We sent off our Rwanda Cocatu coffee to the Swiss Water folks for decaffeination. They use a natural water processing method where water is used to bind to nearly 100% of the caffeine, and then dissipate when the coffee is dried. This is a much gentler method that leaves much of the volatile compounds affecting flavor and aroma intact, and not to mention does not involve any of the chemicals used in other decaf processing methods, such as methyl chloride. This particular decaf handles well in the roaster. That is, in all of my roasts there was an audible first snap at the time of initial fracturing. This isn't always the case with decaf, making it difficult to judge roast development, also affected by uneven roast coloring. I found that the best balance in our City+ and Full City roasts, which on our Probat sample roaster is about 2:30 - 3:00 after the beginning of first snaps. A little about the coffee: Cocatu Cooperative is located in Tumba town, in the mountainous Rulindo district, Northern Rwanda. Located at 1820 meters, the coop actually draws coffee from the surrounding hills of 2000+ meters, farms planted entirely in Bourbon cultivar. Cocatu is one of the surviving cooperatives from a time when many were formed but few truly prospered.
Grinding the coffee gives off a caramel and cocoa smell, with bready notes as well that are pretty typical for decaf coffee. They're not offensive, and actually together with the caramel/cocoa, allude to chocolate muffin, and wheaty sweet breads. This aspect is played up in the wet aroma, a sweetness in un-baked pastry dough comes to mind, and with a dusting of baking cocoa. A similar flavor too is what comes through when roasting this coffee too light, but thankfully all but disappears at City+ and beyond. Middle roasts exude flavors of bittersweet cocoa powder and date sugar, a barley malt accent as the cup cools, and brown rice syrup sweetness in the finish. Full City roasts are also laden with layers of cacao-like bittersweetness, an aspect that is highlighted by inky, syrupy body. The finish shows some decaf notes, a slight breadiness as well as tannins, but it's the dark cocoa and rustic raw sugar flavors that are at the core.