Roaster Notes: Peruvian Candy
Last year Utopian featured a coffee that received a lot of love – Peru Rutas Del Incas. This coffee was one of the standouts from 2019 for me. It displayed berry-fruitiness, confection-sugar sweetness, and a soft florality that made for a really spectacular cup of coffee. In fact, I thought it was so great that I tried to purchase more for the 2020 season. Unfortunately, the demand for the Rutas coffee had grown to the point where there was a wait-list to be considered for receiving any of the coffee. I waited four months before I was told we wouldn’t be getting any bags this year. Naturally, I was really disappointed when I found this out, but this isn’t the first time a coffee has slipped from between my fingers, and I’m sure it won’t be the last (let’s not talk about the Kenya I almost bought last year that, five minutes before I went to purchase, another roaster had bought the entire lot… talk about brokenhearted).
As a result, I had space in the lineup for a new Peruvian coffee available, and my goal was to find something special to replace the Rutas.
I initially received samples from Origin Coffee Lab in January with samples from several other small operations in Latin and South America. I was immediately surprised by the quality of the Peruvian samples and went back to our importing partner to learn more. Long story short, Origin Coffee Lab’s goal is to give visibility to the high quality of Peruvian coffee and to pay farmers really high wages for their coffee. Simple enough right?
From my little experience on the “back end” of the coffee world (sourcing, exporting and importing, etc.) nothing is this simple. To make sure farmers are paid well, and that they follow specific guidelines for quality and processing, and that the coffee arrives in the US in good shape is a huge undertaking. Nonetheless, it would seem that Origin Coffee Lab has gotten it down to a science, and I know for a fact the payments they’re making to farmers in Peru are among some of the highest I’ve ever seen.
So, what about this coffee makes it special? Maybe a better question is what doesn’t?
To me, good coffee is all about balance. Finding a balance between sweetness and acidity and body is key to a coffee truly being great. Lower quality coffees tend to have one of these out of whack – like a band playing and the lead guitar is 50% louder than every other instrument, it just feels off and makes for a bad experience. But good coffee is like a band where all the instruments are playing at the same level and balancing one another out. In the same way high-quality coffee has sweetness which can tame the acidity which helps cut through the mouthfeel which delivers us the sweetness… and on it goes.
Elmer and Layla’s coffee does just this. First off, it has a great candy-like sweetness that reminds me of citrus-flavored hard candy. In the same respect, this coffee has a nice acidity that sits somewhere between berries, citrus, and malic, which makes for a nice complexity in the cup. Lastly, the body is very good; not tea-like but not too large either. Simply put, it just sits well on the tongue and tastes wonderful. I get a lot of different flavors, but some of the standouts are forest berries (I think of picking wild berries in comparison to the store-bought stuff), very sweet caramel and milk chocolate, and an apple-tart flavor (imagine biting into an apple tart made with green apples: Acidic, browning sugars, baking spices, caramelized sugars, almost waffle-cone-like). All these flavors make for a truly standout cup of coffee.
I think Elmer and Layla’s coffee is a true standout among a lot of great coffees I’ve tasted this year. I would 100% expect to see offerings from Origin Coffee Lab make their way into our offering list again in the future. Today I had a phone call with our exporter who said new crop will be available this upcoming December, so maybe by then, we’ll have something new to share with you! In the meantime, please give this awesome coffee a shot.