Edwin Enrique Noreña's Golden Washed Pink Bourbon coffee played a key role in our 2022 Micro-roaster of the Year win. Having shared his coffee over the course of three years, we have developed an awe for his work.
We first met in person at the 2022 SCA Coffee Expo in Boston where we had the chance to brew some of our roast of his coffee for him.
The following year, in Portland, we met up again and served him our roast of his Pink Bourbon Red Honey Process with Purple Wine yeast coffee at the GH Grinding and Brewing Booth. CC Director of Retail, Mariah, and LW Production Roaster, Pin, also got to meet Edwin as did folks who were visiting the booth.
This time we connected more deeply. Edwin invited us to come down to Finca Campo Hermoso in Quindio, Colombia and process some coffee together. That was last April.
We did visit this past September and this very limited set is the culmination. Two of the coffees we picked and processed together with his team, using the work for Edwin to walk us through his process and thinking, plus a third coffee that stops any room in its tracks, Pink Bourbon MZ.
This set sold out in less than a day.
At time of writing, we have a bit more of Noreña’s Pink Bourbon MZ, so you may see that in the online store. In January, we will be getting 3 of the same exact coffee all processed by Edwin using three different methods.
We cupped them blind and chose them from 40 coffees. It's super interesting to us that they are castillos and we graded them super high. Read on to see the discussions of Lulo and Cenicafe as they also apply to these coffees. For those reasons and because of the amazing flavor, of these we can't wait to get them in and share.
Natural Castillo -- notes of yellow plum, pineapple, mango, juicy sugar cane
Honey Castillo with Pink Bourbon Mosto -- notes of guava, panela, passion Fruit, Hops, Pineapple, Cinnamon, Honey
Honey Castillo Co - fermented with watermelon and Lulo -- notes of Lulo, sweet peach, limoncello, kiwi, pineapple juice, sugar cane
The Full Story
This past September, Areli and I spent 6 days with Edwin and his team at his farm cupping, picking, learning, and processing coffee together. We performed two low oxygen experiments, discussed in detail below, and chose three others from 2 days of cuppings.
In one sense the visit was all about coffee -- getting deep into variety choices, terroir, farm management, innovations... And yet the coffee feels like the pretext to something more. That “more” part came via Edwin integrating us into his life, in part playing the role of Colombia, Quindio, and Finca Campo Hermoso ambassador and other part deft, effective, and thoughtful businessman who took us along for the ride for almost a week.
Areli flew in late evening on Sunday night, from visiting our producing partners Miriam Montero Aguillar and Neide Peixoto (and families) in Brazil, a trip organized by Phyllis Johnson of BD Imports, with a quick stop in Panama City. I was coming from just having visited our close partner and friend Jose Julian Giraldo, in Quindio, Colombia, 30 minutes South (see that Field Report here - and try his Pink Bourbon - 360 Hour Scoby Kombucha Fermentation here). Edwin’s team member and decades-long friend Jhon picked us up from the airport in Pereira, Risaralda.
Edwin was participating in a Coffee Exposition that wasn’t quite done so we all opted for us to go to the hotel in Armenia, a city of roughly the same population as Durham, but more densely populated. We decided to rest up at the hotel and start cupping at the Finca in the morning.
The next morning, Edwin picked us up at Hotel Mocawa Plaza on the North side of Armenia, just a few blocks from his house. Finca Campo Hermoso is situated about an 8 km drive (when taking the more direct Southern route) NW of the Northside of Armenia. The campo lays about 1500 meters above sea level with frequent cloud cover.
The week that we were there, it seemed as if the clouds were a near constant, not like European winter where one doesn’t see the blue sky for months, but more of a dreamy mix of fluffy white glowing at the edges with patches of saturated blue that swirls against the Andes just to the West, with hours of open sky mixed with clouds, then back with near total cover in a kind of ongoing cloud cover dance. This cloud cover plays a role in variety choice and farm management decisions such as what to plant and how much shade cover can be allowed for them to thrive, planting density, and more. It also makes the coffee trees develop more slowly, as if they are being grown at an even higher altitude, drawing out the sweetness to the coffee cherries.
