Late spring and early summer are my favorite time of year for new coffees. This is when all the fresh new Central American coffees come in. As much as I love Ethiopian coffee and Kenyan coffee, if I had to choose only one region to drink for the rest of my life, it would be good old backyard C.A.
It's mid-August now, and the 2008-09 Centrals have been around long enough for me to feel comfortable with them. I tasted a lot of good coffees from El Salvador again this year, some good Nicaraguas, and one killer Honduras. But lately I've been gravitating to Intelligentsia's Guatemala "Itzamna" from Finca La Soledad. (Itzamna is the mark created by Intelligentsia, it means "Goddess of the Harvest"; La Soledad is the farm that this particular lot comes from... they also have regular Itzamna and Itzamna: La Maravilla).
This coffee stood out like a champ the first time I cupped it blind at the Soho lab. It's very lush and round while still ringing with clear sweetness and a full, forward acidity. Really fantastic stuff. These are small lots that Intelligentsia brings in, and they seem to vanish just as soon as they appear. I imagine there can't be that much of La Soledad left. Get your mitts on some if you can.
I've been drinking La Soledad in a Chemex, dosing about 33 grams to 14 ounces of water to get a 12 ounce batch. Perfection in the morning, I tell you.
One of the keys to great coffee is clean processing. Look at this picture of the processing facility at La Soledad that I lifted from the Intelligentsia website:
Now that is clean processing.
Finally, here's some of what Geoff Watts, buyer for Intelligentsia, has to say about this great coffee:
La Soledad (Acatenango) contributes a rich milk chocolate and butterscotch sweetness, and this year the farm finished top 20 in the Cup of Excellence—hats off to them for this recognition of their achievement. It is one of my favorite farms because the forward progress and investment they are making to advance quality and become a standard setter for social and environmental responsibility on the farm needs no explanation; it stands out every time I visit. They've just completed the final stage on their very impressive water treatment system and have started work on a cupping lab that will be built on the farm itself. They are currently working on some diversification with an innovative plan to produce avocado oil from the groves of delicious avocado trees on the farm. These guys are the definition of pro-active.