January's Roasters Choice Subscribers will be drinking a coffee from Santa Elena, Colombia.
Maria Damaris Medina and her husband, Wilson, manage the 5 hectare, Finca Santa Elena which sits at the highest point in Pital overlooking the town and valley. Here in the heart of the Huila region, on the slopes the Andes Mountains, growing conditions are ideal for washed process coffees which result in characteristically Colombian cup profiles that are clean and structured with a hint of berry fruit.
Santa Elena is one of the most impeccable expressions of a bright, clean, washed Colombian coffee we’ve encountered in recent years. Subtle nuances in the inherent acidity of coffees from across Colombia’s coffee-growing regions are determined by both terroir and climate.
This specific region is known for its lemon acidity. In addition to this the Caturra varietal itself is prized for its bright acidity and we’ve roasted Santa Elena lightly so this shines through in a remarkably clean cup.
Coffee in Colombia
Colombia is one of the biggest producers of coffee in the world and the southwest region of Huila is crucial to this, contributing to almost 20% of the country’s coffee. Huila doesn’t just provide a large quantity of coffee but also creates innovative and award-winning coffees. The quality of Huila coffee is so well regarded that it has been awarded with Denomination of Origin status due to its location-specific attributes.
Huila is located by the central and eastern ranges of the Andes in the Magdalena Valley. This region has the perfect conditions to grow high quality varietals where nutrient dense volcanic soil is very rich in nitrogen and organic matter which supports the cherry growth. The Magdalena valley’s temperature can range between 17°C (62.5°F) to 23°C (73.5°F) and with altitude from 1,200 to 1,800 masl. Lower temperatures mean longer ripening on the branch which creates more complex and nuanced flavour characteristics in the cup. This usually means coffees from Huila are distinguished by delicate profiles and medium balanced bodies but with clean acidity and a sweetness which can come across as caramel, muscovado and red berry like notes.
The quality of coffee in Huila is advanced by the innovation and investment into the region. Plan Huila 2050 is a scheme which improves sustainability in the region by protecting the lands and ensuring biodiversity and supporting farmers with both knowledge and investment. Huila is dominated by smaller farmers but due to this scheme they are able to experiment more with their crops and create a higher quality product. Many farmers have their own wet mill and are increasingly experimenting with ways to wash their coffee and further develop their established reputation for quality coffee.