El Molino & El Eden : The definition of Handshake coffee

Last year we launched our Kaffa Handshake program and unveiled a bunch of great Handshake coffee, from producers around the world. The first was Mateo from El Molino in the Antioquia region of Colombia. This year we have added his neighbour, good friend, and great coffee collaborator Jaime, from El Eden to the Handshake coffee program.

Since last Decembers visit we have been able to keep in contact about the coffee’s journey from their picking to its final unveiling here in Finland. While Mateo is cultivating El Molino, mostly by himself and with the help of his two sisters, Jaime has a family of his own, his wife Julianna a young daughter Julia 9 years old and his son Ismael who is nearly 2 years old already.

El Molino – Mateo was an instant favourite in 2017 and we are so happy to be able to continue our relationship with him. Mateo has worked very hard over the last 5 years to grow El Molino into a real coffee powerhouse. Adding the raised drying beds last winter and this spring he built himself a new washing station. With bigger tanks and better washing channels, this will serve to improve the sorting of parchment and consistency of coffee. Not happy with simply good coffee, Mateo continues to make improvements and has definitely found a recipe to create one of Colombia’s best micro-lots.

Next door at El Eden Jaime Castellano’s passion for great coffee, the high elevation and unique fermentation methods are key to this coffees, unique combination of sweetness and lively dark berries. Another awesome feature of using two neighbouring farms is that you get to taste the variety of flavours that are created by their individual processing methods. Both El Molino and Eden are using Caturra, Colombia and a small amount of Castillo varieties. The relatively similar elevation should make the coffees quite similar, but there are some distinct differences in processing methods which create very different but equally amazing coffees.

Both farms are hand picking, selectively the ripest cherries, making weekly trips throughout the farm, to pick from the trees that are ripe at that time. Usually, it takes 3-4 weeks for Mateo and his sisters to pick through their 1-hectare farm of about 4,000 coffee trees. Both El Molino and El Eden use raised drying beds, which creates controlled and even drying of their coffees. Even drying helps eliminate the possibility of defects, while also improving the stability and cleanliness of the cup. Both places are also selecting the bad, cracked or defective parchment from the coffee, while it dries.

At El Molino the coffees are dry fermented (without water) for up to 36 hours, this longer dry fermentation time allows local yeasts to create the delicious sweetness and fullness, that we have come to know. The fermentation without water, not only saves water, but it also creates a much faster, more powerful fermentation process, then the wet-style. After those coffees are washed and then sent to the raised drying beds.

At El Eden, the process is a little different. After pulping, Jaime is fermenting the coffee for about 24hr with water (wet fermentation). The next evening he empties the water, which is now rich with fermenting sugars and adds new fresh water, along with the 2nd days batch of freshly picked and pulped cherries. These first 2 days cherries are fermented for another 24hr, and the same process is repeated with a third day’s cherries. Drain old water, add new fresh water and more parchment (or pulped cherries).

So in effect, the final product is a combination of 3 different stages of fermentation, some seeds that have 72hrs and some that have only 24. Adding fresh water each day prevents the coffees from soaking in “over fermented” water, which can cause off flavours, like heavy acetone or alcohol notes. A fresh batch of sugary coffee parchment and new water starts the fermentation process again and uses some of the residual yeast from the day before to get the party started earlier.

As leaders of the coffee community in the Santa Ines area, Mateo and Jaime’s drying bed project will become a standard for all the area farmers to use when they are producing speciality coffee. Both Mateo and Jaime have attended Coop De Los Andes, younger farmers training program and they apply all these techniques plus their own ingenuity to create super coffees year on year. When creating Handshake coffee partnerships, it is important for us to find the right type of people, who always are looking to improve the quality and production of their coffees. Mateo and Jaime are perfect examples of this, as they are both enthusiastic and eager to make the partnership better.