Edwin walks us through the Finca’s main building to a temporary cupping room, introduces us to Ana Maria Trujillo Rojas, his employee since early summer, whose skills he quietly compliments to us again and again during the visit. At one point he says that Ana is the most talented coffee processor in Colombia. Having started as a teen and now in her mid-20’s she shows a mutual admiration and respect for Edwin.
There is a construction team diligently upfitting the site while preserving the traditional style, so guests can stay at the Fince when they visit and to better serve larger groups in the near future. They are a bit behind schedule, but Edwin is certain that the work will be done within 3 weeks when an important auction will take place on site with guests from across the planet.
He shows us each section of the Finca. As we walk the grounds, out in the distance we see the rows of Orange Wush Wush, Pink Bourbon, and Bourbon Sidra coffee varieties.
We walk over to the large platform mounted fermentation tanks with the words AlQuimista on them, Edwin’s nickname. We smile at him knowing how good his coffee is but also giving him a friendly hard time, then ask how he got the name. He shares with a shy smile that his dad gave it to him when he was a boy.
When we first met Edwin at the Boston Specialty Coffee Association Expo in 2022 about 9 months after sourcing his coffee for the first time, he was quietly kind, letting his coffee talk more than his words or good looks. His demeanor was the same again when we connected at SCA Expo 2023 in Portland, where he extended the invitation to us to visit, pick, and process together, which led to this trip. His quiet confident nature is a key aspect to what it feels like to be around him. He has lots to say, but seems to say little that doesn’t need to be said, quite like Areli.
Edwin walks to his smaller fermentation test tanks and talks through the process, unhurried in Spanish, switching temporarily to English when I need clarification. His voice is detailed and deliberate, taking pleasure, yet practical in sharing his process. We’ve discussed all this before at Expo and in writing from afar, yet being up close in person already lands more deeply. As he’s describing the science of his process, he shares some of his experiences teaching at Universidad de Antioquia and the National Coffee School, intermingling recipes, times, and methods for what we are about to help do during the week.
We return to the cupping room, where Ana is preparing the first cupping. Ana brewed one of their coffees that she was loving for us all to share.
We then moved into what became 4 blind cuppings of 10 coffees each over the next two days. We learned after they were all completed, and gave meticulous cupping notes, the focus of each set of coffees.
- Classic Profiles
- Mosto and co-ferments
Cupping blind with folks of this skill level is such a pleasure and feels like an honor. Edwin is a Q Grader and Cup of Excellence Judge. Ana and Areli are Q Graders (I achieved my Q after returning from the trip).
Between cuppings we got to know the farm and the team better, Baco the blue heeler, the young daughter and older brother of one of the team members, the construction workers, taking in the feeling of being there, Andes and hovering fluffy clouds in the distance with high snow covered mountain peaks out of sight beyond the clouds to the North. Edwin takes us to lunch off the highway North of Circasia at Los Robles del Quindio for classic Colombian dishes. On the drive back, we ask him how he got started, and after a pause, he shares that he inherited the farm at 14 years old when his dad died.
As we ease back to the cupping table we’re treated to intermittent plates of fresh fruit, including Lulo, a popular fruit that looks and tastes like a cross between a lime, green tomato, and kiwi. In the last cupping, we tasted coffee co-fermented with Lulo. All the while, calmly and seamlessly, Edwin conducts business on his phone, organizing coffee transport, overseeing the artistry of the construction, receiving shipments, arranging for purchase of used equipment, connecting with folks around the world who import his coffee and the attentive roasters worldwide who roast and share it.
From the four cuppings we selected three coffees and were able to narrow down which coffees to pick and process together and how to approach their processing in the next days.
On the drive back into town on the Southern route, we ask Edwin how he met his wife Tatiana, and he tells us the story about how he fell in love with her at first sight at the store that her mother owns, which is named after her and her sister.
