Colombia - Condor, Decaf
Producer: Elias & Shady Bayter / El Vergel Estate
Process: Sugarcane EA
Location: Piedra Grande, Tolima
Elevation: 1,500 masl
Crop Year: 2022
Tasting notes: berries, caramel, peach, cinnamon
El Vergel is a Q-processed single estate on an inactive volcano named Black Mountain in Tolima. It is operated by brothers Elias and Shady Bayter, who believe experimental processes are “The New Way of Coffee.” With farmlands heavy in nutrient rich soil and sitting at an elevation of 1,500 masl, coffee tree varieties grow healthy and yield good quality cherries. At the right season, these are inspected by tenured pickers, and only the properly ripe ones are harvested by hand.
When the Bayter brothers observed that only low quality coffee was being used to make decaf, they decided to produce a specialty version using El Vergel Caturra. They found this variety could retain the coffee’s innate sweetness, after going through Sugar Cane Ethyl Acetate processing, commonly called “natural decaffeinated.” The ethyl acetate is the result of combining acetate with the ethanol from fermenting molasses that come from sugarcanes abundant in Colombia. This is an innovative and economic way for such readily available resource to complement the coffee industry.
In this process, the coffee is first exposed to water and steam, increasing moisture content and expanding the beans. This facilitates caffeine extraction, which is done by washing them in the ethyl acetate, causing the caffeine to dissolve. Water and steam are again used, to clean the beans including the innermost parts. After, they are dried until moisture is similar to the level prior to processing.
All throughout, there is no excessive heat or pressure applied and the beans’ cellular structure largely stays intact. Since the beans’ pores open up due to steaming though, this coffee — as greens and roasted — tends to age quicker than the regular. Roasted decaf would appear to “sweat” within several days of roast, sooner than non-decaf would. Not a big trade-off for enjoying the flavors of a high quality cup, without worrying about caffeine.