Tasting Box: 01/02

By Evan Howe


Among the roughly 100 known species of the genus coffea, the most significant - at least for specialty coffee drinkers - is coffea Arabica. While this species of coffee actually originated in southwestern Ethiopia, it was first traded for commercial export in the port town of Mokha on the Arabian peninsula - hence the name: “arabica coffee”. Today, the vast majority of specialty coffees are arabicas and many distinct varieties of arabica have been identified that possess unique and contrasting flavor qualities. As with different varieties of wine grapes, part of the pleasure of exploring specialty coffee is tasting different varieties, comparing their flavor qualities, and identifying personal preferences. For this installment of the Cup Taster’s Membership we will be tasting two single-variety lots - a pacamara and a gesha - produced on a remarkable coffee estate in Apaneca, El Salvador.

Montecarlos Estate is a stunningly picturesque farm, situated on the steep slopes of a dormant volcano that rises to an elevation of 1800 meters above the valley below. Montecarlos is owned and managed by Carlos and Julie Batres who inherited the farm in the mid-1980’s and have expanded and improved it as a labor of love in the decades since. A sophisticated coffee producer with extensive experience in the international coffee trade prior to the start of the Montecarlos project, Carlos represents the fifth generation of his family to steward this land. Passenger has proudly worked closely with Montecarlos as one of our Foundational Partners since 2017.

We selected our most recent Montecarlos gesha and pacamara offerings for this second comparative tasting due to the fact that plant genetics is the primary difference between them: each of these coffees represents the same farm and harvest, they were both wet processed and dried in a very similar way, and Passenger’s team roasted them with a light touch using a very similar profile. So, when we compare these coffees, most of the variables other than plant genetics are the same and we are exploring flavor contrasts that are largely attributable to the pacamara and gesha varieties themselves.