We are living in better times for sourcing great Nicaraguan coffee. Atkinsons explains how acidity has it’s place in a fine cup of coffee.
Back in the bad old days of the Sandinista regime, this ideal coffee producing country saw a diaspora of its coffee farmers. In the years since their return they have overcome further trials & tribulations, brought about by hurricanes & turbulent coffee markets. Their perseverance & persistence has paid off & we now see truly world class coffees becoming available, such as this beautiful one from Finca La Argentina.
The farm is located high up in the mountainous Cordillera de Dipilto, which runs alongside the Honduran border & is arguably the best growing region in the country, with good altitude & climate to suit the very particular needs of the coffee tree.
The Caturra cultivar grown on this Montañita microlot, being a mutation of Bourbon, brings bright acidity & sweetness to the cup. I can remember the first time I heard coffee professionals talking of acidity, my Adman brain thought “How do we sell acidity? Without having people reaching for the Gaviscon!” I soon learnt it has nothing to do with gastric reflux but rather a loose term to try to describe some of the 1,500 flavour compounds present in roasted coffee. When we talk of coffees having good acidity the tendency is to think purely of citrus, despite all the other acids we develop in the roast. The last thing we want to pick up on in our coffee is sulphuric or acetic acid & they certainly don’t find their way onto any tasting notes I’ve ever come across! But as we say in coffee chemistry, “a lot of bad things come together to make it good…” The citrusy notes we find in this Montañita lot are a case in point. Those pleasant lemon & lime sherbet sensations we find in it, rather than the full-on lemon zest effect, are a sugar-coating on the otherwise bitter pill of strident acidity.
Consequently, it is a fine line we must tread when brewing this coffee. Any sign of over-extraction could amplify the brightness & make it blare out too loud! Certainly to some palates, especially those adding milk, it may read as sour. You could say: “One man’s acidity is another man’s astringency!”