Beneficio El Pilon
Mendez y Ureña
San Isidro, Leon Cortez, Tarrazu, Costa Rica
Being a nation of washed coffee processing, it's highly unusual to find a natural coffee processing station in Costa Rica. So unusual that it looks strange and foreign to these eyes. Truth be told, I love natural processed coffees. The potential berry fruit notes, I love and wait with bated breath each year to see which coffee might live up to the blueberry sensation I remember the first year I was in the coffee business.
But making great natural processed coffee is a path ripe with doom and destruction. Mold, mildew and simple fruit rotting await the farmer who isn't bringing his "A" game. The coffee is dried on raised nylon mesh beds and must be raked and turned every hour to ensure even and proper drying. Attention to mundane detail is a must. Every hour the rakes go back and forth, back and forth. It's droning, tedious and even monotonous work. Rake on. Rake off. Day after day, it continues.
The processing station is small by most standards. It feels minuscule and I wonder if this isn't by design because of the tenuous nature of natural coffee processing. You may even wonder if the place is big enough to make the business venture viable.
Then Juan Mendez (Efrain's son) takes you to the storage shed where the fully dried natural process coffee is kept in woven bags. They look like little black fruit - angry because they've been dried like raisins. But once the bag is open, the aromatics from the coffee hits you like the crashing tide. Bam. Fruit, citrus, floral - it's amazing. And you're woozy. You feel elated and excited and terrified - all at the same time. Elated and excited because this is the promised land. A place where natural coffees rule. Terrified because you know that you're not the only one hunting for this hallowed coffee. Your friends plot against you, other coffee hunters sabotage your vehicle and it's a desperate rush to secure the coffee before something happens.
To create this, the catuai varietal coffee comes from one of two farms: La Reina and La Porosa and is processed on dry beds for 17 days and hand raked every hour until the coffee reaches the desired humidity level of 9.5-10.5%. Production for this season is expected to reach 200 fanegas (1 fang = 46 kilos), which is roughly equivalent to 200 quintales (the measurement used in most Spanish-speaking coffee countries) or just over 20,000 pounds.
El Pilon itself is finishing its second year of production. A joint venture between two producers who love natural processed coffee, El Pilon's equipment still gleams. The PVC "mill" they use to float and separate the coffee cherries is spanking new and looks like something from a NASA test lab. I barely understood how it worked but, then again, it was rather simple and the results are most excellent.
This natural processed cater starts off with a fruity, wine-like fragrance and on the first sip is slightly sharp, delivering a flavor that reminds of me the Dimetapp grape-flavored cold syrup my mom used to give me when I was a child - which is truly meant to be a positive attribute! A medium bodied coffee with medium brightness that gives way to notes of stone fruit, nectarine and finishes cleanly.
2015 El Pilon Natural Catuai
Producers: Edgar Ureña and Efrain Mendez
Region: San Isidro, Leon Cortez, Costa Rica
Elevation: 1600-1750 masl
Harvest: February 2015
Style: Shade grown
Processing: Wet Process and Patio Dried
2015 El Pilon Natural Catuai - Costa Rica
Whole Bean - 10 ounces
Please Note: Our Sproastery works on a weekly roasting schedule to provide the freshest coffee possible. Currently, our roast day is on Tuesdays. Our coffees are roasted on Tuesday and shipped out by Wednesday for weekday delivery. Please place your orders by midnight Monday night so that we can accommodate your order in our production schedule. Thank you.