Red Cherry, Caramelised Roasted Hazelnut, Sweet Milk Chocolate
What is this Static Box, I hear you ask? I’m glad you did, because it represents another step in the evolution of alternative coffee processing methods being pioneered by new world coffee farmers.
The Static Box method is a variation on the “Anaerobic Fermentation” methods that we have been seeing so much of from countries like Brazil and Honduras in particular over the past few seasons - but in reality, variations on this style of processing have always been practiced, but never really achieved separate recognition previously. Briefly, the method involves slowly fermenting the harvested cherry in an oxygen free environment for a certain length of time to help enhance its natural flavour profile with longer-lasting “ascetic” acidity, which is heavily prized amongst coffee tasters. The coffee from Cachoeira, our Brazilian choice last year, was processed along similar lines, but involved resting the coffee in sealed sacks in two separate fermentation stages to deliver really exceptional qualities from a lower grown Brazilian natural.
Coffee production began at the Rancho Grande Farm in 1933, when Mr. Aneite Reis inherited 5 hectares of crops. Today, the farm is run by Aneite’s son and grandson, José Carlos Reis and Flávio (Fafa) Reis, respectively. The mission of the farm is to responsibly produce coffee of the highest possible quality without neglecting the importance of protecting the environment and the caring for the well-being of its employees. Several employees live on the farm in houses provided with subsidised electricity and food. For diversification, the farm also maintains a herd of cows for dairy and meat production. Coffee-wise, the Reises are open to change and new techniques. They have invested in several static drying boxes to help improve the quality & profile of the coffee they produce. They have been working hard on improving the quality of their coffees for the specialty market and working on all aspects of production involving the growing, picking and post-harvest treatment of cherry.
For this lot here, Jose Carlos and Fafa separate the mechanically harvested cherry into varying levels of ripeness - using the cherry’s own density as a quality measure. The boia (ripe cherry) and boian (slightly overripe cherry) are then chosen to be put into static drying boxes. These are 1 m deep boxes with capacity for 15,000 litres by volume of cherry, which equates to 25-30 bags of green coffee. The boxes have a vented grill at the bottom to allow for air to be circulated from below up through the drying coffee - the idea being that this helps to slow down the rate at which cherry fermentation usually occurs and helps enhance flavour. Initially cold air will be blown for 12 hours to help slow the fermentation process and then gradually the air temperature will be increased to allow drying for between 7 – 10 days. There are two thermometers at different depths to ensure a safe temperature always below 40c. They are referred to as static due to the coffee remaining still in the boxes and not being turned or rotated during drying as a way to minimise contact with oxygen. After it is dried the coffee is left to rest for approximately 1- 2 weeks before being milled.
These efforts have been well worth doing, as it represents a great result in what I would consider (quality-wise) a below-average season for Brazil last year, with unseasonal weather in growing regions diminishing specialty potential considerably and causing great frustration for quality conscious farmers.
In the cup, this coffee is a classic example of a soft, medium-bodied, sweet Brazilian chocolate bomb, with delicious nutty flavours complementing the chocolate, as well as a subtle but complex cherry fruit acidity from the Static Box process enhancing the overall package. We are roasting this for both espresso and filter. It brews very well indeed - as a straight up no-nonsense classic espresso that also works really well with milk (try this as a latte!). Makes a great french press to kick-start your summer's day or a deeply satisfying chilled filter in the afternoon - makes one impressive cold brew (like old school kit-kats!)