The Peak of a Social Season at Archers
Looking back, our Producer’s Talk with Luis Marcelino of Aroma Nativo last 19th July 2023 more than kept up with the momentum of an unprecedented season of social gatherings here at Archers. It was fever pitch.
Albeit coming out with the invitation on unavoidably short notice, we found our retail floor properly crowded with roastery regulars and first timers who were all eager to meet Luis and taste the coffees he brought for us.
We promised a Wednesday afternoon all about wanderlust, wayfinding toward our wildest, coffee-fueled dreams, and an unparalleled coffee tasting experience. It was exactly what transpired, and more.
Partnership Set in Motion by Pink Bourbon
Archers’ partnership with Aroma Nativo started when Luis approached our Fred Bejo with samples of Pink Bourbon green beans at a World of Coffee event.
As he kicked off this iteration of Producer’s Talk, Fred recounted their candid encounter and how he was immediately blown away by the evenness of the screen size of “those beautiful Pink Bourbons” and more so by their fragrance.
Interest piqued, he roasted and cupped the samples as soon as he could. Tasting the roasted beans confirmed his instinct that this, by Archers’ standards, was a standout lot that would be well-received by our community of specialty coffee lovers here at home in the UAE.
True enough, when it was released in 2022 as our first ever Pink Bourbon offering in the Microlot Selection, it graced our shelves and offer list for just a short while. It was a natural-processed coffee, co-produced by Aroma Nativo and coffee farmer Eduardo Argote, that had tasting notes of passionfruit, red grapes, rum, and raisin chocolate.
As soon as it ran out, we had customers calling to ask if, and when, this novel variety would return. The answer, of course, had been after the next harvest season, which over the summer thankfully brought us the Aroma Nativo Pink Bourbon, Anaerobic Natural, best for pour overs, available here in our web shop and at our roastery retail, alongside Aroma Nativo Carbonic Macerated Castillo, which is best for Espresso and Milk.
Roaster & Producer: Bridging the Best of Both Worlds
Fred emphasized that what’s great about Archers’ partnership with Aroma Nativo is the mutual ease in communication about the specificities of coffee, taking into consideration both the producers’ interests and the consumers’ preferences.
Such ease is brought about by Luis’ extensive coffee know-how and especially his unique position of living between a consuming market, Paris, and a producing region, Huila.
The former affords him real-time, first-hand insight into trends and demand in a taste-making market, while the latter grants the capability of catering to them by producing to spec, as it were, through coordination with his partner farmers and implementing the relevant protocols at the Aroma Nativo processing hub.
Re-directing a Way of Life, from Corporate into Coffee
Luis’ turn to speak, he told us how he went about chasing his entrepreneurial, travel-filled, coffee-fueled dreams.
During leisurely travels to Colombia, he realized how he was in a privileged position — to be based in a world city with a forward-thinking, thriving specialty coffee culture — to help bring recognition and better material rewards to communities of otherwise unknown and under-compensated small-holder coffee farmers and the wider community of coffee workers and adjacent trades.
Witnessing their plight, tasting their coffees, and being moved by their dedication convinced Luis of the need to personally strive to make a positive impact on their lives by getting into coffee himself.
As a lifelong autodidact, he was determined to build his coffee acumen across the different coffee disciplines.
When in Paris, he did his own research and attended expert-led courses in roasting, cupping, and barista skills. When in Huila, he would immerse himself in fieldwork and hands-on learning about cultivation and processing.
What was most striking to Luis was that the small-holder farmers he met were producing 80-84 grade coffees when, in his words, “the genetics were so amazing.” He resolved then that his role would be twofold —
First, to enable the farmers to process their coffees toward enhancing cup quality, to score higher and necessarily be priced better in the market. Second, to introduce these coffees to consuming communities that appreciate everything that goes into producing that high level of quality and, crucially, know how to appropriately reward their value.
Putting Privilege & Passion in Service of Community
Luis established Aroma Nativo in 2019 as a processing hub for Huila coffee farmers to enhance the flavor profiles and quality of their coffee, supported by a trading office in Paris.
The aim was to increase cup scores from 84-85 to 88+ and consequently their potential to obtain higher prices, by implementing non-traditional protocols, inspired by Joseph Brodsky’s Ninety Plus in Panama, when the comfortable industry norm was washed processing.
He felt strongly that this was his opportunity to put his privilege and his passion for specialty coffee in the service of a community that had grown close to his heart, while fulfilling his penchant for travel and building meaningful connections with similarly driven, like-minded folks.
2020 saw the first successful outcomes of his ventures into natural and experimental processing warmly embraced by renowned and pioneering specialty coffee roasters and cafes in European cities like Paris, Athens, and the Latvian capital Riga.
