With the quest to find the most environmentally sustainable way to cultivate coffee, we planted the first coffee on the field named Our Plot in January of 2017.
The criteria for the project were simple, yet unprecedented.
To make the coffee trees as self-sufficient as possible, we needed to make a strong foundation, an ecosystem.
To strengthen the ecosystem, we have increased the biodiversity on the cultivated land whilst creating space between coffee trees to avoid stressing out the soil.
By placing nitrogen-fixing shade trees, Inga trees, the ecosystem will also be self-sufficient with nitrogen, minimizing any man-made input. Doing this, plus applying nutritious compost around the coffee trees, we avoid adding any unnecessary pesticides.
More so, the Inga trees have several other positive traits like providing shade and helping the plants retain more water. Shade trees are used in many coffee-growing countries. The shade slows down the ripening of coffee cherries to ensure an even maturation that contributes to the flavour and complexity in the cup.
The Inga trees will also attract more life in the form of insects and small animals which further increases biodiversity.
Finally, we were curious if old varieties from before the 1950s would perform better in the ecosystem we had created, as they might be better suited for growing without chemicals than newer varieties.
This project, Our Plot, is just as much a way of learning in detail about sustainable coffee growing. In the future, we will hopefully be able to practice this on much higher scales to be able to create an actual impact.
Our Plot is located in Brazil and is facilitated by the coffee producer, Daterra. Daterra is especially known for its innovative thinking and impressive research in coffee-growing.
In 2014, Daterra’s owner, Luis N. Pascoal approached us with an idea to start up a project together using a piece of his land. They had the land, we had a dream, and they had the knowledge to carry out that dream.
More than 1 hectare of Daterra’s land would be dedicated to creating a sustainable plot which they named Our Plot, and a team of highly dedicated and talented agronomists have maintained the land since they cut the first sod in 2017.
Let’s have a look at what has happened in the five years since we first started the project.
One of the main criteria for Our Plot required us to test out varieties from before the 1950s to see if they would be better suited to grow in an environment without fortification by pesticides.
The Red and Yellow Bourbon are thriving, and it is also this harvest we have roasted for this year’s Our Plot 2-pack. This is great news, as it proves these varieties are suited for the criteria of Our Plot.
However, we did initially plant 4 different varieties to strengthen the biodiversity. The third variety Laurina struggled and has been replaced by Typica instead. We had big hopes for the Laurina variety, as it has a unique taste. In four years, we will hopefully be able to taste the harvest from the new Typica plants.
The fourth variety is the beloved Geisha. The yield from the Geisha is very limited given it is a demanding variety and that it was planted fairly late compared to the Bourbons. We will make a limited release of this variety simultaneously with the Our Plot 2-pack.
In the past 15 years, we have worked with Daterra, they never cease to amaze us with their new way of thinking. Not using pesticides is challenging, and insects such as the leaf-miner that attack the coffee plants are a constant threat.
To biologically control disease-transmitting insects, Daterra has used a natural enemy of the leaf-miner, larvae from the species, Green Lacewing.
Larvae eggs are released and spread on the coffee trees with a drone which will naturally help control pests. This method is previously proven efficient and has several benefits for the environment and adds economic value to the production.
All in all, we are very happy with the outcome of this year’s harvest, and we can’t wait to share it with you.
Our Plot is processed Pulped Natural and Anaerobic. We have made a tasting pack, so you can taste the two different takes on Our Plot.
Pulped Natural is the most common way of processing coffee in Brazil. Compared to Natural and Washed coffees, Pulped Natural lies in between these two methods.
Pulped Natural starts out in the same way as washed coffee by separating the beans from the pulp. Washed coffees would now proceed to remove a sugary membrane through fermentation. This will however stay on the bean which is now left to dry on raised beds.
As the sugary membrane is a very thin layer, there is a far lower risk of overfermentation than with Naturals, where all the pulp is left to dry on the bean.
This processing method gives us a very clear indication of the coffee’s outcome, as it has a cleaner taste than ordinary Natural coffee.
Anaerobic coffee has a different expression than the Pulped Natural. After harvest and sorting, the cherries are moved to a fermentation tank where they ferment in their own fruit juice for 60 hours. The fermentation takes place in an oxygen-free environment where fermentation processes affect the mucilage and enhance the flavour of the bean.
Next, the cherries are spread out on raised beds to dry in the sun. The result is a sweet coffee with a winey acidity. The nuts and chocolate you can taste in the Pulped Natural are also present with this method and backed up by an intense fruitiness.
We have roasted the Anaerobic coffee a tad lighter to enhance its delicate aromas.