I drove in Colombia for the first time on this trip, for the first three days that I was there. During the course of the following week, while being ferried between places by Edwin and Jhon, I connected Colombian driving culture to driving in Manhattan but way slowed down - go, slow and with the flow.
Wednesday morning, Edwin takes us to Bianco Panetteria for well extracted espresso grown in Quindio and a well prepared breakfast that matched the caressing tropical air. Edwin is running his operation between sips and bites, while intermingling the enjoyment of our easygoing breakfast and day planning. We’re along to go with the Edwin flow.
When we reach the farm, the construction workers have put in new doors, there’s now a wood slab mounted sink in the bathroom, and they’re underway building an outdoor pathway wall out of hollowed earthen “bricks.” While Edwin is overseeing a question about the construction project and doing more business, I brew Ana, Areli, and me (saving some for Edwin) our roast of Edwin’s Pink Bourbon Red Honey Process with Purple Wine Yeast that we had in our offerings earlier this year from them. I brewed it on an Origami using the the same recipe that Slow Pour shared recently. Edwin had tried it brewed on a Tone at Specialty Coffee Association Expo 2023 in Portland. We loved sharing the coffee itself and swapping recipes with Ana from the coffee she had brewed the previous day. Their recipe, which was delicious, started with a 1:14 brew ratio. Ours was 1:16.
There’s a good chance it will rain late morning so when Edwin comes back we all head out to the campo to pick the ripe coffee cherries that we’ll need for our processing of the batches that we came to do together. Edwin, Ana, Jhon, Areli, the farm Blue Heeler Baco (also a company out of Barcelona that Edwin plays a role in to distribute competition level coffees to Europe), and I walked with waist-tied buckets down to the Orange Wush Wush section of the campo. Edwin showed us how to properly pick the ripe cherries starting at the bottom and working to the top, picking all the ripe cherries from the tree, while sharing more about the trees and coffees.
Edwin’s comfort on his farm, respect from his team and diligence and pride in what they all do was evident. Areli picked a good amount of coffee. I picked some coffee, then got down and into the trees and shot video and photographed with Ana and got footage with my small UAV. Edwin seemed to easily enjoy himself in his element, as did his team, even with us, even with the cameras and drone. I got closeup video of Edwin, Ana, and Areli picking from underneath and inside the branches of the trees. Edwin picks multiples smoothly with all of his fingers at the same time, leaving the unripe cherries in place to fully develop.
After a while, Edwin pulls out his Brix tester and shows us how he uses it to read the sugars in the fruit of the coffee cherries. The reading is over 23%, well over the 17% set by Colombia. Sweet well developed coffee.
Colombia, being one of the rare places on Earth to be located at the Intertropical Convergence Zone where the Northeast and Southeast trade winds and thermal equator converge making the thermal equator land in Colombia, once in January, then again in July. This makes Colombia, and in particular central Colombia, where Finca Campo Hermoso is located, unique in the world of coffee climates in that it produces coffee all year round.
Thus Edwin has coffee at all stages of growth on the same Arabica trees. This creates the need for even more selective manual picking, and requires him to have a highly skilled year round team of pickers. While this is more expensive, it enables his team to get dialed in and work tightly together in a multi-faceted way. It’s also suited to Edwin’s level of quality and focus on developing high end varieties and innovations in coffee processing.
The cherries, the lush trees with rare ripe Arabica varieties, the feeling of picking with Edwin and his team, Armenia’s skyscrapers and the Andes to the East in the distance.
Earlier in the day, Edwin had arranged to buy an old school pulping machine. He needs this type of machine because of his fermentation process. With the longer fermentations, the cherries come off more easily and newer equipment could be more intense and damage the seeds. He needs to drive down to Barcelona further South in Quindio to meet up with another coffee farmer and inspect and purchase the machine. He offers that Areli and I can go back to the hotel or ride along. We ride along, driving back South near where I had driven on my own the previous week to visit Jose Giraldo’s farm and lab in South Quindio.