2022 to 2023 met Luis with major milestones. Several Aroma Nativo lots were featured by national coffee champions in Portugal, Italy, Austria, and Sweden, and also showcased in the World Coffee Competition arena.
2022 was also when Luis began to expand the scope of his specialty coffee endeavors. First was by acquiring a 5-hectare farmland focused on competition-level coffees cultivated with exotic varieties intended to be processed toward achieving 90+ cup scores. Through this farm, also named Aroma Nativo, Luis intends to begin his legacy as a first-generation coffee farmer.
Second was by founding Veci Project, a platform enabling coffee farmers with commendable agronomic practices to receive advance payments that aid their cash flow, and providing them a venue to earn a premium for their high-quality cherries.
Veci Project also serves as Luis’ educational vehicle for awakening and reviving the interest of Colombia’s next generation of coffee farmers and producers to persevere in the industry.
With his team, Luis conducts workshops covering a vast range of subjects, from cultivation to post-harvest processing, topics include: the identification of coffee varieties, agroforestry, improved farming practices, and up-to-date post-harvest processing techniques.
The core of their discussions is that coffee can be both lucrative and personally fulfilling, as long as one does a proper job with it.
By this, Luis means that the younger generation of specialty coffee farmers and producers need to take care of quality every step of the way — from cultivation and harvesting to processing — to unlock their harvests’ full flavor and quality potential. In that way, their specialty coffees could then merit higher market value and become a reliable and prospering source of livelihood.
Through Aroma Nativo and Veci Project, Luis’ hope is to extinguish the feeling among the younger generation of coffee farmers, producers, and other coffee workers that they need to move to the city or another country just to make a good living. Rather, he seeks to nurture the sentiment that, through specialty coffee, they have better opportunities to improve their quality of life and thrive at home.
Cupping Table as Chronicle of Changing Taste Trends
We blind-cupped 14 wondrous brews, each the dictionary definition of distinct.
At the reveal, we learned that the table featured five Geisha, three Pink Bourbon, one Colombia, one Papayo, and four Castillo — processed in different ways, from the traditional to the innovative, and even the currently contentious. Examples were Honey, Extended Natural Aerobic, Double Fermentation with Mosto, and Fermentation with Dried Fruits.
Interestingly, too, Fred disclosed that Coffees 1-14 were arranged sequentially — 1 the most traditional to 14 the most novel — for us to experience through taste, the development in producers’ efforts to keep pace with and anticipate consumers’ increasing expectations for new cup profiles every year.
This led to Luis sharing his views on where to situate infused coffees within the world of specialty coffee. He pitched the idea that these may be an effective gateway for coffee lovers who like sweet and flavored coffee beverages, most popular among the biggest coffee chains, to get into specialty coffee.
It was also during cupping that Luis increased our familiarity with the more uncommon varieties like Pink Bourbon and Papayo. He explained that Pink Bourbon — named so because of the cherry’s color — is not of the Bourbon variety but from the Ethiopian landrace, as is Papayo, named after the tropical fruit papaya because of the cherry’s shape.
This unprecedented cupping experience let us in on the ways Luis and the communities he works with are dedicated to continuously sharpening their coffee knowledge while constantly exploring processing trajectories to reconcile consumers' ever-evolving preferences with the ethical and sustainable possibilities at the farm level.
Archers at the Crossroads of Coffee, Culture, & Community
By the end of the evening, it was impossible not to feel proud of our partnership with Luis and Aroma Nativo, and grateful for the opportunity to facilitate another meaningful meeting among old and new friends while broadening our understanding of our common passion and enjoying an array of exceptional coffees together.
Something cool that happened at this particular Producer’s Talk let us see our brew bar and retail floor in a refreshing light.
We’ve always felt our space to be satisfyingly laid back and welcoming. But, hip? Only with the under-the-radar premier of Luis’ friend, Mathias Schindler’s independent film, “Coffee’s Crossroads,” a specialty coffee documentary on coffee production in Colombia.
In a succinct 17 minutes, Coffee Crossroads lent us an adequately comprehensive view of Colombian coffee as a way of life, as it spotlighted the challenges, aspirations, and endeavors of Huila coffee farmers, interwoven with Luis’ involvement and Aroma Nativo’s contribution to co-creating a sustainably better future for their community.
Naturally, this got us all more than a little excited, and inspired, at what other social and creative gatherings our floor could host.
Stay close to be part of everything to come, friends, and make sure to join us next time! Meet you then.
Written by: Nadine Onate | Photos by: Pauline Disuanco