I’m always excited to try a new micro-lot Colombian coffee. The best ones I’ve had generally seem to explode with sweet, citrus fruit flavor. Yet, while they can be fruity, common Columbian varietals (Typica, Catuai, Caturra) taste immensely different from fruit-forward African varietals such as Heirloom and SL28/34. Colombian coffees are often more full-bodied and roasted slightly darker, which makes the cup less tea-like, more in-your-face, and sometimes chocolate-y.
While looking at the beautiful box containing Hex Coffee’s Ivan Molano coffee from the Tolima region of Columbia, the first thing I noticed was the varietal: Tabi. Tabi? I had never heard of it. The box describes it, but I wanted more information. I opened up my trusty copy of The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffman (a book I highly recommend) to find some answers, but to my dismay, there were none. So I wondered; is Tabi a new varietal, or did it only recently become cultivated by farms and bought by specialty coffee roasters?
It turns out, Tabi is a cross between Bourbon, Typica, and Timor varietals. It was introduced in 2002 by Cenicafe, Colombia's coffee research institute. The hybrid plant is tall and full like Bourbon, but it’s fruits are a bit larger and it is more immune to disease. It also tastes a lot like Bourbon coffee, which is a good thing.
From the first cup I made, I was extremely impressed with Hex’s Ivan Molano. The coffee didn’t taste quite like any other I’ve had before. The coffee had a different elicious acidity upfront that was bright like a lemon, but not sour or bitter. The flavor was sweet and citrusy, but there were also lots of subtle floral flavors that made the cup wonderfully complex. The body and finish were full and almost creamy, which was a nice surprise. This coffee has been thoroughly enjoyable every day I’ve made it.
To make the coffee, I have primarily used my standard Kalita Wave 158 recipe, and the grind size has been 25-26 on my encore. This technique has yielded consistently great results. However, when I took the coffee to my local shop and tried using the Kalita 155, the results were less successful. Even by tightening the grind, using the shop’s EK43, and lengthening contact time, I still could not get the extraction over 19% and the coffee continued to taste weak. Maybe the coffee just lends itself better to the larger Kalita, which has happened before. Or, maybe I just missed the mark with my brewing, which is more likely.
I really look forward to hopefully trying even more Tabi’s in the future; right now, it doesn’t seem like very many roasters are offering them. Sometimes I feel like it is easy to predict what a coffee will taste like based on origin and varietal, but then a coffee like Ivan Molano comes along and changes my perception of what coffee can taste like. This is a huge part of the fun of exploring quality single-origin coffees, and thankfully, thanks to companies like Dayglow, it's easier than ever to jump in.
- Eric Gulley
Eric is a teacher and home barista living in Southern California. All opinions expressed by Eric are solely his own and don’t reflect the opinions of Dayglow or its staff, partners and sponsors.