Edwin talks with the other farmer for a while. It’s evident that he has an older, somewhat jaded way of looking at coffee production. Edwin remains graceful, un-rushed. We bring them some water from the local bakery and help get the heavy piece of equipment into the back of Edwin’s vehicle.
On the way back, Edwin stops off at a small roadside cafeteria, planning to meet up with a transport from Huila that he has been coordinating to get to arrive at Campo Hermoso.
We all grab a drink. Edwin’s checking on the transport as it seems to be running behind schedule. While he’s on the phone, I notice the reflection of Areli and me in his glasses and get the phone camera real close to his face to capture it. Edwin smiles deeply in a sweet unexpected moment. Capturing the accidental smile is one of my favorite moments of the trip and I love that he liked the image, revealing something about him that takes time to reveal itself.
He drops us off at the hotel, arranging for us to get dinner with him and his wife Tatiana later that evening. They both have gentle demeanors and make a beautiful couple.
As the week progresses, we start earlier and earlier, getting closer (but not quite) to real farm operations starting time. This morning Edwin drove the northern route to get to Finca Campo Hermoso via Circasia. From the beginning he encouraged me to speak Spanish, even though his English is far better. With Areli being a first language Spanish speaker, they both sacrificed a bit of ease to include me. The openness and encouragement got me speaking, albeit as a poor speaker, and it lasted through the week.
Edwin stopped at a local cafe bakery, Panaderia La Selecta, so that we could sit, take in the morning, and taste freshly made pan de bono, a Colombian cheese bread. The cafe opens onto the Parque Bolivar, filled with thick old trees, surrounded by classic Quindio architecture, bright color doors, entry frames, with balconies. Another 10 minutes going Southwest down the Circasia - Armenia Road and we arrive at Finca Campo Hermoso.
After brewing and sipping one of the coffees we chose from the cuppings, we go out to drain the mosto from a large fermentation tank, juices from a 12 hour ferment from other tanks, to prepare it for use in a solution that we will later use to treat the coffees that we picked.
Edwin sets up the yeast solution for use in one of our tests. For this solution, he takes Sauvignon Blanc wine yeast, warm water, sugar and amino acids to start the yeast solution. While it’s setting up, Ana Maria tests the coffee we picked the day before for undeveloped cherries, which will float to the surface of the water, which she then removes.
Edwin then adds the wine yeast solution to the mosto drained into a pre-teen height barrel, a precise recipe that he has developed over years and thousands of iterations.
After more fresh fruit, conversation, and learning, we head back out to the campo to pick our coffee variety for our second test process, Cenicafe 1. This coffee was developed relatively recently over the course of 20 years of research by the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones de Café (Cenicafé) an hour and a half North of Finca Campo Hermoso in Caldas.
Edwin mainly focuses on highly sought after varieties on his own farm such as Wush Wush, Pink Bourbon, and Sidra Bourbon and they garner accolades and awards for him and his roaster partners around the planet. He has a small lot of Cenicafe, which is one that we used for one of our experiments, the other is with Orange Wush Wush a rarer variety that originates near the town of (approximately) that name in the highland forests of Southwestern Ethiopia. We’re interested in his approach to the rarer delicate varieties, and also how he approaches a coffee that is not a Gesha, Wush Wush, Sidra, or Pink Bourbon, but a coffee that while being specialty was developed precisely because of a need for disease resistance. Cenicafe, the variety, is part of Colombia’s way of working to protect their nation’s farmers and the survival of specialty coffee itself.
Coffee leaf rust or La Roya, a fungus capable of wiping out entire farms, has been a very serious issue throughout the the world, including the Americas, first showing up in Brazil in 1970, then Colombia in 1983, most recently causing a crisis in Colombian coffee farming between 2008 to 2013.
