thought it would be able to stand up to the decaffeination and it has. The surprise with this lot are the malty notes that have come through – this coffee is like squishing a bag of Maltesers into a coffee and then taking out the bit that keeps eyelids open. It will be really interesting to see how the La Bolsa goes; as this coffee historically has a lot of plum and fruity notes. Its decaffeinated form should arrive on the counter in late Summer to Autumn, depending on the previously discussed container issue.
There are some low-caff alternatives to decaf appearing and the Laurina varietal is the best known. It has around half the amount of caffeine of Arabica cultivars but is difficult to grow; because the plant has less caffeine it has less resistance to insect and pest attack. However there is a real appetite for lower caffeine coffees so it is gaining in popularity. We haven’t found one yet that we like enough to buy but it is something we are keeping an eye on.
In the meantime take a look at the Descamex website where they have three great videos on the company and the decaffeinated processes. When we send coffee there we use the Mountain Water Process. And keep a look out for the decaf Fazenda IP arriving onto the counter this month.
Our socially distanced best.