Gesha and Bourbon Black Honey IPA Limited Release

Gesha and Bourbon Black Honey IPA Limited Release

I knew the Colombian Gesha and Bourbon Black Honey IPA would be something exquisite from the moment we opened the vacuum sealed pack and inhaled the aroma of the unroasted beans. Complex, hoppy, and tantalisingly sweet, the smell was like that of a fresh orchard mixed with brewing beer. 

Grown by Consuelo Maria Garcia Marin at Campo Hermoso farm in Quindio, Colombia, and produced by Edwin Noreña of Alquimista Specialty Coffee in association with Crop Del Monte using a variety of experimental processing techniques, this very special limited release coffee boasts an incredible heritage, and represents production quality of the highest calibre. It took 10th place in the Colombian Cup of Excellence in 2021.

If you’re new to the specialty coffee scene, the name of this coffee might seem like a whole lot of gobbledegook to you. But that’s why I’m here. Join me as I dissect the meanings behind words like Gesha and Bourbon and elaborate on the amazing journey of this singular coffee. 

What is “Gesha”?

Gesha, or Geisha as it is most often known, is the most highly regarded variety of coffee plant. It originates from the Gori Gesha forest in Ethiopia. After the British learnt about the variety in the 1930s, it made its way first to Tanzania and Costa Rica, and from there all over the coffee-growing world. It has been grown to astounding success in Panama, where an award winning 2017 crop from Hacienda La Esmerelda fetched a whopping US$1320 per kilogram.

The original English rendering of the name of the area from which the plant originated is “Gesha”, and some in the industry have tried to promote using this spelling. The "Gesha" nomenclature is also sometimes used by Latin American farmers to distinguish coffee grown from an original Ethiopian cultivar. Coffee grown from more recently developed varieties is usually referred to as “Geisha”. The term "Geisha" has nothing to do with the Japanese Geisha profession, this is simply a homonymic coincidence. 

Gesha coffee often exhibits very distinctive and unique flavour notes, such as mango and guava, or jasmine and bergamot. For this reason it regularly demands a high price, though the flavour of the coffee is also very much dependent on the very high production quality exhibited by most of its producers.

Because of its reputation for quality, Gesha coffee is expected to be hand picked - only the ripest cherries will do - carefully hand sorted, processed with care, dried, sorted again, then once more checked for quality and defects.  

Once it has been fully processed, the onus is then on us, the roasters, to treat its roasting with care and consideration, in order to realise the full potential of the flavour profile. 

What is “Bourbon''?

Though it originated in Yemen as a genetic mutation of Typica, the Bourbon varietal of Arabica coffee owes its name to the island of Réunion, 550km east of Madagascar off the African coast. The name Bourbon comes from the earlier French name for the island - Île Bourbon - where the coffee was first produced. The French are responsible for Bourbon’s subsequent migration to both Africa and Latin America.

Bourbon is a very popular variety thanks to its natural resistance to disease, and its genetic descendants such as
Caturra, Catuai, and Mundo Novo, are common throughout Latin America. It grows tall, has an average bean size, and produces its best quality yields at high altitudes.  

Bourbon coffee cherries can ripen to yellow, orange or red, though on a single plant, the colour they ripen to will be universal. Hence we have varieties of Bourbon known by their colours - Red Bourbon, Yellow Bourbon, and even Pink Bourbon

What is “Black Honey''?

Black Honey is a variety of the “Honey” method of processing coffee beans. The Honey process sits in between the extremes of the Washed and Natural processing methods. Rather than remove all of the coffee cherry’s flesh and skin (washed process), or none of it (natural process), before drying the beans, the Honey process leaves some of the sticky, honey-like mucilage that covers the beans on them while they dry. 

There are several distinct levels of Honey processing, White, Gold, Yellow, Red, and Black, each representing a greater amount of the mucilage being left on the beans while drying. 

Black Honey leaves as close to 100% of the mucilage on the beans as possible, and the result is a visually dark bean that will experience quite some fermentation. Black Honey processed coffee retains a great deal of natural sweetness that can be highlighted during the roasting process. It is one of the hardest coffee processing methods to execute well. 

For the Gesha and Bourbon Black Honey IPA, as much of the mucilage was left on the beans as possible during pulping. 

What is “IPA''?

In the case of this Gesha and Bourbon Black Honey IPA, the IPA terminology refers to the use of IPA hops during the coffee's initial processing. For this particular batch, the coffee cherries were first fermented with IPA hops and Mossto for 96 hours before being pulped. Once pulped, they were anaerobically fermented in sealed containers with Mossto for an additional 72 hours before being carefully sun-dried. 

What is “Mossto”?

Mossto is the name given to juice made by compressing coffee cherries. It can also refer to the liquid run off produced by the fermentation of coffee cherries, which is similar to the technique used in wine making. In the case of this coffee, the cherries were initially fermented in mossto before being pulped, and then soaked in mossto again during the second anaerobic fermentation phase. 

Sun-drying process

Even the sun-drying process was laborious for this crop. It took over 40 days to reduce the moisture content of the coffee beans to the ~10-11% necessary for long-term storage, and for the first few days, a combination of full-sun and shade was necessary to keep the temperature of the beans between 17°C and 40°C. Moderating the temperature in this way ensured that the end result retained as many of the flavour compounds produced during the fermentation processes as possible.

It’s all coming together

In summary, this Gesha and Bourbon Black Honey IPA is a mix of two varieties of coffee. Both varieties were fermented together with hops and mossto for 4 days, pulped to black honey levels of mucilage, and then anaerobically fermented again with mossto for another 3 days. They were subsequently sun-dried, carefully checked and sorted, vacuum packed, and shipped to roasters like ourselves. 

Producing coffee this way is a painstaking process, full of carefully quality-controlled methodology and rigorous testing. Without exceptional cleanliness and hygiene, the fermentation process can, like beer production, go horribly wrong. Finca Campo Hermoso’s Gesha and Bourbon Black Honey IPA represents a tremendous amount of research, dedication, and passion for their craft - and the results speak for themselves.  

Try it for yourself; this experimental production method has produced a beautiful combination of sensations - flavours of candied orange and hops dominate, while the aroma offers the subtlest hints of jasmine and bergamot - the best of coffee
and the best of beer in a single cup.

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