Cenicafe, the research institute, released the variety Cenicafe 1 in 2017. The variety shows specialty cup quality, high yield, large bean size, resistance to La Roya, and coffee berry disease, another fungus. The research institute achieved this by creating breed variations that suit various microclimates in Colombia, crossing Caturra and Timor Hybrid 1343 from selected and narrowed progenies. Timor Hybrid, a naturally occurring interspecific breed of Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta, was first discovered in what is now East Timor in Southeast Asia in 1927 then identified and actively used starting in 1978 as a variety to access for breeding when Coffee Leaf Rust started spreading worldwide. One of the challenges in using it is the work of breeding varieties through natural methods that show the disease and even heat resistance of the Timor Hybrid while retaining the superior flavor characteristics of high quality Arabica varieties.
This plays an important role for coffee worldwide and one of Edwin’s many skills is to diversify his crops and grow and process coffees that garner high cupping scores and win awards in various parts of the world. In part, this is where farm management, the future of Coffea arabica as an endangered species, sustainability, and profitability all meet. We chose the Cenicafe coffee in a blind cupping, and were happy that it played into our selections because our company is here for the meeting of all of these needs, not just “cherry picking” coffees that don’t take into account sustainability of the Earth and people. It’s all a bit more complex than I can fully explore in this blog entry, but it is worth sharing because it is one of the two coffees that we picked and processed ourselves and are using to dig at this greater picture of what is at play in our and our producer partners' coffee growing, processing, sourcing, and sharing, now and into the future.
We picked about 75 lbs of cherries each of Orange Wush Wush and Cenicafe.
Edwin and Ana put each, floaters removed, into the two clear conical fermentation tanks that he uses to test fermentation recipes. Over the next 16 hours, while the yeast develops in the mosto, Edwin allows each batch to ferment. The timing and recipe of each step plays a key role in the flavor development and is based upon years of testing and perfecting.
Edwin invites us to his house for lunch to eat with Tatiana and his two younger boys. They have prepared a classic Colombian meal for us, local trout, a particular Colombian potato, a fresh delicious salad, each with a history that is particular to Colombia. They also serve Isabelina grape juice, made from the grapes that he used to co-ferment the coffee that we offered our clients during 2023, the same one that we served that morning in the cupping room.
Edwin has some business to do and takes us back to the hotel. Later Jhon comes to get us to return to the Campo in time to witness key parts of the campo processes and in time for the large shipment from Huila arrive. On the way Jhon says we need to stop off for freshly made Arepas with a local cheese. They are delicious; Areli’s in heaven.
As we arrive, the shipment from Huila that Edwin had re-arranged the day before, is pulling in. As the team unloads 50 or so sealed hermetic bags, we get to look at and discuss the coffee that is now about 60 hours into ferment. The team sets up the coffee, some for pulping, others for loading into fermentation tanks. We get an up close look at the pulping of fermented cherries. We watch the labor and attention that goes into the work by his team.
The next morning, when we arrive back at Finca Campo Hermoso, greeted by Baco, Jhon walks us through the approximately 2,000 square meter (21,500 sq feet) covered “greenhouse” patios where the black honey processed coffees were drying.
The covered drying patios are set up and situated in such a way that temperature, humidity, and airflow can all be controlled by opening or closing certain flaps at either end. Closed, the concrete slab heats up exponentially, drying the coffee via conduction. At the same time it is drying via convection through the manipulation of air temperature and flow through the space. The coffee must be turned several times a day until it is brought to the right moisture level, never allowed to overheat. Jhon lets us turn a few of the lots using the wooden notched rake. The green house is the hottest we’ve felt since being in lush central Colombia. There is also some natural processed coffee drying on the sides of the room in raised beds that let air flow from the top and underside.
Edwin and Ana take us to see, smell, and hear the dozens of barrels of fermenting coffee. Edwin explains the details of timing and approach of several batches that he has going. The sound of fermenting coffee is somewhat loud, very active, unexpected. The smells suggest flavors to elicit later by roasters around the world.
