Two Expressions of Pink Bourbon from Huila, Colombia

By Evan Howe


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Last month we tasted two coffee varieties - a pacamara and a gesha - that were produced on the same farm in El Salvador. This month we’ll be tasting a new coffee variety, but instead of tasting different varieties from the same farm, we’ll be tasting the same variety from different farms, and from different harvest years!

A few years ago Passenger started receiving coffee samples from Colombia that were examples of a mysterious new variety called pink bourbon. While initially somewhat rare, this variety is increasingly common today. The variety is named pink bourbon because its fruit ripens to pink rather than red or yellow and because some think that it is a natural mutation of other bourbon varieties. However, there are a number of competing theories regarding the genetic lineage of pink bourbon, and as far as we know, none of them have been conclusively proven by scientific testing. What we do know is that the variety has excellent quality potential: some of the pink bourbons we have tasted from Colombia in recent years have been spectacular - and coffee farmers have shared that this variety is additionally notable for being high yielding and disease resistant. Both of the coffees in this month’s cup tasting are examples of the pink bourbon variety and both coffees come to us from the famous Colombian coffee-producing region of Huila.

Given that these two coffees are expressions of the same variety, are both wet processed, and both represent the same general region of Colombia, there are two other variables for us to consider when tasting them. The first variable is farm context: Divino Niño Pink Bourbon, is a blend of pink bourbon deliveries from multiple small farms whereas the second coffee, a pink bourbon from producer Marlenis Imbachi, was produced on a single small farm. The second variable to note is the harvest year. Thanks to Passenger’s practice of preserving the freshness of our green coffees in a freezer facility near our roastery, we are able to taste two distinct harvests of pink bourbon, one of which was harvested 4 years ago! Without knowing all the specifics of weather, rainfall, and/or other factors that may have impacted the harvests in 2018 and 2020, we are certainly stepping back in time when we taste these coffees comparatively.