One of the things I like most about my job is that I get to meet cool people and, of course, drink great coffee. I want to tell you this guy's story because his passion for the craft of coffee sourcing, roasting and brewing is immediately clear. His name is Cesar. This guy started out doing photography and was way into his coffee. A Nicaraguan by extraction, he was bothered that while Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama were establishing their chops as serious producers of seriously good coffee, Nicaragua was being left behind. So he went to Nicaragua and exported a pile of quality green beans. He then set up a little roastery up on 200th street and started making Cafe Integral. Now he roasts himself, operates a delivery service for galleries, co-ops and individuals, runs his cafe with his own Strada, and generally hustles like nobody else.
Being entrepreneurially minded ourselves, we can appreciate the difficulty of doing everything from packaging to fulfillment and brewing all on your own, and we think that he has a really cool idea. His coffees are all Nicaraguan (not unusual to have single national origins) but interestingly, he divides and brews them by single varietal. We took home three varietals to taste and we'll break it down below.
NOTES: All of our brewing was done on our dinged-up and oft-repaired office chemex, with 42-43g coffee to 700g unfiltered water. The filter was bleached. A small sample of each was cupped for the wet-nose. The chemexed coffee was tasted hot, and again tepid.
Caturra is a fairly typical varietal, found in many of our current coffees (the Stumptown's Peruvian, for example, has caturra as a component). I have never really tried this varietal on its own so it is a bit difficult for me to say what is the Farm and roasting vs. what is actually the nature of the varietal. The dry nose is sharp and acidic with underlying florals. Wet, it has florals and grains. The flavors I got from the cup were bittersweet chocolate, wildflower honey and a sweet and sour berry note. It has a slight tannins.
The Maracaturra is a hybrid of the Caturra and Maragogype varietals. The beans are closer to their Maragogype heritage, but lack a certain immensity. The coffee isn't really what you would expect from a Latin coffee. The nose is distinctly baking spices. The cup, by contrast, is pleasantly acidic with a hint of south asian spices and a baking spice finish. The whole cup is round full.
The beans were like nothing I had ever seen before. They were large, broad and squared at the edges in a way I normally associate with Indonesian beans, but they are simply put juicy looking; fat and almost bursting. The cup is equally larger than life. It has a sweet fruit aroma. The cup itself is dense but smooth and the flavors are heavily nutty with a molasses finish.
Here is a comparison for the different varietals against a ruler in cm. These beans are pretty epically large. You should swing by the cafe if you are in the area; the coffee is good and the location is interesting.
A big thanks to Cesar for letting us come in and for the espressos! We had a great time.