The coffee that almost won the Guatemala competition. Large-bean Pacamara cultivar with a unique flavor profile; vanilla, honey and butter aroma, cinnamon toast, spices (ginger, cardamom, mace), apple and pear fruit notes, rustic sage and pine as it cools. City+ to Full City+ roast.
La Esperanza means "The Hope" and it is probably one of the most common names for a coffee farm. Sadly, not all farms make money or can have "the hope" to produce a great coffee and get a great price for it. This Pacamara lot from La Esperanza in Huehuetenango, owned by Mr. Aurelio Villatoro, was on track to beat the odds. It was the top lot in the National Jury Selection at the Guatemala Cup of Excellence, and the number 1 coffee after the first round of the Internationals too. Then, in the 2nd round, there was one cup on one table that had a clear off-taint. The coffee was kicked out. Imagine ... over 120 cups brewed of this coffee, one bad sample, gone. But CoE is like the Indy 500 and one broken bolt can bring down a racecar. I felt differently though, and sought out the farm to purchase the lot at a great price. For me, it was the top coffee, super sweet, with honey, vanilla and jasmine. This lot has a range of sizes in the beans; Pacamara will do this to you because it is a rather unstable cultivar and tends to revert back to its genetic parents, Pacas and Maragogype. I would call the preparation of this coffee excellent, but not absolutely perfect (perhaps that's where the one bad bean came from), but the cupping results of the lot as it arrived two months later are impressive nonetheless. It might not have been CoE, but it deserves recognition for an outstanding cup, and Aurelio deserved (and received) a price 4x above normal for this coffee.
I had 4 sample roasts in front of me for this evaluation, from City to a light Full City roast. Pacamara do not look pretty at light roasts, but are most aromatic at this end of the spectrum. The fragrance ranged from honey butter, lemon wafer, violet blossom, and vanilla to cherry juice mixed with ripe red apple. Wet aroma emphasized vanilla and sweet butter, with added cinnamon toast at City+ and plum fruit at the light FC roast. The cup is high-toned in the light roasts, with apple-like (malic) brightness, and a syrupy caramel sweetness; caramel apples! While aromatically the lightest roasts were outstanding, in the cup I liked the City+ to Full City roasts most. Pear fruit notes fill in the higher tones in the cup, with stripes of lemon rind and fresh ginger. There are fresh spices in this cup, mace and cardamom, a touch of cinnamon, surprising additions to a Guatemala flavor profile. The sweetness is rustic, honey and maple syrup. I had a City+ roast with some interesting jasmine notes in it, but it wasn't in every cup I tested. As the cup cools, sage and pine emerge in the finish, especially at Full City level. It's an interesting cup, bright, but somewhat rustic too, with many layers of flavor emerging as the temperature drops.