It’s now time for us to add the mosto / Sauvignon Blanc wine yeast solution to our test batches. Edwin opens the clear tanks and Areli adds the solutions, Edwin describes in detail what he does to develop the expected flavors of each batch. We confirm that these two batches, 22 lbs each, when they are processed and dried, will be special tiny lots that we will purchase with our larger order, coffees that we decided on based upon our four blind cuppings.
Edwin needs to step out to see the progress on the construction project and arrange some business. We take the opportunity to do an intro to espresso machine tech session with Jhon and Ana. We walk through the workings of machines, solenoid valves, what creates temperature stability, follow the plumbing from beginning to end, things to look out for, electrical components, PID… Jhon hasn’t worked on espresso machines before but has related expertise and even with it being newer to Ana it felt like a useful skill share.
It’s Friday evening. Edwin drives us about 40 minutes out into the mountains to Salento, a UNESCO world heritage town, where he checks us into Hotel El Jardin, a room looking out into the green valley, the clouds delicately dancing with the Andes to the East.
The town was originally a main stopping point between Bogota and Cali, but highways later bypassed the town, helping preserve its bahareque architecture of white buildings and brightly painted doors and windows. We went to a traditional restaurant on Plaza de Bolivar. I mixed my rice, avocado, and Colombian style chicharron into my meat and cheese plate. Edwin smiled, never seeing anyone eat it like this before, and decided to try it the same, deciding that it tasted good that way. He left us for the night telling us that we should hire a Willy, a post WWII era Jeep and Colombian icon, to go to the Cocora Valley in the morning.
Areli arranges for us to hop in the back of a Willy early the next morning and we drive along with other local and foreign visitors out to the valley that is the home to the tallest palm trees in the world, the wax palm, which reach up to 200 feet. We hike up to 11,000 feet, see the peaks and palms in the distance and watch the glowing clouds swirl dance above the palms. The Cocora Valley is an inspiration for the animated film Encanto.
It’s an appropriate reference. One of the many subtexts of our visit is just that, enchantment.
The word Quindio, the name of the state where I first visited Jose Giraldo, then met up with Areli at Edwin Noreña’s, is the Quimbaya word, loosely translated, for Eden. The lush landscape is green, biodiverse, and plentiful. And there is also an interpretation that the city where we’ve been staying, Armenia, gets its name from the place in the Bible as the landing place for Noah’s Arc.
Even outside of specific beliefs, these references feel true to the landscape, the feeling of plenty, tropical abundance, generosity, and the wonder that we experienced for 10 days.
That night Edwin, Tatiana, the two boys and Edwin’s young teen English speaking daughter took us to Filandia, another town with quintessential Quindio architecture for a meal at Helena Adentro, open air and overlooking a green valley. A beautiful pink La Marzocco Linea PB was perched on the bar. We took pictures with the whole family and roamed the town, winding our visit down in a sweet cared for hum.
The next day as we were leaving for the airport, I tucked an empty Lulo juice box into my luggage. It made me think back to the Lulo that we had tasted in those first days between cuppings. The feeling of tasting the freshly cut Lulo with sea salt feels like the whole visit - of the Earth, a wondrous, unforgettable experience, full of love and surprise.
Edwin has now pulped, dried and shipped us, via our importing partners Yellow Rooster, the two small batches that we picked and processed with Castillo Mosto and Sauvignon Blanc wine yeast and an initial bit of the jaw dropping Pink Bourbon MZ that will stop any room where it is brewed.
If you read this far, you may be happy to learn that we released just a few more of the special sets, the two extremely limited coffees that we picked and processed and an MZ (as we held just a few back for the release of this blog). Y’all have already met the sets with incredible enthusiasm selling it out in less than a day.
In January, we will get three more coffees that we were in awe of, three very different beautifully rare coffees, the same variety, processed three different ways from the first days in the blind cuppings. We hope you now will enjoy them even more, having come along with us vicariously on this trip.
If you would like one of the held back sets for readers of this blog, click here to see if there are any left (it's hidden from the store and only viewable via this link).
Thank you for coming along on our journey!