Hacienda Carmona is located in Antigua at 5200-6100 feet altitude. They call the single-farm coffee from Carmona "Cafe Pulcal" which is the name of their mill as well. The farm dates to early colonial times, but coffee was planted in the 1800s when the farm was acquired by the Zelaya family, and first exported in 1918. Carmona is run by Maria Zelaya Aguirre since 1959, and she is the third generation that works and lives at Hacienda Carmona. While Maria certainly cares for her coffee, she is also so fond of her herd of cattle that she has named each one after a name of her friends (human friends, that is), so she is indeed quite a character. Luis Pedro Zelaya helps to manage the coffee at this point, and in fact we tried to visit after I finished my duties at the Cup of Excellence this year, but the explosion of Volcan Pacaya followed by torrential rains meant all routes to the farm were impassible. Carmona is said to have a unique micro-climate in the Antigua valley as well as hillside exposure and well-draining soils. To form this lot, we cupped too many small "day lots" to count, selecting those that had the best sweetness and brightness. Day lots are small harvest batches from particular areas of the farm. We opted for middle-of-the-harvest day lots since even and abundant ripeness means better cherry selection, and these are also from the higher reaches of the farm.
Pulcal is a supremely balanced coffee with equal parts sweetness, body and acidity. Dried dark fruits like prune and raisin protrude from the fragrance along with cacao, and a savory note lingering in the background. The crust is like one of my favorite breakfasts - oatmeal with pecans, dried currants and drizzled with honey. More walnut appears in the break with a bittering note of baker's chocolate. At first sip Pulcal is a silky coffee. It's elegant in terms of the acidity and the way it plays off of the mouth feel. A mandarin note is first apparent - effervescent and crisp - followed by red currant. As the cup cools a distinct baker's chocolate flavor lingers in the finish before a ripe blackberry note appears. This is a versatile coffee that makes a crowd pleasing cup and also makes great SO espresso at more developed roast levels.