Coffee Review: Counter Culture Mesa de los Santos

by on March 27, 2007

Plainspoken Coffee. A Coffee Review for Ordinary People by Ordinary People, #21.

Counter Culture Mesa de los Santos, Colombia.
This coffee is certified by both Rainforest Alliance and Smithsonian — rest assured your purchase supports biodiversity if it complies with the strict environmental rules set forth for Smithsonian Bird-Friendly certification. It is also certified organic. In fact, Mesa de los Santos (actually, the name of the farm is Hacienda El Roble) is a model for sustainable coffee.  The 500 acre farm, in the same family for four generations, has largely been replanted from former pastureland.  There are now around 50 species of trees providing multi-layer shade for the coffee. The farm owners fund a biannual biological research project, which evaluates the farm’s biodiversity. New bird species continue to be detected on the farm.

The location of the farm is also about 30 miles from the important Cerulean Warbler reserve I’ve written about, about 150 miles closer than the source of Thanksgiving Coffee’s Cerulean Warbler coffee that was reviewed here. The Counter Culture is also less expensive, especially if you factor in the waste from the defects in the Cerulean Warbler coffee, discussed in that review.

The hundreds of workers are also well cared for, earning 65% more than country’s minimum wage and receiving all health care, and the farm funded the local school. The web site includes an entire section on birds.
Mesa de los Santos coffee is quite popular, and is carried by a number of roasters.  I trust Counter Culture to take great care of their beans, and they came through as always.  CC roasted the Mesa de los Santos light. Aside from a few oddly-shaped beans (fewer than five per two-tablespoon portion), it was free of defects. We reviewed it 5, 8, and 10 days past the roast date stamped on the package.

This coffee was subtle-bodied, with a nutty (almond-y?) complexity and distinct soft butterscotch notes in the cooling cup. The description also mentioned “buttery” and I very much agree with that description. So often, flavors are superior in the French press and muted in drip-brewed preparation. The Mesa de los Santos was an exception.  It started with a bright crispness but again gained the sweet, soft notes as it cooled. Two reviewers didn’t like it piping hot, but within five minutes were won over as the gentle flavors emerged. We concluded, therefore, it would make a great morning coffee, especially for a commuter.

One reviewer (perhaps because he has a short commute!) had another vision of when he’d drink this coffee. He pictured a bright, dew-drenched May morning, he would be setting out for a bird survey, anticipating the migrants he would encounter. “…There might be a White-eyed Vireo singing across the meadow…” he mused, thoughtfully sipping. We give this a solid 3 motmots.

Brief review at BCCY. Review of two Mesa de los Santos lots purchased green at Coffee Cuppers.

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Revised on June 29, 2013

Posted in Coffee reviews,Latin America

John March 27, 2007 at 9:50 am

Great initiative! I hope your work will help people to know deeply about these great coffees.

Lee Hibbs April 4, 2007 at 4:03 pm

Counter Culture does not sell 5lb bags to anyone except high volume accounts.

The only place you can buy 5lb bags is through retail stores in NC.

I got this from Rich Futrell who is Counter Culture's Sales Manager in the home office.

"To ensure freshness, 5 pound bags are available only to our high volume wholesale accounts. You can contact of the vendors that I offered below and purchase 5 one-pound bags. Thank you so much for your interest in Counter Culture Coffee."

Their coffee may be good, but there are too many other excellent internet vendors that sell 5lb bags to bother with Counter Culture.

BirdBarista April 4, 2007 at 6:45 pm

Well, personally, I never buy five pounds of coffee at a time. I can't drink that fast, and I prefer my coffee to be within two weeks of the roast date. I see their point, from a quality-control point of view.

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