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In search for the Holy Grail of specialty coffees

Experts are analyzing the variables which impact the composition of coffee grains as well as the taste and aroma quality of specialty coffees of the Province of Antioquia with the purpose of helping coffee growers control and even better, replicate these crops.

Bogotá D. C., 23 de julio de 2015Agencia de Noticias UN-

There are 72,000 hectares (177,915 acres) of specialty coffee farms in the Province of Antioquia. Photo: www.minagricultura.gov.co

According to figures of the Office of the Governor or Antioquia, 25,000 families rely of the production of specialty coffees. Photo: www.minagricultura.gov.co

In the world of specialty coffees, every batch has a process depending on the final brewed taste.

The research project was carried out in 50 coffee growing farms of the Province of Antioquia.

The research project was carried out in the Province of Antioquia.

As epic travelers, UNal experts are eagerly searching for the “Holy Grail” of specialty coffees and the reason for its exquisite taste. 

In a program entitled, “Antioquia: Specialty coffee origin”, headed by the provincial authorities, UNal was summoned two years ago to carry out this research project headed by Professor Iván Darío Aristizábal Torres. 

With the results, the Office of Productivity and Competitiveness hopes to improve the quality of their coffee. This is a research program structured around four research lines which began in early 2013 and will end in late 2015. 

“What we are hoping is to provide a scientific and technical explanation to the procedures carried out and for a coffee farm to be able to replicate these practices and obtain determined taste attribute notes or scores,” said Aristizábal. 

Four exploration journeys 

For this search, UNal chose a group of scientists with the following research lines: Farming, Fermentation, Grain Drying and Data Modelling. 

In the world of specialty coffees, each coffee batch has a price for its full cup taste. Specialized and internationally certified tasters grade 10 aspects of coffee taste —prepared under strict protocols— and assign each a value between 1 and 10. Therefore a coffee between 8.0 and 8.5 points is a good quality coffee. 

A specialty coffee must have a score above 8.5 points. Its qualities encourage buyers from Japan, South Korea, United States, Australia and Scandinavian countries to pay for it as a natural treasure. “This quality is a phenotype, in other words, it is the result of the interaction between genetics and the environment,” said Farming Line Director and Researcher John Wilson Mejía Montoya. 

The work methodology, for educational purposes, was named as 5-10-2,000: 5 nuclei or regions, 10 farms in each nucleus and 2,000 sq. meters (21,528 sq. ft.) of crop area to take test samples. 

In each of the 50 farms the researchers carried out a detailed analysis with Science, Geomorphology and Soil master’s candidates coordinated by Professor Daniel Jaramillo. Concurrently they installed five weather stations, one for each region, to determine rain behavior, solar radiation, temperatures, relative humidity and wind speed and bearing. 

“We also performed a follow-up of the cropping practices, paying special attention to pesticide and fertilizer applications throughout grain growth,” said Mejía. 

Then they took 300 samples for analysis, six for each coffee growing farm. Two were processed with traditional farmer methods and the remaining four were processed according to experimental variables. 

Quality versus quantity 

After gathering the harvest, they began the fermentation process, where the outer natural layer of the coffee bean is removed with or without water and enzymes (dry). This step in the production stage is key for the final taste of the coffee. 

“At the same time the mucilage (viscose film) is separated due to a fermenting process, microorganisms produce organic acids which the grain absorbs altering the organoleptic properties (taste and aroma, among others) of the coffee as a final product,” said Arley David Zapata Zapata. 

Fermentation was carried out by farmers with their traditional methods. Science on its part produced controlled environments where they assessed several variables such as temperature, pH and fermentation time. 

With these experiments they achieved concrete results in order to improve the features of coffee from Antioquia. “We have obtained improvement in full cup quality in comparison to traditional processes,” said the head of this research.

(Por: Fin/VMV/DMH/AC
)
N.° 859

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