This Week in Coffee: Focus on Farming Part 2: Soil Effects
For the third week in a row, the studio is serving as a warm and safe refuge from the snow storms. Inside we are brewing up some wonderful espressos from our guest roaster Gracenote Coffee of Berlin, Massachusetts and delicious pourover options from our fantastic house roaster George Howell Coffee.
Currently in the hopper is Gracenote’s Ethiopian Konga espresso. This bright and sweet espresso has been a popular option over the past few weeks, presenting with flavors of stone fruit, candied lemon, and hibiscus. Next up is a new and limited option, Colombia Bellavista Cortes! This microlot option is a special treat with notes of cherry cola, lemon, and cocoa. Come in later this week to try it out while it lasts!
Pourover options this week include George Howell’s Mamuto AB from Kenya and La Bendición from Guatemala. Mamuto is rich and smooth with flavors of blackberry, cherry, and plum. La Bendición is bright and fruity with flavors of lime, tangerine, and jammy fruit.
Focus on Farming: Soil Effects
In last week’s This Week in Coffee post, we outlined a few of the major factors that contribute to the growth, harvest, and quality of coffee beans. Today we focus in on one of the several factors effecting the decision of where and how to plant coffee: soil characteristics.
Soil content and consistency can have a great impact on the success of coffee growth. To grow successfully, coffee needs access to proper amounts of water and nutrients. The micro-organisms, minerals, organic matter, and acidity of soil will all adjust characteristics of the coffee plant and the resulting coffee bean. Many of these characteristics can be controlled through farming techniques, adding fertilizers and lime, but there is another soil quality that is harder to control: texture. As noted by George Howell, the ideal soil type is one that is “loamy–crumbly, permeable, having high oxygen content, and be deep, especially in drier areas.”
Why deep? And why in particular in dry areas? Coffee plants can survive through long dry seasons characteristic of many coffee growing regions, as long as the soil is able to retain a certain moisture content. Coffee roots can extend three meters into the ground to reach this moisture, making deeper soil that remains moist the longest, the most beneficial for the coffee plant. At the same time, this soil moisture level is a delicate balance, as too high a moisture content can overwhelm the plant and be harmful to the root system. Farmers must take great care to properly water their plants, knowing the specific depth and textures of their soil and in some cases building in controlled drainage and monitoring soil erosion.
For further detail on farming and optimal growing conditions, stay tuned for next week’s post about climate and regional differences.
If you have not yet had a chance to watch Lex Media’s broadcast of “What’s Brewing” talk at RSC with George Howell, check it out HERE.