Microlot: the Opportunity for Small Coffee Growers

Microlot: the Opportunity for Small Coffee Growers

Little but excellent coffee

Microlot coffee plantations are the opposite of the large coffee plantations with their industrial coffee cultivation. The word basically means small plumb bob – where plumb bob is the word for an old unit of weight. That’s right, because microlots often only produce a few hundred kilograms of coffee per year – but they are of excellent quality and fetch good prices. The growers usually take on further processing after the harvest. They have a high emotional bond with the mostly high-quality Arabica coffees.

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Family business guarantees quality

Coffee cultivation on microlots is mainly in the hands of families or cooperatives. They know the weather and growth conditions of their cultivated areas and mostly work under good ecological and social conditions. This is the only way to create the very unusual coffee, which is also processed by hand – and all of this under strict quality control. If the farmers succeed in creating a very special aroma note in their coffee, they will be recognized by the Cup of ExcellenceThe variety then goes to an auction, where prices in the high double-digit US dollar range come about per kilogram.

The Microlot coffee culture is similar to dealing with particularly fine and expensive wines: Both drinks of this quality come from favorable locations and are processed by experienced specialists. For the small mountain coffee-growing farms, this is the basis of their livelihood: They cannot convince through quantity, but only through quality. It starts with cultivation and harvest, where only the best coffee cherries are processed separately. The coffee comes from special highland locations and grows under unique, microclimatic conditions. Consumers also benefit from this, because only under such conditions are rare Arabica varieties that can be cultivated and processed economically viable.

Away from the great flows of trade

Microloft coffee comes to consumers away from the large coffee trade flows. It is hard, individual detailed work by those familiar with the scene that track it down and bring it to the connoisseurs. Microloft often has a harvest of 40 or 20 sacks. In extreme cases, it is only two and a half.

They contain – depending on the country of origin – 60 or 69 kilograms of coffee. How little that is becomes clear when you look at the shipment. A container usually holds ten pallets with ten bags of coffee each – about 100 pieces.

An example from Brazil illustrates the commitment required to fill even one container with the high-quality products from these small growers. Justin Miles, for example, traveled through Latin America for two months in the footsteps of the microlot plantations in order to buy the quantity for just one container.

Well-known varieties and hidden champions

Coffee connoisseurs know which varieties are meant by microlots, for example the Hawai Kona Extra Fancy or the Jamaica Blue Mountain. The Cup of Excellence competition, however, offers smallholders in particular the opportunity to put their skills to the test. Every year, this harvest competition selects the top ten from several hundred microlots in a growing region . Connoisseurs currently swear by varieties from Costa Rica and Kenya such as Scotlab 28-Arabica, Villa-Lobos-Arabica and Venezia-Arabica. They are made absolutely pure, the growers forego options such as special drying in honey.

Critics describe these varieties as full-bodied and fascinatingly clean when freshly brewed. When they are lukewarm, they praise the delicate, bitter taste with the aromas of cassis, orange and caramel.

Processing methods and roasting

The Microloft varieties sometimes go through a very experimental further processing after the harvest. The roasters also like to try out their craftsmanship in search of new experiences. For some small Central American farmers, the freshly harvested coffee matures in barrels, for example in the absence of air.

This sometimes leads to a loss of quality, but if successful, it leads to an extraordinary pleasure profile. The critics speak of an espresso with a full-bodied body, with a mysterious blueberry taste shimmering through, which has a dark aroma in the finish.

Coffee producers are always concerned with methods for expansion and subsequent ripening. It is important to know that the coffee cherry with its pulp has a sugar content that should not be underestimated. Therefore, in the hot, humid climate of the tropics, a natural fermentation process begins immediately after the picking, which may damage the later coffee taste. Harvest time, transport times and the right time to remove the pulp are therefore always topical issues.

If the coffee cherries dry with the pulp, the flavor is different than if they are depulped before drying. Here, too, the coffee beans are still in a solid bowl, the Pergamino: It sits directly under the pulp. New scene terms are developing for these different methods. Yello Honey means that there is little leftover pulp on the Pergamino during the drying process, Red Honey is the name for more pulp remains. If the coffee is completely depulped after the harvest, it is a clean strip.

Read more about roasting:

Roasting coffee: The roasting process determines the aroma

Microlot coffee: short and compact

  • Microlot coffee grows in small growing areas with only small quantities, but achieves high prices because of its exceptional quality.
  • The special microclimate and the special bond between family businesses and cooperatives and their plantation create this enjoyment.
  • The experimental processing methods and the nose of the specialists, who look for these small-scale growers with a lot of patience and great effort, also contribute to this.