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.