El Tambor means the drum, and it refers to a distinct thumping sound one might have heard years ago as an underground water source led to a waterfall that, at times, sounded like a continuous earthquake on parts of the farm. The "drum" hasn't been heard for several decades now, suggesting a dropping water table as more farms and families in the area tap underground water, and as Guatemala City moves closer and closer to what was once a remote area. Or maybe it was the giant mine that operated on the farm until not so many years ago. That is when Victor Calderon saw a chance to buy a farm that was, in parts, in a state of ruin, and challenge the mine firm, who had a lease on the land, to a showdown of sorts. It seems they were investing serious money without really producing much of anything, endless sinkhole for investing, with somewhat unclear intention. Because the lease wasn't properly notorized, Victor had a bargaining advantage which led to the cessation of all mine operations several years ago. One mine shaft even collapsed on the farm just a few hours after Victor had been inside it, poking around. In any case, he had workers secure all the dangerous shafts, and has been working to rehabilitate mining areas with new coffee plantings. Not all the farm was a mine, in fact most of it is old Bourbon and Caturra trees, with new plantings of Pache and San Ramon cultivars. I visited the farm before I started the program for the 2010 Cup of Excellence competition, and after the scores were all in at weeks end, Victor had won 7th place for El Tambor, and 11th place for the sister farm beside it, La Pia!This coffee is part of our Farm Gate pricing program.
Butterscotch caramel. That's the best descriptor for the intense sweetness in the dry fragrance of El Tambor. There is vanilla and a fudgesicle-like chocolate note. Lighter roasts have tamarind and tropical fruits. Those fruit notes are fleshed out in the wet aromatics; pineapple, tangerine, a bit of mango. It's very sweet, but on the break there is a real woosh of bittersweetness. Interesting. The cup is a culmination of the various aromatic hints: Butterscotch and brown sugar sweetness with layers of tropical fruit, as well as apple and (again) tamarind. It's a big, round cup, with prominent acidity, bit not what I would call a bracing acidity, or one that gives a sense of structure. The finish tends toward bittersweet (just like the aromatics), and it's not exceptionally long on the palate. But as it cools the sweetness lingers, the brightness seems more and more malic (apple-toned brightness), the body more syrupy, and a cola sweetness comes out. I knew of this coffee before, and had cupped it once without really taking note of it. I think Victor has really fine-tuned the processing of the coffee as well as the fact it's just a great year for the farm, cup-wise!
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