Well, isn't this a unique entry to the journal? With our online store's launch earlier this year, I've been a busy lad, working my magic with the Sow team in bringing our coffee offering to life. After a few months of working on it, with an incredible amount of consideration and planning, I'm proud to say we got to something stunning!
I'm super excited to announce that Sow's first coffee is from that very farm, Oscar and Francisca Chacon's Finca Las Lajas in Costa Rica.
Whenever I've had the opportunity to highlight coffees from Costa Rica, Finca Las Lajas has always been front of mind. Working at Padre Coffee, I've had the opportunity to be involved with sourcing their coffee since 2017. This has given me an even greater appreciation for the level of care and quality the Chacon family has installed into the practices of cultivating and processing their world-famous honey processed coffees.
In 2019 Director of coffee Fay Kamanis and I had an experience of a lifetime visiting Finca Las Lajas and being greeted by the big smiles and warm souls of Francisca and Oscar Chacon. I can't adequately describe the magnitude of this moment, and I would never have imagined that years later I would have this fantastic opportunity to showcase their coffee through Sow Coffee Project.
From the breathtaking landscape to the focus on agroforestry and the rigorous attention given to the farm months before any coffee cherries are picked – the complex nature of producing quality coffee is evident in every sip of Francisca and Oscar's coffees. This is probably the biggest lesson I learnt while being there. It's not as simple as just picking fruit and processing it. There's an art to it all, and through hardship and dedication, with the added stress of having to support a local community of workers, the Chacon's have carved out a reputation as innovators. They have put Costa Rica on the coffee map with their excellent honey processed coffees.
My personal history with these producers is rich, beyond being able to meet them at their farm. In fact, a red honey coffee from Finca Las Lajas was the first coffee I was able to consciously discern a fruit flavour in, back in my early years in the coffee industry. This moment was so monumental that I just had to share it for my presentation in the Regional Brewer's Cup competition in 2019.
It seems my interaction with Finca Las Lajas is one of constant growth. I've written about them twice in the past two years, for Sow Coffee Project, and I'm so excited to see what's in store for the future. To avoid repeating my previous experiences, I've added some easy reference links at the end of this feature.
From the first interaction to the last, my experience of Las Lajas never fails to amaze me, and what better way to celebrate the birth of Sow's coffee offering! Roasted by our talented friends at Padre Coffee, this coffee is a real treat, and we can't wait for you to try it!
Usually, I describe the sensory experiences of each coffee I brew, and this time it's no different. However, there's an elevated feeling of excitement as it's a Sow first!
The ability of the sense of smell to drive emotion is one of the most fascinating things ever. How is it that onions, garlic and chilli flakes sauteing in a pan can be hands down one of the best aromas in the world! It immediately reminds me of my parents cooking.
Those close to me will probably laugh at this statement (cause they've witnessed it at one point or another) but smelling this coffee not only provoked excitement, but an unforeseeable issue of drool!! On smelling the green coffee, canned fruit immediately came to mind. And that syrupy tropical fruit vibe directly translated into the roasted bean. It stood out on the cupping table, and each and every time I've opened a bag to grind some coffee, that fragrance punches the air.
Flavour-wise, this coffee packs a blow of tropical flavour. Paw paw is the protagonist, bringing with it a juicy sweetness and a viscous body to complement a fresh raspberry acidity. The interplay between the paw paw and raspberry sweetnesses is amazing! As the upfront flavour dissipates, the viscous body uncovers a vanilla custard flavour, ultimately finishing on a delicate floral note of coffee blossom. What a beautiful experience!
This coffee's impressive characteristics can directly be attributed to the processing method. Unlike most of the coffees I've had from Finca Las Lajas, this one is a natural processed coffee. Natural processed coffees can usually be quite winey or fermenty because of the long contact time the fruit's mucilage has with the seed. This can be as long as 30 days, depending on weather conditions. What results is fruit forward, syrupy, big-bodied coffees and, in this case with the Alma Negra, no ferment at all, but rather super clean and delicious. Like I said before, this coffee is a real treat, and we can't wait for you to try it!
1 Cup Kinto Filter Recipe for Sow Coffee Project's Alma Negra, Costa Rica
Juicy Paw Paw, Fresh Raspberry, Vanilla with a Coffee Blossom Finish.
Here's a good place to get started. I created this Alma Negra filter recipe on a Kinto "Slow Coffee Style" pour over with a matching server, Fellow Stagg kettle for temperature control and a Hario Drip scale to help achieve a consistent coffee dose and target brew time!
Dose - 12.5g
Yield - 225g
Time - 2:45 min
Ratio - 1:18
Temp - 96 degrees
Grind - 30 clicks on a Comandante
Bloom - 30g, 35 seconds
As much as I know you'd like to jump straight in, I would recommend aging the coffee for a minimum of 1 week. I've found that after the 10th day, this coffee is at its peak, offering extremely high levels of juice!
Fold-down the inside seam of the filter paper with your fingers, then place the filter paper inside the Kinto pour over cone. You want it sitting snug along the sides, which is pretty easy to achieve with these filters.
Place the pour over on top of your server and rinse the paper filter with hot water. I usually hold one side down, from the inside, to keep it in place. Once you start rinsing the filter, it should stick towards the sides. This will clean any papery taste from the filter and heat the server at the same time!
Discard the water from the server, then place it on top of your scale and tare it.
Add the ground coffee to your pour over, giving it a gentle shake to level the grounds. Sit it on top of the server and tare the scale once again. Now you're ready to rock and roll!
Start your timer, then pour 30 grams of water onto your bed of coffee, ensuring all the dry grounds are completely saturated. You can achieve this by either spinning the saturated grounds in a circular motion or using a bamboo paddle to achieve the same effect. Be careful not to over agitate; remember we only want to saturate the dry coffee. This part of the process is called the "bloom", and it prepares your coffee for the rest of the brewing process.
In slow and circular motions, pour 120g of water gradually until you reach the one-minute ten-second mark, concentrating your pour on the middle of the coffee bed.
In a slow circular motion, pour another 75 of water until you reach a total weight of 225g.
Once the flow reduces to a drip, remove and discard the filter/ used coffee grounds. Swirl your coffee around in the carafe and smell the warm, Tropical Fruit!
For those eco-warriors like me, shred your filter paper and pop your used coffee grounds in the worm farm or compost bin, every small action to be more sustainable counts!
If you find your extraction time is noticeably long, it's a good indication that your grind size is too fine. If your extraction time is quick, it's a good indication your grind size is too coarse. Make these adjustments with your next brew.
Swirl it, smell it, pour it, enjoy it! 👌🏽
Sneaky Bonus - To celebrate this delicious coffee, we're offering a sweet 10% discount off your next order. Simply pop in ALMANEGRA10 during checkout, and you're a couple of days away from having a Sow Juicy experience for yourself, drooling over juicy paw paw. 🤤
If you'd like to read more about my 2019 experience at Finca Las Lajas with Oscar and Francisca, check out my blog post about the trip. Or, if you'd like to know what experience triggered this love for Costa Rican coffee and planted Las Lajas in my brain, read about my hike in New Zealand with an Aeropress.