Finca La Merced Coffee Beans from Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters
Is there a better aroma than walking into a coffee shop and getting hit with the smell of coffee beans roasting? We love that smell, and you can experience it every week by visiting one of Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters coffee shops. The expert coffee roasters at Chocolate Fish roast small batches of beans each week for their three cafes and for local restaurants. We visited them in July to get a close up look at the process.
First, let’s start with the bean, which is often referred to as a cherry, but it’s actually a seed. Think stone fruit. Coffee cherries are grown on trees, and only in tropical regions that are consistently warm and get lots of rain. Almost all coffee fruit is picked by hand. The best quality coffee goes through a ‘wet’ or ‘washed’ process of soaking the fruit, also called fermenting. After about two days of soaking, the outer fruit gets soft and sticky and is washed to remove it, leaving the seed. The seeds are dried, leaving raw green colored coffee beans.
This is where it gets interesting. Each variety of bean is not only influenced by terroir, like a grape is to wine, but also by how it’s roasted. Give the same beans to 10 different roasters and you will get 10 different results. This is where Chocolate Fish really stands out. They take their roasting seriously and their team is highly trained.
Ed, head roaster at Chocolate Fish, let us watch him and his partner roast several 50lb bags of beans. The coffee roaster looks like a contraption out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, with shiny giant drums, and huge funnels, and tubes that look like a small child (Augustus Gloop) could fit in them. All of this is hooked up to a computer that is programmed down to the second for when the beans go in and out of the roaster. I learned that the cooling process is equally as important as the roasting process, as they will continue to cook if they are not cooled properly, thus changing the desired result.
Chocolate Fish roasts their beans to bring out the beans finest qualities. They even created a reference chart for you so if you know what flavors you like, it will guide you as to what kind of beans to buy. Owners Andy and Edie Baker began with one shop downtown in 2010, inspired by Andy’s upbringing in New Zealand where coffee is part of the social fabric. Soon they wanted to go deeper, and began traveling to coffee farms to better understand the growing and milling process of specialty coffee. Next came buying their first coffee roaster. They now have a much bigger one that can manage the amount of beans they roast each week.
Edie told us she especially loves the long term relationships they have with their farmers. Their farmers can rely on them to buy a certain amount of beans each year, providing them with a reliable revenue stream, and CF can ensure they have a consistent product year over year. The Finca La Merced, featured in our August Farm to Fork in a Box is from a family owned farm near the town of San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala. The Ortega family has been growing coffee for three generations.
The beans, once roasted by Chocolate Fish produce a coffee that is Lively and sweet, with a buttery caramel aroma turning into a cherry apricot finish. We suggest you make this coffee in any way that suits your taste, from pour over to french press, and then enjoy it with a biscotti from Upper Crust Baking!
Meet the Maker - Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters, Sacramento, California